Pro Updates: Faster Learndash and a New Dashboard

Every time we make a blog post about one of our plugin updates it’s because it’s a huge update with new features, and for today’s Uncanny Learndash Toolkit Pro 3.2 update that’s especially true. This one has been in development for quite some time, and the new features are going to make a huge difference to LearnDash sites, especially ones with a lot of content.

Faster LearnDash Lesson & Topic Performance

We’re most excited about adding a new Lazy Loading Course Navigation tool. We get inquiries all the time about how to improve LearnDash site performance at the enterprise level. This includes sites with potentially hundreds of courses and thousands of LearnDash lessons and topics. On those sites, things can really get slowed down just because of the volume of content; queries get really heavy just to check course content relationships and progress within courses. On larger sites, we’ve seen these queries add seconds (yes, plural) to every page load that students make inside a course. You can’t really take away navigation aids from inside courses—but you can now load them after the rest of the page loads.

That’s what our new [uo-course-navigation] shortcode does. Use it in place of the normal LearnDash Course Navigation widget and all of the extra LearnDash queries will run AFTER the rest of the page has loaded. On a big site we tested on, this approach made lessons and topics load about 25% faster for students. (It adds a brief loading animation to the navigation tool and users don’t see the course hierarchy right away, but on large sites the tradeoff is absolutely worth it.)

New Dashboard Design

New LearnDash Dashboard Design

Our LearnDash Course Dashboard shortcode was due for a redesign, especially after seeing some of what’s coming in LearnDash 3.0. So that’s exactly what we did, and in a big way. While not shown in the screenshot above, it’s now really easy for users to know how to start a course, resume a course and retrieve certificates. The colour palette is very customizable, and the new dashboard is amazingly responsive. We’ll get a demo up on our plugin demo site at https://learndash.uncannyowl.com/ soon, but we can assure you that it collapses very well and looks great on mobile devices.

For users of the current dashboard, don’t worry, there’s a toggle to continue using the Legacy design. Everyone else will almost certainly want to try out the “3.0” design though.

LearnDash Certificate PreviewCertificate Preview

If you’ve created many certificates with LearnDash you know how awkward and time-consuming it can be to set up certificates exactly as you want them. It typically involves setting up a test course, test lesson and/or quiz, then triggering completion and continuing reloading PDF files to try to get things right. You have one window open in the front end, the other in the back end, and you go back and forth to get things right.

Not any more. With the Certificate Preview module turned on, a Preview button gets added to the course edit page. And by clicking that button, right where you edit the certificate, you can preview the certificate. No more test courses and quizzes. Generating certificates is now far easier when you can do everything right inside the certificate edit page.

Note that because there is no associated course or quiz, our preview can’t actually render the shortcodes for things like completion date or course name. Instead, our preview tool substitutes placeholder data in the place of LearnDash shortcodes, so you can still focus on getting the layout right without having everything set up yet.

There’s More!

The Pro 3.2 release is big. We added some other great functions that will help a lot of our customers on their sites.

The Enhanced Lesson/Topic Grid module now supports WordPress category and tag attributes, so it’s easy to generate topic and grid listings with different content depending on the context.

Email Course Certificates adds %Group Name% token support to subject lines to make it easier for notifications to distinguish between users in different groups.

We also included a few fixes, notably for users that might have had issues with Drip Lessons by Group or automatically advancing on Gravity Form submission when the Autocomplete Lessons & Topics on Gravity Forms Submission module was enabled.

If you’re not yet an Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro user, there’s never been a better time to buy; the Toolkit is now up to 39 total modules!

Introducing Automatic Template Overrides

We’re in the middle of another big round of plugin updates and perhaps one of the most exciting addition to our plugins is support for template overrides. Basically, this feature allows you to take key HTML elements from our plugins, copy the templates into your child theme, make modifications to them, and not be worried about your customizations disappearing when you update the plugins.

