#351 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Chris Badgett LifterLMS

We Interview Co-Founder & CEO Of LifterLMS

Chris started learning about online education on a glacier in Alaska. He’s created courses on everything from organic gardening to wood working. He is passionate about helping other entrepreneurial educators find success and create impact.

These are the main point that we discuss during the show.

#1. WordPress LMS and Gutenberg
#2. Different types of WordPress LMS implementations
#3. Different types of feedback
#4. Course PLUS concept

Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic Wednesday show. Its episode 351 and I’m delighted to say we got a really close friend of the show. A personal friend of mine. Somebody that really knows a lot, about membership and courses. And on edge learning per new ownership. And that is crisp packet co-founder of lifter LMS Chris Badgett. Would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

Chris: Sure. Well first thanks for having me Jonathan and Cindy, I’m Chris Badgett. From Lifter LMS which is a WordPress solution for creating, selling and protecting engaging online courses, and I have a podcast for course creators called LMS test. 

Great. And I got my great co-host Cindy. Would you like to introduce yourself it Cindy?

Hi everyone its Cindy Nicholson. I’m from the course whisper.com where I help entrepreneurs who want to create those courses get them out there. 

Jonathon: That’s right. And I’m the founder of WP tonic. And we maintain build do almost anything to help you with your membership learning management system. If you’re looking for a new course to build it or you’re looking to transfer from another learning platform back to WordPress or to try WordPress. We’re here to help you. So Chris. I’ll interview of with WordPress and Gutenberg and all the things that being said. And how it you know, you’ve been talking about this when he applies to your own system. First of all, how do you think it is going because it was released on Thanksgiving wasn’t it?

Jonathon: And how do you see this basically going in the next couple of months Chris?

Chris: I think it’s going to go well Gutenberg as of this recording was supposed to roll out yesterday to the public which it did not. But we were ready for it if that were to happen. So yesterday we 

Jonathon: Can I just interrupt, weren`t you slightly surprised that it didn’t go out yesterday?

Chris: No, but I would have appreciated more definitive notice that it wasn’t going to happen. Not so last minute or whatever. But as a software company, I know what it’s like with deadlines and you know shifting deadlines or timelines or whatever. But so we ran our webinar we’ve been that’s that was that was the public release which I’m not sure if it’s been announced when it will happen. I believe it’s probably going to happen sometime in January now.

Jonathon: All you do you to believe because there was a lot of it’s an ongoing discussion that that would be the best decision. So you are you think that is going to be moved to January. 

Chris: I think so. I haven’t heard the definitive word. I’m just going back on something that was said earlier on in the process that if they did not hit the deadline of November 27th. That it was going to go out to January some time to get clear of the holiday season or something. But I have not heard an official new proposed release date yet. But that being said yesterday. We actually ran a live webinar with LMS. Where we demoed lifter LMS with Gutenberg. For those of you who don’t know what that is.

It’s a new visual editor for WordPress and it is. New Concept of how you build websites with this, you know concept of blocks. Which I can talk about a little bit but we ran out webinar with our community mostly to get people ready. Because it is very much an Insider geeky WordPress thing. That doesn’t really make sense to the majority of people who use WordPress 30% of the internet. Because it’s not out yet. It doesn’t exist. Most people don’t. You know work with beta testing software before it rolls out to the public.

But of course our products exist in the space and we need to be ready for when it comes. So we’ve been working with it for many months. And essentially the function of the webinar that we ran was to show people what it is because a lot of people don’t know what it is and then show what it means for building courses and memberships on your WordPress website

And how lifter LMS is not just Gutenberg compatible IE. Nothing’s going to break you’re going to be fine. We also leverage a lot of the new architecture that it presents. So that if people want to build custom course layouts at lesson layouts that they can do this without using a page builder. By using the new Gutenberg block-based building system. And we showed people how they can do that. So basically it’s more power to the end user to customize with as few tools as possible. 

Jonathon: And because you know, I think your basic product is one of the best learning management systems on the market the present moment Chris. And I do honestly mean that. So how would this affect your plug in? Will this give a lot more ability to custom the actual templates in Lifter LMS to a block much larger extent. 

