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!

What’s New with Uncanny Owl Plugins?

We’re continuously improving our plugins and making sure they’re the best possible products for our users. Unfortunately, sometimes we overlook communicating new features and talking about how they can make your LearnDash sites even better. Here’s what you may have missed over the last few months:

Pro Modules for Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit

In version 1.2 we added a new module to clearly label sample lessons. Out of the box it’s not always obvious to users which lessons are samples in LearnDash, so in tables that list lessons we add a very clear label and introduced controls styling that label. You can even change the text, so instead of “Sample” you could use “Preview” or “Free”. More information is available at https://www.uncannyowl.com/knowledge-base/sample-lesson-label/.

In version 1.3 we added a new quiz time control that restricts access to a quiz unless users have spent a certain number of minutes in a course. For courses where you need to prevent learners from completing a course unless they’ve spent a minimum amount of time within it, this can be invaluable. We also added some navigation controls that were removed in LearnDash 2.3 that make workflow more intuitive for learners when autocompletion behaviours are enabled. Finally, version 1.3 of the Pro modules plugin is more translation friendly.

Tin Canny LearnDash Reporting

In version 1.1 of the Tin Canny plugin, we added a new dashboard metric, CSV export options, more control over Mark Complete behaviours when Tin Can modules are present in a lesson/topic, and data for total time spent in a course (to supplement completion time. We’re very excited about all of the improvements, but version 1.2 will really change what’s possible for tracking elearning in WordPress—especially for our enterprise users. Stay tuned for most news in that area, because it will be a first for elearning in WordPress.

Coming Soon

Our next paid plugin will make it possible to manage free enrolment to courses and membership in LearnDash Groups in a much more polished and accurate way. We don’t want to give too much away just yet, but watch for an announcement in the next month. The new plugin represents the accumulation of months of development and has been used very successfully on 5 client sites.

Is there something you’d like to see next in the Pro plugin? The list below includes features we’re considering for the next release. Let us know what you would like most!

If You Use Our Plugins

If you run one of the 2,500 LearnDash sites using our plugins, we could really use your help to make them even better.

First, we field a lot of support requests. If we’ve helped you with a question, it’s always extremely useful when you let us know if our guidance worked, especially if you posted on the WordPress.org support site.

Second, if you do use the free Toolkit, let us know how it helped your site by leaving a review in the WordPress repository. We do read them all and always appreciate feedback.

Create a LearnDash Site in 1 Hour

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

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

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

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

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

Add Sample Lesson Labels in LearnDash

Version 1.2 of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro has been released, and with it a new module: customizable labels for sample lessons.  If you’ve offered sample lessons for your closed courses, you’ll know that LearnDash’s differentiation between sample and non-sample lessons is quite subtle.  This module adds a visual “Sample” label, and the module settings let you customize the text, colors and size of the label.

course_table_with_sample

Visit the knowledge base for full details.

We’ve also included a number of updates and fixes in this release, including better print styles for the learner transcript module and better support for long course names in the course dashboard.

Head over to the downloads page to see the full changelog for version 1.2.

Branding for LearnDash Groups

Do you sell courses to organizations? If you do, you probably wish there was an easier way to tailor your course and site branding to your clients without having to use multisite or cloned courses. With today’s release of a new Pro branding module for LearnDash Groups, you can easily deliver organizational branding right inside your existing courses!

group_logoOur new branding module adds 2 important features to LearnDash sites: group logos and front-end group lists. After adding a logo to LearnDash groups, just add a shortcode anywhere you want users to see the logo associated with their group. It might be a learner dashboard, a contact page—it could even be in the header of your site. How much would your clients like their users to see branding associated with their organization? It’s completely dynamic, so users will only see the logo for the group they’re a member of. If you use our Group Registration module, you can even display the logo for the associated group on the user registration page. It helps users validate that they’re on the right page, and it helps your client organizations deliver the right branding for their users—all without multisite.