Last week’s Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro (3.1) and LearnDash Groups (3.0.4) and this week’s Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit (3.1) updates are the first to support this new behavior. Using the overrides is really easy; find something you want to override in the /src/templates folders of our plugins, copy that file to your child theme (into an /uncanny-toolkit/ folder for the Toolkit plugins, /uncanny-groups/ for the Groups plugin), and then apply your changes to the new file.  If the file is in a subfolder of the /src/templates folder, replicate the same folder structure inside the override folder (e.g. /src/templates/frontend-login/default-login.php would go in /your-child-theme/uncanny-toolkit/templates/frontend-login/default-login.php).

Certainly this feature is intended primarily for developers, who can build some very powerful features using our plugins as a base. Perhaps you want to add a new field to our Enhanced Course Grid, like an instructor name, or maybe on the Import LearnDash Users page you want to add your own instructions and branding. Template overrides make things like this much easier.

And while we’re talking about Pro and Groups plugins anyway, here are some other recent updates to the plugins you may have missed…

Recent Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro Updates

Improved Group Leader Interface: No more relying on third party plugins to redirect your Group Leaders! This module now supports login redirects for Group Leaders. If you use Pro with our Groups plugin, this is a great way to get your Group Leaders to land directly on the Group Management page.

Improved Group Leader Redirect

Email Quiz Certificates: Tokens now available for including the user’s first and last name in the email sent to admins and/or Group Leaders. Use %First Name% to include the user’s first name and %Last Name% for last name. This makes organizing emails much easier.

Email Course Certificates: Pro 3.0.4 added a way to send certificates with a timed delay. Most users should not choose the “Use Cron to send certificate option”, but in some cases where a shortcode does not have course completion when the certificate is sent, choosing this option and then having the certificate sent 20 seconds after completion allows time for shortcodes in the certificate to render properly. If you find your certificate PDF files have some blank values, try turning this on.

Recent Uncanny LearnDash Group Updates

We’ve made a number of recent enhancements to our Groups plugin that will really help site owners:

Put the Key Redemption field anywhere in your Gravity Form registration form. This one is a huge improvement for several Groups users; the code entry field is no longer restricted to the bottom of the form. Instead, you can add the “Uncanny Code” field type anywhere on your form.

Include passwords in user uploads. CSV files can now include a specific password rather than the Groups plugin force a random password. This is a huge benefit on sites where students may not have an email address, as instead of requiring that an email be sent with their password, or a link to reset the password, nothing needs to be confirmed by email.

User verification in Gravity Forms is now supported, so you can have users confirm their email addresses before registration.

What’s New in LearnDash Toolkit Pro 2.5?

Yesterday’s release of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro 2.5 update included a few very highly requested features, so we wanted to highlight exactly what’s now available in a blog post.

LearnDash Reset ButtonFirst up, there’s a brand new module: LearnDash Reset Button. We kept this one simple, but it’s powerful. When triggered, it allows users (or the system) to completely reset a user’s progress in a course. An example of this might be when a user has already completed a course but must retake it. In those situations the user may want to reset their progress first so they can start again, and this button is a great way to do that. Want to make sure users only see the button after they’ve completed a course? Wrap it in the shortcode! This module also includes a PHP function to reset course progress, handy for developers that perhaps want to reset progress when users repurchase a product. Learn more about this new module over in our Knowledge Base.

We also have big changes for our Enhanced Course Grid module, one of our most popular modules in Pro.  Users have long requested that there be a way to resume courses. The most recent release of our free LearnDash Toolkit, version 2.5, includes a course-specific Resume button shortcode that outputs a button that takes users back to where they left off in a specific course.  To make that button super easy for users to access, we’ve added a new attribute (resume_course_button=”show”) to the Enhanced Course Grid that displays a course-specific Resume button beneath the course when resume data is available. We’ve also added a second attribute (start_course_button=”show”) that displays a Start button for users that haven’t yet begun courses.  Two big notes for this one: You must have the Resume toolkit module enabled to use the new resume attribute, and if no resume data exists for the user for that course then no button will be displayed. This means that if you turn this on, an existing user with 50% progress in a course wouldn’t see any button because resume data at the course level only gets tracked after you install the Pro 2.5 update. Confused? Check out the Knowledge Base article for more info. Also note that you must update to version 2.5 of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit as well to use these new resume features.

