StellarWP announced today that it acquired LearnDash, a learning management system (LMS) for WordPress. The product allows educators to create online courses, quizzes, and dynamic content. LearnDash will continue to operate autonomously, keeping its team intact.
In May, Liquid Web launched its new umbrella brand, StellarWP, alongside its acquisition of Impress.org and its flagship product, GiveWP. iThemes, The Events Calendar, Restrict Content Pro, and Kadence WP are included in this family. Each of the brands operates independently. Essentially, StellarWP functions as a “branded house” but is very much a “house of brands,” according to Chris Lema, who will be switching roles and taking the General Manager position for LearnDash.
The LearnDash acquisition is StellarWP’s largest to date, but the company did not provide a specific dollar amount.
The LMS market size grew to $10.84 billion in 2020. It is projected to increase to over $13 billion in 2021, according to Fortune Business Insights. However, when asked why the company was jumping into the space, Lema talked about the vision.
“The way I think about things is less about the bottom line and more about the larger vision,” he said. “At Liquid Web, we believe that things will continue to get more abstracted for customers. They will want, less and less, to deal with the complexities of hosting. They don’t really want ‘managed’ hosting or even ‘managed WordPress’ hosting. They want a hosted solution. In other words, they want a solution that works. If they need it hosted, great. If they already have a host, great. So we’ve been focused on building a solutions-orientation toward folks who are doing digital commerce or are building digital commerce solutions for their customers.”
He said that LearnDash fits perfectly into that vision for the company.
In some ways, the global COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 may have hit the fast-forward button in many online sectors. The landscape shifted for small and large businesses. More people have had opportunities to take online courses or even create their own.
“Yes, we saw a dramatic increase in the take rate on online learning platforms across the entire space,” said Lema. “Last year saw a COVID dip for many, but for online learning, it was a bump. That said, I think we’re seeing the numbers drop back down a bit into a more normal but elevated range based on what happened last year. And most importantly, more people than ever have tried their hands at online learning, and I don’t think that’s going to stop.”
Now that Liquid Web and StellarWP have built a library of multiple products, one question is how the company might begin to tie them together. There are some easy wins with cross-product integration that would fit into the vision of selling solutions.
“Yes, we think so too,” said Lema. “RCP and LearnDash, GiveWP and LearnDash, LearnDash and Nexcess, and more. I think we’ll see a lot of collaborations across the StellarWP brands. But to be clear, each brand runs independently, so for LearnDash, we’re still focused on all sorts of other integrations, from chat to testimonials to CRM to better Zoom integration.”
While he did not offer any specifics, it is likely in the cards in some form. Each of these is robust a product that, when used together, can provide a powerful toolset for building commerce-based websites.
Lema wrote a more in-depth post on his personal blog about integrations being a vital strategy for business growth. He shared a riddle that he likened to the WordPress ecosystem.
“I thought about it because it’s a bit of a parable for how I see so many product owners in the WordPress ecosystem build their plugins – as if there’s no one else in the world, building anything else that a customer might use with their product,” he wrote.
We will have to wait to see what sort of integrations LearnDash might have in the future. For now, the team is working on the roadmap for its updated course grid and version 4.0 feature release. The update should include dynamic learning paths.
“The reality in online learning is that students don’t move in a linear fashion through material like the instructor always hopes,” said Lema. “Or maybe an instructor wants to support an almost choose-your-own-adventure approach. I know in my coaching, I don’t move everyone through the same lessons in the same order. So we’re excited to innovate in this space.”
The potential to integrate these plugins under one umbrella is exciting. Right now, building an online educational or membership site is a piecemeal process.
Imagine having more interoperability and a way to tie various user/site data together. That’s been a huge challenge with WordPress.