Sell your eCourses by Subscriptions (Recurring Payments) using LearnDash and WooCommerce Subscriptions

Do you have an eLearning site and you’re wondering,

‘How can I accept recurring payments (subscriptions) from the learners?

In this article, we will see how you can sell your LearnDash Courses by Subscriptions.

LearnDash Subscriptions:

Being a popular WordPress LMS plugin, LearnDash can help you create and sell online courses. Think of it as an all-inclusive package using which you can add various user interaction elements to your website, be it courses, lessons, or quizzes. While it excels in online course creation and management you may need much more than that to sell them online. Especially when you want to sell your courses in Subscriptions. LearnDash does have a recurring payments feature in the core plugin but it is very basic and the payment methods are also limited.

This is where the LearnDash-WooCommerce integration becomes very useful. Integrating WooCommerce plugin on your LearnDash site simply means easy access to the benefits like multiple payment gateways availability, and ease of selling physical goods alongside. Also, WooCommerce comes with the WooCommerce Subscriptions extension using which you call sell your LearnDash Courses with recurring payments.

There is also a WooCommerce Membership extension to create and sell members-only content on your LearnDash site. Also, you can use it along with the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin to collect monthly (recurring) payments from your members.

How to Use WooCommerce Subscriptions to Offer Online Course Recurring Payments

WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin is quite popular as it enables the creation and management of products with recurring payments. You can use it to introduce several types of subscriptions for physical as well as virtual products. You can create a buyer’s club and regular service subscription packages for your end customers.

Features of WooCommerce Subscriptions Extension:

  • Facility to offer free trials or a small signup fee for any subscription products you have created
  • Variable subscriptions products support to allow customers to choose a subscription offer that fits their needs
  • Account management features for users, be it to suspend or cancel their subscription, change payment method, and more.
  • Facility for the customers to upgrade, downgrade, or cross-grade between several subscription plans
  • Automatic notifications to customers with built-in subscription email templates

Different Business Models available with WooCommerce Subscriptions

  1. Offer free courses for a short period with the ability to upgrade (automatically/manually) to paid subscriptions
  2. Create new monthly course content and sell them with recurring payment for new content
  3. Sell Bundled courses with subscriptions
  4. Sell physical products and downloadable content along with course content
  5. Subscriptions with Drip-Feed content so that new content access is given when each payment made
  6. Give different subscription offers to the same course or course bundle
How Does It Work?
  • When a customer reaches on the course page that is being sold under the subscription plan, he can choose any one of the payment methods you have defined in the attributes tab.
  • Assuming that the customer chooses the ‘subscription’ option, he/she has to make the payment to get access to the course. At the time when the 2nd subscription is due, he has to pay it to continue getting access to the course.
  • In case the customer defaults on paying the subscription on time, his course access will be suspended.

How to Create a Course Subscription Product?

WooCommerce Subscriptions enables you to create simple as well as variable subscription products, similar to what WooCommerce does for products.

Note: Before you move on to steps below you need to install WooCommerce, LearnDash WooCommerce add-on, and WooCommerce Subscription plugin. Also, the courses that you want to sell has to be created.

After installing the WooCommerce Subscription plugin,

  1. In the Dashboard go to WooCommerce –> Settings –> Subscriptions, you would see a screen like in the image below
  2. Select the respective Uses Roles for the people who subscribe to your course
  3. Then set the different subscription settings according to your requirements. For assistance, you can see their docs.
  4. In the Miscellaneous section, you can see the ‘Mixed Checkout’ option put a tick in the corresponding checkbox
  5. After you are done with you have to set up payments, you can see here the list of payment processors supported by WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

Creating a Subscription Course Product:

Here are the steps to be followed to create a subscription product:

  1. In the WooCommerce Dashboard, click Products –> Add Product
  2. Fill the details of you of your course product
  3. Then find the Product Data section, select from the available product types simple subscription or variable subscription, as required
  4. If it is completely a digital product Tick the ‘Virtual’ box and if you give Downlable files along with it Tick the ‘Downloadable’ box
  5. Set the subscription price, billing interval, and billing period
  6. Set trial period duration and sign-up fee, if any
  7. Add other product details as per your requirement
  8. Click ‘Publish’

Other Aspects of WooCommerce Subscriptions You Should Know About

Variable Subscriptions

Variable subscription products are very much similar to variable products in WooCommerce. Along with adding different attributes to each variable subscription, you can also add a unique sign-up fee, trial period, billing period, and subscription length.

Limit Subscriptions

Using this feature of WooCommerce Subscriptions, you can limit a user to one subscription. The steps to use this feature are as follows:

  1. Click WooCommerce –> Product –> Edit Product for the subscription product you want to edit
  2.   In the left menu, click ‘Advanced’ under the Product Data section
  3. Select ‘Limit Subscription’ and choose one of the dropdown menus about how you want to limit the subscription

When you limit the subscription to any status, a user can only sign up for it once. He/she cannot buy that subscription product again unless it has been trashed or deleted permanently by the store admin. This ensures that one user account only gets one free trial period to a subscription product.