Chris: Yes both at an individual level like an individual course. Or at a global level if you’re like, if you want all your courses if you want the progress bar at the top. You only wanted to show to enrolled users. You want the continue button here. You want the pricing table here. All these different layouts you want to build a colonize structure you can now do that with Gutenberg. Instead of just using our best guess which is our course template which previously you would have to use a page builder like Beaver Builder Elementor Divi to blow that apart and build your own. Now you can do that with Gutenberg.

Jonathon: Yeah, because you know, I’m not saying this because they are people that start off with WordPress. But I see a lot of people that start off with fully hosted Solutions like learnable, teachable, Kajabi. And then when they reach a certain level when they know they want a real stoke custom look and feel for their course. They look at WordPress and they look at your plug-in and some of the other competitors in WordPress. So basically with Gutenberg they’re going to have a lot more freedom customization functionality. Which is right Chris? 

Chris: Absolutely I was just talking to somebody who was moving over from teachable to WordPress and they chose lifter. And they wanted custom layouts which is what Gutenberg’s going to help with and the page builders that exist already helped with. And they wanted all this other functionality beyond just video lessons to go with their coaching program that works with lifter and a couple of add-ons. So yeah there but the Gutenberg peace when I see a like a teachable or think if equip site they all look more or less the same I’m not passing judgment on it.

I think those tools are good tools, and I do send certain people there. Where WordPress is not a good fit for them, but you can very much tell there’s not much flexibility in the design and the functionality of those platforms. And when people get to the point that they want that. You know, they want to jump over to WordPress.

Jonathon: Well, you know, it’s the same in all those sectors notably e-commerce, isn’t it? You know you’ve got hosted like Shopify and Ally fully hosted e-commerce Solutions. But then that you can get to a certain stage where you need you to go to a more customized platform don’t you. Right I think we’re given some insights on Gutenberg. Over to you Cindy.

Cindy: Well, thank you. Chris. Last week was my first introduction to Gutenberg. So I feel like I’m getting better grasp of what’s going on. So it’s good to get the heads up and thanks for that insight. And just to kind of piggyback your comments there about you know, the customizability. I don’t know if that’s a word of what you can do with, you know WordPress LMS. You know often people are thinking, okay. Well if I go a teachable or think epic, you know, I have that entire headache look after but you really are missing some customization opportunity. So what is it that you know WordPress LMS platforms, like what kind of implementation opportunities are there beyond just say as you say the video and you know workbook kind of setup?

Chris: That’s a great question. The first way I like to answer that is just with an analogy. There’s a time in a place when an apartment makes sense. Like let’s say somebody just leaves home or whatever and they’re going out on their own an apartment. They’re all kind of the same in the unit and it just makes sense less to maintain less responsibility. But when you go over to WordPress and WordPress LMS you’re basically had the opportunity to build a custom home. And you can build like a simple kind of home or you can go crazy and build like this elaborate mansion with all this technology and stuff in there. So when you come over to WordPress.

If you want a, there’s like three layers to it. Designed freedom, functionality freedom and control and ownership of the platform, which is a big deal for some people. But in terms of what you can do that you can’t do in the other places. If you want to come up with an elaborate design on your own or hire somebody to do it. To have the website look exactly the way it looks in your mind or have it professionally designed by somebody. And then you want that implemented that can happen in WordPress with the combination of just themes out of the box. And some just basic settings or with page Builders or even a custom designed by a designer.

So it can really look any way in terms of functionality. Lifter brings in a lot of community pieces and coaching pieces. So if you want to you don’t have to but if you want to offer, let’s say $1,000 course, but then you have the same course plus private coaching for $5,000. There’s coaching tools inside the website. Where you can have like private content and private conversation basically coaching with that person. And it’s all integrated into like one website. We also have a community thing where you can have a social learning component. So you can have a Facebook like experience on your website without sending people to Facebook, which is okay, but can be kind of distracting for a learning context. And then you have the entire other there’s more but those are kind of the top ones but.