Our shortcode for group listings seems simple at a glance, but it’s actually an extremely powerful way to give courses the feeling that they were created just for an organization’s users. What the shortcode does is list the user’s LearnDash Group on the front end. Let’s suppose that a site has 2 users, Ryan in a group called “Uncanny Owl” and Ken in a group called “LearnDash”. Inside one of the course lessons we include the phrase, “At [uo_group_list], we embrace diversity.” When Ryan views the lesson, he would see “At Uncanny Owl, we embrace diversity.” Ken, on the other hand, would see “At LearnDash, we embrace diversity.” We’re very excited about using this new shortcode on client sites to deliver the experience of branded courses without the hard work and complexity that usually goes along with it.

Introducing the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit Pro Modules

Earlier this year we released our first public plugin to the WordPress Repository. The Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit has developed a huge following since its release, with over 1,000 active installs and over 4,000 downloads, and we wanted to take that foundation and add a number of new capabilities that would help LearnDash site owners really take their learner experience to the next level.

The Pro set of modules for the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit is our first paid plugin and represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of internal development time. The new modules are considerably more complex than what’s in the current plugin, but they’re also very powerful and fundamentally change what’s possible with LearnDash sites.

Here are the modules included in the initial release of the Pro plugin (usage instructions are left to our Knowledge Base articles in the links because of module complexity):

Autocomplete Lessons and Topics: As simple as it sounds, this module marks lessons and topics as completed when the page is visited so learners no longer have to click Mark Complete on lessons and topics.

Simple Course Timer: Adds time tracking to LearnDash courses. Both total course time (across course, lesson, topic and quiz post types) and course completion time are recorded as learners complete learning activities. Results are added to LearnDash reports and can be displayed to users via shortcodes.

LearnDash Group Expiration: Expire course access for LearnDash Groups by calendar date. On a specific date, all courses can be removed from a LearnDash Group (revoking access for associated users), making it easier to sell courses to organizations and remove access automatically.

Enhanced Course Grid: This module provides an alternative way to display courses in a grid-based system that’s particularly useful to signed-in users. It’s extremely flexible.

Course Dashboard: We took the basics of the ld_profile shortcode but modified the design (and content) to fit seamlessly into typical landing pages for learners.

Learner Transcript: This report shortcode generates a printable view of user progress across all LearnDash courses. It’s a better way for learners to share their accomplishments offline and with other parties.

Duplicate Pages and Posts: A simple module that clones LearnDash post types, but with proper support for quizzes and quiz questions. With this module you can skip the export/import quiz steps normally recommended.

Days Until Course Expiry: Show learners the number of days until access expires (rather than the calendar date available with LearnDash).

Drip Lessons by LearnDash Group: Set specific drip dates for every LearnDash group instead of every group being bound to the same dates.

LearnDash Table Colors: Adds a simple way to restyle LearnDash course, lesson, quiz and dashboard tables by changing the colors of the header background and text.

LearnDash Group Registration: Adds a front-end registration function for adding users to both WordPress and LearnDash Groups at the same time. It even supports users switching groups or adding additional groups to a user from the front end. Gravity Forms or Theme My Login are recommended for this module but not required.

The Pro plugin requires PHP 5.3 or higher, LearnDash 2.1 or higher, and the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit version 1.3 or higher. These 3 things are really important, so please make sure your site is updated before you purchase and install the Pro modules!

Some of the new modules are reasonably complex, and it’s very important that you read the Knowledge Base articles and watch the screencasts before you start using the plugin. If you do run into any problems or questions, send us a note!

We hope you like the new Pro modules and that they help to improve your LearnDash sites!

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Introducing the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit

We are very pleased to announce the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit, our very first plugin in the WordPress repository. This plugin is a collection of some of the key basic features we see requested on LearnDash sites that usually require a custom solution. We created this plugin to make it easier for general LearnDash users to get a head start with their LearnDash sites.

