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.

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!