What Does it Take To Build A Modern LMS Platform in 2020?
Themeum is a state of the art WordPress themes and plugins development company on a mission to upgrade your WordPress experience with high quality WordPress themes and plugins including Tutor LMS.
Adrian: Welcome back everybody to the WP tonic show. My name is Adrian. I am the CEO and founder of Groundhogg. And we’re here today with a lovely guest Sekander from Tutor LMS and I’m also joined by my cohost Jonathan. Jonathan, just want to pop in and say hi there.
Jonathon: Oh, hi there. This is episode 474 as well.
Adrian: Thank you. And Sekander, why don’t you just pop in and say hi as well?
Sekander: Hi, I’m Sekander Badsha from Tutor LMS.
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So Sekander, why don’t you just tell us a little about your background, your role at Tutor LMS and how you got started in the WordPress community?
Sekander: Okay. I started in the WordPress community back in 2013 when I was in my college, or in America, you can say it was high school. So in my high school days, I was a translator for wordpress.com and wordpress.org. So I started my journey from there. I’ve also worked for open source projects like Mozilla and for Linux project like Linux mint or like for Ruben too. So all the Bangladeshi communities, Southeast Asian communities, I have worked with them remotely and in person or workshops. And that was my childhood days. And after that I started with some customer support job at a company named Vdibs. A local plug in. That was my first WordPress Company. And later I moved on to a couple of companies. One of the top three companies in the world.
So Themeum is just a brand of Joomshaper and Siemian builds plugins and themes. As I am talking about tutor LMS. So I want to give a background about Tutor LMS where it came from. It came from a theme because you know, from the company name, Themeum. So we were basically known for themes. And we were planning for an educational team named edumax. And for the team we are building a system and later we realized that we can make it a standalone system and remove the dependency from themes. So this is how Tutor LMS started
Adrian: And Tutor LMS is a learning management system, kind of like lifter LMS or Learn Dash, right?
Sekander: Yes. Tutor LMS is quite similar to Learn Dash and Lifter MS.
Adrian: So your expertise is in the in the support area, the communications area. Often some of the most overlooked aspects of running a business. Everybody wants to like start up a plugin business or startup up a learning management business. And they’re like, well, I’m going to host this content on the internet and I’m going to put it kind of put it out there. I’m going to collect all of the money that people are going to pay me for. And then all of a sudden they get an email. It’s like, my login is not working. And that’s kind of like where the support comes in. And it’s like, Oh, I didn’t sign up for that. And I learned that the hard way when I started developing plugins and running my first business, I was like, Oh my God, there’s like mountains and support.
And so that’s a lot of a where you’re familiar with. So I’d love to know some of the kind of like expectations people should have. You know, a lot of people that listen to this show are in building mode. They’re prelaunch. They are kind of like how I was. They’re excited to launch and start collecting money and getting customers. What expectations would you set for these people once they’ve actually launched the products in terms of what support systems they should have in place in order to avoid kind of like being absolutely crushed by people asking for help.
Sekander: Okay. So I tried to be an entrepreneur for two times. So I also know how it fails and how to fail and how to fail better. So I always tried.
Adrian: Entrepreneurship is just like exceeding or just like multiple steps of failure and every time you just fail a little bit less than you until you’re eventually, they’re like that’s entrepreneurship.
Sekander: I had too much confidence because I have been working in the industry for like four or five years, so I thought I know everything and I can start a company of my own. So I always try to find the ideas from the customer support from like what was that word, forum or like already trade or there are multiple support from of other companies. Those are open to the public. So I always try to look from there and try to find a problem. It can be a very simple and silly problem. I have a plugin called change add to cart button text for Woo Commerce. That’s a six line code and six line code plugin that has 4,000 active installs. So I have found that idea from a support forum for commerce and I copied the code from WooCommerce documentation and turned it into a plugin. So that people can just one click and install the code and customize it from the settings panel.
So this is how I found my idea for our first plugin. And currently I also try to look at the support forums from competitor plugins or other products. Or like I always try to align with the top plugins like WooCommerce or Jetpack or other products. So I tried to find out the problems of the customers are people that are struggling with. So this is where the product research or product identity has begun. Skit is not that when you think that at midnight that I found something Eureka, not the Eureka moment. The Eureka moment might work or might not work because you don’t know people it does if need yet or not. The case with QB, I wouldn’t replug it. This is, we thought that people might need it or it might be a valuable product for the future. But [inaudible] it started from a cause or started from a problem because none of the LMS solutions had a front end interface.
