Ben Arellano Joint Founder of FlyPlugins The Maker of WP Courseware Plugin
Ben loves product creation, marketing and most of all online course creation! He co-developed WP Courseware, the leading Learning Management System plugin for WordPress. He also co-developed S3 Media Maestro the all in one AWS S3 media protection manager plugin for WordPress.
Here Are Some of The Topics We Discuss During The Show
WP Courseware Updates
Video Online Courses
Tele-prompters, lighting, backgrounds, cameras, microphones
Video production software
Just starting out on a budget
Fear of recording self video
Video lesson length
This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting
Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show. This is episode 403. We got a great returning guest. We’ve got Ben Arellano of back from WP Courseware plugin. And it`s one of the leading learning management plugins in the WordPress space. He is a fantastic quest. Ben, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to this is abuse.
Ben: Sure. Well, thank you for having me on the show again, Jonathan. I appreciate that. And it`s good to be back. I’m co-founder of a small company called Fly Plugins. And we’ve got a flagship product called WP Courseware, which is a learning management system. We launched Deputy Corps for back in 2012. We were first in the market with an LMS plugin. And so from there we’ve built a couple of other plugins. We have S3 Media Maestro, which is more of a video player with protection, which integrates very tightly with Amazon S3. And we also have another plug in which we recently released called Churnly which is a churn reducer for involuntary churn. And it works with hand in hand with a WooCommerce, subscriptions as well as, easy digital downloads, recurring plus subscriptions.
Jonathon: And that`s fantastic. And we have got Adrian. Adrian has decided to become my new cohost folks. But don’t worry. Cindy will be coming back next week and another week. And we’re not breaking on bad terms. It’s does that Cindy’s decided to become a traveler. And with her family go round the world for a year and a bit around. Maybe it was working with me that made her decided that she needs leave Canada for a year. But she’ll be back next week to tell you more about what she’s up to and her plans. To say I’m slightly envious would be a slight understatement, but there we go. So Adrian thanks for agreeing to become our new co-host. Adrian will be taking over full time in July with me. And I am excited. We are going to cover some great subjects I thing. So Adrian would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Adrian: Absolutely. So, I’m super excited to be on the show now. And recurring, almost every week now. So I was going to be super, super, super fun. We’re going to talk a lot about our focus on marketing. I have a lot of experience in the marketing industry. I’m the founder of Plugins Company called Groundhogg incorporated and we produce a lot of sales and marketing automation plugins for the WordPress community. And I’m super excited to be able to bring that experience to the show.
Jonathon: Yeah I thought it was good when Adrian agreed to become a cohost. I just think it would be a great mix and value to the listeners and viewers. So Ben what is happening now? We’re going to cover two main subjects during this interview folks. It’s going to be WP Courseware and what’s happening with it. And also Ben is going to share a lot of info about video. And I know that’s a really big subject. If you’re making a new course, do some really great videos, really important. So he’s got lots to say about that. So I think it’s going to be a great interview. So let`s start off Ben. So what’s happening in the world of WP Courseware?
Ben: Yeah. So WP Courseware has gone through quite a bit of changes over the past couple of years. And I think it’s probably been about that long since I’ve been on the show. So what we’ve done recently, we’ve taken on a huge project to rebuild a plugin from the ground up. And what we’re doing is we’re revamping the entire back end, making it work a lot more efficient. And one of the things that we’re trying to do is make it more developer friendly, adding in more hooks and filters and things like that. So that people can extend the plugin should they choose to do so? We’re also working on the front end as well. And really trying to hone in on the Ui of the plugin as well. We want to make it super easy for people to come in and create a course.
Ben: What we found is, I mean there are a lot of tools in the SAS space. You have your Teachable or Thinkific or Kajabi. And a lot of these platforms, they have really awesome UI`s. And I think that’s one of the reasons people go and kind of focus on those. But we’re really trying to hone in our UI so that we can make it pretty easy for people to use WP Courseware in the WordPress space. Because I feel like WordPress is so flexible. You won’t get that with teachable or with any of those others. It’s just so flexible. You can do so much with WordPress. So that’s what we’ve been working on over the past year. We’re also adding in new features as we go. We completely revamped our course builder.
