Spend Less Time Building, More Time Teaching With Membership 2 and CoursePress

Spend Less Time Building, More Time Teaching With Membership 2 and CoursePress

With our CoursePress and Membership 2 plugins, you can create a full membership-based course site as powerful as Lynda.com. Here’s how:

Since Membership 2 and CoursePress were launched we’ve added sooo much new stuff. Head over to the Plugins page to check out all the new features! Check ‘em out
CoursePress Pro
CoursePress Pro

CoursePress adds course and student management tools to any WordPress site. Create courses, units and lessons, just like a blog post or page, and control access to your content. You can even create quizzes, automatically grade assessments or provide instructor feedback, add video and other media to courses, and include forums and collaboration.

Membership 2
Membership 2

Membership 2 is the most powerful and flexible membership plugin for WordPress. From basic single-level membership sites to sophisticated multi-tier, topic-specific and magazine-style drip content, Membership 2 simplifies even the most complex membership configurations. You can limit access to posts, pages, categories, and even words and videos.

As with all our plugins, CoursePress and Membership 2 can be integrated, and in this case the combination – together with the packaged MarketPress plugin – allows you to protect and sell content, making your courses only available to users who pay for exclusive access.

CoursePress and Membership 2 are perfect for any individual, business or organization that wants to make courses available online, such as:

  • Private tutors and instructors
  • Private music and art tutors
  • Schools and universities
  • Business and IT consultants
  • Language schools
  • Businesses that need to run internal instructional courses for staff, such as for occupational health and safety

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to set up both CoursePress and Membership 2 so you can start selling courses online.

Let’s get started.

Setting Up CoursePress and Membership 2

In this tutorial, I’m going to set up CoursePress and Membership 2 so I can sell courses for my imaginary business Thriving Business Consulting.

Protecting my content with Membership 2 will ensure my courses are only available to visitors who register for an account. This will allow me to collect their contact information so I can add them to my mailing list.

Unregistered users who attempt to access my courses will be taken to a page containing details on how they can sign up.

The CoursePress/Membership 2 combo also allows me to display account information and billing history to registered users.

1. Getting Started

Both plugins create extra pages that show up in your menu. To ensure the pages display in the right place, go to Appearance > Menus in the backend of your site and choose one of your menus from the drop-down list under the Edit Menus tab, then click Select.

At the bottom of the page, there’s a section called Menu Settings. The first checkbox there will automatically add new pages to your menu.

The "auto add pages" checkbox is highlighted, but not checked in the "Menu Settings."
Your main menu should have the second checkbox selected as shown in this image, but your other menus won’t and that’s perfectly normal.

Deselect that checkbox if it isn’t already and then click the Save Menu button below that section. Make sure you make this check for each of your menus.

It’s also important to note that CoursePress will also create a page that by default will be displayed automatically when a user logs into your site.

Once you have completed the following steps of installing the plugin, you can disable this feature while you’re developing your courses by going to CoursePress Pro > Settings in the dashboard.

The "Redirect after login" checkbox is highlight and checked.
The checkbox will be selected by default.

In the default General tab, scroll down until you see the title WP Login Redirection.

Deselect this checkbox then scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit Save Changes.

With all that done, you’re now ready to really get started.

2. Install and Activate the Plugins

Download the CoursePress and Membership 2 plugins. The easiest way to install these plugins is with our WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin.

Once you have activated both plugins, you will be asked to install and activate the MarketPress plugin. My business, Thriving Business Consulting, will offer access to paid courses so I’ll need to activate MarketPress Lite.

An admin message with links at the top of the admin dashboard which state: "Activate MarketPress plugin in order to sell courses" and "Dismiss this notice."
If you dismiss the notice by accident you can still activate the plugin through the CoursePress settings page in the admin dashboard.

Once clicked, you’ll be taken to the CoursePress settings page where you can install and activate MarketPress Lite. Hover over MarketPress and click the links that appear below it to complete these steps.

The mouse is hovering over "MarketPress" in the plugins list on the settings page for CoursePress Pro. The "Activate" link is displayed and its also highlighted.
MarketPress can be both installed and activated from this page.

The payment details can be set up on a course-by-course basis. This will allow you to set up free promotional courses as well as paid ones with different payment terms as needed. It’s set up within the course editor so there’s no additional settings page to find.

3. Plan Your Site

Now it’s time to think about the kind of courses you would like to offer. You just need a general idea for now so you can start setting up the basics.

Here are some things you may want to think about:

  • How many courses would you like to offer?
  • What range of topics will be covered in each of your courses?
  • How much will your courses cost?
  • How many free introductory courses will you offer?
  • How many instructors will be available for your courses?
  • When do you want to make your courses available?
  • How many students can register for a course at one time – a set amount or unlimited?
  • Would you like students to be able to ask you questions during the course?

