In this post, we’ll go over basic security strategies you can implement on your LearnDash site to protect your online course content.

The internet provides us with unlimited freedom to create, share and sell content and information. However, this same environment opens the door to as many opportunities as it does to risks. As a course creator, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than having a third party steal and profit from your effort. 

Even as security measures continue to evolve, there’s no foolproof way to protect your online course content. Yet, while you can’t 100% guarantee the safety of your intellectual property, you can make your courses less available and vulnerable to online theft.

If you need assistance auditing and optimizing your LearnDash site’s security, we can help! Our team provides tailored security optimization services to protect your LearnDash course content. You can also start by implementing some basic security strategies, tips and tricks, which you can find below!

8 Ways To Protect Your Online Course Content From Theft

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts to go over content protection basics for your video content, such as video streaming and hosting services, password protections and watermarks. Click here for our post on how to protect your online course videos and content, and our second post with more security strategies for your online courses.

Copyright your course

The first step you should take concerning your intellectual property (IP) is completing registration to copyright your course. Copyright is automatic in the US, but actually registering for copyright will give you additional peace of mind. Copyright fully protects you in the unfortunate event that your content is stolen or a lawsuit is at hand.

Restrict Simultaneous Logins

In many cases, course theft is committed by groups of students, rather than people looking to resell your courses. It’s not unheard of that multiple students will complete a course from a single account and split the cost of a course. 

Restricting simultaneous logins on your site can allow you to control this issue. This is easily set up using a plugin that limits active logins. A free option to consider is Loggedin. This plugin allows you to set a limit on the number of devices or browsers accessing an account on your site simultaneously.

Depending on your preference you can set up the plugin to disable new logins or log out the previous session when a new login is made. Only one user will be able to access your online course at once.

This can be especially helpful for online courses that feature live events or that have lessons scheduled for specific times, since only one student will be able to benefit from the experience. You can use the LearnDash Course Planner Pro add-on to schedule lessons, topics and quizzes, boosting security and improving management for your online course.

Additionally, tracking user progress and restricting how many times a student can complete a quiz can prevent several students from using a single account. For example, if you have a gamification system in place, only the first user to complete an activity will be able to earn a reward. LearnDash also tracks course completion, so when a user completes a lesson, it alters progress for all users sharing an account.

Restrict Course Access

A good way to limit the chances of people stealing your course is to control how and when students access it. Having your course take place in real time, rather than providing ongoing access, is a good strategy to consider. 

With the LearnDash Course Planner Pro add-on, you can individually schedule lessons, topics, and quizzes, so that students have to adhere to a given course schedule. Once a set date range passes, course content ceases to be available. As a result, you can reduce the opportunities for theft and keep students on track.

Create Piracy-Mindful Videos

No matter what, there will always be a chance of your videos getting stolen and shared across the web. One of the greatest threats to online course creators is content theft and piracy. You can prepare for this situation creating videos that are less likely to be used by others for profit.

 Some effective ways to prevent others from laying claim over your content include:

  • Appearing on your own videos
  • Adding the speaker’s or instructor’s name on screen
  • Showcasing branding elements such as logos 

Adding a date and time stamp to your video will also help you prove you created and shared the content first, in case any dispute over the ownership of your videos arises later on.

With these measures in place, not only are third parties discouraged from stealing your videos, but also inevitably credit you if they do.

Provide Additional Value With Communities

Content might be easy to copy and replicate, but that is not the case for a multifaceted learning experience. Building an engaged community of learners around your content allows you to deliver additional piracy-proof value to your students. Forums, messaging, Facebook groups, and activity feeds can help your students interact with each other, adding an invaluable social component to your course.

For example, you can use bbPress with LearnDash to add forums for your courses where students can exchange information, interact with instructors, discuss lessons and answer questions. All of the learning that takes place through socialization can actually be one of the biggest hooks drawing people to invest in your course.

Live Sessions

Another way to make your online course theft-proof is providing students valuable elements that can’t be easily shared or copied. Hosting live events, classes, webinars, coaching and Q&A’s is a great way to enhance your course in a way that only paying customers can enjoy. 

The benefit of these activities lies in the real-time interaction between students and instructors. Even if  your course materials fall prey to internet theft, you’ll still deliver irreplaceable value to students.

To embed Zoom sessions directly on your LearnDash site, you can use the Zoom WordPress Plugin by eLearning Evolve. This plugin allows you to host Zoom Sessions on your site and add them to your LearnDash lessons or topics using shortcode.

