Sensei Review – Learning Management made Easy!

One of the eternal missing pieces in the WordPress plugin jigsaw was a good learning management plugin. The good news is that there is that this vacant position has now been filled, as Woothemes have released their own LMS plugin called Sensei. Lets take a quick tour of this plugin, I bet you'll like it and find quite a few few use cases for it.
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Just a few days ago Woothemes announced a new plugin. And when Woothemes release a new product, it usually is big news.

Here’s what the Woothemes blog post told us:

Sensei, previously code named LMS, helps you create online courses from within WordPress. Sensei aims to capture the core features of a learning management plugin, while not bloating it with features other existing plugins can handle. Sensei integrates perfectly with themes and plugins!

Headlined by our senior developer Jeff Pearce, with experience in building learning systems, Sensei has been through many iterations in ensuring code stability, load performance, extendability and backend usability.”

Sensei

One of the eternal missing pieces in the WordPress plugin jigsaw was a good learning management plugin.

That might sound strange since WordPress is so widely used even in education establishments. The truth however is that it is quite hard to create a really solid plugin that is easy to use and has all the features you might need from a serious learning management and courses tool.

The good news is that there is that this vacant position has now been filled, as Woothemes have released their own LMS plugin called Sensei.

Lets take a quick tour of this plugin, I bet you’ll like it and find quite a few few use cases for it.

Features

Sensei works with your current WordPress theme, and requires no modification to the theme’s files. Simply install the Sensei plugin and start creating course contents.

You can create lessons and embed content such as video, plus also create quizzes for your students, and require a pass mark for them to graduate from the course.
The Woo Team Quiz Sensei

Of course, Sensei was designed to integrate natively with WooCommerce, the leading e-commerce plugin by WooThemes themselves, so connecting the two is absolutely painless. So now that you’ve created your courses, you can easily start charging money for them through the WooCommerce system.

Signing up for a course is an easy process, each user will have his own account dashboard, where he can manage all his courses and progress. The same goes for the site administrator. It’s so easy to monitor each student’s progress and also view general course statistics.

Sensei uses the WordPress oEmbed function to display embed codes. Another important thing to note is that Sensei has a built-in language localization system. So you can easily provide your courses in multiple languages, reaching even more learners.

User Interface

Creating courses with Sensei is a real pleasure, the UI is consistent with WordPress standards so you can jump right in and start creating content, without having to learn another new way of doing things.

Using Sensei is as easy as creating posts or pages in WordPress. Course contents are created with standard WordPress editing tools.

Kudos to Woothemes for creating such a straightforward user interface with this plugin. I can see this being especially helpful since the people creating the courses might not be familiar with WordPress or websites, so it’s a good thing to keep things simple for them.

On the front end Sensei looks great out of the box, however you can also use Sensei’s templating system to achieve a custom look if you want to incorporate a different design.

Pricing

The Sensei plugin is priced at $129 for a single site, for up to 5 sites you pay $179, and for the 25 sites licence you shell out $279. Nothing fancy about the price in my opinion, you pay a decent cost for a plugin that does its job brilliantly, its neither too cheap nor is it expensive by any means.

Support and Future Development

Mark Forrester, Woothemes co-founder, has highlighted Woo’s commitment to providing timely and efficient support. With the new Zendesk system beginning its third week as the firm’s support management software, most pending issues could be ironed out as soon as March of this year.

“We take product support very seriously at WooThemes and really plan to excel in the support of Sensei as we learn how our customers use this plugin and align it to their needs even closer in the coming weeks.

Similarly to WooCommerce, and dependant on it’s uptake, we plan to extend Sensei through extensions – with very competitive pricing and free additional modules for existing Sensei users,” Forrester said.

This bodes well for the future, I’m sure many developers will be rushing to develop new extensions that build on Sensei, and so the future looks very excited for all of us who have been waiting to publish our courses on WordPress.

Our Rating

This is clearly the best learning management system plugin out there for WordPress. It covers all the basic functions needed, and Woothemes have promised to release more extensions in the coming months.

User feedback will be very important, as extensions will be created based on what users demand. I’m really happy that WordPress now has a fantastic course management tool in Sensei, and plan on using it myself for my own sites and those of my clients.

Download Sensei by Woothemes | Check out the Demo

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26 Responses

  1. Hi Jean,

    Thanks for the great review of Sensei. I just discovered the LearnDash plugin for WP and wondered if you’ve heard of it (http://www.learndash.com/). It was just released in January, and has a few more features that Sensei doesn’t, such as forum and feedback setup, and scheduling lessons on a calendar.

    Would love to here your opinion.

    1. Hi Ian,

      I hadn’t heard of LearnDash, but it does seem to be very similar to Sensei and possibly have some extra features. Personally, I am 100% sure that Sensei will soon have those features and more. It will also always have a great interface and good support, plus you can get a theme that has been specifically made with Sensei in mind. If I had to choose, I would go for Sensei.

      1. Learndash seems amazing and has more features then sensei. Sensei makes you pay more for these features as additional addons.

        1. The add-ons might be free now but this review was first written in January 2013 and at that time LearnDash was way ahead of the woo themes plugin. In my opinion LearnDash has continuously updated and improved their products and their service is unquestionably more user friendly (personal) and constructive than Woo.

