If you’ve been searching for the best online course plugin for WordPress I can bet that you’re pulling your hair out right now.

Sure, it’s always possible to host your course on a third party platform like Teachables or Kajabi, but, these online course platforms aren’t cheap, and, you lose a lot of control.

Up until now, the best option has been LearnDash.

If you’ve ever actually tried to use LearnDash, you’ll know first-hand how dated and complicated it is to set up.  Even the simplest of tasks often require the use of a cocktail of bloated plugins just to make things work intuitively.

Thankfully, there’s now another option.

It’s now finally possible to create a self-hosted digital course on WordPress that rivals the expensive third-party platforms.

The name of this plugin is Thrive Apprentice, and in my opinion, it’s the best online course plugin for WordPress right now.

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I may get a small percentage of the sale. More info here*

WHAT IS THRIVE APPRENTICE

Thrive Apprentice is a WordPress plugin that makes building an online course a breeze.

It’s packed with all of the functionality you’d expect.  In just a few clicks you can set-up a new course with lessons, modules, chapters much more.

Your lessons can include video, audio, images or text. And to make things even more flexible you can even add more dynamic content by using additional WordPress plugins or shortcodes.

You can create free online courses as opt-in bribes to increase email subscribers, or better still, create top quality, value-packed paid online courses.

In effect, Thrive Apprentice turns your average WordPress site into a fully fledged info-product marketplace.

WHATS MAKE THRIVE APPRENTICE DIFFERENT?

Thrive Apprentice runs natively on your WordPress site. That means that YOU have ultimate control.

This might not sound like a big deal right now, but let me explain.

When you upload content to third-party platforms like Udemy, Teachables etc, that content is no longer yours.  It’s theirs.

Granted, not a huge issue when you’re just starting out, but as you grow, control of your content is a big deal.

With absolute control, comes complete freedom.  

You’re free to charge for your online-courses in whatever way suits you.  And, you’ll save a packet in third-party commission fees too (more on that later).

What really makes Thrive Apprentice different though, is its simplicity.

Finally, there is a simple way to create beautiful online courses natively on your WordPress site, and I for one am super excited.

GETTING SET UP

Thrive Apprentice is currently in Beta and is only available as part of Thrive Themes Membership which currently costs $19p/m (I expect this price to increase once Thrive Apprentice has fully launched. Just a hunch).

In my opinion, Thrive Apprentice alone is well worth the $19p/m fee, but if you want to see what else is included (*Note. There is A LOT), then you can read my detailed post on Thrive Themes Membership here.

Still with me?

Ok great.

Now we’ve got all of that awkwardness out of the way I want to show you exactly how to set up Thrive Apprentice quickly and effectively.

GETING STARTED WITH THRIVE APPRENTICE IS SIMPLE

Once you’ve paid for your license (or membership), you’ll now need to download the ‘Thrive Product Manager‘ plugin.

You’ll be greeted with a screen like this (ref. below) after your purchase is complete.

install prduct manager plugin for thrive architect
Download the Thrive Product Manager Plugin.

Go ahead and click the ‘Thrive Product Manager Plugin’ to begin the download.

From here you can now upload the plugin .zip file in your WordPress Dashboard. *If you’re not sure about this step, watch this quick video.

Alright great, you’re nearly finished getting Thrive Apprentice installed.

To complete the set-up process, click on the ‘Product Manager‘ link in the WordPress Dashboard.

How to active Thrive Apprentice plugin from the WordPress Dashboard.
Activating Thrive Apprentice within the Product Manager Plugin.

Thrive Apprentice installation and set-up is now officially complete.

Give yourself a pat on the back. The boring part is now over.

Now, let me walk you through how to build your first online course with Thrive Apprentice…

ONE-OFF LICENSE OR MEMBERSHIP?

Now there’s a bit of a decision you’ve got to make here.  And, this decision could save you a lot of money over time…

One-off payment vs Membership?

Let me explain.

As with all of the plugins within the Thrive Suite you have the option to buy the plugin license outright, for a one-off fee, or, you can subscribe to Thrive Themes Membership and get access to their entire premium plugin suite.