Ben: We added in a shopping cart, a couple of payment gateways. So we’ve been adding in quite a bit of functionality into the plugin itself. We’ve got some big plans. I mean, we have a Trailer board, a mile long of things we want to do. And hopefully we can get those, get those done fairly quickly. But we’re about, if I had to guess, we’re about 50 to 60% done with the rewrite. We’ve been incrementally updating the plugin, like I said, over the past year or so. And so we’re getting there, we’re about 50, 60%, maybe even a little bit more. One of the things that we did, we actually had brought a new developer. And this new developer, he’s just a rock star, he’s doing really well.
Jonathon: That`s awesome. Adrian?
Adrian: So awesome. It sounds like you’re doing really, really great and that’s super cool. I am myself am actually going through a whole rebuild process as well. So kudos. I know that’s difficult. So over the last couple of years as you’ve been going through that rebuild process, video has just become so much more all-important. And from a marketing standpoint. So I’m kind of curious what changes have you made within those two years. To not only just bring video in your courses, but also enable your customers or people who use your plugin to enable to market, themselves using video as well?
Ben: So one of the things that we’ve done in the past couple of years as well. We have another plugin called S3 Media Maestro, which delivers video. And just to give you a quick rundown of how that works. You basically host your video on Amazon S3. And then you can use the URL. Or actually, I’m sorry, the URL from our short code generator, which generates and encrypt your URL. That URL is actually expiring. So when somebody tries to, you grab that URL and share it across the unit, it will expire at a point in time never to be used again. But what we really did is we really took S3 Maestros seriously. And we integrated it with S3. And I don’t know if you’ve ever used S3, but S3 in and it is kind of cumbersome to use.
Ben: It’s okay, but it’s not the easiest thing to use. So what we did is we built this really cool short code generator that completely interacts. The only thing you have to do is pop in your API keys. You can upload video through the plugin. You can set up your URLs, everything except the video player. So it’s very easy. So one thing we did is we integrated that plugin with WP courseware, really tightly so that when you deliver your video course you can complete your unit. Like you can force somebody to completely watch a video before they can complete a unit and things like that. So we’re really trying to focus in on that video aspect. Because just as Jonathan mentioned, you know, video is becoming a really big deal. I mean I have some interesting statistics I can probably give later on in the show, but video videos are a real big deal right now.
Ben: So in terms of marketing, one thing we’re trying to do right now, we’re actually, we’re focusing on building a couple of add on’s for WP-Courseware for email marketing. Not so much like video marketing, but more for email marketing. We haven’t focused too much on video marketing. I know there’s a big push with YouTube. YouTube is a big deal right now. You have your Instagram, Instagram stories and video, IG TV, that sort of thing. But for right now we haven’t done a whole lot with marketing related directly to courseware.
Jonathon: Oh, well that sounds great. So I am really fascinated with this other plug in. And you have integrated it in Amazon web services. So as it got its own player? And is that really flexible the player?
Ben: Well the player, what we decided to do, we took the same player that’s actually native to WordPress, which is the media elements player. But we’re not using the native player. We’re wrapping up a separate package of our own player. But it is media elements. What we’d like to do in the future and again this is down the road. We’d like to add in a couple other video player options. I know video JS makes a great video player. There are a couple of other ones that we may incorporate into the plugin itself. But yeah, we’d like to make that a little more flexible. We’d like to add in some Ui features where you can change characteristics of the video player, color scheme, that sort of thing. The player bar and maybe at a different icon for your play button, that sort of thing. But again that’s a little bit down the road. But for now we recently wrapped up that project. It’s just really tightly integrated with S3. It’s so cool because you can upload and create your video URLs and that sort of thing. Embed them in your WordPress website. Super easy with that short code generator.
Jonathon: Well, cause he does seem to change cause recently, but it was an announcement from WP engine. Announcing the integration of video hosting with cloud flair. Were you aware of that?
Ben: No. No, I had not. I was not aware of that. No I hadn’t seen that. But we are actually, we are hosted with WP engine, but I hadn’t seen that announcement.
Jonathon: No cause cloud flare offering. I don’t think it’s as sophisticated as yours at the present moment. But they seem to be going into that area. So as these seems to be a lot of interesting that in the area. Over to you, Adrian.
Adrian: So a lot of people currently use like Filmio or Wistia. A lot of people host their videos on YouTube. So with this, with your S3 login, is it easy for them if they want to switch over. How would they go about doing going through that process?
