Learn about how to automate online course product launches and cohorts in your WordPress LMS website with the Course Scheduler plugin by Aspen Grove Studios in this episode of LMScast. Cory Jenkins and Jonathan Hall join Chris Badgett to discuss the plugin they recently created to fill a need course creators have had.
The Course Scheduler makes it easy to run a single course multiple times. By having cohorts or groups going through a course at a specific date you set as the start date, you can have students buying the course year round, but the start and end dates are determined by you.
At Aspen Grove Studios, Cory, Jonathan, and their team work to create products and services with the aim to solve the problems people are facing with specific WordPress tools. They are heavily involved with Divi and have been creating courses that address the needs of Divi users, such as customizing the Divi theme to add in advanced styling.
With traditional schooling there is a class of students all moving through the material at roughly the same pace. One aspect of online learning is that students do not have to move through content at the same time. But learning as a class or cohort can be very valuable to the learning experience, so the Course Scheduler would be a good option for course creators looking to replicate the group learning setting online with LifterLMS.
Interacting with the communities is a great way to identify pain points and opportunities to form a product or service. The Divi community is very supportive, and engaging with tight-knit communities can reveal unmet needs that you can help solve and build a brand around.
Most online business owners are interested in creating a healthy lifestyle for themselves. One common mistake many entrepreneurs make is allowing themselves to become overloaded and stressed out. Cory emphasizes how having fun with development of your product can be a great way to read whether or not your ideas are working for your intended goal.
Head over to AspenGroveStudios.com to learn more about the Course Scheduler plugin and the other tools and trainings they offer. At Divi.Space you can find out more about the products they have for the Divi community.
At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number 1 podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name’s Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by two very special guests, Cory Jenkins and Jonathan Hall, from Aspen Grove Studios and Divi Space. How are you doing guys?
Cory Jenkins: Doing great.
Jonathan Hall: Great.
Cory Jenkins: Good to see you, Chris.
Chris Badgett: Excellent. Well, it’s good to have you here. These guys are behind the new add-on for LifterLMS called Course Scheduler, which allows you to run a kinda like cohorts or groups of people through the same course but having different start dates, which was definitely a big problem and an opportunity in the community. I’m really glad your company stepped in to build a product and solve that. Can you tell us what inspired the creation of that products?
Cory Jenkins: Yeah. I think it was us getting into the education world, if you will. And anybody who knows our company knows that we’re very heavy into Divi. We’ve created a couple of Divi courses, and in the course of running those courses and putting students through, we really try to have students start and end on a same date because just kinda that community aspect of students learning together, they’re on a Facebook group related to the course together, and it really helps to kinda have everybody move through the course around the same time for several reasons: one, is the community aspect; two, is kinda like internally so we can plan out at a certain time maybe break in the middle of the course and we do a webinar or something else. I guess it was kinda a pain point for us.
Cory Jenkins: LifterLMS is great. We love it, we preach it everywhere, but it was kind of pain point for us having those preset enrollment dates. Basically, what it allows us to do is to sell our course and not pull it off the shelf. People can purchase the course maybe like in the middle of another enrollment period, but they won’t be able to start it until the next enrollment period begins. I guess that’s kinda what inspired us, is a necessity.
Chris Badgett: What you guys are doing, is it always available or there’s like kinda launches where you open enrollment couple of times a year, or something like that?
Cory Jenkins: Well, that’s how we’ve done it before, in the past. Is just kinda have big pushes for enrollment. We may still be doing that depending on the course, bur let’s plug-in the way that we have, it really does allow us to kinda keep the product on the self, and even have somebody who wants to purchase it, let us have to kind of wait around to that next start date begins.
