Earning and learning with Sensei

Written by Jeff Pearce on April 26, 2013 Blog, Product News.


So, you want to start a site selling your educational material and you want to earn recurring revenue? Well, you’ve come to the right place! All you need to do is use our learning plugin, Sensei, with WooCommerce and the WooCommerce Subscriptions extension and you are on your way to selling Courses!

Just as a prerequisite for this tutorial, you should be familiar with WordPress as well as setting up and configuring themes and plugins. This tutorial is not for the beginner user (although you could give it a go if you are feeling adventurous), it is aimed at those wanting to get more out of their Sensei enabled WordPress site.


What you will need to build your site are the following tools:

  1. A hosted WordPress powered website (not WordPress.com)
  2. The Definition theme
  3. Sensei Plugin
  4. WooCommerce Plugin
  5. WooCommerce Subscriptions extension
  6. An optional payment gateway extension for WooCommerce, but we will use PayPal in this example as it comes standard with WooCommerce!
  7. An active PayPal account setup in order to take payments.

Site setup

  • Make sure WordPress is installed and configured.
  • Activate the Definition theme and make your customizations to the theme in the Theme Options panel.
  • Activate the Sensei plugin and configure its settings.
  • Activate the WooCommerce plugin and configure its settings. Make sure that you have also configured the WooCommerce settings inside Sensei’s setting panel.
  • If you haven’t already created any content, you can get started creating your Courses and Lessons using this guide.
A Sensei installation using the Definition theme.
A Sensei installation using the Definition theme.


  • Once you have completed all of the above setup, you would need to add your Paypal email address to the WooCommerce payment gateway settings page.
Insert your PayPal Email
Insert your PayPal Email
  • Next activate the Subscriptions for WooCommerce extension.
  • You will now need to setup the Paypal IPN details using this guide and add your IPN details to the Paypal configuration screen in step 2.
PayPal IPN Settings
PayPal IPN Settings

Create subscriptions

  • You then need to create a new Subscription product, there are 2 kinds of subscription products that you can create:
    • Simple subscriptions
    • Variable subscription
      • If you want multiple options for a Subscription, you can create an attribute in a Variable Subscription product, and then add variations based on the attribute (Please note: this is not a multi-tiered option, Premium users do not get Gold and Premium access, and Gold users do not get Gold and Premium access). UPDATE: For a multi-tiered solution, please see this post.
Variable Attributes
Variable attributes
Variable Variations
Variable variations
  • It’s important to note that the Subscription product should be set to “Virtual” as well for Simple subscriptions.
Simple subscription
Simple subscription
  • Assign the Subscription product, or variation, to the Course you are going to sell using this guide – remember, Subscriptions are just another type of WooCommerce product, that way you don’t have to worry about loads of customizations!
  • And that’s it! Your learners can now enjoy the course while you earn recurring revenue 😉

Sensei upgrades

Something we haven’t mentioned before is that Sensei has seen a major update in the last 2 versions (1.2.0 and 1.2.1) including….

* A vastly improved Analysis area allowing for drill down reporting on each Course, Lesson, AND per student! And on top of that, you can export the data to CSV.
* Cleaner template files with more hooks for easier customization.
* We’ve completed an internal security audit of the code.
* Last but not least, due to popular demand, we’ve added improved support for our flagship Canvas theme!


45 Responses

  1. Sandie
    April 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Is there a way to set up free courses that don’t require a user to go through the checkout, and in the same install have paid courses? Barriers to users accessing the free courses are pretty unhelpful, a lot of people distrust any website that forces them to hand over so much data when it’s not required for a free course!

    • Ryan Ray
      April 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      Yup, after you’ve created your subscription (or normal) product you only assign it to the course you want to charge for. Courses otherwise with no product assigned to them are free.

      • Sandie
        April 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

        I’ll give it another go once the child theme issue is resolved then, as that didn’t work for me before.

  2. csfalcao
    April 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Great tutorial.

    • jeffikus
      April 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

      Thanks 🙂 hope you find it useful!