My website for Thriving Business Consulting:

  • Will have a few free beginners courses covering many topics to encourage students to purchase more high-end courses and products in the same categories.
  • Visitors will need to sign up for a free account in order to access the free courses, and sign up for paid ones
  • The beginners courses will be available at any time while the paid courses will only be available during certain times of the year to get members revved up and excited to enroll.
  • There will only be one instructor who will teach all of my courses, Jane Doe.
  • Students will be able to ask Jane Doe questions after they have enrolled for a paid course.

Once you’ve figured out a basic plan for your site you can start setting it all up.

4. Add Course Categories

Creating different categories will help your courses be more easily searchable if you plan on having quite a few available. You can add them by going to CoursePress Pro > Course Categories.

Adding course categories looks the same as adding post categories. You can add a slug, parent category and description along with the category name.

Sample course categories are listed on the CoursePress Pro "Categories" page. There are two parent categories, "Free Courses" and "Full Courses." Each has child categories of "Accounting," "Marketing and Promotion" and "Tools and Resources."
Course categories work much the same way as post categories.

5. Basic Course Setup

Now you’re ready to add your first course. Head over to CoursePress Pro > New Course.

You’ll land on a page that has six simple steps to create your first course.

Once you’ve filled in the title and excerpt for the course, it’s time to add the Listing Image, Course Category and Course Language. They’re just below the excerpt field.

A listing image has been chosen for step one along with two course categories and the language.
The listing image will be displayed when members shop for your courses.

Once you’re done with the first section, click Next after the last field to continue on to the next step.

In step two, the feature video has been selected and a "Course Overview" title has been added to the "Course Description" section.
You can write whatever you would like for the course description, but the more detail you add, the more your members will want to sign up.

If you would like to welcome students to your course, why not do this with a video? Upload an MP4 file under Featured Video. The video should introduce the course and entice members to enroll. Next, add a course description that includes a more in-depth summary of your course.

You won't see any options displayed to add lessons to the course, but don't panic! You'll be able to add to this list later.
You won’t see any options displayed to add lessons to the course, but don’t panic! You’ll be able to add to this list later.

Once that’s done, there is also the Course Structure settings that can be useful for many sites.

I have selected the checkboxes to display the course structure and preview options as well as the option to display time estimates for units and lessons.

Showing the course structure means that the title of each unit and lesson in the course will be displayed on the course’s page before users sign up.

Its purpose is to give your users a better idea of what’s covered in your course while also being able to preview a custom selection of your course lessons.

Displaying time estimates will show a best guess of how long each unit and lesson will take to complete so your users know how much time they should set aside to take your course and how long it will take to complete.

Once you’ve made these selections, click the Next button to start the third step where you can select your course instructors.

A current site user has been selected under the "Course Instructor(s)" heading.
If you would like to exit the course setup page to add users to your site and customize them you can do so without losing your progress. Your course will be available through the <strong>dashboard > CoursePress Pro > Courses</strong>.

You can either select one of your site’s current users from the drop down list and click the Assign button to add them as an instructor to your course, or you can add new ones.

If you do decide to create a new user, be sure to select the Grant Instructor Capabilities radio button in their user profile, otherwise you may not be able to select them during course setup.

If you don’t wish to use Gravatars, you could use the Avatar or WP User Avatar plugins to set up user avatars from an uploaded image in your media library.

Hovering over a selected user’s avatar and clicking on it will remove that user as an instructor.

After this section is the Invite New Instructor fields where you can enter a person’s name and email to ask them to join as an instructor by email. Don’t forget to click the Send Invite button after filling out the fields.

Once you have made all your necessary selections, click the Next button to pull up the options for Course Dates.

In Step Four > Course Dates, the checkbox has been selected for the option "This course has no end date" and under "Enrollment Dates," the checkbox has been selected for "User can enroll at any time."
These are the settings I chose for my imaginary business, but you can choose the dates and settings that meet your specific needs.

The first course I’m setting up for Thriving Business Consulting is a free introductory course, so I have chosen not to set an end date. Students of this business will be able to sign up for and access the course at any time and indefinitely.

If you’re setting up a paid course, you may want to change these settings. For example, Thriving Business Consulting will also have paid courses that will run one at a time during the year.

This being the case, I will need to deselect the checkboxes and choose date ranges for both Course Dates and Enrollment Dates for each of the paid courses I create.

Once you’re done here, click Next to continue.

Step 5 provides options to limit the classes to a certain number of students. It also asks you if you would like to enable discussions and show student workbook.

In "Step 5," the only checkbox selected is the one for the option "Show student Wordkbook."
Feel free to choose the options that suit your specific needs.

