Sensei Courseware WordPress Plugin

Sensei by WooThemes logoSensei is a WordPress Learning Management System plugin brought to you by the folks at WooThemes. As part of the WooThemes offering of plugins and extensions, it integrates perfectly with WooCommerce to control the sale of courses. Many sites select Sensei because they already have WooCommerce configured for their business, so adding Sensei to create, deliver, and manage online training courses is a logical extension for their platform.

Pricing for Sensei

Regular pricing for Sensei is listed from $149.00 – $299 per year although sales occur during the year that allow for purchasing at a lower rate. As of this writing, the pricing shows $129.00 – $249.00.

  • $149 is for one site license.
  • $199 is for 5 site licenses.
  • $299 is for 25 site licenses.

As with other premium plugins, a license can be used forever, but licenses must be renewed annually to receive updates and support.

Extensions Available for Sensei

Most of the courseware plugins covered in this series use extensions to enhance their offering. As with the others, Sensei provides some extensions for free, while others are premium.

Free extensions for Sensei include one that allows you to create certificates for your courses, a course participants extension that allows you to display how many people are currently taking the course, and a sharing extension that allows students to share their progress on social networks. In the sharing extension, the shared messages then link back to your course page.

Premium extensions include one to drip content and to connect with BadgeOS in order to add achievements to your courses.

Features Checklist for Sensei

Slide with a checklist showing the features of the Sensei courseware plugin.

Chart Explanation

✔ – Part of the core installation
E – It is accomplished using an extension (also called an Add-On).
D – It is dependent on an integration, such as a shopping cart.

Understanding the Sensei Terminology

Each of the plugins and platforms that I cover provide the ability to create lessons and quizzes. They all have a slightly different vocabulary for describing the course structure and they have different ways to configure and assign items within that structure. For Sensei under the course, you have modules with lessons ordered within the modules.

Getting Started with the Sensei Plugin

The following information is excerpted from the upcoming Sensei course within my program How to Build an Online Course. Make sure you’re on the mailing list to get alerts when the course launches.

Note that to access all of the following information, you will need to be an administrator on the WordPress installation. If you are a teacher who is not an admin, you will only have access to the items assigned to you for example, your course and student data.

In the Dashboard, there are four items related to Sensei.Screen grab of the Sensei Dashboard Menu showing Sensei, Courses, Lessons, and Questions.

Sensei – controls the overall course settings, student grading information, course analysis including number of courses, lessons, and learners along with messages.

Courses – displays a listing of current courses, allows you to edit or delete courses, and add a new course. It also allows you to add modules within the course, and assign categories to courses.

Lessons – displays a listing of current lessons, allows you to edit or delete lessons and add new lessons.

Questions – displays a listing of all questions that have been created, allows you to edit delete and add lessons, and allows you to create and manage categories assigned to questions.

Creating a Course in Sensei

In Sensei, as with the other courseware plugins covered at this time, creating a course is as simple as creating a new blog post.

  1. Select Courses from the Dashboard and click on Add New.
  2. Enter the name of your course.
  3. Enter the description of the course.
  4. If there is a course video, you may enter the embed code in the video entry box. This video will display to everyone on the course page. If you want the video to only appear when people are signed up for the course, add it to the main editor with the course description and set the course pages to only display excerpts instead of full content.
  5. Enter an Excerpt for the course. Depending on the settings, either the full course description or excerpt will be displayed on the course page.
  6. You may select to disable notifications for this course. If you make this selection, all email notifications will be disabled for the course. This overrides the global settings for course notifications for this course only.
  7. You may, optionally, select a Category for the course.
  8. Screen grab of the Sensei prerequisite selection box.If there is a prerequisite for the course, you may select it in the right sidebar. If a prerequisite is selected, the student won’t be able to register and take the current course until the prerequisite course has been completed.
  9. If you opt to set the course as a Featured Course, it will display as featured on the Course Archives page.
  10. Optionally, add a Featured Image for the course which will display on the Course Archives page.
  11. Save the course as a draft or select Publish.

