How To Use Membership Plugins With Thrive Apprentice Courses
If you use a membership plugin to protect content on your WordPress site, you might be wondering:
“Can I protect Thrive Apprentice courses with my membership tool?”
You may be surprised to know that Apprentice will already work with many membership plugins… depending on how they are setup.
...But this doesn't mean that Thrive Apprentice won't work with your membership plugin!
In this video tutorial, you'll discover a setup that works for other popular tools such as:
...and many more.
Thrive Apprentice makes it easy for you to build and manage online courses that are available only to your paying members, customers, or even as free opt-in incentives to join your mailing list.
Check out the video to see how it works, and read the post below for more information on how to set this up.
In order to show you exactly how this setup works, we’ve got to cover some of the fundamentals of how WordPress manages ‘User Roles’, and how they talk to Thrive Apprentice.
Read on and I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two about your own website. If you already know about Thrive Apprentice access restriction management and how WordPress User Roles work, then you can jump ahead to the exact step-by-step setup with your membership site.
Access Restriction Rules For WordPress User Roles
This versatile integration trick makes use of the new Access Rules feature we recently added to Thrive Apprentice. With this feature, you can create and edit rules that specify how users get access to courses.
If a user doesn’t match the rule, they cannot view the course content.
This Access Rules feature vastly expands the use-cases for online courses and serves as the backbone for integrating with your membership plugin.
So before we get into paid membership protection, here’s how to use this feature to offer free courses on your website.
The Basics: Protecting A Free Course (no membership plugin required)
Online Courses are a great opt-in incentive for growing your mailing list. Rather than offering just a free PDF or download, you can offer courses in exchange for a visitor joining your mailing list.
The Restriction Rules make it super easy to do this.
In this situation, you would want to restrict access to the WordPress role ‘Subscriber’. For a visitor of your website to get access to the course, they must first be given that WordPress role.
To do this, it’s as easy as creating an opt-in form on your website and connecting it to not one but two different services (you can add a second service under the ‘advanced’ settings).
This means that when a visitor enters their information on your opt-in form, their contact information is subscribed to your mailing list and a WordPress user is created inside your website with the role ‘Subscriber’. They are then free to access your course!
Not sure how that works? Here’s a video tutorial from Hanne that will show you the setup for using Thrive Apprentice to grow your mailing list:
So, that’s the basics. Now in order to integrate this with your membership tool and protect courses based on purchase, we need to talk about how WordPress User Roles are managed on your website.
Using WordPress User Roles
By default, every WordPress website has 5 basic user roles. Yes, that includes your own website! This is not a feature that is added by any plugin, the 5 roles are already there.
You can safely run your website for many many years without ever needing to use any of these additional user roles. But when the day comes that you want to hire a professional to help you improve your website, they’ll come in handy.
The 5 default roles are:
- Admin: That’s you! The first time you install WordPress, you will get an account with full privileges to do anything.
- Editor: Can’t add or remove plugins, but they can change any blog content, tags, categories, authors, etc.
- Author: Unable to edit anyone else’s content, but they can create and edit their own content for your website.
- Contributor: They can write and edit their own posts but are unable to publish their content or add any media (video, audio, images).
- Subscriber: Only has ‘reader’ privileges and cannot edit anything. Just like any website visitor except that they can log in and out.
(There is a 6th role, the ‘Super-Admin’, but it’s only used with WordPress Multi-Site installations).
NOTE: You should never grant any User Role except ‘Subscriber’ to someone you don’t know, otherwise you risk giving them access to editing content on your site!
What Makes Up A User Role?
Each User Role is made from a set of capabilities — that’s the name WordPress uses for it.
A Capability is a permission to perform an action. For example, ‘delete comments’ is a capability, and so is ‘unpublish a page’ or ‘upload media files’.
An Admin has all capabilities — there’s nothing they can’t do. But the other User Roles have less and less capabilities.
So, why does WordPress have default User Roles made up of capabilities? Well, WordPress is designed to be something you can expand. If you want to hire other writers, developers or designers to log in to the backend of your website and do some work for you, you would grant them a specific user role that offers the capabilities they need.
(In fact, if you want to hire someone and give them access to your Thrive plugins, the new Access Manager feature makes that as easy as ticking a box).
Multiple User Roles:
There is one super important note that you need to know in order to restrict courses with a membership tool:
WordPress code allows multiple User Roles at once.
Yes, that means they can be a Subscriber as well as a Contributor.
The WordPress dashboard hides this option.
It rarely makes sense to give someone multiple roles, since an editor can do everything a contributor can (plus more). For this reason, you won't find an option in WordPress that easily lets you assign multiple roles.
But WordPress is still coded to allow it. Membership plugins may or may not utilize that code. It's up to the plugin developers to decide their approach. Depending on what you are trying to achieve and which tool you use, you might find this to be a limitation. If you are, you might find a workaround with plugins such as Multiple Roles, but we can't assure you this will work for every setup.
Remember: our integrations with SendOwl, MemberPress, Wishlist Member and MemberMouse will bypass any of these restriction issues you may run into.
Membership Plugins + WordPress User Roles
Each membership plugin or tool works its own way. There are no strict rules about how they should or should not operate and each one is different.
But many of the plugin developers have decided to leverage WordPress User Roles, or at least have the capacity to work with them.
Although this process hasn’t been tested with all membership plugins, we’ve done the first stage of research for you. Here are links to the documentation for each plugin that indicates how they work with WordPress User Roles.
Check out the documentation for your plugin and then see if you can make it work!
(There are even ways to expand on WooCommerce so purchases can grant a User Role.)
If your plugin isn’t listed here, it may still work. Simply dig around in the documentation for your plugin and see if they have any info on working with WP User Roles.
