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.

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!

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!

Use LearnDash Groups? Get this Toolkit Pro Update

Version 3.2.6 of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro might sound like a small point release, but for users of LearnDash Groups, it’s going to make things a lot better. We worked really hard on this one to accommodate a number of user requests (including from the LearnDash team), so we know it’s going to add a lot of value.

Send Group Drip Notifications

The Group Drip module is now compatible with the LearnDash Notifications plugin!

What does that mean for you? Well, if you control how lessons are dripped by LearnDash Group, it means you can send users an email when the lesson is available. Workarounds, like using a CRM to drip notices based on group tag, are no longer needed.

This makes is much, much easier to let students know when content is available in their courses.

Please note that while we did our best to make things as simple as possible, because of how the Notifications plugin works, having emails triggered by group drip date does unfortunately require that everything be set up in a particular order. Here’s what’s needed to make the notifications work:

  1. Create the Lesson Notification in the LearnDash Notifications plugin.
  2. Create or edit the lesson you’re going to drip.
    1. If Shared Course Steps are off, choose a group for the drip behaviour and then select a date.
    2. If Shared Course Steps are on, select a course in the Course Switcher dropdown, choose a group for the drip behaviour and select a date.
  3. Save the lesson changes.

The lesson update after setting up the notification is unfortunately needed for emails to be triggered properly. It’s worth it though for this powerful new feature!

Integration with the Uncanny Groups Plugin

The 3.2.6 release of Pro also adds some really compelling new ways to use Pro with our Groups plugin. The Import LearnDash Users and Group Registration modules now recognize and work with seat limits set in Groups. What does that mean for your site?

For the Import Users module, it means that user uploads into LearnDash Groups that have seat limits will now count against available seats. In other words, if a group has 100 seats assigned, 40 in the group already and you add another 40 by import, the group will now have 20 seats remaining. The imported users will count against the seat count for the group. And, if you were import 100 instead of 40, then the seat limit for the group would be increased to 140 (since there were 40 and 100 were imported) and the available seat count would change to 0.

It’s pretty great, but the Group Registration changes are even better. Now all users that register from the group URLs count against the available seat limit. These means you can now limit how many people can use these registration URLs, but even better, you can let group members self-register directly into groups without using enrollment keys. Instead, the unique URL they register from effectively acts as the pre-populated enrollment key. This approach is far easier for learners to use when signing up for group-based access.

And that’s it for Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro 3.2.6! If you use LearnDash Groups, you’re definitely going to enjoy these new features.

LearnDash 3.0 is out. Do you still need the Toolkit?

The LearnDash 3.0 release landed a few weeks ago, bringing with it lots of new features and a far better user experience for students and admins. It also added new login and registration options, meaning LearnDash site admins no longer need to rely on additional plugins to incorporate those features. With all of the LearnDash enhancements in the 3.0 release, it begs the question: Do LearnDash site owners still need the free version of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit?

LearnDash Toolkit

 

What’s in the Toolkit?

To consider the relevancy of the free Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit in a LearnDash 3.0 world, let’s review the modules included in the Toolkit:

  • Breadcrumb Links: Allow easy navigation from inside lessons and topics back up to the course and student dashboard level.
  • Certificate Widget: Output a list of earned certificates in a widget area with links to open the certificates.
  • Front End Login: A login form that allows easy branding, password reset, recaptcha support and more.
  • Groups in User Profiles: List groups that a user belongs to on the profile edit page in /wp-admin/.
  • Hide Admin Bar: Hide the admin bar for users based on role.
  • Log In/Log Out Links: Add links to menus to easily log in and log out from any page on a site.
  • Log In/Log Out Redirects: Control where users are directed when they log in or out on the site.
  • Menu Item Visibility: Show menu entries based on whether or not the user is signed in.
  • Not Enrolled Redirect: Redirect users to a sales, login or other page when they land on a course page when not enrolled.
  • Resume Button: Return users to where they left off in a course.
  • Show Certificates: Show a list of earned certificates with hyperlinks.
  • Show or Hide Content: Conditionally show content on a page based on whether the user is logged in or out.
  • Topics Autocomplete Lessons: Lessons are completed automatically when associated topics are all completed.
  • User Switching: Allow admins to switch to a student account and view the site as that student.

Those 14 modules are currently available in the free version of the Toolkit and offer an easy way for admins to add extra capabilities to LearnDash sites.

Are all Toolkit modules still relevant with LearnDash 3.0?

Now that we’ve taken a look at what the Toolkit offers, let’s review how their utility and relevance changes with LearnDash 3.0.

The Breadcrumb Links module is particularly useful on more complex sites where there is a dedicated page acting as a learner “dashboard”. This is typically where learners land after logging in and will often include a list of enrolled courses, instructions, and links to key tools and resources. LearnDash 3.0 offers an easy way for learners to navigate back up to the course level with breadcrumbs, but not back to a centralized course dashboard (if one exists). For sites using a learner dashboard or with more complex navigation needs, this module remains an important addition with LearnDash 3.0.

The Certificate Widget and Show Certificates modules may or may not be of value on LD sites. There are alternatives (the ld_profile shortcode in LearnDash, for example, includes certificate links) and certainly these aren’t must-have tools.  If you prefer to display a list of certificates in a sidebar or independently of the ld_profile shortcode, then these modules may still add value to your site.

The Front End Login module is where things get more interesting. Until LearnDash 3.0, this is what made the Toolkit essential for LearnDash sites and was by far the most-used module in the Toolkit. Now that LearnDash 3.0 has login capabilities, should anyone still use the version in the Toolkit?

