Instructional designers (IDs) who are reevaluating the LMS their organization uses or considering a change in approach, as well as those launching new corporate learning initiatives, might consider using a WordPress platform. Before making a decision on using WordPress, it’s important to note that the platform is available via two paths: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
- WordPress.com hosts free blogging platforms or WordPress-powered websites. It’s possible, with an inexpensive upgrade, to use a custom domain here. These websites offer fewer bells and whistles than WordPress.org sites, but dozens of themes are available to format web pages, and upgrades are available that provide additional features.
- WordPress.org offers a package for downloading; designers and developers then create and host their own WordPress-powered websites. This path offers far more options—hundreds of plugins, more themes, and access to the code behind the site. It’s also possible to create a WordPress.org site using third-party hosting and even management of the site.
IDs might consider a WordPress-powered site for many reasons, some of which are listed below. When weighing the options, it’s important to remember which features are available only on WordPress.org sites.
Why use WordPress?
- WordPress is a free, open-source platform that has evolved way beyond its origins as a blogging platform. It’s easy to learn and enables creation of both static content (web pages) and changing content (posts). WordPress offers “themes” to set up the appearance and function of pages and posts, and it allows some customization—limited in a WordPress.com site, considerable in a self-hosted site.
- WordPress powers more than a quarter of websites online. Powerful media organizations use it for their blog platforms: TechCrunch, CNN, and the New York Times use WordPress, among many others. The official IBM recruitment site is powered by WordPress, too. Why? WordPress excels for frequent posts of new content as well as multimedia, mobile-friendly, and interactive content. Many themes support responsive content, so learners can use it on any device.
- The WordPress community offers support and more—much more. Community member forums provide advice and help in solving problems; members provide guidance to newbies, and they create plugins that extend the features and functions of WordPress. Thousands of plugins are available for content creators who use the WordPress.org self-hosting platform. Written and video tutorials abound, making it easy to learn how to use WordPress.
- Plugins, written in the PHP language, make it easy to add functionality or new features to a WordPress.org website. Using plugins, it’s easy to: add a membership management function to register learners for courses and, optionally, charge for access; add a shopping cart; create social media spaces or a curated content site for learners and employees; and create an events calendar or a task-tracking page. Need interactivity? Add the H5P plugin. Someone has likely created a plugin for just about any web feature imaginable. Some plugins are free; some are purchased—along with support for use and troubleshooting.
- A WordPress.org site can function as an LMS for robust eLearning programs. WordPress is already the largest content-management system on the Internet, if you consider the vast number of websites and blogs powered by WordPress. IDs who want to make WordPress their LMS will need to use the self-hosted version from WordPress.org (but remember—hiring third-party hosting and management is always an option for those who can’t or don’t want to do that in-house). It’s possible to then purchase an LMS plugin; several are available. Depending on the desired features, it might also be possible to assemble the requisite pieces using other plugins. With this approach, IDs need only to create content and a well-organized course structure; add plugins that allow restricting access to content and interactivity and maybe a section where learners can discuss and share content—and an LMS is born. Those who need more sophisticated functionality—or prefer to focus on creating content—are advised to consider the LMS plugins.
- WordPress has a small footprint and is highly customizable. IDs can decide what features the eLearning program needs and install plugins to add only those features. Many LMS and CMS solutions include predetermined feature sets that can make them complicated to learn and resource-heavy to install and use—although, in the end, learners don’t use most of the features. The petite profile also makes WordPress easy to host on a shared hosting platform, which can be ideal for a small—or distributed—company that doesn’t have vast server resources available for eLearning.
Want to learn more?
WordPress might—or might not—be the ideal solution. Several sessions at DevLearn 2017 Conference & Expo will explore LMS options, including WordPress. Find out what industry peers are doing, learn more about WordPress, and explore the future of eLearning. DevLearn will be held October 25 – 27 in Las Vegas, Nevada.