March 19, 2014
Teaching Courses Online with Sensei 1.5
In our continuing look at Learning Management Systems, otherwise known as tools that allow for teaching courses online, we have stumbled across an update of arguably the most popular software.
Sensei 1.5 by WooThemes has officially been released, but should you use it for teaching courses online or even selling courses and lessons online? Read on to find out!
What’s new in Sensei 1.5
Sensei 1.5 has a lot of new features to make creation of learning easier for the newer user. While the features definitely make life easier for the developer in selling learning products, the changes are certainly geared towards easy-to-see results.
The improvements and additions to the interface are numerous but start with the quizzes..
Easy to Create Quizzes
Most of the attention in Sensei 1.5 is to the quizzes and achievements. It makes sense. Anybody can make a post on WordPress and call it a “Lesson”. There have even been client cases where the best solution to teaching courses online was best served by alternatives to learning software.
But where people really want to see changes are with more difficult processes to fake on WordPress. Creating a quiz can be tough without the proper tools in the toolbelt, so Sensei has gotten very smart about how to create quizzes.
For starters, Sensei 1.5 features some additional content that was not in previous versions. You can now add media — like pictures — to a quiz question. There is also a question bank, so that the creator of the quiz can make a bank of 15 questions for example and randomize which 5 questions get selected from the quiz. This is really helpful if teachers are trying to prevent teaching amongst the student body.
Along with the pre-existing question types, Sensei allows students to submit files as answers. So if the lesson is to provide a piece of artwork or even a Word Document paper, it is easy to do.
What is the maximum file size for uploading files? In my testing it looked like 32 MB, which is more than enough for any typical assignment but might be too much for larger images, audio files, or video content.
There is also a new “Grading” page that allows teachers or administrators to view ungraded quizzes to manage content easily. It is very simple to access from the Sensei > Grading options in WordPress. This will display unchecked quizzes.
Course or Lesson Duplication
You can also duplicate courses and lessons, which is very helpful. If your content is very similar (length of course, quiz, etc.), you can simply and easily duplicate courses or lessons in this version as well.
Sensei Plugin with WooCommerce
Like before, WooThemes has certainly done a good job of keeping people in their ecosystem by integrating Sensei seamlessly with WooCommerce. Once installed, you can sell courses DIRECTLY through the course creation page. You can even feature specific courses as “Featured Courses” and charge for those. It is very easy to use and manage.
Sensei versus WP-Courseware
If Sensei is the most popular kid on campus, then WP-Courseware is certainly second-in-command.
We had previously compared the two in another article, but suffice it to say, these are two different animals.
And it is apparent that the creators of Sensei have been paying attention to the successes of others. One of the newest pieces of content has been a free add-on for Certificates upon lesson completion, something that WP-Courseware features in their plugins.
Even after this I still hold the opinion that WP-Courseware is for people who are using WordPress as a means to figure out how to teach courses online. With Sensei, WooThemes has more of an appreciation for WordPress and makes it easier for developers to set up websites.
Issues with Sensei
There is no such thing as a perfect plugin.
While Sensei is nice, I found the feedback to be a little off-putting. There are many situations where I had to guess what was entered incorrectly in one of the fields when creating my first couple of lessons and courses. This continued to creating quizzes. Rather than fill me in with red text or errors about what needed to be entered, I was simply kicked back to previous pages or was forced to repeatedly edit content until a button finally worked in the backend.
There is also the price. Sensei starts at $129 for a single use case and goes up from there. Developers looking to use the plugin are looking at $279 for 25 sites. While I personally believe that the ease of use in developing on this framework and showing it to clients who are teaching courses online makes it worth the hefty price tag, it may be a much more difficult sell for the do-it-yourself personality that wants to put it on a personal site.
On our themes
Like WooCommerce, you want to make sure that you are posting the plugin on a clean theme, like our Slocum Themes.
Because WooThemes is good about sticking to WordPress technology and functionality, it is good to select a theme that does not have junk that can tamper with the existing functionality of the plugin.
Now you are learning with Sensei
Want us to look at any other learning management systems for teaching courses online? Please drop us a line or contact us for additional help or suggestions.