  3. ConsumerLab
    April 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Which is the easiest way to deactivate the “Start taking this course”, “Complete course”, etc. In other words, when I add a new course I what it directly appear in “My courses”. Also which is the easiest way to deactivate quizes.

    Thank you!

  4. mgudhka@osteoporosis.ca
    April 26, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Are there any other updates/extensions coming soon or planned ? none of the ideas are being checked/responded to:


    Is it possible to know what is planned and a rough estimate of when they will be available. I reallt don’t care if they will be free or paid extensions. Just want to know so that we can decide to carry on and invest our time with Sensei or start looking for other alternatives. Thanks

    • Matty Cohen
      April 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback. 🙂

      We are monitoring the Sensei WooIdeas board daily and will keep everyone updated as to the status of each idea as they are reviewed and worked into our Sensei roadmap.

      Stay tuned to this blog and your inbox for more information, as it happens. 🙂

      • mgudhka@osteoporosis.ca
        April 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

        Is it possible to release your roadmap or perhaps email it to me to see whats coming when ?

  5. Jan
    April 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Would love if it you would install Sensei on your Canvas demo so that we can see how it looks in that theme by default.

    • Ryan Ray
      April 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      We’ll look into that Jan, thanks for the idea. 🙂

  6. Taran
    April 27, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    I love Sensei ! The only LMS option out there for WordPress…Great to see new updates today ! But are you guys working on any major extensions for Sensei or planning to add any new features soon?

    • jeffikus
      April 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      We are currently working on new features so watch this space closely! 🙂 I can’t say more, but we do have a lot planned for the plugin in the future.

  7. sgoldblatt
    April 27, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Then communicate with students on an on-going basis with Follow up emails – http://woocommerce.com/products/follow-up-emails/

  8. David
    April 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Nice article! keep the tutorials coming 🙂

    • jeffikus
      April 29, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Thanks! Hopefully there will be more of these on the way soon 🙂

  9. allmyhoney
    April 29, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Just wished the recurring subscriptions plugin would work with Realex in some fashion

  10. orgspring
    April 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    I’ve got sensei working great in a client site with definition. It’s a nice combination. NIce additions to the product here too. Question about subscriptions – if a client signs up for monthly access and starts taking a course, then cancels before he or she finishes the course, will their access to that course be halted immediately, or do they still get access for the remainder of the paid month?

    • jeffikus
      April 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      We’ve hooked onto the cancellation action in WooCommerce/Subscriptions, so they would immediately be halted from taking the course.

  11. planewryter
    April 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Is WooThemes’ Definition required to use Sensei? I’m planning to build a training site using WooThemes’ One Pager…will One Pager work as per the tutorial? Thanks!

    • jeffikus
      April 30, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Hi there

      Sure, it works great with One Pager 🙂 I made a few styling tweaks for my jeffikus.com site, but otherwise works brilliant! It’s designed to work with any theme, albeit with a few styling tweaks where necessary. But we have a comprehensive guide/tutorial on our Sensei documentation for this.

      Let us know in a support ticket if you get stuck!

  12. greg
    April 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I’ve used PayPal Pro for years. It has some unique advantages for me. But it seems it will not work for subscriptions. PayPal apparently will (sort of) work, but PayPal Pro completely fails in this role? For sensei the ideal would be authorize.net? Do I have that right? Thanks.

    • Ryan Ray
      April 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Our subscription extension does work with all gateways, but only a few work for automatic recurring charges.

      Read a bit more here. 🙂 – http://docs.woocommerce.com/document/payment-gateways/

      • allmyhoney
        April 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

        Hopefully realex or sagepay repeats will become available soon for subscriptions plugin as paypal is limiting this plugin to a certain extent.

  13. likoma
    April 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    If I wanted to set up an affiliate program (so that people who send students to my course can earn a commission), is that possible with this group of plugins and add-ons? Thanks!

    Also, I pretty much only use Canvas and I’m going to assume that this would all work with your flagship theme, correct?

    • Ryan Ray
      May 1, 2013 at 1:02 am #

      We have a few extensions for affiliate programs that are definitely worth checking out. That way if someone used a link from that program they’d get an affiliate commission for that sale.

      Canvas has just been updated for out of the box compatibility with Sensei as well!