To go along with this new resume functionality is a new shortcode included in the free Toolkit plugin. With the resume module in 2.5 we’re adding this new shortcode: [uo_course_resume course_id=”x”]. You can add that shortcode to any page (including course pages!) and it will allow users to return to the lesson, topic or quiz they last visited. It’s just like our regular resume button, except instead of being global this one applies to specific courses. The Knowledge Base article covers how to use it.

And one more big change: you can add category drop-downs to the Enhanced Course Grid! Use the categoryselector=”show” attribute to filter by WordPress category and course_categoryselector=”show” to filer by LearnDash course category. Make sure you use the right one! WordPress vs. LearnDash course categories are a frequent source of confusion for course grid users. The new attributes are included in the Knowledge Base article for the Enhanced Course Grid.

The 2.5 update includes a a few other changes, like the Import LearnDash Users module now supporting Display Name and better Gravity Forms detection.

 

Improve Your LearnDash Course Sales Workflow

Do your visitors get confused about how to buy your course?

Course pages in LearnDash tend to have two audiences: enrolled students and potential students. That can make things a bit confusing. Do you tailor the content and experience to the learner, or do you make the experience more intuitive for prospective buyers? You can absolutely do both (the visitor and student shortcodes come in handy here), but it does make managing the content and using page builders more difficult.

In the latest version (2.3) of our free Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit plugin, we added a very simple new module that can make things easier for some sites. What it does is simple: If a person trying to access a course page is not enrolled in the course, the system redirects them to another URL. That’s it, the behaviour is very simple.

course redirect

Where this comes in really handy though is with both our course grid module in the Toolkit Pro plugin as well as the LearnDash grid add-on. Using either of those, now you have a way to control the behaviour when users click courses in the grid. If they click a course in the grid and they have access, the users get to the course. If they’re not enrolled, they go straight from the grid to a sales page (or to checkout, or to whatever other page you define). No middle step, no making the course page work for 2 different audiences.

Another great use of the module is redirecting a user to a page that explains that he or she doesn’t currently have access to the course with instructions on how to become enrolled. This can  be a single global page, making maintenance much easier than editing all course pages.

Using the new module is simple. Just turn it on from the Toolkit settings page, and in course edit pages, add the URL you want to redirect users to when they’re not enrolled. That’s it! If you want the redirect to work for some courses and not others, just add a URL for courses where you want to redirect people that aren’t enrolled and leave the URL blank if you want all users to be able to access the course page.

We hope this new workflow option improves your conversions and the user experience.

Updates? We’ve Got Updates!

It’s been a very busy 2 weeks in the LearnDash world.

Version 2.5 of LearnDash was released on November 7, bringing long-awaited features like a visual course builder and the ability to include lessons and topics in multiple courses. The latter is a fundamental change to how courses can be organized and developed.

For LearnDash users, the changes bring welcome new features and far more flexible ways to author courses. And for plugin developers like us, we have to rethink how course relationships work and find new solutions when there are significant architectural changes to the plugins we depend on.

For the last 2 weeks we’ve been working tirelessly to add proper support for LearnDash 2.5 to our plugins. This wasn’t always easy, as LearnDash changed how lessons, topics and quizzes mapped to courses—and with plugins as big and as complex as ours, we have a lot of code that has to look up course relationships, labels, and more.

We released a significant update to the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit 2 weeks ago that addressed several 2.5 related issues and also added a simple new module for easy User Switching. That plugin has now crossed the 8,000 active installs barrier (yay!) and no issues tied to 2.5 have been reported. (As an aside, with 8,000 installs and only 6 reviews, I think we may have one of the lowest review to install ratios in WordPress; if you use the plugin, don’t forget to leave your review!)

