LearnDash 3.2 and Group Changes

The LearnDash LMS plugin for WordPress first introduced groups almost 7 years ago, back in version 1.4. Groups were a way to assign courses and track progress for a collection of students as a single unit. It also empowered a new type of user, called a Group Leader, to oversee the activity for that segment of users rather than for all students on a site.

As one of the most popular features in LearnDash, site owners started wanting more and more group capabilities. They extended group options with membership plugins, and developers like Uncanny Owl and Wisdm Labs built plugins specifically to add more features to LearnDash Groups.

The LearnDash 3.2 release is the most significant change to the groups model since LearnDash first added them in 2013. In this  article, we’ll examine what’s different and how it affects users of third party group and membership plugins.

Here are some of the high-level additions in 3.2 for LearnDash Groups:

  • Group purchases
  • Group hierarchies
  • Group certificates
  • Group pages
  • Group content protection
  • Group user management
  • Bypass course restrictions for Group Leaders
  • Course creation and management for Group Leaders
  • Group creation and management by Group Leaders
  • A new ld_group_list shortcode
  • Search restrictions based on course enrollment

LearnDash Group Leaders Manage Groups, Courses and Users

Group purchases

LearnDash 3.2 now supports selling access to groups, so that on purchase of a product/group, the purchaser is added to the associated group. LearnDash supports this natively as well as via their WooCommerce LearnDash integration plugin (version 1.8 or higher is required). This is a great feature that makes it easier for sites to offer a paid way for students to self-enroll into groups.

Along with this change, LearnDash Groups now adopt some some of the Access Mode options that you would normally associate with Groups. Three Group Access Modes are now supported:

  • Free (users with an account can add themselves to a group)
  • Buy Now (purchases enabled via LearnDash payments)
  • Recurring (purchases via LearnDash payments)
  • Closed (payment using an integration, third party plugin or admin intervention; “Closed” is what groups in previous versions would have been considered and is the default)

Uncanny Owl notes

While LearnDash now supports this in the core plugin, this capability has existed in third party plugins for several years. Our Uncanny Groups plugin supports it, Uncanny Automator supports it, and the Wisdm Labs Group Registration plugin supports it. The new LearnDash capability is also for selling group access to individual users; it doesn’t yet support sales to organizations (so that organizations can create groups and manage them in the front end). For that, a third party plugin (like Uncanny Groups) is still required.

Group hierarchies

One of our #1 requests for our Groups plugin has been to have it support group hierarchies. We held off because we preferred to see support for this come from LearnDash, and now that it’s here, we’re excited about the possibilities. What this feature does is allow users to optionally add child groups to parent groups. Users added to a parent group are automatically added to the child groups and get access to anything in the subgroup(s). On the opposite side, users can still be in child groups and then don’t inherit anything from parent groups.

LearnDash Group Hierarchy

Uncanny Owl notes

This has been a highly-requested feature, but the requests are usually for reporting roll-ups (so reports at the parent level include child group data) and pools of seats/licenses set at the parent level that can be allocated to subgroups. That’s not quite what this is, but we may still see movement in those directions (from both LearnDash and Uncanny Owl if we see interest for them; a way to enable these do at least exist in LearnDash now).

Group pages

In LearnDash 3.2, groups are now about more than just assigning course access and reporting, they also provide new opportunities to organize courses and offer group-specific content in the front end. By making group pages public and using a new shortcode that outputs a list of group pages a student has access to, it’s now easier than ever for elearning site owners to organize courses around groups and to deliver specific information and course content to members of a group.

LearnDash Group Pages

Uncanny Owl notes

It’s been possible for a long time to offer group-specific content to users based on CRM tag, membership level, and even group access. In our plugins we offer the Restrict Page Access module in Toolkit Pro to control access at the group level to specific pages/posts, and many other plugins offer similar tools. Where the new LearnDash capability makes things easier is by providing access to group pages themselves along with a shortcode that outputs links to those pages. With other tools, including ours, it wasn’t always clear how to make restricted access pages easy to find.

Group content protection

Beyond the new access restrictions for Group pages, LearnDash now supports restricting any page, post, or other post type based on a user’s membership in groups. Once this is enabled, each associated post type will have an option to restrict the post to members of specified groups only.

LearnDash Group Content Protection

Uncanny Owl notes

Post-level restrictions based on group are supported in the Restrict Page Access module in Toolkit Pro, but they can also done with other plugins like WP Fusion using tag-based restrictions linked to LearnDash Group. In the case of both of those, they add the ability to redirect users that don’t have access rather than just display messaging on the restricted page. Both WP Fusion and our Uncanny Groups plugin offer other group-based restrictions too, like shortcodes to restrict specific content on a page to certain groups.