The plugin, at least for its initial release, makes it easy to do the following:

  • Add a clean login form to any page so you don’t have to rely on wp-login.php.
  • Force user verification, so users can create accounts but can’t sign in until approved by an administrator.
  • Hide the admin bar for WordPress roles of your choice.
  • Add a button anywhere that lets users resume their most recently viewed course, lesson or topic.
  • Display a user’s list of LearnDash Groups in their user profiles.
  • Redirect users to a specific page after logging into the site.
  • Mark lessons as complete automatically when all topics and quizzes within the lesson have been marked complete.
  • Hide or show menu items based on the user’s signed-in state.
  • Display a list of earned LearnDash certificates.
  • Show or hide content based on a user’s signed in state.
  • Display a list of certificates in a widget.

Yes, it’s a lot of functionality. We designed it to be lean though, and it’s really easy to turn on only the specific features you need. Every feature has an on/off switch so you can use the plugin  as much or as little as you want. For the developers out there, we’ve added some hooks and translation features that should make your customizations easy (we’ll follow up with another post with some of the cool things you can do with filters).

Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit

Before I jump into a detailed overview of each feature and how to use it, there are 3 very important things to remember. First, this is the first release of a complex plugin, so there could be issues. We invite feedback, and in fact, we’ll be opening up the git repository so you can suggest changes. Second, the plugin offers a lot of capabilities, so to maximize performance, we made it possible (and easy) to turn functions on and off. By turning functions off the associated code will not run and there won’t be any performance hit; as such, we recommend turning features off that you don’t need. Third, very little styling is included so that the plugin styles inherit whatever has been set up for the theme and LearnDash. Our aim was to keep things consistent with your current system and easy to style with CSS rather than introduce new styles.

With that out of the way, here’s a video that outlines exactly how the plugin works and how to use each of the features included in it.

Detailed Feature Overview

Front End Login

Front_End_Login

This function lets you put login forms anywhere on your WordPress site; it also allows you to restrict access to verified users. To use this feature, turn it on so that the green ON switch is displayed. Once enabled, several features become available: a [uo_login] shortcode for login from any page; a [uo_login_ui] for the default login page (which replaces wp-login.php and must be defined in the feature settings) and user verification.

Let’s start with verification. If enabled in the Settings (click the Gear icon to turn this on), users that register from the front end MUST be manually approved by an administrator before they can sign in. This field must be checked for it to work. Once set and saved, a “Verified” column will be added to the list of users in WordPress. Any users listed as “Not Verified” cannot sign into WordPress. To verify a user, navigate to the user’s profile and look for the “Verify User” label. By selecting this field and saving the page, the users will be able to sign in. On verification, users will also be notified by email that the account has been verified and access has been granted. If you turn this feature on, make sure you verify all existing users, including administrators!

The [uo_login_ui] shortcode allows you to replace the default wp-login.php page with your own branded page. To set this up properly, we recommend creating a page first and adding the [uo_login_ui] shortcode to a page. Once that’s done, return to the Uncanny Toolkit settings page and open the settings for Front End Login. Choose the page you added and save the settings. Once this is set up, users will be directed to the new branded login page instead of wp-login.php. Both the shortcode and the page must be set up for this to work properly. The login page must also be set up for the user verification to work.

To add a simple login form to any page, use this shortcode example: [uo_login]content if logged in[/uo_login]. That allows you to add the form and include a special message to users seeing the form area that have already signed in.

admin_barHide Admin Bar

This very simple function turns the black admin bar at the tops of pages off for any roles that you don’t want to have access to it. Typically this might include Subscriber and Customer roles.

LearnDash Resume Button

When turned on, this function stores the last LearnDash page that every learner visits. To use make this available to learners, add the [uo_learndash_resume] shortcode to any page. This will create a button that, when clicked, will take the user to the most recently accessed course, lesson or topic.

LearnDash Groups in User Profiles

As the title says, this feature adds a row to backend user profiles that shows a list of LearnDash Groups for which the user is a member. This makes it a lot easier to troubleshoot course permission issues on sites with many LearnDash Groups.