Chris Badgett: Well, I remember when I got a demo from Jonathan and I saw there’s the course start date. You turn on the course time period and [inaudible 00:03:36], you’ve got a course start date, you’ve got a course end date, and if people come through after that start date, you can change those numbers and they’ll come into a future date start time. And then at the bottom, you have this really elegant way to automate a cadence that you wanna do, whether that’s twice a year, or every year, or every month, that a new group can start. Then you can tell it to open it up for people to enroll whatever amount of time before the start date. Can you tell us about how you came to that as the solution? I think it’s really cool. I just love to hear more about how that evolved.
Jonathan Hall: Yeah, for sure. I think it just fits the pattern of how a lot of people may be offering their courses if they do offer multiple sessions or instances of the course at different dates. It’s typically going to be on a predefined schedule, say they run a course every month, or every three months, or whatever that timeframe is. That feature just allows them to automate changing those course dates, so that, rather than having to come into the course, every time it’s time to start offering the course, another session of the course, they can have it automated so that their website automatically updates those dates on that predefined schedule, and that’s just one last thing that they have to worry about doing on a regular basis, especially for courses that are offered frequently.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, it’s beautiful. When I saw that, it was not only cool that you had it up there but just to be able to kinda set it and forget it if you are gonna do every year, every month the same thing, and that’s pretty awesome.
Cory Jenkins: Yeah, I’d like to take credit for that, but … That’s one of those things that Jonathan came up with during development, which is like a lot of our products. He’s just really gotta come up with different solutions and it turned out really great.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s cool. Now, you guys have been in the course space relatively not that long. How long has it been? Like a year or two years? What is it?
Cory Jenkins: Yeah, I think it’s been a little over a year, but not too long. We’re still definitely learning the ropes, and always kinda transitioning the way that we do things. So yeah, we’re still relative newbies.
Chris Badgett: You’ve already launched in one year three courses. What do you think, and do you have more on the horizon? I guess, what contributed to the success of the first one? ‘Cause if that one hadn’t worked out, maybe you wouldn’t have done the second one, or whatever, but it seems to be really working out for you and I know some course creators when they first start, they struggle. Even if they do have a community. I know you guys have done a great job building a community, especially in the Divi and the WordPress space, but what do you think led to that first launch working out well for you in pretty short time. I mean, you guys came on and came on strong, and it was really cool to watch.
Cory Jenkins: Yeah, I think we were all kind of like blown away by the success of our first chorus, which was transforming Divi with CSS and jQuery. I think, for anybody who knows the Divi community, it’s massive. I mean, you have these multiple Facebook groups that are up around 30,000 people, and ourselves, David and I got in that space very early on and we built up an awesome customer base. I think the course just really hit the nail on the head of what the community was wanting, and they really wanted to take Divi to that next level and learn how to, with CSS, with jQuery, make their Divi site … Which Divi is already awesome, you can do so much with it, but take it to that next level, like a developer-type level. So, I think there was just a massive need for it, the community saw it and embraced it.
Chris Badgett: And what inspired that one? Why that one?
Cory Jenkins: I think it was just us recognizing that need. We pay a lot of attention to the community and the Facebook groups and what people are … What they’re asking for, what their pain points are. I think it was us just kinda recognizing the need and knowing the community so well. So, it’s kind of like second nature to us. We’ve been in the Divi community for so long.
Chris Badgett: It sounds like with the Course Scheduler, you guys see pain points and then you’re like, “Oh, maybe we can solve that or help people in some way,” which leads me to my next question. Is, with Aspen Grove Studios, you guys do a lot of different things. So, what’s in the stack? You guys have software products, you have courses, you have clients, right? Is there anything else? I’m I missing anything?
Cory Jenkins: Well, yeah. We’ve grown over time. We started off as Aspen Grove Studios, myself and David, a couple of know-nothings, throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. And we made our first products, which kind of took off. It was a photo editor for Divi. It’s just kinda simple, overrides the photo credits for people who don’t like opening up PHP files and things.
Chris Badgett: How long ago was that?