In our opinion, it depends. What’s in LearnDash 3.0 right now is basic and handles simple login functions only. What’s in the Toolkit handles branded password reset (LearnDash relies on WordPress default password reset functions), reCaptcha, manual user verification and more—features the LearnDash login tool doesn’t support. Of course, not everyone needs those features, and what’s in LearnDash is likely sufficient on some sites.

Recaptcha in LearnDash Login Form

Groups in User Profiles is effectively redundant in LearnDash 3.0. It’s a legacy module that doesn’t add value to new LearnDash 3.0 sites and we may retire it.

Hide Admin Bar adds some role-based controls to hiding the admin bar that LearnDash doesn’t offer, and if you want to keep Group Leaders out of /wp-admin/ then this is still a very useful addition. If that capability isn’t needed, default LearnDash behaviours should be sufficient.

Log In/Log Out Links and Log In/Log Out Redirects are, or at least we believe they are, essential additions to LearnDash sites. We think Log In and Log Out functions should be easily accessible to users and available in site menus, and that learner dashboards should be used to provide a good student experience (and by using the redirect module, users can automatically land there after login).

Should learners see a different site menu than anonymous prospects? Absolutely, and that’s why we think the Menu Item Visibility module is also a must-have. LearnDash doesn’t currently support this capability.

Not Enrolled Redirect is an optional module that is useful if you display the same list of courses to both enrolled and not enrolled users (using something like a course grid, for example), and want users to be redirected to some sort of page optimized for sales instead of the course page when they click on a course in which they’re not enrolled.  For sites with that type of user experience, this module can add a lot of value.

The Resume Button module is another must-have, especially if you use our Pro plugin and the course grid or dashboard modules. It makes it easier for students to see where they left off and pick up again from that point.

Course Grid with LearnDash Resume Button

Show or Hide Content is another module that is very useful when you want to display different content to users on a given page depending on whether they’re logged in or out.  There are growing alternatives for sites, especially with increasing use of Membership and CRM plugins, and in many cases the native and LearnDash shortcodes are suitable alternatives. But there are still situations where these shortcodes make messaging for students a lot easier to manage.

Topics Autocomplete Lessons does still offer a more linear flow through courses and better student experience in many situations. It’s widely used, and while not a must-have, it’s going to add value to most sites.

The User Switching is the final must-have module in the list. For troubleshooting problems this capability is invaluable for admins.

So, do you need the Toolkit?

Yes, the Toolkit still adds significant value to LearnDash 3.0 sites. Certainly we’re biased, but we believe that LearnDash sites still need the Toolkit to round out the admin and user experience.

We recognize that some Toolkit modules aren’t as essential as they once were. The Front End Login module moves from must-have status to a valuable add-on for most sites, and while all sites we build will use our Front End Login module (we want reCaptcha and branded password reset), we know fewer sites in the future will depend on our login module.

Nevertheless, that still leaves five Toolkit modules that we believe should be on all LearnDash sites: Log In/Log Out Links, Log In/Log Out Redirects, Menu Item Visibility, Resume Button and User Switching. Many others are likely to add some value, depending on the context, and there’s never a situation where we just recommend turning everything on without considering the value it adds to your site.

What about Pro?

Everything covered above is about the free Toolkit only. After all, it’s almost standard on new LearnDash sites and has a huge install base. But the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro add-ons plugin is extremely popular too, installed on thousands of LearnDash sites, and it adds dozens of additional modules. Are any of those redundant with the LearnDash release?

For our own LearnDash projects, the Pro add-on is our only other must-install plugin besides the Toolkit. (Our other Uncanny Owl plugins, like Groups, Tin Canny, Codes, and Continuing Education Credits certainly add value to some sites, but they’re not suited to every site.) At the time of publishing, Pro adds 25 modules to LearnDash sites, and on typical sites that use Pro we often see 5 to 10 of those activated.

For sites using Pro, we consider several of the modules to be extremely high value: Simple Course Timer, Import Users (directly into courses and groups using a simple checkbox interface), Course DashboardEnhanced Course/Lessons/Topics Grid, Import LearnDash Users, Email Course/Quiz Certificates, Drip Lessons by Group, Duplicate Pages and PostsAutocomplete Lessons & Topics, and the Learner Transcript. LearnDash 3.0 doesn’t include anything related to the functionality these modules add to sites.

Two pro modules have been replaced by native LearnDash functionality in LearnDash 3.0 (with the LearnDash 3.0 theme active): Sample Lesson Label and Lesson/Topic/Quiz Table Colours.  The LearnDash 3.0 theme now shows a visible Sample label on sample lessons, and lets users customize UI colours in settings.  However, none of the other modules in Pro have seen their value proposition change with the LearnDash 3.0 release. While Certificate Preview is a new module to the Toolkit, it is another one where we can see future LearnDash development negating the need for this tool. For now, however, it still makes certificate production and testing more efficient.

Are we changing the Toolkit because of LearnDash 3.0?

Both the free Toolkit and Pro addons remain under very active development and we have a lot of great new features planned. Some modules (like the Groups in user Profiles module) may be retired as they become less useful, but that’s a good thing—we want deliver the best possible experience on LearnDash 3.0 sites and we’ll continue innovating and reassessing the value of our Toolkit modules.

 

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, but drop the /templates path  (e.g. /src/templates/frontend-login/default-login.php would go in /your-child-theme/uncanny-toolkit/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.