Login Redirect

redirect

By turning this feature on and setting a redirect URL in the Settings window, you can easily send users to any URL after login. If the URL field is left blank than users will be directed to the homepage. This feature is a great way to make sure learners are directed to a dashboard or course page immediately after signing in. Note that the redirect does not apply to administrators.

Topics Autocomplete Lessons

Have your learners ever gotten confused when they’re directed back up to the lesson page after completing all topics in the lesson? Ours too. It means they’re seeing the lesson page twice and have to mark it complete the second time, which isn’t always obvious. What this function does is run a check when a topic is completed to see if it’s the last incomplete topic in a lesson, and if it is, the lesson is marked complete automatically and the learner is navigated to the next lesson page. It may only save a click, but it can really help to simplify navigation and reduce confusion.

Menu Item Visibility

It almost always makes sense to show different content to signed-in learners and anonymous visitors. Learners need access to things like a course dashboard, profile management and account details; those things aren’t relevant to people that aren’t signed in. Turning this feature on adds a simple control for WordPress menus: each entry can be visible to everyone, visible to signed-in users only or visible to signed-out users only. We kept it light, so there are no controls by role or other attributes, but this should be good enough for most sites without requiring a heavy plugin.

Show LearnDash Certificates

Ever wish you could easily show a list of earned certificates? The [uo_learndash_certificates] shortcode makes it easy. Drop the shortcode anywhere to show a list of earned certificates, with the most recently earned at the top. To style the container, use [uo_learndash_certificates class=’my-class’ title=’my-title’], where my-class is a CSS class and my-title is a title for the element.

Show or Hide Content

This feature allows you to show any content you want to either logged in users OR logged out users. Here are 2 examples of how to use the shortcodes:

That example would display the text to users that are signed in. This might be useful in an Open course to display special bonus content, like a video or download.

Show content for logged out users

That example will display the content for users that aren’t signed in. This is helpful for calls to actions and other marketing that isn’t relevant to signed-in users.

LearnDash Certificate Widget

This feature is just like the Show LearnDash Certificates function above but it makes it available as a widget. This is a great addition to navigation sidebars on LearnDash pages and learner dashboards.

That’s it for the first iteration of the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit!

We really hope you find it useful.

Click here to view the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit in the WordPress Repository. Please note that it does require PHP 5.6, as recommended by WordPress.

v1.1 Update April 8, 2016:

Log In/Log Out Links

Screenshot_040816_105703_AMWe’ve added a really handy feature for adding log in and log out links to your menu, widgets, or posts!

Once activated, you’ll see a panel called “Uncanny Menu Links” in your menu sidebar.  You can add a Log In link, a Log Out link, a link that automatically switches between Log In and Log Out depending on whether the user is logged in or out, or a link to your Register page.

To add the links to a widget or post, use the shortcodes below:

  • [uo_login] : Log In link
  • Logout : Log Out link
  • Log In : Log In / Log Out link
  • Register : Register page link

v1.2 Update April 12, 2016:

Breadcrumb Links

breadcrumbsWe’ve incorporated our breadcrumb link plugin into the Toolkit and improved how it works.

After enabling the module, you can use a 

shortcode wherever you want breadcrumb links to be displayed. If you want to include the breadcrumbs in a header template instead, use <uo_breadcrumbs()> in the PHP file.

Out of the box, breadcrumbs for LearnDash are displayed in the following format: Home > (Course Archive Page) > (Course Name) > (Lesson Name) > (Topic Name). Since most LearnDash users will prefer a dashboard (like a page with a profile shortcode, course grid or something custom), we added fields in the Settings panel for this module that allows you to define the dashboard page name as well as the page to use. When these 2 values are set, the dashboard will replace the course archive page in the breadcrumb links. You can also change the separator in the settings (and even include HTML if you want to use Font Awesome or something similar).

Because breadcrumbs just require a shortcode, you can use them inside LearnDash posts, in the sidebar, or anywhere else you want. We do also include WooCommerce support, but associations may not work as well for other post types.