Cory Jenkins: Oh jeez, that’s been about four years now.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Cory Jenkins: So, it started off really slow and then it’s just kind of snowballed. We acquired Divi space a couple of years ago, and then Jonathan and his company put in plugins that joined our team in our company last year or so. Potent Plugins really brought us more into the WordPress base because Jonathan had developed some really awesome, good commerce plugins and bbPress type plugins that kinda got us out of that Divi niche, if you will, and kind of opened our eyes to the WordPress community as a whole.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool.
Cory Jenkins: Yeah. And learning the LMA stuff that we’re doing and client work. We kinda deal with everything.
Chris Badgett: Right on. Jonathan, what was the … With Potent Plugins, if you were in Woo Commerce and BuddyPress or bbPress, I’m not sure which one, or both. What was your focus, or how did you get … What was your focus for development?
Jonathan Hall: Well, I think I started out in a very similar way that the development for the Course Scheduler plug-in started out, and that is just by identifying a need that was unmet. In my case, I was doing client sites as well and they needed solutions for Woo Commerce supporting. It was just a need that was out there for my clients, obviously for others as well. So, I published a free plug-in on the WordPress repo and I went from there. Then further development was at least in part driven by the feedback I was getting, more needs that were coming to light. Another plug-in, the bbPress, I had bbPress spaced again throughout client site I was developing. They had a need for image uploads, effective image uploads in the bbPress that wasn’t met very well by existing solutions. So, again, very much a customer-needs-driven, both for client sites and customers of the products that I was developing and selling at that point. So, basically just meeting the needs that were out there.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Cory Jenkins: That’s the nice thing about having Jonathan on our team now, because, well, kind of the way the Course Scheduler plug-in came along. We’ll have an internal need for our website. It might be for e-commerce, it might be for something else. Jonathan is just amazing; he’ll spend something up so fast. It’s hard to believe. We have a number of internal products that we’ve developed, that probably could go commercial, but this was the first one that we were really excited about to get it out into the community.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. I have to ask you Jonathan, ’cause you mentioned forums, which is something that a lot of course creators or some get into. And bbPress specifically, are kind of the go-to WordPress option. What did the image plug-in do? Or what does it do? I know bbPress by itself can be pretty plain and it doesn’t … The editor, the people type into, it’s pretty generic to start. And then there’s other plugins out there. What did your image plug-in do?
Jonathan Hall: It basically enhanced the ‘what you see is what you get’ post editor for forum posts by adding a button to it where they could upload an image selected from their computer. Now it supports drag and drop from their computer or their mobile device, and put it directly in line into the forum post without having to … There were solutions out there that would let you attach a file to your post, but we needed a way to actually put a image in line into your host content rather than just attaching it. It was just a solution that let them do that, and then, building on that, we even developed a plug-in that lets you store those uploaded images on Amazon Web Services, as well to offload them off your server for larger forums. So, a solution for managing a user uploaded images, is what it turned out to be.
Chris Badgett: Wow, that’s cool. What’s it called?
Jonathan Hall: Image Upload for bbPress. Very, very simple. That’s the free one, that’s on web press start. Given, there’s a pro version as we go to a website and put in plugins to a website, and there’s also the add-on for Amazon S3.
Chris Badgett: Very cool.
Cory Jenkins: That’s definitely naming the product for ACL reasons.
Chris Badgett: I’m a big believer in that. I think people should name their courses and just make it obvious. What do people type when they’re searching? What are they looking for? Better image upload for bbPress. That’s cool.
Chris Badgett: Well, with you guys, you have your hands in a lot of different files. Would you say you’re still really focused? I know you’re really focused on Divi, but are you going broader to just really serve the WordPress community in general? Or even outside of that? Who are you serving?
Cory Jenkins: I’d still say it. At this point, we’re definitely still probably 90% Divi, but our focus for this next year and beyond is moving out into the WordPress space in general. So, we have a couple of really cool things in the pipeline. We’re so focused, definitely focusing on maintaining and improving our Divi products, but as far as our new product development goes, we’re starting to kinda branch more out into the general WordPress space. So, a lot of exciting things coming up.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. And how many people is Aspen Grove approximately?
