Create an Online Course With WordPress (2021)

Create An Online Course With Wordpress (2021)


Looking to create your own online course or education website?

MasterStudy is a popular LMS and education theme that comes bundled with its own full-fledged LMS plugin to create and deliver online courses.

Masterstudy Wordpress Theme

It’s one of the most popular education themes at ThemeForest, where it’s been purchased over 13,500 times while maintaining an excellent 4.79-star rating on over 500 reviews.

It was originally launched back in July 2015 and it’s received regular updates since then, so you can be confident that it will be around for the long haul.

In our hands-on MasterStudy review, we’ll take a look at what this theme can do and how it can help you create an online course.

MasterStudy Theme Review: The Features

Via the theme and its bundled LMS plugin, MasterStudy is a full solution for creating your own online courses.

The MasterStudy theme provides the actual design while the plugin covers the online course functionality. By separating the course functionality into a plugin, MasterStudy follows good WordPress best practices and lets you avoid lock-in.

In terms of the design options for the theme, you get:

  • 15+ importable demo sites for a range of use cases.
  • Page builder integrations with Elementor and WPBakery Page Builder (including dedicated course widgets for the builder).
  • A detailed theme options area to customize your header, footer, and other theme-specific areas.

Then, the bundled MasterStudy LMS plugin includes all the features to create courses and lesson content.

You can create courses with a single instructor or you can create multi-instructor course marketplaces like Udemy. Either way, you’ll get useful features like:

  • Drag-and-drop course builder, including a dedicated front-end course builder (great if you’re allowing other instructors to create their own courses).
  • Multimedia lessons.
  • Quizzes with six types of questions.
  • Content dripping.
  • Course certificates.
  • Zoom webinar integrations.
  • Live stream video lessons.
  • Student management.
  • Private messaging.
  • Group courses.
  • Prerequisites.
  • Course bundles.

If you want to monetize your courses, you can accept one-time or recurring payments for access, along with useful features like selling course bundles. The supported payment gateways include:

If you have multiple instructors, the plugin can also handle paying commissions to individual instructors.

We’re focused on reviewing the MasterStudy theme in this post, but we’ll naturally have to touch on the plugin as well since the plugin is such a big part of the theme’s functionality.

Hands-On With the MasterStudy Theme

Now, let’s dig into what it’s like to use the MasterStudy theme to create your own online course or education website.

Basic Setup and Demo Installation

As I mentioned above, MasterStudy includes 15+ importable demo sites that you can choose from.

To import one of these demo sites, you can go to MasterStudy → Install Demos:

Demo Sites

I’ll choose the Course Hub demo for this example as it lets me show off MasterStudy’s multi-instructor functionality.

To import a specific demo, you just hover over it and click Import. Then, you’ll get a popup that lets you choose your preferred builder between:

  1. Elementor
  2. WPBakery Page Builder

I prefer Elementor so that’s what I’ll choose for this example. From there, it will show a list of plugins that need to be installed for that demo. If you click Setup Layout, the theme will automatically install all of those plugins for you and import the demo content:

Import Demo Content

There’s no extra cost for these plugins – they’re all free and/or bundled with the theme.

After a minute or two, your site should look exactly like the demo – easy enough so far!

MasterStudy Plugin Setup

A big part of the functionality of the MasterStudy theme is the bundled MasterStudy plugin, which I’ve already mentioned.

Once you import the demo content, the theme will automatically launch the setup wizard for the MasterStudy plugin. This is where you can set up all the details about your course(s) like:

  • Whether you have a single instructor or you want to create a marketplace of multiple instructors (like Udemy).
  • Core LMS pages (the plugin will automatically create them if the demo didn’t already).
  • The layout for your course listing pages.
  • The layout for single course pages.
  • Layouts for lessons and quizzes.

You’ll start by choosing your business type:

Plugin Setup

Then, you can go through the other tabs at the top to configure other details. 

You get a good number of options here. For example, when configuring your course page, you can control the layout, filter options, etc.

Course Listing Pages

When you’re finished, you’ll see a prompt to either add a new course or import some demo courses. The theme actually already imported some demo courses for you with the demo site, so you can just head back to your dashboard.

Theme Customization Options

To customize the theme itself, MasterStudy comes with its own custom theme options area, rather than using the native WordPress Customizer.

The advantage of this custom approach is that it’s easier to browse the options because you have more space, while the disadvantage is that there’s no real-time preview like you would get with the Customizer.

In the theme options area, you get a good number of settings covering the following:

  • Header layout and content
  • Optional top bar
  • Colors
  • Post type layouts
  • Typography
  • Footer layout and content
  • Social media profiles
  • Dedicated Mailchimp integration
Theme Options

As an example of the type of options that you get, let’s look at the Header area. You can choose different styles, enable a fixed scroll header, customize colors, add a search icon, show social media profiles, and more:

Header Options

Overall, I’d say you get a good number of customization options.