          1. Hey Joel, I’d love to get your specific feedback on why you feel it is a more user friendly system. We’re always open to improving the product! Just as a sidenote, the add-ons have always been free – and @twistedpixel only commented 2 days ago 🙂 Feel free to ping me on twitter at @jeffikus and I get get more directly in touch with you.

  2. Hi Jean,

    I’ve just asked for a refund on Sensei after working two days flat out trying to get it set up using 2012 – a theme they say it’s compatible with. It’s not. At no point did the front end of my site look like what’s show in any of the online documentation. The product/course text is under the “add to cart” radio buttons, the images are unclear, the front end user menus are confusing – I need something I can pay for, install and begin setting up the courses and classes right away, not spend 23 hours messing with formatting.

    What a bummer…

  3. Hi Jean,

    I have tested Sensei for few days and I can agree kandrews424 that the plugin doesn’t work as promised. I am using the latest WordPress + WooThemes Canvas (latest version) + WooCommerce (latest version)… everything on my site is from WooThemes, but…

    Sensei courses and lessons cannot visualize the standard wordpress formatting correctly (I mean paragraphs, for example). It cannot parse shortcodes – for JW Playes – I can see the text of the shortcode, but not the video itself.

    The design is messed up. Also I cannot even see which uses to which course / lesson has joined. There is no way to add trainees manually to courses…

    Actually, I was very excited when the plugin was announced. That’s exectly what I need for my new elearning website. So, I have bought it immediately. But now, after some tests, I am totally and completely dissapointed.

    Have you tested the plugin? Did you met some of the problems I have described above? Can you help me with handling these issues?

    Thank you very much and have a great day!
    Boril

    1. Hi Boril

      Thanks for the feedback, are you trying to add the JW player into your content area or the embed code area? Did you get in touch with us via our support forum to assist with the styling issues?

      I’m sorry you are disappointed, but I hope you will keep the feedback coming so we can keep adding awesome new features to the plugin!

  4. Hi Boril,

    I’ve tested the plugin at a basic level, I haven’t used it in a production environment, which probably explains why I haven’t come across these teething issues. On the plus side, I am sure that Woo will release frequent updates to this plugin and fix any reported bugs. I’m getting someone from Woothemes to reply to your issues here too.

    1. Thanks Jean

      Yeah we will be released regular fixes (when we find bugs) and are already working on a 1.1.0 release with additional features.

      Thanks for the review!

  5. Hello Jean-

    I enjoyed your article and believe you give a good overview of Sensei. My name is Justin Ferriman, and I am the founder of LearnDash. Whereas both Sensei and LearnDash do share some features, there are some differences. From a support perspective, we are deeply experienced in the learning industry – consulting Fortune 500 organizations and the U.S. government with their learning systems.

    We also just recently were added to early adopters list of Tin-Can API (the protocol that is replacing the SCORM specification). We are happy to join the likes of BlackBoard and Litmos on this list. (http://tincanapi.com/adopters)

    In the end, the more choices available for people the better. LearnDash isn’t right for everyone, and the same can be said for Sensei, Courseware, and others.

    Kindly,
    Justin Ferriman

    1. I have to admit, jumped from Sensei to Train-Up! for my LMS project and it works a beauty. It’s still a beta, so there’s some stuff that needs to be ironed out, but apart from that it’s brilliant. 🙂
      TrainUp! > Sensei anyday.

  6. Hi Jean,

    Very positive review of Sensei. I’ve been looking for a plugin like this for a while. Unfortunately my previous experience of Woo support always causes me to hang back (that plus having spent out on premium Woo themes that I’ve never ended up using).

    Thanks to the posters above I heard about LearnDash and thought I’d have a look at that.

    I am so glad I did. Justin Ferriman was more than happy to discuss with me any concerns I had and whether LearnDash was going to be what I needed or not. In fact, his fast and personal response to my initial email went a long way in making my mind up.

    LearnDash includes more features that Woo are currently only ‘contemplating’ and it already has an inbuilt payment gateway whereas Woo requires ‘woo-commerce’ to charge for online courses.

    If you are looking for a great product with fantastic support then I highly recommend LearnDash.

    Thanks again for the informative blog Jean.

  7. Hi, I was waiting for sensei but found learndash and if you need a straight forward lms that works I can recommend learndash. With learndash plus due out soon it just gets better

  8. Thought I would chime in as I recently just launched a site recently with Sensei. I’m sure there are some other plugins that have more features I could have explored, but with my positive history with any Woo products, I jumped at the chance to purchase it and consider it for my new site. Also, it easily transitioned in using a WooTheme and WooCommerce. Although there are a few features I would like to have seen, in the end it has turned out to be a great decision on my part.

    Jean, hope you don’t mind a link here… but I did a case study over on Woo about my experience with a bit more details 🙂 http://www.woothemes.com/2013/07/case-study-bobwp-wordpress-online-classes/

  9. When you say it is “the best” can you explain this? Did you do a comparison with other learning management plugins that came out before Sensei and had or have more features? Did you try to integrate it with “any” theme? Did you see what it looks like when you use it with a non-Woo theme?

  10. How do you insert video which is hosted on the local site rather then uploaded to youtube. I can get it to run in the body of the lesson but not the designated video section

    1. I’m not sure that Sensei can work with nested videos. I think Learn-Dash can although to be honest I host from Vimeo as it is a better platform all round. Learn-Dash will easily run videos from Vimeo too and works brilliantly across many WordPress themes – whereas my experience with Woo has always been somewhat disappointing with regards to compatibility.

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