For a single plugin license, it costs about $89 and that’s it.  No upgrades or add-ons.  This single license entitles you to a lifetime of use of the plugin.

Or, you could opt for the paid membership…

Membership is approximately $19p/m (paid yearly or quarterly).  What separates the membership from the single plugin license is the fact that you get access to all of the Thrive Plugins.  

As part of the Membership you get access to:

  • Thrive Themes – 10+ Custom built WordPress Themes.
  • Thrive Leads – The best lead capture/pop-up plugin for WordPress.
  • Thrive Ultimatum – Run evergreen launch campaigns (my favorite).
  • Thrive Ovation – Gather and curate customer testimonials on autopilot.
  • Thrive Architect – The best WordPress Page Builder Plugin (by far).
  • Thrive Clever Widgets – User-targeted widgets (increases engagement)
  • Thrive Quiz Builder – Probably the best way to build your email list.
  • Thrive Comments – Makes blog commenting fun and hyper engaging.
  • Thrive Headline Optimizer – A/B Split test blog post Headlines (super important).
  • Thrive Optimize – A/B Split testing for landing pages (even more important).

Oh, almost forgot…

And Thrive Apprentice too.

I originally went the single license route (as I’m not a fan of recurring payments), but I now kind of regret that I did.

I’ve racked up well over $1000 in multi-license purchases over the last 24 months.  It wasn’t until last month that I finally bit the bullet and purchased the membership.  If I’d done that from day one, I’d have about 4 years worth of full membership (with access to each and every one of Thrives Premium Plugins).  

In hindsight I wish I’d done that from the start, but I hate subscriptions so I know why I didn’t.

Either way, that’s a decision that’s up to you.

BUILDING YOUR FIRST COURSE ON THRIVE APPRENTICE

I found building my first course on Thrive Apprentice really pretty damn straightforward and very intuitive. However, there’s a few things you need to bare in mind before you get started.

Before you build your first course, you’ll need to understand the way your course will be structured. It’s not a huge deal if you don’t know the exact structure of your course right from the start, because fortunately Thrive Apprentice has a neat drag and drop function that allows you to completely reorganize your course structure.

But, if you can get a rough structure it will help speed up the process.

HERE’S HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR COURSE ON THRIVE APPRENTICE

Thrive Apprentice gives you 3 ways or ‘hierarchies’ in which to organize your course content.

They are:

  • Course
  • Module
  • Chapter
  • Lesson

Let me explain a little further.

Course – This is the top level layer. This is basically your course title.

Module – Modules let you organize your content into (you guessed it, Modules). If you have a big course, with a lot of content, modules will help you package it in a way that’s easier for the user to digest.

Chapter – Chapters sit inside of Modules and they give you yet another way to structure and organise your course content.

Lesson – The lowest level in the hierarchy are lessons. This is where the core of your content will be.

Here’s a quick example to help create a better picture for you:

Course – Learn to be a Tennis Pro

Module – Tennis Basics

Chapter – Forehand

Lesson – How to hit a top spin forehand.Trive apprentice has a really neat drag and drop function, so don’t worry, you don’t need to know your course structure to get started, as it’s easy to reorganise later.

*Tip. When it comes to labeling your Lessons, Chapters or Modules, try to avoid using numbers eg. Lesson 1, How to hit a top-spin forehand. The reason for this is because when you come to re-organizing your lessons down the track, it’s far easier to do when the lessons aren’t labeled.

HOW TO ADD YOUR FIRST COURSE

Adding my first course was super easy.

From your WordPress Dashboard click on Thrive Apprentice in the left-hand menu.

You’ll now be in the Thrive Apprentice Dashboard.

Click ‘Add New’ to begin building your new course.

From here you’ll need to give your new course a name, and click ‘Save’.

And there you have it.

That’s the first step to building your first online course.

ADDING CONTENT TO YOUR COURSE

Now you’ll need to start filling your course with some content.

Firstly, write a brief description for your course. This will let your audience know what they’re going to learn from your course.