LearnDash Restrict Page Access

Course creation

Starting with LearnDash 3.2, Group Leaders can now create and manage courses. Depending on settings, this can include the Group Leader’s own courses only or all courses on the site. Course creation works exactly as it does for admins, in the back end (i.e. /wp-admin/) and with the same available tools. Note that some third party tools normally only available to admins and other expected WordPress roles (and role capabilities) may not necessarily be available in editors.

Uncanny Owl notes

The Wisdm Labs Instructor Role plugin has historically served a similar purpose and continues to offer many advantages, like front end course creation and commission options for instructors. The new native features in LearnDash are likely to appeal to organizations where internal staff are creating courses, so they need a restricted role for course creation and management and are comfortable with course creation in the back end, whereas the Wisdm Labs plugin is likely to appeal more to sites where the course creators are third parties and may have less WordPress experience.

Group certificates

This new certificate type offers the option of awarding certificates for the completion of a group of courses. If all courses assigned to a group are completed by a student, a downloadable certificate is added to the group page for the user. It’s a nice way of being able to award specific certificates for completing a series of courses without having to set up workarounds like course prerequisites.

Uncanny Owl notes

Our Continuing Education Credits plugin has offered certificates based on the completion of a series of courses for several years. Where the LearnDash approach differs is with convenience and easy on-site retrieval of the certificates from the new group page. Our plugin also had the drawback of not recognizing completions of courses that were done before the plugin was installed. Toolkit Pro users: Yes, we do expect to add support for emailing out group certificates (like we do for course and quiz certificates) in an upcoming release.

User management

This new optional feature (and we do want to stress that it’s optional, as we’ve heard from a few nervous upgraders) now puts many elements of user management in the hands of Group Leaders. This is a feature where we suggest a lot of caution and testing, as it does mean that Group Leaders can create, edit and delete users.  The basic setting gives Group Leaders access to only the users in their groups, while the advanced setting gives Group Leaders access to any user on the entire site. We expect this will be used primarily on sites where Group Leaders are internal staff, because the ability to delete users and change information about them can be risky and recovery can be difficult. Still, for sites where Group Leaders can be trusted and need these types of tools, this is a great addition.

Uncanny Owl notes

The front end Group Management features in our Uncanny Groups plugin have allowed some level of user oversight and management for some time, but we’ve been very reluctant to put this level of control in Group Leader hands. We won’t even allow Group Leaders to set passwords for existing users, because the Group Leaders could potentially then access personal user data with the password, including data from other courses and personal information. If your staff need this type of control the LearnDash features will be a great addition; we still don’t plan to add anything like this to our plugins because of our concerns around privacy and destruction of data without an audit trail.

Group management

This next optional setting allows Group Leaders to create, manage and delete groups from inside /wp-admin/. Depending on the setting, this can apply to all groups on a website or only groups for which the user is a Group Leader.

Uncanny Owl notes

This can be another great option when Group Leaders need a lot of control and are likely employed by the site owner. The difficulty of recovering from group deletions and management of groups created by Group Leaders without consent of site admins remain a concern for us though. We can think of a few organizations we’ve worked with where these tools would be very helpful, but there still aren’t many. Our Uncanny Groups plugin does offer front end group creation, but we don’t enable it by default and we always emphasize caution (and restricting access) when people inquire about it.

Bypass course limits

Group Leaders can now optionally navigate anywhere they want in a course and ignore the Linear rules, just like admins can. This is a great addition that we plan to enable on most sites we support for ease of use and reduced confusion by Group Leaders.

Group Leaders Bypass Course Limits

Course auto-enrollment

When enabled, Group Leaders get access to courses assigned to groups for which they’re Group Leaders. This makes it easier for Group Leaders to see and review the courses that their students are completing.

Uncanny Owl notes

Our Toolkit Pro plugin has offered similar functionality for several years in the Improved Group Leader Interface module. As mentioned after the LearnDash 3.0 release, however, we largely now consider that module a legacy module and no longer as useful as it once was, especially with this new change in LearnDash core. Our Uncanny Groups plugin also offers a way for Group Leaders to get course access for the groups that they manage.

The ld_group_list shortcode

Paired with the Course Grid add-on from LearnDash, this new shortcode adds a new way to see groups visually. With this tool, courses can be organized by group, effectively another level in the LearnDash course hierarchy. Groups might even be used as categories to allow easier organization of related courses.