None of the plug ins did not have integrated add on system or none of the existing plugins had extensive solutions so that people can customize from their own teams or customize their own way they want. So this is how to deliver started from problems from solving problems and when we are moving on or when we are trying to get sales, that also comes from people. So we tried to find out where people hang out, where people stay early or discuss their problems regularly. There multiple groups like WP crafter or ManTech wiser. A couple of Facebook groups that I found some of my friends introduced to the groups. So I went to them and asked, would you be interested in a lifetime deal. You know, that we ran a light MD and that was a very good starting fire point for us. So that also helped. So I tried to find people who are facing problem.
I tried to find people who are willing to buy something, a good solution, a better solution, and that they can invest for a long time. And currently I have a Facebook group for tutor LMS. So in the group I discussed what is the next thing you were expecting or how do like our latest integration, like we have released integration for oxygen Villa recently. So I tried to understand how they’re using that and what problems they’re facing. And I tried proposed a poll so that they can respond that this is how we expect or this is the problems we are facing. So depending on that or based on those feedbacks, I tried to set up the meetings with the company because I am the customer advocate there.
So depending on those feedbacks, we decide our next roadmap or next plan for products. So you can see it from the starting point, from the selling point or from planning the future. Everywhere people are involved every year the users are involved. If you, we’re trying to solve the problem, it’s not just, you know, I come up with a great product idea, launch it, and then it’s just immediately wild successful. There’s, you use specifically event line, like several different steps of and development and then actually like community with your community in order to get feedback on, on what they’d actually find useful. People are always there to help you. So there’s nothing to be worried about.
Adrian: Awesome. Jonathan. So when it comes to learning management systems, what do you think are some of the leading trends in e-learning and around learning management systems?
Adrian: So are you saying people want to move away from YouTube and Vimeo traditionally and start doing a lot of self-posting videos?
Sekander: Yes. YouTube is a public platform so there are too many downloaders for YouTube to many browser experiences for YouTube or for Vimeo because those are common platforms. So those are very easy to get pirated or leaked or copied. People don’t often download videos and upload on torrent or the host on their one site and try to sell resells their products. Like there’s a $40 course on Udemy, the download and try to sell it for $5. So this is a very common case these days. So this is why we do not encourage users to go to Vimeo. Instead, we try to encourage them to go for [inaudible] or for probably two or for Wistia or for other famous videos, things, and services that tries to protect the content as much as possible.
So when does video piracy actually become a problem? A is do you have like any, any reference for when someone should actually consider investing time and resources into protecting their constants? When you’re just beginning to develop your content, like you’re developing content for musicians, you’re developing content for artists or you’re developing content for corporate clients. These cases are very rare because this audience is not that much techie and there won’t go to torrent sites or they won’t go to some of the cheaper unknown sites. Rather than that they will try to go to you, to me or any other famous site or pro famous course. So in those cases there is nothing to be worried about piracy. They can easily use YouTube or Vimeo or any other platform they want.
And in these cases they also often don’t get that much traffic. And if there is big traffic, they can always afford Amazon hosting. So the piracy happens for tech courses, like for programming courses are for like a web development courses because those people know how to download those or host this content or by make them cooperate less. So this is when the issue starts. So if you’re trying to go big and if you’re a big brand then you should think from beginning. But if you’re just starting out far away, build in resources or for what procedures for beginners, you don’t need to worry about when you are getting like 1000 traffic or 1000 users or 1000 paid users a month, then you should start thinking about protect your content because they are going famous now.
Adrian: I mean that makes sense. So if you’re starting, you heard it here first, there’s no point in trying to protect videos before you have any traffic. I see a lot of that people kind of like putting the cart before the hole, the cart before the horse as it were, trying to get everything ready to go before they show it to anybody and then they spend all this money on protection. And Amazon SES or Amazon or Amazon web services and all of that stuff. And then nobody, this is their site happens all too often. Jonathan.
Jonathon: Yeah. So what are some of the other features or tutor that yours the most proud of that you think gives the best functionality to your user base?
