6 Lessons Learned from Our WordPress LMS User Survey

WordPress LMS User Survey

In case you missed it, we recently sent out a request via email asking for participation in our 2016 WP Courseware WordPress LMS plugin user survey. As many of you know, WP Courseware was originally developed four years ago to solve challenges Ben and I were having creating our own training courses in WordPress.

At the time, there were no “learning management system” plugins for WordPress so we realized that if it was going to meet our needs it would likely meet the needs of lots of other folks. And we were right about that.

Since that launch four years ago, thousands of WordPress users have adopted WP Courseware for delivering their training courses. So it’s become incredibly important to us that our development path include functionality that helps our users achieve their own goals in delivering courses…it’s not just about what we need anymore.

So the most important question in that survey was…”If you could add one new feature to WP Courseware, what would it be?

But as we were planning the survey, we decide to include a few other questions as well to get a feel for how our customers are actually using WP Courseware.

And since we’ve worked closely with thousands of customers over the last four years, we thought we had a pretty good idea of how those questions would be answered.

But we were blown away!

First of all, we had an incredible response. Once again a HUGE thank you to everyone who participated. We received several hundred submissions which gave us a very exciting amount of data to look through (yes, I’ll admit to completely geeking out when it comes to collecting and compiling data and attempting to find statistical trends hence the use of the word “exciting”).

However, we were also able to gather a lot of information from the survey relating to:

  • What topics our users are teaching
  • How they’re delivering their training content
  • The number of courses and students our customers have
  • How much money, if any, our customers are earning from courses

And this information was not only fascinating to look through, but incredibly motivating to us.

How could a simple idea we had several years ago have manifested into a widely accepted plugin for the most popular CMS in the world with thousands of customers earning either a part-time or full-time living with their knowledge?

What we saw lit a fire under us. It makes every dollar and every countless hour we’ve spent on WP Courseware over the last four years completely worth it. And we’re more motivated than ever to keep improving the plugin to help even more of you reach your goals.

And in that spirit, today I wanted to share 6 lessons we learned from that survey that we hope will help motivate you also.

Maybe you have an idea for a course and haven’t started working on it yet for fear that your topic is too “niche”.

Maybe you’ve launched a course but have been discouraged at lackluster sales in the beginning so have let it languish.

Or…maybe you’re reading this and realize you’re one of the success stories we’re sharing.

1. No idea is a crazy idea!

If you’ve read any of our emails or blog posts over the last few years, you’ve probably heard us say this before: “If you have an idea for a training course on a topic that interests you, no matter what it is, there’s a good chance lots of other folks are interested in it as well.

While many of the hundreds of respondents to our survey teach more traditional topics online such as marketing, leadership, math, writing, etc., we were floored to learn about some of the topics which our customers are earning a good income from teaching!

We heard from successful entrepreneurs who are teaching tarot card reading, bitcoin trading, sleight-of-hand magic, breakdancing (my personal favorite), and even how to stage your first theater production. I could go on and on with examples, but the point is this…

If you have an idea for a training course, don’t brush it off…explore it!

Do yourself a favor and at least explore the niche and viability of paid training on your topic. Going into detail on ways to do that is beyond the scope of this article, but there are plenty of free methods for evaluating a niche.

If you have an

2. Students loooooooooove video training!

Before the survey, we were well aware that a large number of our WP Courseware customers delivered their training via video. That’s originally why we developed our secure media player plugin, S3 Media Maestro.

However, we were shocked to learn that out of hundreds of survey respondents around 90% (yes, 90%!!!) deliver their training in a video format!

And there are good reasons for it, most notably that video content is much more engaging than reading text lessons or listening to audio lectures. Besides, video production is inexpensive and easily accessible with today’s software and hardware and it’s actually very often fun to produce! I’d rather work on producing 20 hours of video content any day over writing a 100-page e-book.

3. Upsell opportunities are limitless…and lucrative!

This is one I honestly didn’t see coming. But I was shocked by the number of WP Courseware users who get customers in the door with an entry-level, low-cost (or even free) course and then sell various advanced and more expensive courses once they have a customer on their list.