Search restrictions

We haven’t seen as much discussion around this feature, but LearnDash 3.2 now only returns lessons, topics and quiz results in WordPress search results if the user is enrolled in them. This means students will see fewer irrelevant search results and won’t experience frustration when they click into posts only to be told that they don’t have permission to view them.

Uncanny Owl notes

This is a huge improvement, and we have actually built custom solutions for some clients that have this exact behaviour. For those consulting clients we’re glad we could provide solutions where otherwise none existed, but now that LearnDash core supports this, it’s the better path forward.

We will note that this new behaviour will only work effectively if permissions are managed based on LearnDash course enrollment. For sites that make all of their courses Open and then restrict individual access by membership level, CRM tag or other intervention, this new LearnDash enhancement won’t make a difference.

Wrapping up and other notes

LearnDash 3.2 is a huge release and the LearnDash team deserve a lot of congratulations for the work they’ve done. They have taken big steps to make groups more useful and solve problems around membership capabilities for many current and future LearnDash users. It’s a big release, so there are a few outstanding issues as we publish this (there were also big changes to the TCPDF libraries and we expect a 3.2.1 release soon), but overall LearnDash 3.2 is going to open up many new course delivery and management capabilities for elearning site owners.

Use LearnDash Groups? Time to update

Some of our plugin releases are ground-breaking, some add minor new features, some include fixes and others are a combination of them all. The Uncanny Groups for LearnDash 3.6 release falls fits the latter category; it’s a really important update for compatibility reasons but it also includes some useful improvements and new features.

New features

The Essay Management shortcode now supports a “status” attribute, with possible values of “all”, “graded” and “ungraded” (the default is “ungraded”). When the shortcode includes this attribute, it will initially load only essay questions with that status. This is particularly helpful on sites with huge essay volumes to reduce load times by only loading ungraded essay questions.

In the previous version of the Uncanny Groups plugin, clicking a user’s status on the Group Management page took Group Leaders to the Course Report. Based on feedback from current users, we are adding the option to instead take Group Leaders to the Progress Report (a.k.a. Manage Progress) instead. This will allow easier review of student progress. The Not Started status will also now be hyperlinked (previously it was not, since there was no progress to report, but if a Group Leader needs to add progress records this will now be easier).

Progress report for LearnDash Group Leaders

Search on the Manage Progress page has been improved to return matches for any part of a user’s first name, last name or email address. This will help Group Leaders more easily find students.

The user upload function on the Group Management page now supports setting usernames in the uploaded CSV file. When the column is included (it’s optional), the value will become the user’s account username (if the user is new). If the column is included but left blank, the email address will become the username.

Compatibility updates

We don’t know when it will be out, but the LearnDash 3.2 release is due out in the near future and it will make some pretty significant changes to groups. Some of these changes do cause some issues in our Groups plugin, so users of the new LearnDash version must update to use the plugin properly.

MySQL 8 compatibility has been added for users running the latest version, and WordPress 5.4.2 added some changes as well that could affect some users of our plugin. This release includes a change to improve WordPress 5.4.2 compatibility related to the REST API.

Fixes and performance improvements

This is really the core of where existing users will benefit from the plugin upgrade. Sometimes how customers use our plugin pushes it to places we hadn’t always anticipated, so for some atypical cases this update will help a lot. Here are some of the changes:

  • Performance is significantly improved for heavy group usage. We initially hadn’t expected many LearnDash sites to have over 1,000 groups or for groups to have many thousands of users—now we know better. A few days ago we found performance issues on a site that had approximately 2.5 million enrollment keys set up for groups, which made for a great example of where we have performance gaps, but the customer of course was finding the plugin difficult to use. Some indexing is added in version 3.6 that helps with this.
  • When there was a Group License product in the cart, the Group Name field on the checkout page was marked as required but could be left empty; a message has been added to clarify the behavior for users.
  • Some strings weren’t translatable. There are over 600 translatable strings in the plugin now, and we appreciate our customers letting us know if they find something that doesn’t translate properly.
  • Line breaks are now supported in essay answers in the Essay report.
  • Some of our progress records didn’t align with LearnDash reports when the LearnDash activity tables were for any reason out of sync with other LearnDash records. While this could be fixed by running data upgrades, in a few places we switched queries to align with LearnDash records.

The full changelog is available at https://www.uncannyowl.com/knowledge-base/uncanny-learndash-groups-changelog/

 

New WordPress Front End Login Options

The Front End Login module was one of the first things we created for the free Uncanny Toolkit for LearnDash plugin. It gave LearnDash users a simple, free tool for students to use when logging in, and for us (as our business was heavily focused on consulting at the time) it was one more way that we could make site development a lot more efficient.