Sekander: Okay, so I think that multi instructor feature for Tutor LMS is very helpful to the users because oftentimes when you have a big team or you are trying to work for professional products, some people develop or edit the videos. Some people work on the transcripts, some people work on the text based lessons is like for PDF guides or everything. So you have six or seven people working on the same course. So if you have multiple people access to the course, they can upload their content and work simultaneously so they can collaborate for the one single course or one same course. So for the multiple instructors working on the same course that is also helpful. And if you want to have one instructor for one course or one person maintaining one course, that is also helpful. And as we have a front end interface, so people want to build a platform where cell service or like they want to allow their friends to use their website.
They don’t need to give them back in Texas or what percent my nexus they can handle everything from what respondent and our frontend interface. And for other e-learning solutions they have e-commerce integrations with third party plugins like WooCommerce or some other things. Those are very complicated to integrate because you have to create a product then tag it to the course and also tag the post to the product. So that’s a very complicated process. But from our front end, you don’t need to create any product or any product or anything. Everything happens in the backend. You set a price and the configured plugging in the backend. We’ll do everything in the background. So I think these three steps on these three key features are very important are what it says, Tutor LMS apart from any other competitors in the market.
Adrian: Thank you. So I think we’re going to go for our break and after the break when we come back. Sekander told me before we started that he really wants to talk about building a community and the steps that you can take if you’re building a community or at least starting your business. And why building a community is important. So we’re going to take our break and we’ll be right back.
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Adrian: And welcome back. We are going to start. We’re going to take a little bit of a shift. Sekander has mentioned to me that he’s very experienced in building online and digital communities around businesses and products. And we’re going to ask him why that’s important. And secondly, how you actually go about that. So Sekander why is having an online community super important? Why is it not enough to just have a product or just have a course? Why does the community aspect important?
Sekander: In the first place when you start working or start developing a product or start studying for a product, let’s say even if you have a big team, 40 or 50 people, you are limited to that team. And you are limited to the knowledge of the 40 or 50 people. 40 and 50 people team is not that small and not everyone can afford a 40 50 people team, right? So even if you have a big team, still you are limited to them. But if you have a community or if you have a common space, like a forum already trade or like a Facebook group, then you have access to thousands of people. And in many cases for hundreds and thousands of people, let’s say WooCommerce or Alyssa, Jetpack common plugins, they have hundreds and thousands of users. So your data gets increased, you have a bigger set of data access to and you have bigger sets of problems access to.
So this is how you begin your study for a product or this is how you start planning for your product. So if you have a community or if you have a place to go to, then you are not working alone. Or you are not limited to that 40 or 50 people in your area or in your country or in your locality. This is the first part. And on the second point when you are start selling traditionally what people do, they start doing Google ad words are the start in other sites and to some extent people go to product hunt or to tech crunch. So even if you go to those bigger sites and go to paid advertising and start building content and start getting audience still you’re limited to people to those keywords. Still you’re limited to those sites and you have to spend a lot, even if you are developing content in house or even if you are posting to external sites like product undertake because you always end up paying someone.
So those are paid channels. But if you go to a community, no one is going to ask you for money. If you post something there. For our Facebook group we got, we found a lot of Facebook groups that do not charge any money and they let you promote your product. Or you can just promote your product in exchange of affiliate commission and that is not that too much and you don’t have to pay them upfront. If you make any sales, then only you pay the affiliates. If you do not make any sales, you don’t have to pay a penny. This is a very crucial part for companies starting or product starting because you do not have any money upfront because you are already paying to the developers who are already spending a lot of money to pay the salaries and then you find shortest in the marketing costs or you might end up spending too much money in the marketing and you might not be able to pay the developers, which happened in my case, I couldn’t pay my developers and I had to stop my company.
So these are the common mistakes and these are a common help you get from the community when you’re developing your product or when you start selling your product. And at this point if you stop and if you do not build a community for your own products or you do not build, or if you do not build a community of your users for your products, you get stopped or stuck within those communities are the customers of your product. So you’re not getting any new fans or you’re not getting any feedback to improve the product or you don’t get to know the problems because even if you’re going to have a customer support portal or you communicate to emails or forums, those people are coming one by one and the other users don’t know about problems are the users are facing. So if they’re discussing everything in an open space are they have access to the products, then they can communicate with each other and they can vote for the problems and you know the depth of the problems or how many people are going to those problems. So those also help you.