For this introductory course I don’t want to limit the class size so I have left that box unchecked. I have also left the Allow Course Discussion checkbox deselected.

I have done so because I would like to have as many people as possible sign up and I don’t want to allow students to ask the instructor questions in a Discussions section because the instructors won’t get paid for their time, being a free course and all.

For the paid courses, it may be helpful to select these checkboxes so students get additional value by being able to ask questions and get help if they become stuck.

Limiting the class size could also help make things more manageable for the instructor since there will only be a certain amount of people asking questions.

Among these options,the checkbox for Show student Workbook is selected which means students will able to visually see their progress in your course.

When you’re done with these options, click the Next button one final time to continue to the final step.

You will be able to choose some final settings such as choosing limitations of who can sign up for your course and payment options.

The drop down box to choose who can enroll in the course has been clicked, revealing the options: "Manually added [users] only," "Registered User," "Registered user with passcode" and "Registered user who completed the prerequisite course.
Once the option to enable user registration has been selected in the WordPress site’s settings, another option will be revealed to allow anyone to enroll in the course.

I made the selection to only allow registered users to sign up for this course because I want to be able to capture my users’ email addresses when they register on the Thriving Business Consulting site. This means I can send users promotional emails and my newsletter!

If you choose the option to allow access to a Registered user who completed the prerequisite course, another option will appear to choose the prerequisite course, though it’s best to create more courses before you can choose this option.

I have not selected the checkbox to make this a paid course so I would click the Done button to complete this course’s setup.

Later, when I set up a paid course, if I click this checkbox more options will appear where I can type is a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) number, set a price and a sale price. There will also be a button to Set up Payment Gateways.

The additional options are displayed after the checkbox for "This is a Paid Course" has been selected.
The two options that are required to continue are marked with a red asterisk (*).

When clicked, an inline pop-up will appear where you can choose between 16 different payment gateways like PayPal Express Checkout and Payflow Pro as well as Authorize.net AIM, Stripe, Skrill, manual payments and many more.

The "Select Payment Gateway(s)" pop-up that shows 16 different gateway options to accept payments.
You can select one or multiple gateways to accept payments in as many ways as you choose.

Once you have made your selection, click the Save Changes button. The additional settings will appear below the button for the payment gateways you selected.

After filling out the additional details, click Save Changes again to complete the payment details and go back to the course set up page. When you’re happy with your selections, click the Done button.

The basics of the course set up are now complete.

6. Creating Course Content

At this point, you’ll be redirected to the course editor where you can add the actual content of your course.

The course editor page is displayed after being automatically redirected to it from the basic course setup page. There is a message that is displayed, reading: "You have successfully completed your Basic Course Setup. This can be changed anytime by clicking on "Course Overview". Add and create Units for your course and add Students. You must have at least one unit created to publish the course."
This is where you can add all the content of your course.

You need to add at least one unit to the course in order to publish it and make it available for users to sign up.

Start by entering a title for your unit and the date it will be available for viewing.

This particular setting will allow you to create a drip content course where units are available on the dates of your choice. Students will have access to each course as you make them available on the dates you choose.

You can also select the checkboxes if you would like students to complete all tests you set up, view the entire unit before continuing to the next and pass the tests you create in order to progress to the next unit.

You can also use this feature to create a survey where students rate your course in order to access the next unit which you can add as a free bonus to draw students into giving you feedback.

The options you choose are up to you and your specific needs, but when you’re done, click the Save button to continue creating your course material.

You’ll be redirected to the next step on the page which is to create the lessons for the unit.

The options for adding "Pages" or lessons to your unit are displayed. Among them are the title, text, image, video, audio, file download and test creation elements.
You can create an unlimited amount of pages (lessons) by clicking the “+” icon at the top of this section next to the current page numbers that are displayed. You can also toggle between the pages you create.

You can add all the content to your course that you like by selecting the elements you would like to add. Once an element button has been clicked, further options will appear below the Unit Pages section.

Once you’re finished, click the Save button. You can add additional lessons to the unit by clicking the + icon at the top of this section and you can add more units by clicking the Add New Unit button on the top left of the page.

To publish your course, toggle the Draft and Publish Course switches at the top of the course editor page.

The "Draft" and "Publish Course" switches are highlighted at the top of the course editor.
Simply click on the switches to publish your course and make it available for your users to sign up.

You will need to select each of your units and click the Draft switch in order to make them available to your students.

7. Setting Up a Free Course Preview

If you would like to allow your potential students to preview material from any of your unit to help them decide on whether or not to enroll, you can do so by heading over to CoursePress Pro > Courses, then hovering over the course name and clicking the Edit link that appears.

Under Step 2 – Course Description, you’ll notice your Course Structure has been updated and you can now select the checkboxes under the Free Preview column.