A lot has changed since we first introduced the module, including LearnDash adding its own login forms. There are still a lot of situations with the login form in our Toolkit is the best fit (and what we always use on sites we build), and with today’s Uncanny Toolkit 3.3 release we’re making the module even better.

Introducing Modal Login Windows

With the latest Toolkit release, you can add this shortcode anywhere on your site you want: [uo_login_modal]. That will create a link (that can also be styled as a button) that pops up a login window. No more devoting precious site real estate to giant login forms! Here’s what it looks like:

WordPress Modal Login Form

There are new options in the Front End Login module settings to change the text of the label, whether or not to dim the background when the modal is active, and text for the link to return to the page. (Make sure to turn on the new AJAX support and use the Boxed with shadow template if you want to use modal login forms.)

The new addition is incredibly powerful and flexible, it makes it practical to add login forms anywhere, but what about menu access? As long as the Log In/Log Out Links module is turned on, you’ll see a new option under Appearance > Menus in /wp-admin/ to add a modal login there:

Front end modal menu

Login forms get AJAX support

If you’ve ever wanted users to sign in but keep the page experience intact, now you can. There’s a new AJAX option (it’s disabled by default) in the Front End Login settings that allows users to submit the login form via AJAX instead.  This option currently only works with the Boxed with shadow template.

Note that this option must be enabled if you want to use the new modal login forms.

Expanded Resume support

Ever wish you could add the Resume button link in the Toolkit to a menu? Maybe somewhere else on your site, or even in your code, where a button might not make sense?

The new [uo_learndash_resume_link] shortcode returns a Resume link for users instead of a button, so you can include it in a menu or wherever else it might make sense. And with the url_only=”yes” attribute, the shortcode will return the full URL for the user, rather than a link with Resume text.

The 3.3 release includes several other changes behind the scenes as well (it has been 3 months since we last published a release!) that improve translation support and efficiency.

If you’re not yet a Toolkit user, now is a great time to give the free version a try!

 

Better LearnDash CSV Reports

Okay, maybe they’re not pretty, but the Course and Quiz CSV reports built in to LearnDash are still extremely useful reports. They’re a simple, reliable way to get information about students, student progress and quiz results out of LearnDash and into your favourite spreadsheet for analysis.

We know a lot of users have looked at the reports, however, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could add this one more piece of data as a new column?” We’ve seen it asked a lot, so we decided to add this capability to version 3.5 of Uncanny Toolkit Pro for LearnDash.

We’re excited to introduce the Enhanced LearnDash CSV Reports module to the Toolkit Pro suite of addons for LearnDash. Its purpose is simple: add more columns with frequently-requested data to the LearnDash CSV reports. Here’s a screenshot of the columns you can add:

Enhanced LearnDash CSV Reports

Choose any columns you want to add, save the changes, and the next time you run the LearnDash export for the User Course or User Quiz Data, the extra columns will be included in the output. It’s a pretty straightforward module, but requests for custom columns tend to come up a lot and now we’ve made adding extra data even easier. Who knows, in a future release we may decide to add support for custom values from a user’s profile, if we see that there’s demand for it.

What else is in Toolkit Pro 3.5?

This is a pretty big release with a lot for all Toolkit Pro users to take in.

Among the major updates, the Enhanced Course and Lesson/Topic grids now support single-column layouts. We had a number of users explain why they needed to support a 1-column approach and we listened. The modules now support between 1 and 5 columns instead of 2 and 5.

The Duplicate Pages and Posts module now allows selecting which specific post types should support duplication. There are situations where some custom post types are better not being duplicated, so now it’s easy to turn support off for specific post types. That module also now gets improved compatibility with Elementor.

There are lots of other improvements too; here’s a partial list of the important ones:

  • The Simple Course Timer has improved support for IE 11 (though we still don’t like seeing IE 11 used).
  • The Group Registration module uses the default role set in WordPress instead of forcing the Subscriber role.
  • Translation support has been improved.
  • CSVs that contain Mac and Linux line breaks will now be accepted by the Import Users module.
  • The Import Users module supports apostrophes in email address.
  • The Done button no longer shows up in the last topic or lesson of a completed course when autocompletion is enabled.

Full details of other fixes are included in the changelog at: https://www.uncannyowl.com/knowledge-base/learndash-toolkit-pro-change-log/

We hope you like the new additions and improvements!