For those plugins that do expand on WordPress User Roles, they work by restricting access to certain pages or posts on your website only to users with the corresponding roles. That means they can create members-only areas and content only visible for paying customers.
Behind the scenes, there are two different ways that these types of membership plugins work:
- By creating additional user roles.
- By granting additional user roles.
In either of these cases, the membership plugin allows you to grant or revoke access to a User Role depending on the customer’s purchase status.
For example, by making a purchase, a customer could then be given a User Role for a limited time — say, 6 months — and then if they don’t renew their account, that User Role will be revoked, preventing them from accessing the paid content anymore.
Since most memberships fall into these 2 categories, let’s go through these setups.
Setup #1: Membership Plugin Creates Additional User Roles
Some membership tools will create their own additional user roles inside of your WordPress website.
For example, if you are using s2Member, then the moment you install and activate the plugin, it will automatically create 4 new User Roles on your website, named Level 1 - Level 4.
This is the simplest setup. Although Thrive Apprentice doesn’t have a specific integration designed for s2Member, you can use the ‘WordPress Role’ restriction and simply select which of those new membership levels you would like to restrict the course to.
It’s as easy as checking a box in the Apprentice Restriction rules.
Remember: a user can have multiple user roles, so they could be a Subscriber as well as a Member Level 2 at the same time.
S2Member will then grant that User Role to the customer upon purchase. Depending on how you set it up, if it’s a subscription or split pay model, S2Member will remove that User Role from the user if they fail a payment.
This way, Thrive Apprentice doesn’t have to do anything except look for that User Role.
Setup #2: You Need To Create Your Own Custom User Role
Other membership plugins won’t automatically create a user role when you install and activate them. Depending on which plugin you are using, you may still have the ability to assign a user role to a user based on their membership status.
In this case, you’ll need to create your own custom User Role.
For example, let’s look at using Active Member 360, a membership tool that works directly with Active Campaign.
Although Active Member 360 doesn’t primarily protect content based on User Roles, it does have this as an extra feature called ‘Role to Tags Mapping’.
This feature means a WordPress user role will be granted to a subscriber if they have a specific tag inside of Active Campaign.
However, there is no custom WordPress user role that exists yet.
You definitely do not want to use the admin, editor, author, or contributor roles — that would put your website content at risk — so instead you could use the ‘subscriber’ role. But you might want to reserve the ‘Subscriber’ role for other behaviors on your website.
So in this case, we’re going to create a custom User Role by duplicating the ‘Subscriber’ role. Here’s how:
Step 1: Download ‘Capability Manager Enhanced’
Capability Manager Enhanced is a free plugin you can find in the WordPress plugin repository, and it will permit you to create custom user roles.
If this plugin doesn’t work for you, there is a slightly more complicated plugin that will achieve the same results, and it’s called User Role Editor. It comes with a picture of masks… don’t ask me why.
Step 2: Duplicate Subscriber Role
With the Capability Manager Enhanced plugin activated, select: Users > Capabilities.
You’ll get a panel that shows you which capabilities are associated with which user roles. Now you need to duplicate the ‘Subscriber’ role. Why subscriber? Because that’s the most harmless role on your website.
To do this, make sure ‘Subscriber’ is selected and loaded in the top right hand corner. Once you have loaded the Subscriber role, choose a name for your new role under ‘Copy Subscriber Role’ and click ‘Copy’.
In this case, I’ve named the User Role ‘Wellbeing’, because this role will only be used to provide access to a course on the topic of Wellbeing.
Your customers will never see this name, so it just needs to be something you can identify.
Step 3: Connect Your Membership Level to That User Role
Again, we’re using Active Member 360 as an example, but each plugin will have a slightly different way of doing this. If you are unsure how, look at your plugin’s documentation.
In Active Member 360, we will return to the ‘Role To Tags Mapping’ feature. Here we will select our newly made custom user role ‘Wellbeing’, and associate it with a tag called ‘Status: Student’.
Now if that subscriber in Active Campaign receives the tag ‘Status: Student’, then they are automatically granted the User Role ‘Wellbeing’ inside of your WordPress website.
Note: With Active Member 360, you'll also need to set a membership level in the plugin options for the visitor logging into your website. This role-to-tags mapping is to permit a member to access a specific course.
Step #4: Restrict Course Access to Your Custom User Role
Now back inside of Thrive Apprentice, you want to enter the ‘Restrictions’ tab for your selected online course > Enable Restrictions > Create Rule.
By selecting ‘WordPress Role’, you will now see your newly made Custom User Role available in the list. Simply select this User Role, and click ‘Add Rule’.
Voila! Your membership plugin manages the customer's purchase status and Thrive Apprentice manages their course access.
New Membership Integrations
In the future, we will be expanding our custom integrations with more membership tools and directly with checkout tools that let you bypass the need for membership plugins entirely.
When we announce an integration, it means our developers have taken extra steps to create a deeper connection between Thrive Apprentice and that specific tool. A deep integration gets our tick of approval and we can offer support for it.
For example: if you have Wishlist Member, MemberMouse or MemberPress installed on your website, you’ll find those options appear inside of Thrive Apprentice's access restriction options to reduce the need for these extra steps.
But although our integrations make it even easier to set up access restriction rules, they are not the only way you can get a membership tool working with Apprentice.
Report Back With Your Results!
We haven’t tested this workaround with every tool in question — there are just so many out there — but if you are using a membership plugin, investigate your documentation to see what it says about WordPress User Roles and let us know if it works!
If your membership plugin does manage User Roles, then with a bit of effort this process should work… but we’d love to know if you find it successful.
Try it out and leave us a comment below so we can build a growing list of approved plugins.