Payment Schedule Settings

WooCommerce Subscriptions also provides flexibility to schedule renewals of subscription products. You can set up renewal payments for a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual billing period. You can also choose any inclusive interval between 1 and 6, as shown below:

Subscription Length Settings

You can use the ‘Expire After’ field in WooCommerce Subscriptions to end a subscription-based on a predetermined period of time. You can better understand it with an example –

Consider a one-year subscription of an online course, billed monthly at the rate of $5 per month. In this case, the subscription length will be 12 months with the billing period of one month. You need to set the details as shown below:

It also comes with the facility to allow the users to renew subscriptions for subscription products indefinitely with successful payments. For this facility, you need to use ‘Never Expire’ set in the ‘Expire After’ field.

Free Trial Period

Using WooCommerce Subscriptions, you can add a free trial period to a subscription product. You can set the free trial to any specific period depending on the length defined for the subscription.

As an example, if you create a subscription for an online course at the rate of $10 per month for 12 months, adding a free trial period of one month means the subscription will end after 13 months.

Note: It is not a good idea to sell physical products along with courses that have free-trial.

Sign-up Fees

You can also add a sign-up fee to the beginning of a subscription. This amount will be in addition to the recurring amount you have set for the subscription.

If you create an online course with a price of $200 per month and $50 as a sign-up fee, the amount to be paid during the initial checkout will be $250. If this product also has a free trial period, then only the sign-up fee will be charged at the beginning of subscription.

Subscription Coupons

Coupons can also be applied to subscription products, but they function slightly differently than in other use cases. When applied to an online course based on subscription, a coupon reduces both the sign-up fee and recurring amount of the subscription, but for the first payment only.

Consider this example –

For a $30 per month subscription that has a sign-up fee of $100, the upfront cost will be $130. However, if a user applies a discount coupon of $2o while buying the subscription, he will pay $110 upfront and then continue $30 per month payments.

WooCommerce Subscriptions also gives two distinct coupon types using which you can offer the discount only on the sign-up fee or all recurring payments.

Recurring Product Discount

As the name suggests, this type of product coupon discounts the recurring payment for a subscription product by a fixed value. In case the recurring cost of the product is less than the discount coupon value, it means the application of such a coupon will make the subscription-free for life.

Sign-up Fee Discount

This type of subscription product coupon will only offer a discount of a fixed value on the sign-up fee, hence the name. You can use this coupon to attract the customers to your products by providing a complete discount on the sign-up fee. It means that if the sign-up fee is $30 for a subscription product, offering a $30 sign-up fee discount coupon means the users will only have to pay the recurring amount.

Shipping Settings

If you’re selling physical products along with your courses you have to set the shipping settings.

Note: Physical products cannot be sold along with free courses. Since the product is free. It even applies to free trial courses.

The shipping cost for subscription products (tangible) is charged on the initial orders and all the renewal orders. To enable one-time shipping for such a product, use these steps:

  1. Click WooCommerce-> Products-> Edit Products
  2. Scroll down to select ‘Shipping’ tab in the product data section
  3. Tick the checkbox for ‘one-time shipping’
  4. Click ‘Update’ to save the settings

How to Manage WooCommerce Subscriptions?

WooCommerce Subscriptions also provides you with the facility to manage subscriptions/online courses ordered on your site.

Here are some of the primary management tasks you can perform using this plugin:

Subscriptions sorting

By default, the subscriptions are sorted with their ID to an administrator. However, you can sort them in terms of order total, trial end date, start date, end date, and next payment date.

Search Subscriptions

You can use the search box to search various subscriptions based on billing address, shipping address, product name, or customer name.

Subscription Filter

You also get filters to display subscriptions in terms of status, customers, product, or payment method used.

PayPal Configuration

WooCommerce Subscriptions provides the built-in support for both PayPal Standard and PayPal Reference Transactions via Express Checkout.

By default, it uses PayPal Standard, which means you can start selling subscription products with a PayPal business account and validating PayPal API credentials.

LearnDash – WooCommerce Subscriptions Limitations

Since this WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin is not specially created for LearnDash. it has some limitations. They are:

1. Removal from Course:

When a student/learner’s subscription is over or recurring payment is failed, they will be automatically removed from the course and they will no longer have access to their courses. Especially when you’re offering installment payments it is a very big issue.

Solution: You have to hire a developer and do some custom coding. Some LearnDash users have also suggested that this problem is solved by using alternative WooCommerce Subscription plugins provided by 3rd party plugins.

2. Selling Physical Goods:

This plugin allows you to sell physical products along with your course content but when you’re offering free-trial, you shouldn’t offer physical products with the same subscription, because free-trails will cause problems with shipping.

Hope this content is useful to you. Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section.

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