Plugin Profile: Design Upgrade for LearnDash

When it comes to must-have plugins for LearnDash, there’s a pretty short list of plugins that can add value to every LearnDash site. Our Uncanny Toolkit for LearnDash is probably one (at well over 20,000 installs), and the Design Upgrade for LearnDash plugin from Escape Creative is another.

The Design Upgrade plugin (by LearnDash guru Dave Warfel) solves a very common need: how do you rebrand and restyle LearnDash elements without knowing much about CSS or having to get deep into LearnDash code? It takes the challenge of restyling potentially hundreds of elements and adds controls to a UI that make everything intuitive.

And it all works really, really well. The free version of the plugin, available at https://wordpress.org/plugins/design-upgrade-learndash/, has over 7,000 active installs and every one of his 36 reviews garnered 5-stars. It gets even more impressive: at the time of writing this article, the plugin had a single ticket over a 2 month period in the support forum. Imagine that, on a plugin running on over 7,000 LearnDash sites, a single user reported a single problem within a 60 day span.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can do with the free version of the plugin.

Design Upgrade for LearnDash

The free version of Design Upgrade for LearnDash adds a lot of value to sites on its own. Even just activating it, before configuring anything, you’ll start to see more consistency and improvements across LearnDash-related buttons, fonts, focus mode, user profiles and more. The styling changes aren’t just for LearnDash either, even in the free version there are some overrides for third party plugins to better align them with LearnDash styles. (That includes some modules, though not all,  in our Uncanny Toolkit plugin.)

Here’s an example of how the free Design Upgrade plugin can change the look & feel of LearnDash elements:

Free Design Upgrade for LearnDash

Design Upgrade Pro for LearnDash

The Pro version of the plugin is where things start to get really interesting.  After all, that’s where support for most of our Uncanny Owl plugins is included!

Dave’s plugin adds support for Uncanny Groups so that buttons, borders and other styles are made more consistent with the styles it applies to other LearnDash elements. Tin Canny support was added recently and includes over 12 design options for customizing front end reports to fit the branding of your LearnDash site. Design Upgrade Pro adds border width, shadow and colour changes to the containers, tables, tabs and charts. All options are available through the WordPress Customizer, so making changes is easy using an interface you already know.

Of course, the Pro version isn’t just about our plugins. Here are some other highlights of what it can do with the core LearnDash plugin:

  • Show or hide course and profile elements
  • Customize course content tables
  • Style the progress bar and buttons
  • Restyle the the course grid, navigation widget, focus mode elements and more

Or, better yet, here’s a video from Escape Creative outlining more of what’s available in Pro:

Who is it for?

The Design Upgrade for LearnDash plugin is really for any LearnDash user, but we think it’s especially useful to novices that aren’t yet that comfortable adding CSS themselves. For developers it can save time too, but it’s the WordPress newbies that are likely to feel most empowered to have an easy to manage the look & feel of LearnDash courses and related elements on their sites.

And as a quick side note, Dave has a pretty great site at https://ldx.design/ that’s full of LearnDash tips and tutorials.

This is not a sponsored post but there are affiliate links in this article. We do just really like Dave’s plugin and the work he does with LearnDash.

Effects of COVID-19 on eLearning Demand

It’s been about 2 months now since Uncanny Owl started seeing changes related to COVID-19, and since then our business has been anything but normal. We wanted to share some of the changes we’ve seen in the elearning and LearnDash space in case it’s of interest to our customers, prospective LearnDash users and the elearning community in general. The last 6 weeks in particular have been a very strange time for us.

The first two weeks

The second week of March is when businesses and schools here (in Ontario Canada) started shutting down due to the coronavirus. Our consulting clients started working from home (our team normally works remotely anyway) and we began to see some worry among plugin customers. By the second week we were seeing a noticeable uptick in refunds due to cash flow concerns among businesses using LearnDash and work from existing consulting clients was either reduced or there was more emphasis on keeping costs down.

This period is when we mostly saw panic, businesses weren’t pivoting yet and everyone was trying to figure out what came next. Organizations that we support that offer blended learning (both online and offline classes) started to shift to online only, but at this time there was still hope that things would be resolved quickly and that by May they could offer live classes again.

Here’s something else that was interesting in March: The most-visited page on our website was a very old blog post about virtual classrooms. Not our plugin pages, not even our homepage, an article that was several years old about helping businesses adapt to virtual learning was bringing in the most traffic. This was indicative of businesses exploring their options in a COVID-19 world.