Page Builder Content Customization

To customize the demo content itself, you can use your chosen page builder (Elementor or WPBakery Page Builder).

One nice thing here is that MasterStudy adds its own page builder widgets so that you can control course elements from your page builder. For Elementor, it does this by installing a Masterstudy Elementor Widgets companion plugin.

With Elementor, you get a ton of different widgets to display:

  • Courses in a variety of formats
  • Instructors
  • Lessons
  • Certificates
  • A certificate checker widget
  • Teachers and teacher details
  • Students
  • Course wishlists
  • Etc.

I wasn’t even able to fit all the widgets in the screenshot – you get a lot of options!

Elementor Widgets

For example, to showcase featured courses, you can use the Single Course Carousel widget and sort/filter posts by popularity, category/tag, and more:

Course Carousel Widget

Overall, this deep page builder integration is a welcome feature as it lets you customize your actual course content without requiring any technical knowledge.

Working With Course Content (MasterStudy LMS Plugin)

This is a review of the MasterStudy theme, not the plugin. However, because the two are so tightly connected, it’s impossible to review the theme without touching on the plugin’s functionality.

So in this section, I want to give you a quick look at what it’s like to create and manage course content with the bundled MasterStudy LMS plugin.

Course Builder

To set up the structure for your courses, you get a visual, drag-and-drop course builder. You can divide your course into different sections and then easily add lessons and quizzes inside each section:

Course Builder

The course builder itself appears as a meta box inside the course creation interface, which also lets you set up the title, description, categories, etc.

In addition to the course curriculum builder, you also get a separate Course Settings meta box that lets you set up more high-level course settings like:

  • Prices (if you want to charge for access to your course(s))
  • Access and expiration
  • Content dripping
  • Prerequisites
  • FAQs
  • Course file attachments
  • Course certificates
  • Etc.
Course Settings

Lesson Builder

To add lesson content, you can use the native WordPress editor or your favorite page builder. You’ll also get a Lesson Settings box that lets you choose between three different lesson types:

  1. Text
  2. Video
  3. Slides
Lesson Builder

Front-End Builder

If you’re allowing third-party instructors to create courses (or if you just prefer using a different interface), MasterStudy also comes with a front-end course builder.

It gives you all the same options, but the user experience is definitely a bit nicer, especially for people who aren’t familiar with WordPress:

Front-End Course Builder

There’s Lots More

Again, this is just a little taste of the MasterStudy LMS plugin. It’s a full-featured LMS plugin, so covering every single feature would require a review of its own.

If you want to learn more about the plugin, you can check out the dedicated MasterStudy LMS landing page by clicking the button below:

MasterStudy Theme Performance

To analyze the performance of the MasterStudy theme, I ran three sets of tests:

  1. Before installing a demo site to get a baseline reading.
  2. After importing a full demo site to get an idea of performance for a real-world site.
  3. After adding WP Rocket to the full demo site to optimize it.

In the first test, MasterStudy performed pretty well with 33 HTTP requests and 311 KB. It’s not ultra-lightweight but that’s lighter than a lot of other WordPress themes:

Just Theme

After importing a full Elementor-powered demo site, the page size and requests obviously jumped up. However, the actual page load times and Largest Contentful Paint times stayed around ~2 seconds:

Full Demo Site

After adding WP Rocket to the mix to optimize the code (including its new Remove Unused CSS feature), the numbers got super fast – dropping the requests to 30 and the page size to one MB while also slashing the load times:

With Wp Rocket

All in all, you should be fine with MasterStudy in terms of performance as long as you’re implementing best practices and using quality WordPress hosting.

All of these tests were run using Nginx Fast_CGI caching at the server level.

MasterStudy Theme Pricing

MasterStudy is a premium theme. It’s for sale via Envato’s ThemeForest marketplace, where it costs $69.

That purchase price gets you access to lifetime updates for a single site along with six months of support. You can upgrade the support term to 12 months for another $21.38.

Your purchase also comes bundled with the MasterStudy LMS Pro plugin at no extra cost, which would normally cost you $54.99 by itself. That’s in addition to all of the other bundled plugins like Slider Revolution and WPBakery Page Builder.

Final Thoughts on the MasterStudy Theme

Overall, MasterStudy makes it very easy to get up and running with an online course or course marketplace because it offers everything bundled in one package. There are a lot of good LMS plugins and a lot of good education themes, but there aren’t that many themes that bundle both into a unified experience.

The theme has a good track record, coming from an established developer and with a five-year history of updates and good reviews.

While the theme itself only comes in a paid version, you can get a taste of what the course functionality will be like by using the free version of the MasterStudy LMS plugin at 

Again, the MasterStudy theme bundles in the MasterStudy LMS Pro plugin at no extra cost, so you will get more features with the theme. But the free version of the plugin should still give you a good feel for the experience.

To learn more and give MasterStudy a try, you can use the buttons below:


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