Great LearnDash Plugins You Don’t Know About

LearnDash users are fortunate to have dozens of plugins available that extend its functionality and make it easy to integrate with other plugins and apps. Some of those plugins enjoy very wide recognition, including our own useful LearnDash plugins (our free LearnDash Toolkit is now installed on over 7,000 LearnDash sites and is the most installed LearnDash plugin in the WordPress repository). Other plugins are showcased on the LearnDash site, but there are many others still flying under the radar. We want to introduce a few of them to you in this article.

WP Fusion

We love it when LearnDash clients incorporate marketing automation tools into the delivery of their elearning programs to make them more engaging and improve learning outcomes. Historically this was the realm of Memberium and Infusionsoft, and while both tools work reasonably well, as developers we were never particularly fond of using either (and invariably ran into complications setting them up for clients). We much prefer using Active Campaign for simple marketing automation (it’s what we use ourselves) and WP Fusion does a great job of integrating LearnDash with Active Campaign. We’re so pleased with it, in fact, that we’d actually built a competitive plugin and abandoned that work after we discovered and started using WP Fusion. The code is not obfuscated and doesn’t have special server requirements (unlike Memberium) so it’s easier to work with. Moreover, Jack, the developer, has been very receptive to feedback and has added features we’ve requested, like the recent addition of tags for LearnDash groups.

Learning Templates

Dennis at Learning Templates has created some very compelling LearnDash plugins for LearnDash Groups, including an assignment gallery and a plugin that isolates comments on LearnDash posts to a user’s LearnDash Group. While we haven’t used the plugins on any of our client sites yet, they address some gaps in LearnDash Groups that we’ve also experienced and it’s great to see another Canadian company doing LearnDash development.

LearnDash Topic Progression Using Storyline/Captivate

Chris over at Discover eLearning released a plugin that makes it a lot easier to integrate Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate files into courses by building a clever solution to have Storyline and Captivate modules control the LearnDash Mark Complete button. Our Tin Canny Reporting plugin does this as well, but for simple integration with Storyline and Captivate, the Discover eLearning plugin can’t be beat—and it’s free!

Do you have any favourite public plugins for LearnDash that didn’t make the LearnDash extensions page or our list here? Tell us about them in the comments!

Create a LearnDash Site in 1 Hour

Creating your own WordPress LMS with LearnDash doesn’t have to be a complicated ordeal that takes weeks or months (and endless frustration) to set up. If your needs are simple, it’s entirely possible to have your platform set up and working well in under 1 day. In our most recent screencast, we run through all the most important steps in an hour, from setting up hosting to installing plugins and building an intuitive learner experience.

This demo platform does rely on a few key plugins and paid tools to make things a lot easier. Doing this with a free theme and your own plugins is possible, but site creation take many, more times longer. The first paid item we use is the University theme, and we added it because it takes care of styling LearnDash and WooCommerce elements so that you don’t have to spend hours fiddling with CSS and template files (which may not be styled at all with some things). I will add the disclaimer  that we don’t use the University theme at Uncanny Owl, but that’s because we can take care of our own styling and work with something more flexible. For beginners and fast projects, however, ease of use and ready-made styles are a lot more important that flexibility.

The LearnDash plugin itself is of course a requirement, and paired with both our free Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit and the associated Pro modules, it’s easy to build intuitive learner workflows and helpful pages in a few minutes. LearnDash and out Pro modules are paid plugins, but they both really are invaluable in building LMS platforms with WordPress.

The site in our demo is hosted on WP Engine. For beginners, we can’t understate how important it is to have hosting that’s easy to use and well supported. This is our main reason for doing the demo with WP Engine. Everything that’s needed is cleanly laid out and everything just works, including automatic daily backups, proactive security, a CDN, caching, a Staging site (that works seamlessly with SSL, unlike some other WordPress hosts), and much more. The difference for a novice WordPress users on WP Engine vs. a generic shared host with cPanel is like night and day.

We created this screencast to target enthusiastic DIY LearnDash and new WordPress users. We especially hope that it helps the people that aren’t able to use our consulting services (perhaps because of time, budget, location, or other considerations). For those users, we really hope the video helps you get your site off the ground.

What Is Tin Can? Should You Care?

What is Tin Can?

The Tin Can API (also known as Experience API or xAPI) is a specification in learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about a wide range of learning activities. Similar to SCORM and AICC, the Tin Can API describes learning data in a consistent format so it is cross-platform compatible. This means different elearning authoring applications (such as Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate) and systems (such as a Learning Record Store) are able to capture and report on learning activities using  a consistent vocabulary.

Why is Tin Can important?

Although SCORM (and the legacy AICC) are still the predominant elearning standards supported by most Learning Management Systems (LMS), they came about in a different era when elearning activities were limited to what happened in a single LMS. In the real world, of course, learners move around, use different devices in different locations, and do much of their learning outside of an LMS.

Tin Can was developed to address the need of learning beyond a single LMS. Mobile learning, simulations, games, and social learning are some of the things that can now be recognized and communicated well with the Tin Can API.

What Is Tin Can API
Image source: What is the Tin Can API?

How does the Tin Can API work?

  • A Tin Can enabled authoring application (such as H5P, Storyline or Captivate) creates markers for learning activities that need to be recorded. When these activities take place, the elearning module sends secure statements in the form of nouns, verbs, and objects to a Learning Record Store (LRS).
  • The LRS records all of the Tin Can statements. An LRS can share these statements with other LRSs and turn the data into meaningful reports. An LRS can exist on its own, or interface with an LMS.

You may be wondering whether you need both an LMS and an LRS. The main function of an LRS is to store and report on learning records (not deliver learning), whereas an LMS includes many other functions (such as user management, content management, and assessments) that aren’t included in an LRS.

Do you need Tin Can in WordPress/LearnDash?

Out of the box, LearnDash does not track user progress or completion of elearning modules created with Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate, two industry-standard authoring programs that allow the creation of portable and interactive elearning modules. Authoring elearning directly in WordPress is not always the right fit, and sometimes it’s necessary to leverage software like Storyline or Captivate to create highly engaging content with elements that include branching, scenario-based case studies, simulations, or even games.

If your elearning content was (or will be) authored in Storyline, Captivate, or H5P and you would like to track learner interactions with such content and/or have it integrate with LearnDash, you will need a tool like the Tin Canny LearnDash Reporting plugin. This plugin includes an LRS that’s entirely native to WordPress (as well as advanced reporting tools, an upload tool and LearnDash integration). Just upload Storyline or Captivate zip files, or create your own H5P modules, and statements are automatically captured right inside an existing WordPress site. Combined with the most comprehensive reporting tools currently available for LearnDash, the Tin Canny LearnDash Reporting makes a powerful addition to elearning sites with more advanced reporting requirements.