Then on top of all that you have the whole WordPress ecosystem, which is what makes WordPress so powerful and why it’s grown so much is it’s a community. And if you want to add something else to your website like events or there’s events plugins. If you want to add an e-commerce store where you have courses, but you also have T-shirts and boot camps. And you know other supplies that are around your Niche you can do that with woo commerce. 

Then there’s literally tens of thousands of other plugins ready to go off the shelf that you can get going with for free. Or not much money to really build a custom site. 

Cindy: Yeah, that’s it. I it’s so funny because you know, I went in talking to people there’s always the divide between what is a right platform to go on and the opportunity in terms of growth beyond just say the course is so much better with you know, going through the WordPress. So it really depends on where you want to take it, right? 

Yeah. Yeah, I was talking to somebody the other day that swishing they outgrew teachable. And they realized that they could get our most expensive thing and that was as much as teachable. But then if they were going to stand teachable, they had to get all these other services to fill in the gaps that they would also have to pay for that. They could just get with lifter and WordPress. That’s kind of how it goes and it can be painful to switch later. But I’m also a big fan though. If you’re really technology averse and you don’t want to be responsible to the website and your concept is pretty simple. Go with the host of LMS.

 Cindy: Right. Now I think that makes sense Jonathan. 

Jonathon: Yeah so we can for time so what about different implementations of LMS? You know, what are the kind of things you can do with it? 

Chris: Well, it’s very scalable. Lifter is just like WordPress is you know, you can have your personal blog and if you look at the New York Times website that’s on WordPress. So you can have this like multi-author like crazy big huge website. So the different implementations you can have at the fundamental level. You can have a one course website. That’s it like you there’s a lot of people some of the most successful course creators. Actually just have one course that they make better and better year after year launched after launch. Getting results better and better for their students and they just scale one thing. That’s fine. 

That’s a one course website, but then you can have a multi-course website then you can add multi instructors. And you can like scale into like academic and University environments where there you’re doing like blended learning. Like there’s some in-person classes and online classes and you’re using the WordPress category system to create. You know the business school the humanities school the technology department and you can get like massive.

You can also just use it for internal training in a company to train your employees for HR and other requirements. You can use it for like if you have a software company as an example, you can use it for onboarding new customers into you how to use your tool instead of kind of boring documentation. You can actually have like the Quick Start course and then like different courses focused on the tool. And that’s it doesn’t just have to work for software companies. I just see software companies or kind of. Taking advantage of online education for new customer onboarding kind of as an early adopter in the concept.

You can also use courses for marketing. And then the other thing I’d like to say is it’s not just the course you can add a lot of other things. You can have a membership site that has courses and you know live Q&A sessions group coaching calls. Access to in person and offline events. You can build like a monthly membership site that’s community and training focused. So the really one of the first questions like Cindy mentioned is what kind of course creator are you? What kind of course you want to be? Where do you want to be at on the on the stack for technology? I think it’s really important to get clear with all that stuff before you go shopping for Tech tools.

Jonathon: Laughing that’s great. We’re gone go for a break folks. We are coming back and we have some more questions with Chris Badgett co-founder of Lifter LMS. Be back in a few moments folks. 

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Jonathon: We’re coming back. I think we’ve had a good discussion so far with Chris. Over to you Cindy. 

Cindy: So I want to I wanted to ask you Chris, you know of the clients that I work with. No one necessarily has a plan to just do one course and be done with it. They have these visions of you know, either creating membership sites or masterminds or what have you. So there’s often more than just that first course which you know is really kind of the introduction to you know access to you so to speak. What do you what do you see is working for people beyond say like once they create the course where I have people been successful in moving beyond that in their business? 

Chris: It’s a definitely it’s in a dip. It`s a depends thing. Like I see people that just double down on one course. And I’m like the course guy on whatever like. And I just keep doing that same course and I think that’s really hard for some people to resist especially. Creative people that want to keep move on to the next thing. Some of the most successful courses online or just you know 10 iterations on the same thing. That being said there’s a great community called the membership guys. 

They have a podcast and they have a membership for like membership site builders and course creators. And they’re doing you know, they have like a monthly. It’s set up more on the membership model. They have courses that have coaching and they have all these worksheets and checklists and guess interviews and like a really robust membership. And I’m watching them grow and scale quite well and they’re doing good.