Last Wednesday we released a big update to Pro, addressing multiple 2.5 issues (with the timer, course expiry, group drip and autocompletion) and we added a completely new way to track time for courses. It’s still in beta, so we suggest testing it on Staging sites first, but it’s a more efficient way of recording time and can potentially reduce the resources used by our old timer by 80%. On less powerful sites where resources were already being pushed, we do suggest giving the new tracking method a try. And because it’s lighter, we do now allow a polling interval down to the 5 second level for increased accuracy (the previous limit was 10).

LearnDash Timer

The update to our LearnDash Groups plugin was released on Thursday. It’s less related to 2.5 but covers a lot of fixes to our Groups plugin. It’s still our newest plugin and it receives the most feedback and suggestions for improvement, so if you use Groups, you should absolutely update. There are a lot of improvements.

The Tin Canny update with LearnDash 2.5 fixes was released earlier today. We had a lot of complications with this one to make sure course attributions were correct with the 2.5 changes, so it unfortunately took the longest to release.

That’s it! Those were a lot of plugin updates for us in a short span. Let us know if you do notice any new issues related to LearnDash 2.5 and we’ll happily take a look.

New Course Certificates and Lesson/Topic Grids!

As we head into the 1-year anniversary of our Pro plugin for the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit, our most popular product, we’re excited to announce 3 new features that will make life easier for many LearnDash admins! Today’s 2.1 release, available to all new and existing Pro users, adds the ability to send course certificates as PDF files on course completion, a new grid option for lessons and topics, and a new attribute that makes our dashboard module a lot more flexible.

Send Course Certificates by Email

We’ve supported sending LearnDash certificates as PDF files with quizzes for a long time, but the ability to send course certificates to learners, Group Leaders, administrators and other users was a gap. In this release we’re adding support for emailing those certificates, which are triggered on course completion and sent exactly as quiz certificates would be.

course certificates settings

The functionality is largely the same as the quiz certificates function but this is set up as its own module. It can be used with or without the quiz certificate emails; there are no dependencies. For easier retrieval of certificates, you can save the files to your web server and we’re including the user’s email address in the file name. (You could also retrieve them from a user’s profile with LearnDash, of course, but this makes it easier to manage large sets of certificate files if required.)

Enhanced Lesson and Topic Grid

Our Enhanced Course Grid was one of the earliest modules in the plugin and introduced a very flexible way to organize LearnDash courses into a visual grid. But it only ever supported courses, and on almost all of our sites we were limited to pretty basic tables listing available lessons and topics. We had done some interesting things with CSS to restructure the tables as grids for some clients, but until now we didn’t have a robust grid model for wider use.

LearnDash Lesson & Topic Grid

This new module effectively brings the basics of the Enhanced Course Grid to lesson and topic tables. Instead of a flat table with text and checkmarks only, you can now show users a highly visual grid format that can incorporate featured images. The module allows control over the use of featured images and the number of columns displayed. For more flexibility, you can either enable these grids globally or add the grid shortcode to specific course or lesson pages on which you want them to appear.  You can even use shortcodes for these grids on non-LearnDash pages and posts.

LearnDash Course Dashboard

On several of our client sites we found that we had outgrown the default behaviours of the dashboard shortcode. For one thing, it was useless for signed out users—and we unexpectedly had a few clients want to use it that way. In this iteration of the dashboard shortcode, you can use a new “show” attribute to populate the table with only enrolled courses (which is the current behaviour), all courses (show everything, regardless of enrolment status), and “open”, which we’re using to show open courses to logged-out users (signed in users see enrolled courses). We think these additions will make the shortcode a lot more flexible.

We hope you enjoy the updates!

A Pro 2.0 Easter Egg!

We’ve had some great feedback on our 2.0 update to the Toolkit Pro plugin after it was released last week. It included the new Import LearnDash Users module (which is huge and essential with large user import lists) as well as lots of other improvements and new features. But did you know that it included another brand new module?