April org changes and growth

April is when we started to see businesses pivot and move to more online delivery of training. For Uncanny Owl it was probably our most stressful month in years, not only because of the launch of the free version of Uncanny Automator, but because we saw a huge increase in plugin sales. Our volume in April was up over 40% compared to January and February and web traffic was up about the same amount. This sounds good, but we had a really hard time adapting to the associated increase in support tickets; those were up by about 34% compared to March. In April our team sent over 1,000 replies to customers, an all-time record for us, and it did unfortunately mean we had to push back on some work for existing clients.

Uncanny Help Desk Replies

As organizations started to move more online and needed elearning solutions, we also had to field more requests for projects; people needing a LearnDash website increased a lot. The developers and agencies we normally referred projects to (since we weren’t accepting any) were also too busy, so we had more trouble with referrals. And one thing was also clear about the increase: while elearning demand was up, budgets were down. Even for the consulting work we were committed to, instead of just moving forward with development tasks as we normally would, we started providing estimates and going deeper into scoping before any work started. So for us, even while product revenues were up a lot, consulting revenues were down significantly. For the last year or so we’ve generally maintained a balance of 60% product sales to 40% consulting revenue, whereas in April it was more like 90/10. That’s a big change to our business model and we’re still working on getting the right team structure in place to accommodate that.

Support from the LearnDash community

The first few weeks of March, when organizations were just starting to feel the effects of the shutdown and were struggling to adapt, also resulted in many organizations that could help the elearning community step forward in creative ways. Some people in the LearnDash circle offered webinars, discounted invoices to clients, product discounts and more. They also volunteered their services to help where they could; we were fortunate to be in a position where we could volunteer our developers to help the NHS in the UK better deliver training to first responders.

We at Uncanny Owl also offered discounts to organizations affected by COVID-19, an extended refund period on plugin purchases, extended invoicing terms for consulting clients and more, but we didn’t see much indication that those measures helped. And, once the initial March shock and repositioning turned into the April growth, some of the transitional measures that the LearnDash community was offering were harder to sustain given how busy April was.

COVID-19 surprises

We expected the increase in refund requests in March, but it surprised us to see those taper offer in April and return to normal (and very low) levels.

We thought we were helping by offering discounts to organizations affected by COVID-19, but since we extended that offer in March we’ve had fewer than 10 requests. Whether it’s people that don’t know about the option, don’t think they qualify or simply don’t want to ask we don’t know, but the few number of requests has surprised us. If you are affected by the coronavirus and want to use our products but cost is holding you back, please do reach out.

Another big surprise for us was that while plugin sales were up, Uncanny LP sales were not. We thought it was a perfect fit for organizations affected by COVID-19; many needed to switch to elearning immediately, and due to decreased budgets needed a platform that they could launch at very low cost and very quickly. Uncanny LP is made for exactly that situation, but we just haven’t seen elevated interest in that platform. Even though LearnDash developers in general now are seeing increased demand, and organizations going the DIY route are looking at launch dates that are months away, they’re still choosing that route (as measured by our plugin sales) rather than taking the easy route with Uncanny LP.

What’s next

At Uncanny Owl, we’re expecting things to return to closer to what we saw in January and February, especially going into the summer. We’re anticipating our product/services mix to shift to about 80/20 in the next month or so, and overall demand to decrease slightly. We are not expecting budgets to increase though and we expect LearnDash site growth to expand overall, just not at the pace we saw in April. Given decreased budgets and an increasing need for pure and blended elearning solutions, LearnDash and WordPress are both well positioned for the changes in education we have just started to see.

New Code Capabilities for LearnDash

Generating and redeeming codes for LearnDash just got a lot more powerful. Today’s Uncanny LearnDash Codes 3.1 release adds new ways to set up codes, new edit code capabilities and more. This update is free for all current Uncanny LearnDash Codes users.

Use custom codes

Probably the #1 customer request, version 3.1 now allows plugin users to enter their own codes rather than having them randomly generated. It’s as simple as it sounds; the Generate Codes page now has a toggle at the top to choose either randomly generated codes or codes entered by the user. Here’s what the new interface looks like:

Custom LearnDash Codes

Any codes are allowed, as long as they’re unique, between 4 and 30 characters long, and use alphanumeric characters plus hyphens. There’s no longer any need to edit database records if you want to use your own codes! The new system does check manual codes to make sure they are unique and valid, so there’s no need to worry about duplicates with custom codes after the update.

Edit existing LearnDash code batches

Have you ever wished you could make changes to codes that were previously generated? Maybe to allow more uses or extend an expiry date? Version 3.1 allows it! Every code batch that exists in the system can now be edited using the new Edit icons on the View Codes page.