Adrian: Thank you. The dog obviously wants to get some words in the background there cause I want to help. I want to be a part of the community. I remember when we were first getting started out the community aspect, we have a Facebook group. And we tried to get as many people as possible into that Facebook group. I was kind of like a first line support. And it’s a wonderful thing because you essentially offload a lot of support that you have to do on to your community. It allows other people to help other people without us essentially having to monitor it, which are a super huge benefit, especially if you’re on a small team. You’re going to handling a significant number of support tickets. And you mentioned about going to other people’s communities as well. And that’s something that I was totally guilty of the first time or a year ago.
I just go to other people’s communities and talk to the, whoever the group owner was the group moderator say like, Hey, listen, I got this thing and I’d love to share it with your audience. Here’s the affiliate link. And I did that with several people to moderate success. So super valuable advice there to anybody who has yet to launch their product or is in the process of launching their product. And you need to find some new life, or you need to find a new audience to share. Go find other people’s audiences and give them affiliate link and then write a post.
So that’s all well and good and that’s a lot of great reasons for why community’s important and why you should have one. Part of the problem is the reason most people don’t have communities is because they don’t know how to put one together. So what would you recommend as starting points in order to actually start building a community and getting people in there? And then probably the most hardest part is cause you can have a community with a thousand people in it, but it’s not going to do any good unless people are active within it. So two part question. How do you get people in there in the first place and then how do you make sure that they’re actually active, they’re posting, they’re commenting, they’re interacting with content. What do you do to to make that happen?
Sekander: Okay. Even if it’s for our own group or even the content is for an external group. I don’t post anything random or post anything that I want to share or I want them to learn. I try to share things that they want to know. From my side. I try to always think from their side and I also try to involve with the communities. Let’s say there’s a community for workers, beginners or beginner users. So I will try to help them with their issues even if it’s not related to our product. So in this way they know my name, they know that there’s something called stick on that and he works with something. So this is how I tried to build my own phase bell and forums are still famous. So if you are going to have a forum on your own site, then you are getting a keywords and traffic and new content because those forums are also a new page.
So you are going to have their messages on those forums and people, I’ll often end up pasting the whole Iran messes in Google. So you are getting traffic, those forum threads and you can maintain a community in your own words at forum. And if you’ll see that your users are going to Facebook or when you’re promoting things on Facebook, people are interacting on Facebook, you can try having a Facebook group or you can sometimes go to Reddit and see if people from [inaudible] are coming to your channel or your thread or your ask me anything thread. Or you can go to Twitter and post something with your hashtag and see if people read tweets or people find it. Well, so there are multiple channels and you have to test and try that, which channel works better or which channel has more traffic or which channel has interested people in our product or our community.
So a one channel might not fit everyone and all of the channels might not always work. So you always have to test and try and everything. And we always try to send traffic to those channels. Like a Facebook group is a main thing for us, but we tried to send all of our traffic to our Facebook group. We tell people via email that join our Facebook group, which will people on Twitter that we have a Facebook group. We tell people from our landing pages, product pages that we have a Facebook group. So all of our attention is focused on the Facebook group. So the best channel is working for us. So we try to gather all the traffic. There are all the crowd that are in the one place. So it makes us easier for to maintain and always the content has to be relevant to the users, what people want to see and what people, and there has to be space for people to speak and there has to be space for people to show their interest, put their input. It can be a wall or it can be an end where people just know things and say, okay, you’ve got something good, best of luck and they move on. Not like that.
Adrian: So you mentioned that you have to find out from your users actually what they want to hear, which I think is probably some of the best advice from today. Or give people what they want, not what you want necessarily. Because your job as an entrepreneur, as a product developer and a product person is to deliver and solve problems that your customers have, not the ones that you have. So how do you ask or how do you find out what it is that your customers are struggling with? Do you act. You just ask like do you make a poll? Like what specifically step by step processes in order to get feedback from your customers so you can create good content.
Sekander: Okay, so my contents are not that good content, sometimes it’s this one single line, sometimes it’s a very long paragraph saying that this is what we are planning and if you can help us finalizing those or prioritizing those or we have a Trello board where you can vote for features and we can also update you about which can be done earlier on, which can be done later. So there we have some like fill in the gaps. So there are some gaps that users can fill up. So this is where they start gathering and this is where they start speaking. And also we always have emails wing up and people are requesting us for features. Let’s say there’s a new plugin called wish list members. So two or three people asked us that there’s a new plugin in AppSumo named wish lists and we want integration for that.