We didn’t! Oops. Due to an oversight with the move to 2.0 (and what that meant behind the scenes in our repository branches), a module we hadn’t planned on releasing yet was included. Luckily it did work and had been through testing, but we only discovered that it had been included this week.

So, now that it’s out, we’re pleased to introduce the Autocomplete Lessons & Topics on Gravity Forms Submission module! That’s a very long name for a module that does exactly what it says it will do—complete LearnDash lessons and topics on submission of a Gravity Form. The module came about because we’ve seen so many users lose their form entries on LearnDash pages. By adding a form, users then see a Submit button (for the form) and Mark Complete button (for LearnDash). It’s not always clear that Submit must be clicked before Mark Complete so that entries aren’t lost. By making this module available, we can avoid that confusion by hiding Mark Complete and having lessons and topics completed automatically on form submission.

gf_autocomplete_setting

Now that we’ve explained it and its utility, you may be wondering why it wasn’t intentionally released. That’s because we hadn’t quite figured out how to handle forms inside lessons that contain topics. We can’t complete those lessons on form submission or users would then be allowed to skip topics. But normal workflow when completing the last topic in a course is to be directed back to the lesson level, which would then show an empty form. That’s really confusing for the user, as they already saw the form previously but it will look like their submission was lost. We could have added persistent data capabilities to forms, hidden the form or something else, but every scenario seemed like it would cause complications for some subset of our clients. That’s why we just released 2.0.2 of the plugin today, which will show the form again but also exposes the Mark Complete button when it detects a previous submission and an incomplete lesson.

But we still recommend you not include forms inside lessons that have topics. 🙂 Put them in topics or standalone lessons instead.

We hope you enjoy the new module!

What Else is New in Toolkit 2.0?

The new Import LearnDash Users module may have stolen the show on Monday’s release of 2.0 versions of both the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit and the Pro Modules add-on, but there were actually a lot of significant enhancements that deserve more attention. Some of them fundamentally change how you’ll interact with the Toolkit on your sites.

Module Settings

We’ve added a lot of new modules to the Toolkit suite since we first launched it and the settings page for it was starting to feel too busy. To make things easier to manage, we’ve added new filters for module type, module category and status. Now it’s a lot easier to see the modules in a more organized way.

Toolkit Filter

We also recognized that having to turn modules on and off and then save the changes at the bottom of the pages was causing some confusion. A lot of people expected clicking the switches alone to turn modules on and off, so that’s what we did. Now you can click the switch and you’ll get a confirmation almost immediately that the status change was saved. We know a lot of users will appreciate no longer having to worry about forgetting to click the Save button.

Enhanced Course Grid

The LearnDash official course grid has had the ability to include short course descriptions in the grid for some time now, so we figured it was time to add support to our module. When the Enhanced Course Grid is active, a Short Description field is added to course edit pages. Enter text here and it will be displayed in the course grid. The grid shortcode now also includes an attribute to show or hide this description field.

One important note here is that our implementation is different than the LearnDash one, so if you currently use the LearnDash Course Grid add-on, any descriptions entered in the field it uses will have to be resaved in our field.

Group Drip & More

There was some debate about how we were handling lesson drip date when a user was in multiple groups with different drip dates. We changed the behaviour in this release so that in this situation the user gets access to the lesson on the earliest date of the groups for which the user is a member.

Our Group Leader module previously blocked access to some ProPanel items so we have unblocked them again. We’re still uneasy showing too much in the back end to Group Leaders but this is the safest approach.

Finally, as always, there are numerous tweaks and improvements in both plugins to deliver an even better experience on your sites. We hope you enjoy the new releases!

 

Import LearnDash Users

The Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit is now trusted on our 4,000 LearnDash sites to improve the learner experience and make things easier for site admins. It is by far the most popular free LearnDash plugin in the WordPress repository, and our Pro modules add-on continues to bring new improvements and capabilities to LearnDash sites.