Creating Modules in Sensei

Modules provide containers for organizing lesson content within the course.

  1. To create a module, select Courses > Modules from the Dashboard menu.
  2. Enter the Name of the module.
  3. Enter the slug. This is the URL friendly version which should consist only of lowercase letters, numbers, and hyphens. For example, the name of the module may be “Getting Started,” so the slug would be getting-started.
  4. If there is a Parent module, you may select it.
  5. You may enter a description although display of this description depends on your theme. I leave it blank.
  6. To assign the module to a course, enter the course name under Courses. A drop down list of similar courses will appear. Select the course assigned to this module.
  7. Click the Add New Module button to add the module.

Screen grab showing how to assign a module to a course in Sensei.

Creating Lessons in Sensei

Lessons contain the main content of the course. They are grouped within modules.

  1. To create a lesson select Lessons > Add New from the Dashboard menu.
  2. Enter the content for your lesson. Note that content can be anything you could add in a post or page including text, video, and images.
  3. Enter an Excerpt for the lesson under Excerpt. This will be displayed under the lesson title on the Single Course Page. If you leave this blank, only the title will display.
  4. Under lesson information, you can set the Time a lesson should take and the Difficulty level for the lesson.
  5. You may also add a video embed code to embed a video in the lesson.
  6. If you were going to assign a quiz to the lesson, you could start adding questions.
  7. In the right sidebar, select the course where the lesson will be assigned.
  8. Once you save the lesson, you will be able to select the module for the lesson.
  9. If there is a prerequisite lesson, select it. In this case, if a student tries to take the lesson and hasn’t completed the prerequisite, they will be notified that they must first take the prerequisite and a link to that lesson will be provided.
  10. If you are using a search plugin like Search Everything, you may add tags that can be searched.
  11. You may select to allow people to view the lesson without paying or registering under Lesson Preview. This is a way to provide free, sample content to someone considering purchase of the course.
  12. Click Publish to Publish the lesson.
  13. Ordering lessons within the module, is as easy as selecting Lessons > Order Lessons from the Dashboard.
  14. Select the course from the drop down and click the Select Course button.
  15. This displays all modules for that course and the lessons within them.
  16. Drag and drop the lessons to your desired order and select Save Lesson Order. Note that you cannot drag lessons between modules. You have to edit the lesson to change the module.

Taking a Course in Sensei

When you configure Sensei initially, you create the basic course pages Courses and My Courses which appear on the menu, by default. The Courses page is a listing of courses and My Courses displays the courses you’re already registered for and shows your Active Courses, Completed Courses, Messages, and Progress through the courses. Note that Payment for courses is managed with WooCommerce.

  1. From the Courses page, select the name of the course you want to take. This takes you to that courses page where you will see the course description or excerpt depending on what the administrator has configured. You will also see the modules and lessons on this page.
  2. If you are already logged into WordPress, you will see the option to Start Taking This Course. If not, you will see the Register button.
  3. Once registered, you can select the Lesson to begin the course.
  4. When you have completed the lesson, mark it as complete.
  5. You will see a Congratulations message and a link to proceed to the next lesson.

Screen grab showing Sensei completed lesson with arrows pointing to the links for Next Lesson, return to Module, or return to Course Page.

Sensei Widgets Available

By default, Sensei has four widgets available for use in sidebars or other widgetized areas on your site.

Sensei Category Courses – displays a list of courses in a chosen category
Sensei Course Categories – displays a list of course categories
Sensei Course Component – allows you to select to display New Courses, Featured Courses, Free Courses, the students Active Courses or Completed Courses.
Sensei Lesson Component – displays a list of the latest lessons for the site. Note that this is all lessons not just those from a single course.

The Sensei Learning Management plugin offers a robust set of features designed to help you build and manage online courses. Whether you are looking to create an online school with multiple instructors, a  marketplace of courses, or a single course, Sensei has options that can help make your course a success.