Once you’ve finished your intro, go ahead and give your course a cover image. *Note. The recommended size for your cover photo is 1170 x 400px.

ADDING VIDEO TO YOUR DESCRIPTION

If you want to add a video to your description, simply toggle the “Add video description’ button to ‘ON’, and add the video URL.

You also get the flexibility to customize certain elements of the video player eg. Autoplay, Hide YouTube logo, Auto-hide player controls and Hide full-screen buttons.

ADVANCED SETTINGS

In the advanced settings you have the option to customize a few extra settings.

  • Course Topic – Topics are good for organising your courses (if you’ve got lots of them)
  • Allow Comments – Gives you the option to allow commenting from within your course.
  • Author – Pretty self explanatory, just select the appropriate author.
  • Difficulty Level – You can customize the difficulty levels to your liking eg. Simple as to Fucking hard.

You’ll also notice the ‘Restrict Access’ checkbox. If you’re charging for your course, you’ll want to select this checkbox.

However, for the purpose of this guide, I’m going to leave that for now, as it takes the integration of Send Owl which is a paid service (roughly $10p/m). I’ll be doing a full guide on how to set this up soon.

Go ahead and click ‘Save’ to move onto the next step.

ADDING COURSE CONTENT

Now it’s time to start adding your course content.

As mentioned earlier, you have the option to add content as:

  • Module
  • Chapter
  • Lesson

How you structure your course will depend on the type of course you’re creating, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to use all three.

HOW TO ADD A MODULE IN THRIVE APPRENTICE

Click ‘Add Module’.

From there you can now customize your module page.

Give your page a Module name eg. Tennis Basics.

Write a brief description of what’s inside the Module, then add a cover image.

ADDING CHAPTERS TO YOUR MODULES

If you’re building a pretty big course you may want to break your content down another level. This is where chapters come in.

Carrying on with our example, I’ll give my chapter a name eg. Tennis Racket 101

Following a very similar approach to adding modules, click ‘Add Chapter’

Give the Chapter a name, and add a brief description.

Add a cover image for the Chapter.

AND FINALLY… ADDING LESSONS

You should now have a pretty decent structure to your course and you’re now ready to add the real meat of your course content.

Now here’s the big feature that really makes Thrive Apprentice rival the best learning CMS’s out there…

Unlimited flexibility and customization with Thriive Architect integration!

So what does that mean?

Let me explain.

Thrive Architect is the (in my opinion) the best drag and drop page builder for WordPress by far. I use Thrive Architect literally all the time to build all of the pages on my sites.

Having all of Thrive Architects unlimited customization means there’s you have absolute control over every part of your course.

This is what seperates Thrive Architect from the pack.

Full control, complete flexibility and unlimited customisation. All within a user friendly interface, with zero coding skills required.

That, is why I am a Thrive Fan boy, and that, is why I love Thrive Apprentice.

HOW TO CUSTOMISE YOUR THRIVE APPRENTICE COURSE WITH THRIVE ARCHITECT

This is best explained with a quick video.

PUBLISHING YOUR COURSE

So your course is now fully populated and you’re now ready to hit publish and start driving some sales.

Before you hit that publish button though here are some things to consider first:

  • Do you have a Sales Page built to optimize conversions for your course?
  • Will you be promoting it within your email marketing sequence? If so,

CONCLUSION – MY HONEST REVIEW OF THRIVE APPRENTICE

Over the years I’ve had a lot of experience working on different online course creation platforms from Teachables to Kajabi, and to native WordPress options like LearnDash.

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, and in my opinion, Thrive Apprentice not only holds it’s own against it’s competition, but it excels them.

Here’s why I like working with Thrive Apprentice the most…

Firstly, when put up against Teachables and Kajabi the first major win is that all of your course content is yours, and you have ultimate control. What many people don’t fully understand is that whey you host a course on one of these platforms, they own your content, not you.

And because you are trapped within their ecosystem they can slap on high fees for essential add-ons and you don’t have any freedom to choose from the open market.

I genuinely want to see you succeed. So, if there’s anything I can help you launch a successful online course just reach out to me in the comments.