Thrive Apprentice: The Past, Present and Future of Our Online Course Builder

Author 
David Lindop   124

You know how every major TV show has a flashback episode?

Well, this is ours.

Buckle up as we take you through the past, present and future of Thrive Apprentice, our online course builder for WordPress.

Thrive Apprentice? ... Yes, that’s right. Today’s post is exclusively about Thrive Apprentice!

You’re about to learn what’s just over the horizon for WordPress course creators everywhere. It’ll be game-changing. It’ll be trailblazing. It’ll be all yours with Thrive Suite!

More...

Looking Back at Thrive Apprentice

A long time ago...

... in a crowded WordPress theme market far away...

We launched a few WordPress themes with a powerful feature built right in: a way to add an online course to your WordPress blog.

We called this feature Apprentice.

This allowed anyone to build an online course for their audience using WordPress, and with a little marketing know-how, they could sell it too. For 2014, it was really neat.

However – sad piano music – as our focus moved away from individual themes, and more towards creating conversion-focused plugins, the Apprentice feature slipped further from our priorities. Eventually, we stopped selling those original themes entirely.

Then, when all hope seemed lost, Apprentice was reborn from the ashes as its own WordPress plugin: Thrive Apprentice!

Free from the constraints of any particular theme, Thrive Apprentice was finally able to grow and develop.

As we added more and more features, it became clear that Thrive Apprentice had so much more potential to disrupt the online course scene by giving everyone the opportunity to build a successful course-based business.

Let’s jump ahead to when things started to get really interesting for Thrive Apprentice.

Summer 2020

ThriveCart Integration

ThriveCart Integration

Sell your Thrive Apprentice online courses through ThriveCart* without any need for a 3rd party membership tool.

Learn more

Improved Your Customer List

An expanded Customer List feature to provide more versatility across  your course products. The improvements allow you to add and revoke access to specific courses, batch import customers, and manage your students better.

Learn more

Improvements to Your Customer List

Fall 2020

Hybrid Login / Registration Form Element

This new hybrid Login & Registration Form element comes with a library of Smart Color enabled designer-made templates, and support for all our popular 3rd party integrations. Oh, and it's also compatible with 3rd party user roles too!

Learn more

Student Login Screen Styling

Powerful customization options for the default WordPress login screen, so you can design a login experience that matches your brand. Think of it as a professional paint job, meaning no matter how unique make your login screen and website, the functionality of this form will remain the same.

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Student Login Screen Styling
WordPress User Data and Field Mapping

WordPress User Data and Field Mapping

Embrace custom fields to get more data into a WordPress user profile... and you can display that data dynamically whenever you need it too. Capture additional fields via registration or sign up forms, and recall it dynamically onto any page created in Thrive Architect or Thrive Theme Builder.

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New User Interface for Thrive Apprentice

A refreshed user interface makes building and managing your courses cleaner, sharper and leaves even more room for Thrive Apprentice dashboard expandability.

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New User Interface for Thrive Apprentice

Login / Logout Menu Options

Magically show or hide WordPress menu items based on whether a user is logged in or logged out. This update also adds a Log In / Log Out link that automatically changes based on the context of a user's status on your website.

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Professional Login Screen Templates

20 beautiful login screen templates to get started with. Pick the one that suits you and customize it to your heart's content!

Learn more

Winter 2020

Dynamic Course Labels

Dynamic Course Labels

Add dynamic labels to your Thrive Apprentice courses, allowing you to show different messages for restricted access (e.g. Free, Subscriber-Only, Premium), course status (e.g. In Progress, Completed), and even custom calls to action (e.g. Learn More, Buy Now!).

Learn more

Online Course Smart Landing Page Set

Another Smart Landing Page Set for Thrive Architect — specifically for online course creators — to make the intimidating business of launching & selling your courses easy. Just follow the tutorialized copy to know exactly what to write in every headline, paragraph & bullet point of your sales funnel.

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Online Course Smart Landing Page Set
New Apprentice Lesson List Element

New Apprentice Lesson List Element

A new Lesson List element based on the ground-breaking technology behind our Post List element. Use it with Thrive Apprentice or Thrive Architect to display visually editable, interactive course outlines. Of course, it comes with professionally designed templates too!

Learn more

Improvements to Customer List & Access Rights

Easier student access management, with quick links to remove users from courses, or add new and existing users in seconds.

Learn more
Improvements to Customer List & Access Rights
New Restricted Content Control

New Restricted Content Control

Visually edit and customize what visitors see when they try to access online course content without permission. Display custom content, redirect to a registration page, a login screen, or even a custom URL.

Learn more

Course Bundles for ThriveCart

You can now create course bundles in Thrive Apprentice when you sell them with our ThriveCart* integration. And what's more, when a customer buys a bundle, they will have their access immediately updated when courses are added or removed from the bundle.

Learn more
Course Bundles for ThriveCart

Spring 2021

Stunning New Course List Element

Stunning New Course List Element

Now you have a Course List element that can be added & customized anywhere on your website, with full visual editing capabilities! It supports powerful filter and search options, all matched to your choice of super flexible designer-made template.