And you know, one of the things I think that makes them membership successful like before I created a lifter LMS. Let me give you this example. I ran an agency where we focused on high-end membership sites and training platforms. And for one particular client, he built he spent a lot of money with us. But in his launch, he makes over a million dollars a year after year after year. But he’s also not doing it alone and he has a membership site that has courses.

 But it also has these Live Events and these other entire stuff expert QA but he’s not doing it alone. Just like Mike and Kelly the membership guys are not doing it alone. They’re bringing in guest lecturers. They themselves are a Business Partnership. The client I was talking to you about has three virtual assistants that camera crew and has like. I don’t know 20 other people that come onto his platform to help create content through expert kind of interview panel series. So if you are going to go to the membership the monthly like I’m going to go big my advice would be based on the ones I see that are successful.

Is to not do that alone. Don’t try to do that alone or at least try to get some help or as soon as you can once you get into the process. If you’re going to kind of keep it tight and small I would steer more to just doing a one course platform. Or potentially like, you know a handful of courses done by you. So I could see it go either way.

Cindy: Yeah, it’s interesting because a lot of mine wanted the automatically think that they wanted to go into the membership site the membership area. And it’s like, you know, the. The idea and the concept is great. It just made you know, you’ve got to recognize that that’s ongoing content that you need to be continually providing. So it’s going to take some work to keep that going for sure. 

Jonathon: Yeah just a comment. I think you made a great observation there Chris. Is that if you cannot go about the very simple course, you know, you probably get in the partners. And those partners don’t have to be formal partners, you know. They could be sub-contractors or employees normally subcontractors initially and virtual assistants. But the idea that you can do this all yourself or you need partners, you know.

They can, you know, like all partnerships that can be really fantastic or you can produce a lot of other difficulties. But on the other hand, you don’t to grow online business on your own to do all the content, plus the technical side, plus the actual day-to-day running of the course is going to be difficult, isn’t it Chris?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, and if we look at on if you look at the internet marketing industry, love it or hate it the. If you look at what people do with virtual summits where they bring all these experts together and do this big launch and everybody’s email list and it’s free while it’s live. And then then it’s a paid product later. If that whole industry could mature a little bit and become like a more like I think the internet marketers are proving that you can get a bunch of people together. And you can add value and you get to leverage everybody’s audience.

But if you can kind of formalize that get a little more focus going into like what people are talking about and do some intentional like curriculum design around results for the learner. And maybe slow it down a little bit. I think it’s just proven that you can get people together who may even be like if you’re bringing in an expert. I’ll speak from experience here. My first personal online course site was in the gardening niche. It’s a niche called permaculture. We did, I did as a project I did with my wife she did a course on soils and she’s not famous in. she has a master’s in conservation based agriculture, but she’s not famous.

And so once we did that one course, I build a website. I found somebody who was like super famous in the permaculture niche. Who lived a state Away From Me in Montana and I drove over to Washington. Actually, he just moved to Montana but I drove a couple hours to film the workshop put him on our website and boom it takes off. Because he’s like huge in the industry and I leverage that met with more experts and so on. And it became a lot easier to just not do it alone and you and at the same time.

I didn’t lose control of the business. I do like I’m still you know, the only owner of that project. But I do also those people get paid as their courses cell on my platform or whatever. So it’s not like you have to give up all this control. It’s actually doesn’t have to be that way. It can just be a win, win, and win all the way around.

Jonathon: So what’s the kind of different ways? From the students and the students can get feedback from you inside a course because I think this is really very important to around the subject that me and Cindy recently discussed which this little dirty secret in the membership was. ELearning industry. That’s dropout. That’s that people drop out and if you’re free bumps. So I think effective feedback loop is one of the ways that you one of the tools that you can utilize so you don’t get the surrenders dropout rate. 