Design Interactive and Personalized Courses

While content might be at the core of your course, delivered value is what actually motivates people to purchase content. 

Do you want to discourage people from copying or attempting to resell your course? The secret lies in selling courses that feel more like an experience than as a product. Unlike with a simple product, you cant steal, copy or replicate a unique learning experience. There are many ways to turn your course into a dynamic experience. Here are some ideas you can try:

Certificates

Offering certificates, especially when verifiable, allows students to validate acquired knowledge and skills. Earning a valuable certificate is enough to motivate students to purchase a course, even when illegal copies are available.

You can increase the value of your LearnDash Certificates using the LearnDash Certificate Verify & Share add-on. With this add-on, users can access a unique verification page for each of their earned certificates. Users can also share their certificates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with the click of a button. With verified and easy to share certificates, your users will get significantly more value from purchasing your course than from a stolen copy.

Interactive activities and quizzes

Using tools such as H5P you can implement interactions to your courses such as image hotspots, memory games and drag and drop activities. These elements require student input and are harder to copy. If you need some help setting up H5P on your site, check out our previous post on how to add H5P modules to your LearnDash courses.

Default LearnDash quizzes or enhanced quizzes ,such as the ones created with the LearnDash Advanced Quizzes add-on, are other activities that are personally completed by students and play an important role in the learning experience.

Gamification

Gamification plugins, such as BadgeOS, integrate seamlessly with LearnDash. While users might be able to steal your courses, they’d be missing out on the experience of earning badges, points, ranks and competing with others.

Add Links and References To Your Text Content

Course content in text format, such as written lessons, articles, ebooks or guides, is easy to adapt to your advantage. You can add branding elements to all pages on your downloadable files, including your course and business name, logos, etc. Additionally, you can include links and references to your site, blog and other courses within your content. Anyone that encounters a stolen version of your course is redirected to your site.

Protecting Your Media Library Files

It is important to implement security measures for the video, image, and PDF  files shared on your site. While LearnDash itself allows you to restrict access to course pages to enrolled students, the plugin doesn’t offer protection for your uploads. Once users access a file, there’s nothing stopping them from sharing a direct link to file with others. Additionally, your file URLs can be indexed and appear in search results.

There are some security precautions you can take to protect the files uploaded to your WordPress site. One option is to use a WordPress plugin, such as Prevent Direct Access, to protect your audio, image, video and PDF files. This plugin prevents Google from indexing the pages for your files. 

Additionally, you can protect any of your uploads so that they are only accessible for Admins. The plugin redirects unwanted visitors to a “404 not found” page. Keep in mind that this free plugin is limited to 9 files, with a premium version available for unlimited functionality.

Another alternative is the free Protect WordPress Uploads plugin, which protects your media library by restricting file access to registered users only. This way, visitors without an account on your site won’t be able to reach your files. This plugin also prevents Google and other search engines from indexing your files.

As an extra security precaution for PDFs, you can choose to password protect the files shared on your site. However, there is no way to prevent users with access to the password from sharing the password with third-parties.

Word Of Caution: Security Overkill

Website security is key, and its importance shouldn’t be minimized. But, how secure is too secure? Placing too many hurdles on access can end up affecting your customers’ user experience. 

For example, placing restrictions on IP Address access can affect students that are completing your courses while on the go. Another issue arises with multiple device login restrictions. In a world where using several mobile devices is the norm, login restrictions prevent students from comfortably accessing content. 

On The Bright Side: Why You Shouldn’t Lose Sleep To Protect Your Online Course

Despite following all the strategies we’ve shared, there’s nothing you can do to prevent a determined individual from stealing your content. If someone is set on stealing your course, they’ll ultimately find a way past your security. But, should you really worry about your content getting illegally distributed?

Chances are the people downloading your content for free, aren’t willing to pay for your course either way. These people are not your target audience or potential paying customers. At the end of the day, your sales aren’t really affected by their activities. 

And while unintended content sharing might seem like a threat, it can also act as a blessing in disguise. When others distribute your content online, essentially they are advertising your courses for free. Embedding watermarks, branding elements, links and references within your course content, will point readers back to your site. The result? Increased traffic and exposure. 

Protect Your Online Course

After pouring your time and effort into your LearnDash course, it’s only logical to want to protect it. Taking precautions with your videos and website security with the strategies above is a great place to start. Additionally, our LearnDash consultants can help you audit your site’s security and put personalized security measures in place.

We’d love to hear about your experiences. Tell us about the security measures you currently implement on your LearnDash site in the comments below!