Today we’re very pleased to introduce version 2.0 of both the Toolkit and Pro modules. The free Toolkit makes configuration activities less confusing, and the Pro plugin adds one of our biggest module additions ever: the ability to import users via CSV file and add them directly to LearnDash courses and groups. If you’re asking yourself why that might be needed when there are several plugins that support importing users via CSV and adding them to groups by including usermeta values, once you see our module it will be very clear how much safer and more efficient our approach is.

import_learndash_users

The new Import LearnDash Users module, available today to all Pro plugin users at no extra cost, gives you an easy-to-use interface to choose which courses and groups to add users to. It allows custom (and optional) notification emails with lots of variables to make sure learners get the right messaging to start using your site. It adds group and course enrolment in a safe way that doesn’t risk what we call “ghost groups” with regular CSV import plugins (which add extra fields to user profiles which, on save, can incorrectly add users to groups they’re not supposed to be in). It includes extremely thorough validation steps so you know exactly what will happen on import, and then it allows you to correct your files before they’re uploaded and add unexpected data to the system. Following import, it confirms exactly what actions were taken, so you’re never guessing about what succeeded and what didn’t.

It’s a long video, but we encourage you to skim through the screencast below so you can see just how powerful and useful the Import LearnDash Users module can be.

This plugin isn’t just for adding new users to LearnDash courses and groups. It can be used as a general user import tool if you exclude LearnDash column headings. It can also be used to update user profiles or add new groups and courses to a list of users, so if you have a list of users you want to add to a new group, it’s easy to do that without affecting their existing course and group enrolment.

importusers_performimport

As with many of our plugins, this is a powerful and complex tool, so we strongly encourage you to read the Knowledge Base article and the instructions in the tool before you upload your first CSV file.

We hope you find this new addition to the Pro modules as helpful as we do! Let us know your comments and suggestions below.

New Modules for LearnDash Pro Toolkit

Yesterday we released version 1.4 of the Pro modules plugin for the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit and it’s one of our biggest updates yet. Along with the usual suite of improvements, we introduced three entirely new modules: Send LearnDash Certificates by Email, Complete Lesson/Topic on Quiz Completion, and the Group Leader Experience. All 3 have been very popular requests and we’re very excited to be able to include them in the Pro plugin. All new features are, of course, available at no extra cost to existing users.

Here’s a screencast that outlines how the new modules and other changes work:

The biggest addition to the plugin is the ability to send LearnDash PDF certificates by email on quiz completion. Certificates can go to learners, of course, but even more exciting is that the site admin, Group Leaders, and even custom email addresses can be notified and also receive the certificate attachment. It’s a great way for managers and organizations to track staff achievements. One caveat with this module is that it works with quiz certificates only for now (not course certificates), but we know a lot of people are going to be excited about easy certificate distribution by email!

2016-12-21_11-52-12

The Autocomplete Lessons & Topics on Quiz Results Page module addresses a common user experience issue on LearnDash sites–users must click a Click here to continue button to save results and be able to mark an associated lesson or topic as complete. If they didn’t, administrator intervention may have been required in order to complete associated lessons and topics properly. This module automatically marks an associated lesson or topic complete as soon as the quiz is completed so that users that accidentally forget to click the button won’t be negatively affected. (Clarification: LearnDash 2.3 did complete quizzes earlier in the workflow; our plugin allows easier autocompletion of associated lessons/topics.)

We have always found the Group Leader experience with LearnDash a bit confusing. For us, it was unusual for Group Leaders to have access to the WordPress Dashboard and back-end profile management, but not to have easy access to the courses they were managing and reports. This simple module, when enabled, grants Group Leaders access to the courses their groups are enrolled in and changes the back end user interface to something more suited to typical Group Leader functions.

igli-enabled

Along with the modules themselves we’ve added some new organizing options for the course grid (including a fixed sorting option by menu order that ignores groupings), expiry date sorting for LearnDash Groups, better translation support and more.

If you don’t already have a copy of the plugin, make sure to check out the other modules already included in the Pro Modules plugin for the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit!