Everything You Need to Know About Giving Your Students an Excellent UX

WP Courseware User Experience

The other day I was scanning Amazon for a book which I purchased via Amazon One Click. I was reminded of how ridiculously easy it was to purchase something on Amazon. If you stop and think about what Amazon has done, it’s brilliant! They have single-handedly or “single-clickedly” (yes I know clickedly isn’t a word, but it sounded pretty cool) found a way to make it SUPER easy for you to spend your money on Amazon with a single click. One click is more than just a user interface, it’s a user experience. Since the user experience is great, people are more likely to purchase on Amazon rather than another online shop because it’s easy and convenient. Let’s face it, we are creatures of convenience.

How can we apply convenience to our course?

I’m sure there are various ways you are serving up your course on your website, whether it be as a product along side your membership content, or maybe it’s a series of courses being sold a la carte or perhaps you are offering up free courses for corporate internal training. In any event, there are several ways to set up your site to make it convenient for your students to register, access, and navigate your course.

Student Registration and Enrollment

WP Courseware User RegistrationThe first component I’d like to talk about is enrollment. I don’t want to go into too much detail about enrollment, however, if you are interested in reading full details about enrollment visit our support site article about enrollment. Enrollment simply grants a student access to a course. Enrollment is triggered by user registration, assuming that you are configured for automatic enrollment. Without being enrolled into a course, a student will not be able to view any course content.

Currently there are only two methods for achieving “automatic enrollment”. In the first method, you can set a course or multiple courses to “automatic enrollment” (configured within the course settings) which will enroll your students into any and every course set to automatic enrollment upon registration. The second method would require you to use a membership plugin or e-commerce plugin that is integrated with WP Courseware. For a complete list of integrations for WP Courseware check out our integration list. When using an integration, the “automatic enrollment” option in the course settings is actually disabled. This is to allow the integration to enroll students into specific courses based on course association with membership level or product. Basically, when a student purchases a membership level or product, they will be enrolled into the courses associated with the membership level or product.

Provide an Entry Point for Your Course

Once students are registered they will need to have an entry point into the course or at the very least a way to navigate to the first unit of the first module in a course. Here are a few suggestions to accomplish this task.

  • Course outline page – The course outline page is created using the [wpcourse] shortcode. The shortcode requires the “course” parameter which will specify the ID of the course that you’d like to display on the course outline. This is a great option if you only have one course, or if you have absolute control over how students in a particular course navigate to this page. Since you have to specify the course ID, it’s imperative that you only send student’s enrolled into the course specified to this course outline, otherwise if the student is not enrolled they will see the course outline but won’t be able to click on any of the course units. Another use for this shortcode would be when you want to share publicly which modules/units are included in your course. There are several other shortcode parameters that you can find by clicking on “Training Courses→Documentation”.
  • Course progress page – The course progress page is created using the [wpcourse_progress] shortcode. It’s my favorite method for creating an entry point for students because it’s dynamic. With this shortcode you don’t need to specify a course ID because there is logic built in to detect which courses the student is enrolled in. However, you can specify course ID’s with the “courses” parameter, but that’s only if you want to limit or re-arrange the courses that are visible to the student. Again you can find all the parameters for this shortcode by clicking “Training Courses→Documentation”
  • Dashboard page – If you have a membership site, or perhaps a site where you are selling multiple digital products, you may want to create a dashboard page. The dashboard page basically provides links to various resources on your site. This gives your students a “big picture” of all your resources and content. Often times you will see a video on the dashboard explaining how to use the site and access the resources. The dashboard page can provide a link to a course outline page, a course progress page, or perhaps can have buttons that will direct a user to the first unit of module 1 in a specific course.
  • Direct link – Another option would be to  create a menu item or a button from a page, perhaps a dashboard page that links directly to the first unit of module 1. This is my least favorite option when it comes to UX, however, it is an alternative method to provide an entry point into your course.

Student Login and Redirection

WP Courseware login redirectOne of the most vital pieces to the UX puzzle is login and redirection. Being that I am a WordPress junkie, I actually like the WordPress login page. I’ve created custom login pages in the past, but have settled on the native WordPress login page. However, some individuals prefer to have a login page that has the elements of their theme.