So I thought as three people recommended there could be five more people that might be interested. So I can just go and ask would you like to have integration for, with our we are planning for oxygen builder integration. So how do want this to work? We want to break everything and make everything from scratch or would you want to ask to have a readymade template and start with that. So this is the place they put their input and this is the place they say, Oh no, we don’t want and builder, we want elementary builder or something. So we get another topic to talk about. Then we start talking about element or that there is an existing solution for tutor LMS. So how can we make it better? So they’ll start working. So we always have a starting point from emails or for feature requests or from any other comments or any of the products. Then we continue from there. So even if here you can see that people are always helping us to start with the new topic, start with a new feature or start with the new discussion. It’s all people.
Adrian: It’s all people. We have a few minutes left to wrap up. Jonathan, you want to get any final questions in there?
Jonathon: So obviously how popular is WordPress in your part of the world? Obviously word cam Asia had to be canceled, unfortunately for obvious reasons. But what is the state of the WordPress community in general, in your part of the world?
Sekander: Okay. I’m from Dhaka, Bangladesh and you go look up what we had it last year. And this was the first of all word camp in our country and all of the organizers have never added a word camp in Bangladesh in our country. So some of us work outside Bangladesh and some of us at his local meetups, but we ended up selling 800 tickets within just 12 minutes. So there were 800 attendees and they bought tickets within 12 minutes and we couldn’t hello. More people as a plus our farm, first word camp and what comes in a wander to allow just two or 300 people. But we had like more than 1500 people interested in those [inaudible]. So we ended up having a Word Camp with including volunteers. Everyone, 1000 users. But there are more than that. At least there are like 22,000 people in our press DACA group. What is Bangladesh group? So we have around like 25 or 26,000 people in Bangladesh and most of them are developers. If you look up developers from Bangladesh or statistics for developers from Bangladesh, we are standing in the third position after United States and India. This has the largest developer community.
Jonathon: Wow. So basically it’s exploded. We are going to wrap it up and continue that part of the discussion in our bonus content. Adrian, do you want to wrap up the show?
Adrian: Yeah. So Sekander where can people find out more about you, what you’re up to and where can they find how to join your Facebook community?
Sekander: Okay. Tutor LMS link is facebook.com/groupslms. And you can easily find it or you can just Google Tutor LMS. And you can email us or you can knock us on Tutor LMS on Facebook page, or on our Twitter page anywhere. You can just ask us and we will send you the link.
Adrian: And Tutor LMS is there is a free version, correct?
Sekander: Yes. It’s available in wordpress.org and today we crossed the 5,000 users. We have 5,000 active installations today.
Adrian: That’s awesome. I wish I would wake up to 5,000 active installations. That’d be a fun day. Well, you know, it’s like 30% of those are like premium. Then it’s not such a small number anymore. Jonathan, how can people interact with you and do you have a community?
Jonathon: Well no we need to discuss that. But obviously a Facebook group would be great. It’s just moderating it, but I should probably get on that. Yes, really? Yes, we should do, maybe we can discuss that Adrian. But the main thing folks, if you really want to support the show are to go to the WP website. Join our monthly newsletter that has been revamped. In the next week we’re going to make it a lot easier for you to join the newsletter as well. But if you can do that, join one, then I would follow my lead, my belts and you’d be automatically be able to join our monthly newsletter where we will have all kinds of WordPress stories that I’ve chosen. Also the recommendation from the panel, from our round table show. The key recommendations will be listed in the newsletter. So there’s going to be a lot of resources and new resources in the newsletter during this year. Over to you Adrian.
Adrian: So if you want to find out about how you can start building a list or building your email marketing list. So you too can send out newsletters then you can head on over to Groundhogg with two gs.io to download our free plugin in the WordPress repository. That will allow you to build lists, create sales funnels, and send out emails to your subscribers. And there’s actually, we have a Tutor LMS integration. So if you’re using Tutor LMS and you want a deep integration with your email marketing platform then we have an integration for Groundhogg and Tutor LMS. You can also find about more about that on the website. So thank you everybody for listening and stick around for bonus content.
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