  14. clicksjim
    May 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi there, out of all your responsive responsive business themes released since end of 2012, could you let me know which work out of the box for Sensai please?

  15. andyfumolo
    May 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Just bought Sensei at full price. Using it with Canvas.
    Unfortunately the embedded videos (wistia / vimeo) are not responsive to mobile.
    Is there any way I can upgrade to your package offer.
    And most important: is “Definition” responsive to embedded videos?

  16. Dale Wright
    May 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Ive finally got a educational project so I want to start playing with Sensei. Do you know if Sensei works with the name your price extension? I would like to create educational content and invite people to pay me what they feel its worth.

  17. Instant Article Wizard
    May 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    You guys here is a GREAT! tool that worked for me as well.

  18. allmyhoney
    May 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Where can I find the changelog for Sensei? Just want to see progress on the development as I know this is still in V1.2.1

  19. Natalie
    May 13, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    We are currently running wishlist and want to move our courses over to Sensei so they look/work better. If we do this and get woo commerce for payments does this integrate with Wishlist Member? And would we need the Subscription options for Woo Commerce?

    • jeffikus
      May 13, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Hi there

      We are looking into integrating with some of the 3rd party membership plugins, the only one we officially support at this stage is Subscriptions extensions for WooCommerce.

      • Kathrin
        June 13, 2013 at 7:43 am #

        Unfortunately, you we have an under construction page at vswonline.org so you can’t see what I mean but here is the problem.
        Sensai + Defitnition + Woo Commerce
        Our feature images for courses and products are a little fuzzy but okay resolutions under Products & Courses page, or Home page, but when you click on the product to learn more (or if you buy it) it blows up the thumbnail to about twice the size and looks awful. Where and how do I change the code for this? Thought I could do it in the back end somewhere but no luck and suspect I have to change in the CSS.
        Help! Woo does not get back to us and we need to launch soon!

  20. Marcin
    May 25, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    Thak you for this article, I like it

  21. kenny
    May 31, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    do you need the groups woo commerce plugin to protect your lesson content? If not how should Groups be used with Sensei and woo commerce? What does using groups give you that you don’t have with subscriptions and sensei alone?

  22. hilde_klopp
    June 7, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    Do I have to buy the Subscriptions for WooCommerce extension if I want to set up a “pay once, get lifetime access” kind of course? Is that even possible with this system, or am I restricted to subscription based courses?

    • Swift
      June 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

      Same question here. Woo, please answer.

  23. Kathrin
    June 13, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    Unfortunately, you we have an under construction page at vswonline.org so you can’t see what I mean but here is the problem.
    Sensai + Defitnition + Woo Commerce
    Our feature images for courses and products are a little fuzzy but okay resolutions under Products & Courses page, or Home page, but when you click on the product to learn more (or if you buy it) it blows up the thumbnail to about twice the size and looks awful. Where and how do I change the code for this? Thought I could do it in the back end somewhere but no luck and suspect I have to change in the CSS.
    Help! Woo does not get back to us and we need to launch soon!

  24. John
    June 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm #


    I’m using Subscriptions + WooCommerce + SuperStore theme for a Music Lessons website. I’ve added the subscription, and attached the course to the WooCommerce product.

    But first – when you go to the courses paid, it says all the courses are “Free” and when you click on theme the course/lessons are viewable to everyone without logging.

    Please advise. I feel like I wasted my money if this thing doesn’t work.

  25. nana
    June 17, 2013 at 5:08 am #

    Got few questions here :
    – Does Sensei support downloadable courses?
    – Can I upload a pdf exam sheet for the courses? (as I might need more elaborate exams)
    – Can I place any announcement on user/member that purchase specific course?
    – can I combine Sensei plugin with another exams plugin?


  26. Swift
    June 19, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Woo, any answers????

  27. larning&earning
    June 19, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    Hello brother a have a problem , I can’t verify my paypal account. Please give me a solution.

  28. himmelweiss
    June 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I have installed the sensei plugin and it looks great.

    after the installation some new links are now in the navigation. source, my lessons…

    how can i delete this links? i could not figure out how to do it. thank you!