Since I’ve written several case studies on WP Courseware users, I was aware that this strategy was being used by some of our more savvy entrepreneurs, but I just didn’t think that many of you were so savvy! It turns out a lot of you are pretty slick marketers! 😉

We came across dozens of customers in the survey who are offering a series of courses, either on increasingly advanced topics in the same niche or multiple courses in tightly-related lateral niches. Genius! And these course creators keep customers longer, earning more income.

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4. If you provide enough value, you can set your price!

I’ll start with a personal story here. Several years ago Ben and I found we had developed an online marketing strategy that was really working for us. We were using this strategy to squeeze what most people would consider a full-time income out of our online businesses. So using 100 hours of video training, if you followed the steps and worked hard, you could achieve what many people spend fours years and tens of thousands of dollars at a university to achieve.

We initially offered the training at $20/month for an entry level membership…big, big mistake!

We thought lower pricing would attract more paying customers. But in fact, the opposite happened. The value we were claiming to deliver didn’t match up with the price. If someone is claiming they can teach the right motivated and intelligent people to earn a full-time income from an online business in just a few months but they’re charging only $20 a month for it, then it sounds like snake oil.

Now let’s say I tell you that I have a method to teach you to start and run an online business and earn a full-time income from home, but only if you’re smart and motivated. And because it’s proven to work (because I did it) if you take action, there’s no reason you wouldn’t at least consider paying $1,000 or more for that opportunity.

I was very surprised at the number of survey respondents who are charging between $500 and $1500 for their training and we even heard from one customer in a professional niche which allowed him to set a one-time fee of $7,500.

We have one customer who charges around $2,000 for a course teaching people to earn a decent living working from home. It’s a very specific task which government agencies are required to pay a third-party professional for. If you work hard, you can really earn whatever you want. Not only did she open our eyes to this potential opportunity we never knew existed as a possible vehicle for working from home, she shows us exactly how she turned it into a full-time, work-anywhere job. She has done over $1 million in sales in the last 18 months. You read that correctly…a million dollars in the last 18 months with her WP Courseware course.

Make sure your pricing declares confidence in the amount of value you are about to provide!

5. One-time fee models have surpassed monthly subscriptions!

I’ve read a number of studies over the last three years which mention that online courses offered by entrepreneurs are moving from a recurring subscription model to a flat one-time lifetime access fee.

And it makes sense. Since it’s also estimated that the average membership site customer only stays on for two months, there’s a good chance you won’t ever recoup the value and time you have invested that way. Charging a one-time fee upon enrollment helps cover those hundreds of hours you’ve already put into your content when you weren’t getting paid.

This new model is also beneficial in another way. When Ben and I were charging monthly for our training membership site, we were constantly under pressure to create new content each month to give customers a reason to keep paying. And it was a ton of work. I’m not saying you don’t need to continually improve or add to your course, but when a student pays you one payment for the content that exists in the course at that time their expectations for new and updated content are lower.

We found that the majority of our WP Courseware users who charge for their course content are adopting a one-time fee model (around 60% of you). Again, this depends on the content, but we saw a range of $99 to $2,000 (with a few outliers like $4,500 or $7,500) for one-time fees. This is compared against a common range of $20 to $100 per month for recurring subscription sites.

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6. A single entrepreneur can handle thousands of students!

The truth is that any successful business should get to the point where the owner can’t do everything. And that’s a good problem to have! If your idea is doing well enough that you need to hand off some duties, you’re in a good place.

However, if there’s one lesson we learned from this WP Courseware user survey that I want to use to motivate you to start or continue working on your course, it’s this…

I’ve been involved in several different types of online businesses over the last few years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more viable way to go from working a 9-5 job for someone else to creating a significant online income and potentially having your own business.

Creating, maintaining, and marketing a course is not “passive income”. And it’s a lot of work. But looking at the number of “solopreneurs” who answered our survey and are making good money from their course ideas, I can’t imagine a more sustainable, legitimate, and rewarding business where the effort you put in may far exceed the return.