The login redirection is also very important and goes hand in hand with the login page. Basically, the redirection will send you to a particular page on your site upon login. More specifically it should take you to your course outline, course progress page, or dashboard page. There is custom code that you can implement to achieve the login redirect, however, there are some easier methods. The logout redirection is the page you are taken to upon logging out of the site which is optional, however, I recommend having a logout redirect as well to make the UX the best that it can be.

Before I tackle the custom login tactic, I want to mention that most membership plugins have the redirection functionality built in. Check the documentation for your particular membership plugin to see how you can add in a redirection. If there isn’t a redirection option, then you can use one of the options below.

The easiest way to get a custom login page is to use a plugin like Theme My Login. Theme My Login has evolved over time and has some really great functionality. In fact, you can kill two birds with one stone by using this plugin for both a custom login page and for redirection. After installing and activating Theme My Login, the only thing you will need to configure is the login redirection. Theme My Login automatically creates pages for log in, log out, lost password, register, and reset password. When you click “TML→General”, there will be a check box to “Enable Custom Redirection”. Upon saving the settings, you will then have a new menu item called “Redirection”. If you click “TML→Redirection”, you will then be allowed to set a custom redirection for “Subscribers”.

[TIP] – The subscriber role is the default role that is assigned to someone who registers on your site.

Another plugin that you can use for redirection (in case you don’t need a pretty login form) is Peter’s Login Redirect. Upon activating, you can navigate to “Settings→Login/Logout Redirects”. Then you can set a “role rule” for a specific role. In this case you will select “Subscriber”, add a login URL, and a logout URL (optional, but recommended). That’s it! Pretty simple, right?

Course Unit Navigation

WP Courseware NavigationOnce your students are inside the course viewing course units, it’s very important to provide a method to navigate through the course and also get back to the course outline or course progress page.

If your course units have a sidebar, then we recommend adding the “WPCW Course Progress” sidebar widget. This widget is pretty robust and will allow you to display it in a variety of contexts. I am not going to cover each and every option, but I want to highlight a couple of the important features. The option for “Course to Show” is a dynamic option which will allow you to display the course that is currently being viewed, otherwise you must select a specific course. I don’t know about you, but I love anything that is dynamic! The expand/contract modules is self explanatory, however we recommend displaying all modules for short courses otherwise you can use the contract all except current module which is helpful for longer courses with many modules. Under “More Options” you will notice an option called “Only display this widget when showing a course unit” which is another dynamic feature. Basically, WP Courseware will use the single.php template which is the same exact template that your blog posts use. That said, if you add the widget to your blog post sidebar, you may not want it to show up on your blog post’s sidebar, hence the option to only display it on a course unit.

Another important navigation feature is to provide a menu item or button somewhere in your header that will link back to your course outline or course progress page. If you have a dashboard page, perhaps a “Dashboard” menu item would suffice. In any case, make sure your students can navigate in and out of all courses available to them.

User Profile Page and the Admin Bar

WP Courseware Profile PageAlthough a user profile page is not directly related to delivering a course, it does play a role in your user experience. If you are like most site administrators you don’t want to leave the “admin bar” at the top of the screen to allow registered subscribers access to the “backend” of WordPress to see their profile. However, I do recommend providing a way to view a profile so that they can change information like their name or email address. This will actually cut down on user student requests to update personal information.

If you do want to remove the admin bar, you can add just a few lines of code to your functions.php file to achieve this result. Our good friends at WP Beginner have written a great article on how to disable the WordPress admin bar for all users except administrators.

Many membership plugins and e-commerce plugins like Easy Digital Downloads provide a shortcode for a user profile page.

If you use Theme My Login, you can enable the “Themed Profiles” function which will allow you to restrict admin access for “subscribers”. Basically, this will remove the admin bar at the top and allow your users to view and modify their profile on a page that follows the look and feel of your site.

Do you have your own tips for creating a great user experience for your course’s students? Let us know in the comments below!



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