Education via the Internet is a big deal nowadays, as more and more colleges and universities around the world opt to use WordPress to build their educational websites.
Here are some of the big names that use WordPress as their Learning Management System: Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Milwaukee School of Engineering.
WordPress is a great platform to create any type of educational website, and the most significant benefit is that it's free and easy to use. You can use WordPress to make educational websites for kids, school/college/university academic websites, sites for tutors, etc.
Types of Education Websites
Here are some types of educational websites you can create with WordPress:
Online education portal - this is a website that offers live classes, tutorials, and other study materials for students.
College/school website/portal - this type of website offers information about the school, its staff, and students, courses, and instructors.
Educational membership website - this is a website where students can purchase courses, submit their assignments, and take classes.
Essential Parts of an Education Website
And here are some essential elements of an educational website:
Front page - this page is significant as that's the first experience student/visitor has with your website. It needs to be modern, clean, and provide all relevant information about the courses you offer. On this page, you can include featured courses, related news, event information, and social links.
About Us page - this page needs to provide all information about your educational institution. Feel free to include some pictures of the school/college.
Courses page - this is where you provide all the necessary information about the courses you offer.
Pricing page - if you opt to charge for your courses, this page needs to include information about your pricing structure and plans.
Registration page - since you're building this online, visitors need to be able to register on your website to take your courses.
Contact Us page - you can set up a contact form on this page so your students or visitors can contact you.
What You Need to Build an Education Website
Let's see what we need to build the educational website on the WordPress platform:
For your website to work online, the very first thing you need to do is register a domain name. That's how students can find and access your website/courses.
Now that we have a domain name, we need hosting infrastructure to be able to deliver our website to the students. And it has to be fast! It doesn't matter if you have the most beautiful site on the web if it's slow and clunky. We recommend using a WordPress plan for this as it's optimized for WordPress specifically, and offers easy tools for management.
When looking for a proper theme for your website, don't only focus on visual elements and design, but also make sure that it has all vital features such as responsive layout, customization options, cross-browser compatibility, supports all necessary plugins, etc.
To create an educational website - you need an excellent LMS (Learning Management System) plugin; otherwise, you won't have all the necessary features to work with (courses, lessons, payment options, profile tools, etc.). There are tons of available LMS plugins, some paid and some free, and we'll provide some options below:
This a free plugin that will allow you to set up online courses on your website. This plugin offers the following features:
- Creating and operating multiple online courses
- Charging for courses via online payment methods
- WooCommerce support
This plugin is an excellent solution for online courses, assignments, tests, etc.
LearnDash is a premium plugin aimed to make a beautiful and feature-rich educational website. This plugin allows you to create various types of tests and quizzes, utilizing video, audio, and image questions.
Learndash plugin offers the following features:
- Dynamic Forums
- Lesson Timers
- Course Points
- Intelligent Course Builder system
This is one of the most popular LMS plugins and for all the right reasons!
CoursePress Pro is another premium plugin that lets you create online courses.
This plugin offers the following features:
- Create and manage courses
- A mechanism for students to submit their assignments for review
- Accept payments for courses via 17 various payment methods
- Interactive learning features such as tests and quizzes
- WooCommerce support
It's an excellent plugin equipped with some useful features that will make your educational website very modern.
TechPress is another free plugin, which can make your website look quite modern. This plugin offers course management, assessments, modules for enrollments, and documents capability to keep track of your students and their grades.
This plugin offers the following features:
- Course management system with modules for documents, enrollments, and assessments
- CSV and XLS export for courses
- Dynamic data system for courses, classes, students, and publications
- RSS feed capability for publications
Considering this is a free plugin - it offers a great set of features and can make your website look quite professional.
Sensei plugin is created by Automattic (WordPress’ parent company) and has all the necessary tools to develop an educational website (courses, lessons, quizzes, etc.). It is very intuitive, which is one of the reasons we decided to use this plugin to show how to create an example educational website in this guide.
This plugin offers the following features:
- Seamless WordPress integration
- WooCommerce support
- No coding skills necessary
- Course management with lessons and quiz modules
Considering it's a free theme, with a lot of various educational capabilities - it's no wonder we chose it for our educational website example.
How to Quickly Create Your Educational Website
Education LMS Theme
First, let's download and install the theme we'll be using on our website. In our case, we opted for a free Education LMS theme, but you can use any theme you like and even opt for a premium theme that offers more features.
Download the theme to your computer and log in to your WordPress Dashboard. Head to Themes > Appearance > Add New button > Upload Theme button to upload your theme:
Click the Install Now button to install the theme, and the Activate button to activate it on your website.
Now that we have a new theme installed and activated click the Customize button and configure your theme as per your liking.
In Homepage Settings, select A static page option, and create a new page (Home, for example).
Visit the Widgets section to remove any widgets you don't want to use.
Click the Publish button in the top left corner once you're done with the customization.
Next, we'll install the plugins necessary for our website to operate. Head to Plugins > Add New option, and then install and activate the Classic Editor plugin.
Activate Sensei LMS Plugin
Next, type Sensei into the Search field, and install and activate the Sensei LMS plugin.
Once the plugin is installed and activated, you will be presented with a couple of options:
Sensei LMS Settings
Usage tracking - disable this option
Sensei set up - click the Install Sensei LMS Pages button
On the next page, make sure to enable the "Access Permissions - Users must be logged in to view lesson content." option.