Ben: So currently S3 maestro is pretty flexible. You can add a video that’s hosted on any server. So if you have a Vimeo video, YouTube video, a video just somewhere in cyberspace. You can use S3 media maestro. However, it’s not gonna generate that encrypted URL. That encrypted URL functionality is actually part of Amazon web services. I do know that, Vimeo, I think they do have some security type functionality where I think you can define like a domain name and that’s the only place that video can play. Wistia on the other hand, I’m not exactly sure. I’ve never used Wistia. The thing about Wistia that I’ve always kind of, it’s always been a downfall to me is, is its pretty expensive. And so S3 seems to be a little bit more flexible with pricing. The price does go up if you start looking at using cloud front to their CDN services to serve up that video a little bit faster. You can use just about any video platform and you can embed it with S3 media maestro. So yeah.
Jonathon: So that’s great. So, when it comes to actually producing the video, what do you think some of the best tools that somebody starting off should look at? Base on your experience and being in the market area yourself?
Ben: So yeah, some of the best video-editing software. When you’re first starting off it you’re always looking at budget. Because a lot of people don’t have budget when they’re first starting off. And then I get that. But you do kind of have to invest in some tools and that sort of thing. There’s some really cool software out there. What I use for probably 99% of my videos is software called Screenflow. Screenflow is very flexible because you can do screen casts. But you can also do talking head type video stuff and it’s got a full on editor. It works great. There’s software called Camtasia that I’ve used in the past and is another great piece of software. I think that one. It’s both Mac and windows friendly. I think Screenflow is Mac only unfortunately.
Ben: I also recently downloaded and started kind of toying with Adobe premiere elements. And it seems to be pretty cool. I tend to just default back to Screenflow. It’s just a great tool for doing your post editing on your videos. It’s got a lot of it’s feature rich. The really cool thing is I like the fact that I can customize how I want to export my videos so I can set my data range, I can set my resolution frames per second. Codex that I use for audio, video h. Dot. Two 64, you know, ACC for audio, that sort of thing. So I really liked the flexibility of Screenflow.
Jonathon: Yeah, I totally agree with your Ben. I use Screenflow, but I also use final cut pro a bit. And which is my calling me, which is around $300 for final cut. Screenflow is around about 120 folks. Another one you could look at it is Davinci, which I think works on Mac and PC. And they offer a fully free version. They do offer a pro version Davinci, but the free version is pretty powerful. And if you need to do some, color correction, which you really can’t do in Screenflow. It’s something to look at. Over to you Adrian.
Adrian: First off plus one for Camtasia. I’ve been using that tool for a very, very long time. If you do prefer windows, as I do because [14:51 inaudible]. I think you should absolutely go check out Camtasia. It’s a great tool. So we have the tools down.
Adrian: So we have the tools down. What do you have in terms of actual like resources for how people go around designing their courses to ensure that the maximum number of people actually start and get to the end so that the most content is consumed. So what resources would you recommend? Or do you have in order to help people design their courses?
Ben: Yeah, so to me that’s more of a strategically type question. Not necessarily tools. I mean, you can make the best videos and everything looks so, so great. But it depends on the content of your videos, the content of your course and that then what’s going to get people from point A to point B. And so in terms of getting somebody through a course, you have to give people a goal. First of all, you have to give people an end goal. Like, what is it that you’re going to walk away from this course from. What knowledge are you gonna walk away with? And then you have to get them to that point. And you have to break the course up, obviously into various modules, units, chapters, whatever you want to call them, lessons.
Ben: And you guys, you have to make them, palatable so that people can consume them. I know you’ve probably heard this a million times. Bite size chunks, that sort of thing. But it’s a reality. I mean people don’t have attention spans. I mean even in an adult I think paying attention to something from about 10 to 15 minutes and then you’re off somewhere else. So I think making it palatable, just making it so it’s interesting you have to give demonstrations and it also depends on what you’re teaching. I mean, you have, and you have to make it interesting. You have to make it so that, people do want to learn in that. Not only that, but the people as they’re learning, they can do the thing that you’re teaching them and experience small successes along the way.
Ben: Because if they’re not experiencing that, then they’re not going to have a reason to come back in and want to continue learning. So you have to deliver on a bunch of different levels if you want to take somebody from point A to point B. And actually consume that course. So it’s a pretty loaded question. We probably could talk a good long while about that strategy. I’m sure there are tons of strategies out there for doing that. But that’s kind of at a basic level. That’s kind of what I would say.