Cory Jenkins: Our team, currently is probably around 15 full-time people, and that’s everything from support staff, to writers, to designers, to developers. So, we always have what seems like we’re ever expanding and we we’ve been really lucky with some super talented people on board. I think we have one of the best staffs in the whole WordPress sphere. We can just get some amazing things done.
Chris Badgett: Well, it definitely appears that way from the outside. I mean, you guys, love that attitude, love how you roll. Everybody seems to work together well and have a great attitude, which is awesome. What advice do you have for the course creators and membership side builders that are watching this, often share a similarity to something you guys do, which is you’ve got your hands on a lot of different things. Maybe I have a service business and I’m getting into trying to package that in the courses for the clients that can’t afford me, or I’m trying to free up some of my personal time and I also have this other thing over here, how do you guys … What are some tips you have for juggling all those different … How inside of your company of 15 people or whatever, how do you divide up across all those different business units? Or is it just one big party?
Cory Jenkins: Well, yeah. Some days it definitely seems like one big party. I think Jonathan can attest. Sometimes it’ll be like five of us on a Zoom call or something like that, five or six of us kinda throwing ideas around. But we try to have one person who’s that driving force in whatever project it might be. One person whose kinda responsibility is to kinda keep that moving forward. For David and myself, we try to look at it just like, “Let’s hit our deadlines and try to have projected dates for launch and stuff. So, I don’t know.
Cory Jenkins: I’d say just have fun with it. If it seems like too much, and you’re getting stressed, and it’s not fun, then you’re probably doing it wrong and maybe it’s not time for you to launch that project. I’d say just have fun with it and make sure they have the resources available to do it right.
Chris Badgett: Do you guys validate stuff before you build it, or do you just kinda go for it when you identify a market need? Do you test demand at all, or just kinda go for it ’cause it seems obvious?
Cory Jenkins: I’d like to say that there is a more scientific method to it, but I think a lot of times we kinda trust our gut. And, in certain instances, we might run by certain people our idea if it seems a little bit out of our depth, in our comfort zone, but yeah, for the most part. Especially with our Divi products. Like I mentioned earlier, we just know the community so well, and we’re always very confident launching those, that it’s gonna solve a lot of needs and be a popular product.
Chris Badgett: So, community building is a thing we talk about a lot in this podcast, and I’d like to point out the difference between building an audience like an email list versus building a community and engaging with the community. How have you guys really thrived in the Divi space? It’s obviously a big community, but how have you become so entrenched in it and also successful in it? ‘Cause I’m sure you’re not just yelling into the community all the time, “Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff.” How how does somebody be a good steward in a community?
Cory Jenkins: Give back to the community. We are constantly releasing … If any of you out there follow our blogs, we’re always releasing tutorials, and free resources, and helping people. A lot of times, you’ll see myself or SJ in the Facebook groups for the Divi community, just helping people. And if they have a problem, whether it might be with code or something else, just being in there and kinda visible, helping people out. So, in retrospect, over the past four years or so, I think that’s really what’s attributed to our success. It’s just that giving back and offering that advice to people. I get probably once a week, twice a week, somebody from the community, instant messaging mailed you something on Facebook asking questions. I try to always talk to them and help them out, even if I might be a little busy that day. That would be my advice. Give back.
Chris Badgett: It’s good stuff. Is there anything going on in the Divi community that you would say just seems like a trend? What’s new in the Divi community for those that perhaps they’re just looking for a community to join, or they’re trying to figure out like what name should I use, or what page builder, or whatever? What’s happening in the Divi community these days? Is there anything you can speak to, just in general?