Chris: Yeah feedback and getting results early. The big problem with these courses are with I think the statistic I heard was ten percent completion rates, but. The problem is that the experts curse or whatever you want to call it is like if I’m an expert. I think I just create a course as way to massive. I’m trying to throw everything under the sun in there. And it’s not necessarily organized around a particular process or behavior change or whatever. and it people are excited when they join but then they just kind of fizzle out because we’re just doing a video version of an encyclopedia but in terms of feedback.

That’s a big part of engagement like as much as I love the 4-Hour workweek and inspired me and to do a lot of things I think course creators tend to go for passive and automation way too early. So yeah, go ahead and automate your LMS, automate your videos. But if you’re not in there like interacting with your students and like seeing how it’s working or what they’re missing. Or what`s their real was really landing well from your curriculum, you’re missing a huge opportunity to like improve your content. I don’t think anybody gets it right the first time around. I think we can all relate to a college professor or professor or teacher who’s like just doing the same thing they’ve done for the past 30 years. 

It’s no longer relevant it’s kind of sucks. So having a conversation with your students, whether that’s like an office hours as simple as like once a week have like a zoom kind of like we’re recording this where people can talk to you. Having assignments like you can do in WordPress LMS like lifter where people you know are submitting things or putting into action what it is you’re teaching. It’s all about Bridging the Gap from entertainment to education. I’m not saying don’t be entertaining. You absolutely should and need to be entertaining. But if it is you’re just passing information to the computer screen, that’s and people are just sitting back watching the video with Facebook.

And the other everything else is going on. That’s not really learning. You got to get what I like to say when we launched our assignments add-on was it’s all about getting your learners taking action. And then based on their action. You can there can be a conversation there about it’s not just about did you pass or what grade did you get or what’s the quality but let’s talk about it a little bit. And there’s an effort. There’s all kinds of places. I’ll just list them off really quick.

 Lesson comments, forums social learning area, private coaching content in the discussion around that. You can go into these like virtual meeting rooms like Zoom like we’re in now. You got email that you can do one-on-one or at scale through your CRM. Feedback is not a problem in the internet. So it’s just about deciding to do it. 

Jonathon: Yeah, I think that’s alright and you do have to think about it because one, because this is I was going to say a little bit dicey, but that’s the wrong word. What I mean is one solution one kind of strategy or framework that one successful other course entrepreneur is doing might not suit your audience. So you’ve got to test things. See if they work with a particular audience because another topple dune sea might not work. What do you think that Chris? 

Chris: Yeah, you got to know your audience. Like what’s their comfort level with technology? What are they? You know, what tools are they’re using? How much do they like interaction or do they prefer to remain as remote as possible? It really depends on the audience. Is there going to be a language barrier? Some courses are very International and you need to figure out that. T here’s all kinds of yeah, I mean you have to know your audience you there’s no such thing as a good course it’s made for everybody.

Jonathon: Exactly. Well, we’re going to wrap up the audio part of this. It’s gone on really quite but Chris has agreed to stay on. And what we’re going to which you be able to see on the WP tonic YouTube channel and on the WP tonic website with a full set of show notes. And what we’re going to be discussing in the bonus content is the concept of the plus concept. I’m going to ask Chris at what you think’s about integrating webinars with online courses, and we got a couple of questions from Cindy as well.

But we’re going to wrap up the audio part that of this interview Chris. How can people find out more about you and Lifter LMS? 

Chris: The best place to find me is a lifterLMS.com. And we also have a podcast for course creators called LMS cast that gets into a lot of issues not just the tech that course creators and membership site Builders face. And I am at Chris Badgett on Twitter.

Chris: And it’s great podcasts. Chris covered some of the stuff that we cover but you can’t have enough of good stuff though. Cindy how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?

Cindy: Well, I think if you’re wanting to create a course like Chris is talking about where you get people engaged in actually going through the course, but you kind of don’t know how to design it in a way that will that will happen. That’s what I help people with and you can find more about me at thecoursewhisper.com. 

Jonathon: And we can work with Cindy and we do the technology stuff. If you’ve got if you decided it’s time to move away from learnable or Kajabi to your own custom platform on WordPress. We can help you with that and work with Cindy to produce a really great course and get online victory for your e-learning system. We will be back next week with an expert that hopefully will help you become a better course. Be back next week. Bye

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