For the edit page, you can change the code type, number of uses, what future redemptions of the code grant access to (courses or groups), and expiration date/time. Note that edits can only be made to non-expired codes.

Customize messages for code redemption

Uncanny LearnDash Codes 3.1 adds a new visual editor for the redemption success messages. This is what users will see when they redeem a code using the standalone code redemption form. You can find the new editor under Uncanny Codes > Settings.

Redeem LearnDash Code Message

Terms & Conditions plus other improvements

The Uncanny Codes settings page now also includes a Terms & Conditions editor that is optionally shown on the native registration form. When text is populated in this field, new users must accept the terms before they can register on the site and redeem a code.

The 3.1 release now includes lowercase letters in automatically generated codes and additional error handling. Full details are in the Uncanny LearnDash Codes changelog.

If you haven’t tried Uncanny LearnDash Codes and need a system to grant access to courses and groups using codes, make sure to check out the full list of features and the Knowledge Base.

Uncanny Groups: Empowering Group Leaders

Today’s Uncanny LearnDash Groups 3.5 release is a big update that includes a number of new features and improvements.

Restrict content to LearnDash Group Leaders

There are many ways to restrict content with LearnDash (by role, tag, course, group, level and more) in our plugins and those of others, and even in Uncanny LearnDash Groups we have a shortcode to show content to members of a certain LearnDash group only. What was missing was a way to show content to Group Leaders only.

The Uncanny Groups 3.5 release includes support for this new shortcode:

[uo_groupleader_restrict_content user_groups="7542"]
Only Group Leaders can read this.
[/uo_groupleader_restrict_content]

What that does is show the content inside the shortcodes only to Group Leaders that are set up as Group Leaders for the group with ID 7542. The “user_groups” attribute is optional; if it’s omitted, all users with the Group Leader role will see it. It can also support multiple group IDs separated by comma.

Group License purchase emails

A common question we’ve had from customers is how to get new Group Leaders to the Group Management page and to make onboarding easier. Today’s release includes a completely new email type: New Group Purchase.  This email is sent to purchases of Group License products (i.e. Group Leaders) so that you can provide special instructions about how to use and set up their new groups. Typically this email might include instructions about signing in, how to find the Group Management page, how to start adding users to a group, etc.
Group Purchase Email

Group Leaders can edit users

We know this sounds like a huge and scary change so this one is disabled by default. If, however, you want to let Group Leaders edit user names and email address, even usernames, that is now possible. When enabled, Group Leaders can click a student name in the Group Management page and change information about the student.

Turning it on requires toggling the setting(s) below in the Uncanny LearnDash Groups settings page:

Group Leaders can edit learndash student data

Be careful with this setting. For some sites this will make things far more convenient for Group Leaders, but on others this could be an unwanted risk of exploitation and changing student information without the student’s consent.

Administrators can now use all reports

We really want to discourage WordPress administrators from adding multiple roles to their accounts to switch between functions, so to make things easier, admins can now access everything that Group Leaders can in the Uncanny LearnDash Groups front end. Previously we locked some reports down to users with the Group Leader role, now everything is open to both Group Leaders and admins.  Admins will, however, still need to be explicitly assigned to groups as group leader for the groups to show up in the front-end interface.

The 3.5 release of Uncanny LearnDash Groups also includes a dozen other improvements and fixes. If you’re a user, make sure you check out the full changelog at https://www.uncannyowl.com/knowledge-base/uncanny-learndash-groups-changelog/

Lectora Support and Front End Tin Canny Reports

As the Tin Canny 3.4 release goes out, the Uncanny Owl team is currently all working from home and sheltering in place. Like many other firms in the LearnDash space, we’ve been swamped with requests and tickets as more education goes online, and we’re doing our best to meet the demand.

Late last week, an agency in the UK approached us about work they were doing with part of the National Health Service. To support onboarding healthcare workers, they needed a way to get Lectora Inspire modules into LearnDash, specifically with Tin Canny. We’ve had a few requests for Lectora in the past, but not enough to justify the development effort (and adding support for new authoring tools does take a fair bit of time). Regardless, we wanted to help if we could, and between Friday and Wednesday of this week we built support for xAPI and SCORM 1.2 Lectora files.

Today’s release of Tin Canny 3.4 includes the Lectora support that we built for the NHS. It’s our first time working with Lectora Inspire but the data tracks well with Tin Canny

Tin Canny now also supports front end versions of the Tin Can and xAPI Quiz reports. Those reports, for Administrators and Group Leaders, make it easy to see records from uploaded SCORM, uploaded xAPI, and H5P modules. And with the customizable columns and filters, it’s now easier to get the right set of data (even when you might have millions of records).