Adrian: Do you have like anywhere where they could? Sorry for the loaded question, but what do they have anywhere where they can go to learn? That was more of like what tools or what places would they go so that people might be able to actually to like get that full kind of strategic thinking? Like, do you have like a URL for example?
Ben: I don’t have a URL. And here’s the thing. There are a lot of courses out there that teach people how to build courses. There are a lot of really expensive courses. There are a lot of courses on Udemy. To me everybody’s an expert. In fact, it’s one of the things that me and my business partner named, I’ve talked about in the past, know we deliver this great product. We should just create a free course with all this knowledge and experience that we’ve had with our customers. Just to lay it out for people to help them. And so that’s something that we’ve toyed with. Unfortunately I don’t have a specific answer or a tool or a resource. Again there are some great courses out there. And there’s some that are probably not so great. It’s one of those things where you just have to kind of search around. I know people mostly go to YouTube to find out things. You want a quick answer. You go to YouTube and there might be some stuff out in YouTube. Unfortunately I just don’t have a specific resource for that.
Adrian: Fair enough.
Jonathon: Actually, I think sharing from five things. Unfortunately he’s got a competitive product. But he’s been doing some good work. Providing some training around building a course. But I want to provide a resource page listeners and viewers where we have some of the better courses or resources. Because he’s a great point that Adrian just made. Because we’d probably get some of the better ones on some shows in July and August. That gives some insight about that. We’re going to go for our break folks. When we come back, we’re going to go some more great questions for Ben. We will be back in a few moments.
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Jonathon: We are coming back. And we’ve had some insight about Ben`s great plugin WP courseware. Actually it’s one of the first plugins that allowed you to make courses utilizing the power of WordPress. Wasn’t it Ben?
Ben: Yeah, it was the first one out there. We built it to scratch our own itch. And we had no idea what we had our finger on. And I and my business partner call it dumb luck because it’s kind of what it was.
Jonathon: That’s great. Great story. So on to the video theme of the podcasts. Well actually before that, do you see any upcoming? We had the period of micro lessons, then gamification. I think gamification was first and then micro lessons. Linked to what we were discussing in the first half of the show. Not having your lessons.
Ben: Bit size chunks.
Jonathon: Yeah, bite sized chunks. Do you see any new trends coming up in the next 18 months? Or do you think, the course, the educational platforms have kind of, they’ve got an establishment methodogies now?
Ben: You kind of think that because that’s kind of how it is right now. Everything is kind of pretty smooth. Like you said, you had of all these gamification, micro courses, even micro lessons, whatever you want to call them. And I think that there will be something else that will come out eventually. Something new. There’s a lot of push for live lessons or live teaching. I know we’ve had lots of requests for having some kind of feature for, doing a live course.
Jonathon: Kind of webinar functionality, with some of the SAS has been pushing. Especially, I’m not sure about Kajabi. There are a couple of others that come to mind. The people that do webinar jam. They do a platform as well, which is around membership and course production.
Ben: I believe so. And I don’t know if necessarily that’s going to be the next trend. But I feel like gamification is still a big deal. I feel like gamification is not old news. I feel like it’s still very powerful. Even to Adrian’s point a minute ago, how do you get somebody from point A to point B? I think gamification is one of the ways you do it. People like to have that feedback loop. That instant gratification, like, oh, I just completed something. I just got to a new little a badge or whatever, some points or you knows, whatever it is, a certificate. I mean, that’s why it’s funny. One of our biggest requests, in WP Courseware is for certificate customization. And that tells me that people love certificates. They want to use certificates. They want to give their students a reward at the end to give them that sense of completion. So I think gamification is a big deal still.
Adrian: One of the things that digital marketer does, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with digital marketer. They’re one of the biggest digital marketing training companies currently on the planet. Ryan Dice. If you don’t know who that is, please go look him up. But what they do as all of their courses at the end of every single one, you get both the certificate and a badge. And what they always tell you is. You can go take that package and put it in the footer of your website or put it on your LinkedIn page or put it wherever it is. So people know that you completed x course and they just go crazy for that stuff. And I think micro wins you’re talking about, the instant gratification is just so important since everything now is like, so like instantaneous. We want to see results. If we don’t see results like two minutes after, like we plant like a flower. If it’s not grown in two minutes, then it was like, oh, this is too hard.
Ben: It’s kind of an interesting concept because we’re conditioning ourselves for like life in general and life doesn’t work like that. Like online courses, software development, that kind of thing. It’s instant gratification, but life in general does not work like that. But I don’t know. That’s a whole other topic.