Go through each of the configuration sections and configure your plugin as to your liking. There are tons of options available to customize everything as needed (General/Courses/Lessons/Email Notifications/Learner Profiles), so we can't go through all the options in this guide :)
Once completed, click the Save Changes button.
Next, go to the Pages menu and check the Courses and My Courses pages, and ensure they have the necessary shortcodes in the body to operate correctly.
The Courses page should have a following shortcode in the body:
My Courses page should have a following shortcode in the body:
Make sure to add these if they don't exist, and click the Update button in the classic editor to update the selected page.
Now we need to create our menu to include all our pages in it. Head to Appearance > Customize > Menus > Create New Menu option, name it the Main Menu and select the Primary location for it.
Click the Next button, and use the Add items button to add Home, Courses, My Courses pages to the menu.
And click the Publish button to save changes.
Next, head to Appearance > Menus page, click the Screen Options button in the top right corner of the page, and select the Sensei LMS option.
Expand the new Sensei LMS menu and click My Profile, My Messages, and Login|Logout menu options to add them to our main menu via the Add to Menu button.
Click the Save Menu button to save the changes.
Now it's time to add our courses. Head to Courses > Add New, and you will see the following screen:
Let's break it down:
- This is where you enter the title of your course, for example, Advanced PhotoShop Course.
- In this field, enter the description of the course in question.
- The excerpt field is for a short description of your course (usually used on the index page where only an image and a brief description are displayed).
- You can enter a custom slug in this field if needed.
- If you have an intro video, you can upload it to Youtube or Vimeo and then insert the URL in this field.
- This is where you add new lessons (more on that later).
- You can turn email notifications for this course on or off.
- In Course Categories, you can add or choose existing course categories.
- If you have multiple teachers (admin users), this is where you can set the teacher for the course in question.
- Modules add an extra level of organization to your content between Courses and Lessons. A Course can contain any number of Modules, and each Lesson can be assigned to a single Module within that course. Modules are only provided for organizational purposes; they don't contain any content other than an optional text description.
- If you have multiple courses, and the learner needs to finish another course before being eligible for this course - you can set a course prerequisite here.
- If you want to feature this course on the Courses page, select this option.
- This section is a shortcut to manage learners and grading for this particular course.
- This is where you set a featured image for the course.
- These are publishing options, where you can set the course as a draft, publish it or set a password for it.
Once we fill in all the details, we can hit the Save Draft button to save our changes.
Here's how the filled course looks like:
Now it's time to add lessons! Head to Lessons > Add New, and you will see the following screen:
- Input the title of your lesson.
- Input the content of your lesson.
- You can input the short description of the lesson here.
- Discussion controls section.
- You can set the lesson length and complexity in this field, and add video if available.
- Quiz settings section.
- Quiz questions section.
- Here you can add tags for the lesson, so it shows in the search field.
- Here you can select the course to which this lesson applies.
- Here you can select the module to which this lesson applies.
- If a learner needs to complete another lesson before taking this one - you can set this option in this section.
- If you want to allow this lesson to be viewed by everyone without logging in - you can enable it here.
- Upload a featured image for this lesson.
- Publishing controls.
This is how the filled screen looks like (with dummy data):
Organize Courses, Modules, Lessons
Please note that Sensei allows you to rearrange courses, lessons, and quizzes after you've created them:
Courses - via Courses > Order Courses option.
Modules - via Courses > Order Modules option.
Lessons - via Lessons > Order Lessons option.
Once we've created our course and a couple of lessons, we can now learn how to add quizzes to our lessons.
Head to Questions > Add New option to add a new quiz. Here's how your screen will look like:
- Fill the question you want to ask.
- Input the description with more information if needed.
- Select the question type. The following types are available: Multiple choice, True/False, Gap Fill, Single Line, Multi-Line, File Upload.
- Enter the grade for the question.
- Select if you want to randomize the answer order.
- Add media to the question if needed.
- Add correct and wrong answers for the grading system to work.
- Input automatic feedback provided once the question is answered.
- Organize your question in a specific category.
- Select quizzes where this question should appear.
- Publishing options.
Here's how example question looks like:
To add the quiz to your lesson (and the question we've just created), head back to Lessons > All Lessons option and edit your existing lesson. Scroll down to the end of the page, and you will see quiz options available now:
Now you can configure the quiz for this particular lesson, add new questions right from the lessons interface, and select existing questions if needed.
You can organize categories for your quiz questions easily via the Questions > Categories option.
Now go ahead and add all the remaining lessons to our first course, add quizzes to lessons and once that's completed, go to Courses > All Courses, edit our course, and hit the Publish button.
Go to your website, and click the Courses option in the menu to see your freshly created course:
As you can see, your website now shows the course name, how many lessons it has, and an excerpt we created previously. Click the course name to enter the course and see more information about it:
Here you see the full description, featured image, all modules, and lessons, message the course teacher, and take the course.
Sensei LMS Extensions
Please note that Sensei LMS offers both official and third-party extensions to expand its functionality which you can find in Sensei LMS > Extensions option:
Apart from extensions, you will also find Analysis (reports), grading, student management, messages, and data updates in the Sensei LMS section, so make sure to check it out. If you need more information about this plugin, you can find the official documentation here.
Now, you'll still need to build a home page for your website where you can describe your education materials, provide more information about you and your teachers, and include course snippets. If you don't have any coding experience, we recommend using one of the WordPress page builders, such as Beaver Builder, Elementor, or Visual Composer.
We hope that this guide was useful to you and explained how to plan and build your educational website.