And it’s not with some spammy, sleazy, get-rich-quick internet scheme…you’re actually helping people. What could be more rewarding than that?

Again, every successful business should get to the point that it’s run as a business with qualified people executing specific tasks. But what we saw from this survey was that it is possible for one “solopreneur” to build a course, market it, maintain it, and offer real value while handling enough students to pay the bills. We had one customer tell us that he’s running his business all on his own and he has close to 50,000 students.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that strategy, but at 50,000 paying customers no matter what you’re charging it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that it’s worth the hard work required.

The WP Courseware user I mentioned earlier who has done over $1 million in sales in the last year and a half doesn’t do it all by herself. She has one…yes, one employee. Again, it’s not difficult to figure out that no matter what that employee is being paid, the course owner is doing just fine financially.

To sum it up…

As I mentioned above, this is a very real, very scalable income opportunity. If you haven’t created a course yet and have a great idea or a skill set you think you can teach others please, please, please at least start evaluating that opportunity now!

Again, we were so motivated by seeing how many of you are doing really well with your courses. WP Courseware is designed to help you succeed and it’s our goal to get you to where you want to be with your business.

Even if you’re not using WP Courseware…take action! There is so much opportunity right now in online training for any niche. 


  1. Zanette on June 17, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I started with my video courses on Udemy but I do not have control of my product nor the prices and my access to my students is limited. I discovered WP Course ware and I am in the process of setting the courses up on my own website with aid of Amazon S3 and Maestro S3. Now I will have complete control over my product. Re: lesson 4 regarding value. Udemy reduced the value of my courses to $20 and I was insulted that they could devalue my product in that way. If people want to learn something of value they will pay what it is worth. Educational courses in video format that has taken an instructor 100s of hours to prepare is not sold at a discount store.

    • Nate Johnson on June 17, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Zanette!

      The online course marketplaces are certainly good for some folks who may not have the technical expertise to manage their own site (or who don’t want to) and they are definitely an easy way to start getting paid quickly because of the amount of traffic they deliver.

      But as you mentioned, and we’ve heard this from many of our customers, you’re very restricted much like writers are with traditional book publishing. Creating, managing, hosting, and marketing a course all by yourself isn’t easy, but as we saw time and time again in these survey results…it can be well worth the extra effort involved and can mean the difference between earning a couple hundred extra bucks per month or a full-time income.

  2. Philip on June 20, 2016 at 11:13 am

    It’s not clear to me from your survey results (or your own experience) whether your member sites are charging a one-time fee for a specific course, or a one-time fee for membership with “life time” access to multiple courses. Or is this simply a marketing decision made during the site setup?

    • Nate Johnson on June 20, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Hi Philip,

      I think it is a decision made according the niche, how much material each course contains, and lastly the pricing structure needs to meet the customer’s long-term needs.

      The most common one-time pricing approach we saw from the survey was a flat lifetime fee for a single course. However, we did see a few sites where a student could pay one fee for access to multiple courses. We also saw courses where sections of the course were sold incrementally. For all intents and purposes, that’s basically the same as selling courses individually but as an example some course owners might choose to market their content like this:

      Beginner Modules (1-5) $300
      Intermediate Modules (6-8) $200
      Advanced Modules (9-10) $100

  3. Henrik Gregersen on April 6, 2017 at 7:11 am

    How about the most important question :

    So the most important question in that survey was…”If you could add one new feature to WP Courseware, what would it be?”

    Which feature won 🙂

    I still hope it is the option to let users preview a course before enrolling. So you can give them an appetizer for a possible up sell.

    • Ben Arellano on August 30, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Henrik,
      We had a great turn out with the survey. Over the last few months Nate and I have been discussing future plans for WP Courseware. While I can’t disclose our exact roadmap, I would encourage you to keep an eye out over the next several months as there will not only be major updates to WP Courseware, but we will likely be releasing a few premium extensions which are a direct result of the survey.

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