Cory Jenkins: Yeah. Well, I think right now, I think the Divi community is kinda getting out of the Gutenberg apocalypse, which kinda gripped the whole community with fear for, I’d say, almost a year. I mean, it was all everybody talked about. I think what brings a lot of people, or what keeps a lot of people in the Divi community is the Divi community itself. I’ve never really seen anything like it, how helpful the community members are to each other, and welcoming to newcomers. Divi always has exciting stuff coming out. They have a theme builder on the horizon. To me, they’re always staying in a very cutting edge and ahead of the competition. The community is just kind of this gigantic beast that kinda governs itself, and does a great job without chaos.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You guys have a podcast too. Is it … I don’t wanna say it wrong. It’s WP The Podcast? Is that right?
Cory Jenkins: Well, yeah. David and Tim have WP The Podcast, and-
Chris Badgett: So you guys have more than one?
Cory Jenkins: Well, I would say … There’s WP The Podcast, and then there’s Divi Chat, which is a weekly podcast on Tuesdays, and it’s at 5:00[inaudible 00:21:45] Eastern. That’s kinda more like some members; David’s in it, Tim’s in it, Leslie Bernal … More people from the community are in it. We do it from Zoom, and then broadcast it live on YouTube. We usually have like 20 people watching live and asking questions, and it’s kinda become this gathering place for certain people. I mean, Divi Chat and WP The Podcast have been very well received, and even at a work camp, and people would come up and recognize us or something. They be like, “Hey, you’re the guy that talks too much on Divi Chat. You’re the guy who rambles on there.”
Chris Badgett: I’ve been on some of your live Divi Chats and it’s always fun. You guys have a lot of banter and get into a lot of new topics. It’s really good. So, you’ve got some more courses coming. Can you tell us what they are, what’s on the horizon on the education front?
Cory Jenkins: Yeah. Well, the courses that we currently have on the education front, the couple that we have lined up are Divi-based. We do have another Divi course coming out, that kind of shows you from the beginning to the end, how to create Divi slides. It kind of goes over a little bit more remedial learning than transforming Divi with CSS and jQuery again. That was very much like for a person who already knows Divi pretty well, probably knows a little bit of CSS. Not super advanced, but, I’d say for kinda like almost the power Divi users. That’s when we’re kinda stepping back and looking at the community as a whole, and we wanna help those people from the beginning to the end. So, not absolute beginners but maybe they can jump into the course at a certain time and pick up from where their skill level is. I predict, probably by the end of this year, we’ll have about three or more courses out.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Well, Jonathan and Corey, I want to thank you guys for coming on the podcast. I’m really excited about the Course Scheduler. If you’re watching this and you have a course, and you do product launches and open your course, you need to have group cohorts that move through it different times or you want to. It’s a great tool. When I saw it, I was like, “Thank you. This is so awesome. It’s much needed in the community in one of our top requests. You guys obviously have your kind of ear to the ground, or at least are scratching your own edge. You know opportunity when you see it. So, thank you so much for making that plug-in. What’s the best way for people to connect with you and find out about the Course Scheduler and all the other stuff you have going on?
Cory Jenkins: The best way is probably … If you wanna check out the Course Scheduler, just go to our website aspengrovestudios.com. I’d say just kinda go through our whole slew of products. We have a lot of products that Jonathan developed before he joined our company, are available on aspengrovestudios.com and divi.space. Look through our products; we have some awesome stuff, and then just subscribe to our blog and you’ll get product announcements. And then, if you just wanna drop us a line or something in support and ask a question and see if we have a product that might fit your needs, then feel free.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. And just one more question for Jonathan, which one of the plugins or tools that you brought into the fold are you most excited about or is the community most excited about, that you’d like to share?
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for coming on the show. Really appreciate it, and we’ll have to do it again sometime.
Jonathan Hall: Definitely. Thanks for having us.
Chris Badgett: Thank you.
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Kris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number 1 tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses, to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results getting courses on the Internet.