You can choose to have a free preview for any number of your courses’ units, even if you choose not to have previews at all.

Clicking on the units on the list will reveal your lessons so you can offer a preview of an entire unit or just one lesson, it’s all up to you.

After you have made your selections, click the Update button at the bottom of that section to save your changes.

8. Setting Up Membership 2

As I mentioned earlier, my imaginary business, Thriving Business Consulting, will allow members to sign up for free in order to enroll in a course. This is where Membership 2 comes in.

Click the Membership 2 tab in the admin sidebar to get started with the easy as pie setup.

You’ll be directed to a welcome page. When you’re ready, click the Let’s get started button at the bottom of the page. You’ll be sent to a page to create your new membership.

The first setup page of Protected Content to choose the membership type. There are four choices: Standard, dripped content, guest and default membership.

I’m choosing the Default Membership from the list because I want to make free courses available to members who sign up for free. I can also still offer paid courses once users are logged in.

This just means that I can choose certain content to be available to users who register for free. If you would like to set up a paid membership, choose the Standard or Dripped Content Membership options. You can also enable the Multiple Memberships add-on by going to Membership 2 > Add-ons once you have created your first membership.

Type in a name for your new membership then click Save and continue.

An inline pop-up will appear with options to select pages to place in your menu or to create one. Once you’ve made your selections, click the Set-up Access Levels button at the bottom of the pop-up.

On the next page, click the Custom Post Types tab on the left and select the following Custom Post Types checkboxes from the list:

  • Course
  • Unit
  • Module
  • Certificates
  • Module_response
  • Notifications
  • Discussions

Then select the bulk actions drop down list toward the top of the page and select Add: Your Membership Name from the list. Click the Apply button next to it.

Custom post types have been selected from the list and the "Bulk Actions" drop down box has been clicked. The mouse is hovering over the "Add: Exclusive Bonuses" membership.
If you make a mistake later on and choose the wrong membership, you can reselect the affected custom post types, pages and other selections, then choose the “Drop: Membership Name” option followed by the “Apply” button.

All the courses will now be protected and visitors to Thriving Business Consulting who are not logged in will not have access to them. From here, pages, posts, menu items and pretty much anything else on your site can be protected as you desire.

The membership pages that are created by the plugins, such as the Account page, are already protected so you won’t see it listed in the settings.

From here, you can customize your course and related pages – like the Protected Content, Account, Registration Complete and other similar pages – to match the look and feel you want.

9. Creating a Paid Membership

If you’re interested in offering users access to certain courses when they pay for a membership, here’s how to do it.

Start by going to Membership 2 > Memberships and clicking the Create New Membership button above the list that’s displayed. You’ll see a familiar screen where you can choose the type of membership you would like to create, just as before.

Once you click Save and Continue, you should see a screen with special options to set up your new paid membership.

The payment settings screen in Membership 2 Pro.
You can set up as many payment gateways as you would like, but one is the minimum.

Select your currency from the drop-down box, then enter the name of your business as you would like it to appear on invoices in the Invoice sender name field. Next, set up your payment frequency by selecting an option in the drop down labeled This Membership requires.

You can choose to charge a one-off payment with the option for permanent access, a membership that expires with the finite access option, date range access or recurring payments. If you select any option other than permanent access, more options should appear to select the date ranges for your membership.

A trial period is enabled on the payments screen.
There are 20 add-ons and counting to help give you truly customized and powerful results.

Finally, enter the price of your membership and click Finish at the bottom of the page.

If you enabled the Trial Period add-on, there’s another section that is displayed for you to enable a trial and choose how long it lasts.


Once the trial is over, a user needs to pay for the membership in order to continue enjoying access to the protected content.

The success message that's displayed once a paid membership has been created.
You can click <strong>Finish</strong> to choose which content to protect later.

Once you’re finished, a “success” message is displayed. Just like before, click Setup Access Levels to choose which pages or other site areas should be protected for this membership level.

You can make your selections in the same way as you have previously with the first membership you set up.


You’re all set up! In this tutorial we created a course and a membership to go along with it. We’ve covered the basics and now you’re ready to fine tune your course, and even add new ones.

If you get stuck there are setup guides included with both plugins. You can access them in the dashboard by going to Membership 2 > Help or CoursePress Pro > Settings, then selecting View Setup Guide.

There are also additional details you can find under the Usage tab on the CoursePress and Membership 2 plugin pages.

If you found this tutorial helpful, you may also want to check out tutorials on some of our other plugins, such as Using Appointments + to Setup and Streamline Client Consultations and Give Your Customers Top-Notch Service with Support System.

Do you use CoursePress of Membership 2 on your site? Share you projects in the comments below, we’d love to see them!