Front End Tin Can and xAPI Quiz Reports

For administrators that don’t want to give Group Leaders access to all of that data in the front end, there are switches to turn the reports on and off when you use the [tincanny] shortcode. Here’s how you can control it:

Controls for Front End reports

Tin Canny 3.4 is a big release, so we’re not done yet. Here’s what else is new that will help Tin Canny site owners:

  • Protection settings for uploaded modules are now available for non-LearnDash post types.
  • Support for Tin Canny uploads when using the Divi Builder
  • Performance of the Hidden and Autoadvance Mark Complete button integration is improved

We hope you find the changes and new Lectora support useful!

LearnDash Access Restrictions & bbPress Integration

Today’s 3.4 release of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro plugin adds 2 new modules, important compatibility updates for LearnDash 3.1 changes and a number of fixes. All users of the Toolkit Pro plugin are encouraged to update, especially to take advantage of the new modules now available.

Restrict Page Access

This new module added in the 3.4 release makes it possible to restrict any post (so WordPress pages, blog posts, lessons, topics, any public post types) by logged-in state, WordPress role, course enrollment or LearnDash Group membership. If you’ve ever wished you could restrict an entire page to only signed in users based on their LearnDash access, this module is going to be very beneficial for you.

Setting up restricted access is as easy as shown in this screenshot:

Restrict Page Access by LearnDash Access

By enabling the Restrict Page Access module, the metabox above is automatically added to the edit page for all public post types. The first level of access restriction is whether or not the user is logged in. If the “Users must be logged in” checkbox is checked, only signed in users can access the page; checking this also exposes additional access controls.

Administrators can set the page up to only be accessible to users based on their WordPress role, enrolled courses or group membership. All of these selections are optional, and all fields allow multiple values to be selected. Note that access for each restriction type (role, course or group) is based on users having any of the selected access. If you populate multiple restrictions (so values in both role and course, for example), use must satisfy at least one of the conditions from each section. In other words, based on the screenshot above, a page with these settings would be restricted to administrators with access to Course 101 OR subscribers with access to Course 101. It would be blocked for subscribers with no Course 101 access and to “Customers” with Course 101 access (assuming the user has the Customer role and not Subscriber).

You can also optionally set a redirect behaviour if the user doesn’t have access to the page. Checking the box allows selection of any page on the WordPress site or redirecting to a custom URL. If no redirect is defined, the user sees whatever message is designed in the “Access restriction message” field in the module settings.

For many users, this new functionality can offset the need for a complex membership plugin or other tools to lock down access for specific pages.

LearnDash Group Forums with bbPress

The second new module in the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro 3.4 release is “Group Forums with bbPress”, which restricts bbPress forums to one or more LearnDash Groups. It really is as simple as it looks:

LearnDash Group Forum Restrictions

The above screen is added to forum edit pages in bbPress; that’s where the link between LearnDash Groups and the forum is defined.

But that’s not all… to make it easier for group members to access group-specific forums, enabling this module adds a “Forum groups” widget which, as the name suggests, outputs links to forums based on the signed-in users’s LearnDash Group memberships. Add this widget to a sidebar available inside courses to provide easy access for students to their group-based forum(s).

LearnDash 3.1 Support

We saw a few handful of users run into complications now that LearnDash 3.1 supports renaming quiz tables, specifically in the Reset Course Progress and Duplicate Pages and Posts modules. Fixes for those are included in the Toolkit Pro 3.4 release.

Catch up on Toolkit Updates

We recently released updates to the free Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit plugin to complement the Toolkit Pro changes. The most notable of these was a new module called “Disable Emails“. It’s as simple as it sounds, and we added it because we use it on every single site we manage at Uncanny Owl. Any time we clone a site out to Staging for update testing and maintenance, we turn that module on to make sure no unexpected emails go out. We consider that plugin a must-have when testing updates on Staging sites (we use an email logging tool when we need to monitor emails rather than have them actually sent). In future releases we plan to have it automatically detect when it’s being used on a Staging vs. Live site so that it can always be left on and disable emails on Staging while they’re allowed to pass on Live.

The 3.2 Toolkit release also added new naming options for the Certificate Widget and Show Certificates shortcode, ordering options for the Certificate Widget, a redirect parameter in the address bar for Front End Login, Dashboard link support for the LearnDash 3.0 template and more. Make sure to update if you haven’t yet!