Jonathon: How do you see kind of the general growth in this market? In learning to become an entrepreneur. Do you think we’ve reached the Zenif? Or do you think there’s still enormous amount of growth in this particular sector?
Ben: Oh yeah, there’s definitely a lot of growth in the learning industry. I can’t remember the exact statistic. I think we’re at maybe $200 billion industry right now. And that’s supposed to get up to 300 and some odd billion dollars by 2023 or something like that. I don’t know the exact statistic, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Ben: I think eLearning it’s a big deal right now, but I think it’s going to grow over the next few years, several years, maybe even 10 years. I don’t know. It’s a pretty big deal. I mean all the trends that are happening. I mean, you look at Udemy. I have some statistics from Udemy. 30 million students, 100,000 courses, 40,000 instructors. But this is the statistic right here. That really intrigues me because of the video aspect to it. 22 million minutes of video. And so I mean that’s just on Udemy`s marketplace. I mean there are tons of other online courses, out on the interwebs. And so I think it’s interesting to me that it’s definitely growing. But it’s also kind of pointing towards video courses.
Jonathon: Over to you Adrian.
Adrian: So do you think that, just as an opinion, a traditional education. At least here in Canada seems to falling behind the sort of digital trend. What do you think is next for the, our consumption as like just, just education in general going towards these bite sized courses. Do you see that happening with universities down there in the states? Or do you just see that happening with other industries? Like what is the adoption rate of these large organizations in converting over to video?
Ben: I think it’s going to happen. I think it’s a big deal. Obviously it depends on your industry. I mean, if you’re going to school to become a doctor, you have to go to school. I mean, you have to go to an educational institution. You go take that take courses to become a doctor. But like I had a friend the other day who was telling me, hey, I’m, you know, my wife is thinking about going back to school to become a graphic designer. And I’m thinking to myself, actually, I told him like, why would you do that? Like why would you pay for somebody to go to college to learn to be a graphic designer? You can log onto the internet, go to lynda.com. I mean, just do Google search and you will find courses on how to do this.
Ben: One of the things I see is, not only related to video. But most people spend most of their time on their mobile device. And so making courses in the video format. But also key towards mobile users I think is going to be the trend. Because that’s where people consume. I mean, people are on there for social media all day for email. Most entrepreneurs run a business and they do a lot of business on their mobile phone. I think coming from a standpoint of video plus mobile, I see a big trend headed that direction for maybe even bigger companies too. I don’t know, larger corporations maybe doing employee training, I don’t know. But it’s definitely going that direction.
Jonathon: Oh, that’s great. We are going to wrap up the podcast past of the show. Hopefully Ben we’ll be able to stay with us for another 10 minutes for some bonus content. Which you’d be able to see on the WP tonic YouTube channel. Actually if you are a real connoisseur, WP tonic and you can’t wait for the iTunes episodes. You normally can see the episodes the earliest on our YouTube channel. Just a little tip there listeners and viewers. So Ben, how can people find out more about you, your company, and what you’re up to?
Ben: So yeah, you can find us at flyplugins.com. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram. It’s just at fly plugins. And yeah, definitely reach out to us. I think we have questions option on our webpage. You can reach out presales questions or questions in general. You can find me on any one of the social platforms as well. Feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to answer any of the questions that you might have about creating an online course about our products. WordPress in general, online business. We love talking about it. One thing I love to point out is we do an office hour session the fourth Friday of every month. And so we do live over YouTube. And you can sign up for that on our website flyplugins.com forward slash office dash hours. And just sign up for that and we’d love to have you on there. You can ask us anything. We’ll answer it live.
Jonathon: Fantastic. Adrian, how can people find out more about you and your company?
Adrian: So they can go to Groundhogg with two g`s dot io. And there’s plenty of ways to get in touch with both me personally or any of my staff on there. We have our chat box in the bottom right hand side. We have links to our Facebook group as well as our Facebook page and you can reach out to us there. My personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and talk again with two g’s email@example.com. And if they have or if you have any interest in digital marketing, marketing automation or WordPress centric sales tools, then you should definitely reach out and ask any questions that you have about that.
Jonathon: That’s fantastic Adrian. And if you want some help in building that first course or you want to escape the clutches of Teachable or Kajabi come over to WP Tonic. We got a number of services that will help you build the course that you’re looking for. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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