18 Sep 2018
Installation and Setup
The rather unimaginatively named WPLMS (WordPress Learning Management System) is a WordPress based LMS. It requires WordPress version 4.6 or newer, and will work with PHP 5.3 or newer, but recommends PHP version 7. WPLMS has some additional requirements including a PHP max execution time of 200 seconds or more.
WPLMS is sold exclusively through ThemeForest, and like all premium themes and plugins, is not available through the WordPress plugin directory.
When reviewing learning management systems I like to go in blind, without reading any installation guides, in order to get a feel for how easy installation really is. Initially I struggled to get WPLMS working, as I assumed it would be a plugin, rather than a theme. Once I’d figured out it’s a theme and installed it correctly, I was then presented with the choice of an install wizard or the one click install.
I first tried the one-click install, but it didn’t seem to do a complete installation, as there was no course area created. I’m not sure if this is normal for the one-click, or if mine failed without an error message. Either way I’d recommend the wizard, which worked perfectly, and allowed me to choose which features to install. The install wizard also explained what was happening in each step, and is definitely the more user friendly option.
One issue I had with the install wizard is that when installing required plugins, some of them said ‘ajax error’ instead of ‘success’, which sounds bad, but it actually just means the plugin installed successfully, but the plugin wanted to redirect to another page, which WPLMS blocked.
It turns out this and all the other issues I had were explained in the installation guide video on WPLMS support site, so I’d strongly recommend watching that before installing WPLMS.
WPLMS makes clever use of existing WordPress plugins for some of its features, including WooCommerce for monetizing courses, and BBPress for discussion forums. While this does make the install process a little more complicated, it allows WPLMS to remain one of the more affordable and feature-rich Learning Management Systems.
By integrating with BigBlueButton, WPLMS offers video conferencing. This allows your instructors to give live lessons over video, and even provide one-on-one tuition.
WPLMS works with the WooCommerce plugin to allow you to charge for courses. This means you can charge a one time fee for a course, or a recurring subscription. You can also set up paid memberships that include access to certain courses.
Like many modern learning management systems, WPLMS supports gamification of courses. This includes allowing students to earn points for completing courses, which can then bye used to purchase other courses.
WPLMS’s integration with BBPress allows you to create discussion forums where your students can interact with each other. Individual forums can be set up so only students on certain courses have access.
Huge range of plugins
Like all WordPress based e-learning tools, WPLMS can works along side all other WordPress plugins, eg: if you want to install the Saber Course Feedback Tool on your WPLMS site, you can use the WordPress Plugin.
Using WPLMS as a student
One of WPLMS’s standout features is that it includes e-learning specific WordPress themes, as well as being a full-featured LMS. The default Student interface is excellent, allowing students to easily search for courses by category, instructor, price, etc.
The actual learning interface is one of the best available. When enrolled in a course students are presented with a full screen interface that gives a great overview of the course, showing their progress, while dedicating most of the screen to the actual course materials.
My only real criticism is the in-course navigation buttons, as there are not obviously buttons. In particular, it may not be apparent to students that they need to click “MARK THIS UNIT COMPLETE” before moving on to the next section.
Using WPLMS as a course creator
In WPLMS, course creation and management is done through the front end, instead of in the WordPress control panel where you might expect. They claim this is so “instructors do not need to see wp-admin area”, although I’m not sure I see the value in this, as the WordPress admin area not particularly daunting, and it would make more sense to keep all admin tasks in one area. In spite of this, the course creator is very good, although not quite as intuitive as LearnDash’s, which is still the gold standard in course creation.
While WPLMS does allow you to drag to reorder items within a course, it doesn’t have a full drag-and-drop interface. It would also greatly benefit from some more in page tool tips and help, particularly for anyone who is new to learning management systems.
WPLMS is also missing some of the deeper customization options present in other LMSs, such as start dates on a per-unit basis, rather than just the whole course. Although WPLMS does include a comprehensive drip-feed option.
Quizzes in WPLMS are as good as any other LMS, featuring many question types, point assignment and optional hints. It’s also a very easy to understand interface for quiz creation, so even the most novice learning management system admin should be able to quickly create any quiz.
At a one-time fee of $69 ($90.38 with 12 months support), WPLMS is definitely one of the most affordable commercial learning management systems available. However, you do get what you pay for, and while the student interface is outstanding, the course creation interface, where you’ll likely be spending most of your time, is lacking in some areas. Personally I don’t like that the LMS management is done in the front end, instead of in the WordPress admin area. Keeping all the administrative tasks in one place, and separate from the student interface would make more sense, and speed up certain tasks.
Installation is not as simple or straight forward as I’d expect from a WordPress based LMS, but once installed WPLMS is a very competent system. I also really like all the example course data that is included. Being able to poke around some complete courses can be really helpful in understanding how everything works.
Overall, WPLMS is definitely not the best learning management system, or even the best WordPress based one. It is however outstanding for the price, and if your budget wont stretch to something like LearnDash WPLMS is a great option.
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