Learn more

Visually Edit the Course Overview

The Course Overview page is now fully visually editable. Add anything you want between the 'About this course' title and the call-to-action button —including our pre-made Block template designs.

Learn more
Visually Edit the Course Overview
Duplicate Courses & Lessons

Duplicate Courses & Lessons

Now you can duplicate entire courses and specific lessons. This feature is perfect for creating variations on your existing courses quickly and accurately. Duplicating a course will duplicate all of the modules, chapters and lessons contained within, including all of their content, titles, images and media.

Learn more

Change URLs for Courses & Lessons

Reset or edit the URLs for both your courses and individual lessons with just a few clicks. Old URLs are automatically redirected so your visitors find their content. This is a great feature to pair with duplicating your courses.

Learn more
Change URLs for Courses & Lessons

Add Learning Resources to Your Lessons

Want to add learning materials, homework, and other study resources to your course lessons? The Resources feature supports adding links to URLs, file uploads (like PDFs and audio files), as well as internal site content. You also have total visual design control over how your Resources area appears on lessons! 

Learn more

WooCommerce Integration with Apprentice

This full integration with WooCommerce now allows you to sell your Thrive Apprentice courses without ever having to buy or subscribe to expensive checkout cart tools and membership plugins! This update is a game-changer for anyone wanting to get started selling their online courses quickly!

Learn more

* ThriveCart is not a Thrive Themes plugin. It’s an entirely different company that offers an excellent checkout and payment management tool.

The Present Day Thrive Apprentice

Looking back, I think you’ll agree that Thrive Apprentice is now a very different tool than when it was first launched.

Better features, better customization, better integrations, better UI.

It’s simply better in every single way!

Thousands of people are now building online course businesses using Thrive Apprentice — all with TOTAL entrepreneurial control inside WordPress.

Already, Thrive Apprentice is gearing up to be the only WordPress online course builder you’ll ever need.

Excuse us as we bask in the warm glow of these satisfied comments…

Thrive testimonial from Rob

So many excellent features. Grateful that my faith many months ago in going with Apprentice over other dedicated course plugins – on the basis that you would deliver on your promises in due course – has been borne out.

Cannot wait to put these new tools and features into action!

Rob ‧ Thrive User

Thrive testimonial from Andy

Just..... unbelievable. You guys are AMAZING. You have created a set of tools so that little guys like me can create a fully functioning online business, AND make it look good! I am so proud to be a Thrive member. Sending lots of gratitude your way.

Andy ‧ Thrive User

Thrive testimonial from Rob

Thank you very much. I've spun my wheels for months to understand how to do all of this. In just 1 day I created everything I needed to sell my courses.

behappy ‧ Thrive User

But we can’t stand around patting ourselves on the back for too long. Our arms will get tired and we still have lots of great features to add to Thrive Apprentice!

Over the past few months, our development team has been busy taking it apart, putting it back together again, polishing, augmenting, enhancing, breaking, fixing, and laying the groundwork for some really special upcoming features.

Now that Thrive Architect is the best visual landing page builder for WordPress, and Thrive Theme Builder is the best visual theme builder for WordPress…

... can you guess where we’re heading with Thrive Apprentice?

The Bright Future of Thrive Apprentice

It will come as no surprise to learn our mission is nothing less than transforming Thrive Apprentice into the best, most customizable online course builder available. Anywhere.

And that means FULL visual editing: course overviews, modules, lessons, the works. If it can be customized, we’ll find a way.

It means professionally designed templates you can apply to your online course to make it look stunning, with absolutely no coding or design training necessary.

It means the ability to make your Thrive Apprentice courses look exactly the way you want them to.

We want to give you complete design control.

From any other company, this probably sounds like marketing hyperbole. But if you’ve been a Thrive Suite user for any length of time, you’ll know this is just a typical Tuesday for us.

So what’s really in the pipeline for Thrive Apprentice?

Thrive Apprentice features are still under lock and key

Many game-changing Thrive Apprentice features are still under lock and key in our super secret research facility.

But coming up next is what we can reveal...

Malleable, Designer-Made Course Templates


Online course design is hard.

Learning-focused, completion-focused, and conversion-focused design is even harder!

Phew! That’s a lot of focusing.

But what if we could do this job for you?

That’ll free up a whole load of focus for writing and structuring your course material, setting up marketing funnels, writing supporting content, and well, making even more successful online courses!

Over the coming months, we’ll not only make Thrive Apprentice templates entirely visually editable… we’ll deliver a matching set of designer-made templates that completely re-imagine the look of online course platforms.

With these new templates, you can immediately launch your course with impressive course overview pages, modules, lessons and more. This will be Thrive Apprentice like you’ve never seen it before.

As with all professional templates found in Thrive Suite, you’ll also be able to customize your course templates to your heart’s content. Colors, styles, spacing, mobile responsiveness... everything. All in the same powerful visual editor you’re already familiar with.

Exciting LMS Features... the Way they Should be Done


When Thrive Apprentice was first released, we purposefully chose to avoid trapping our users in the incredibly complex Learning Management System space. Our philosophy was simplicity.

Your online course should be simple to build, simple to market, and simple to sell.

LMS’s, on the other hand, have traditionally tried to offer screen after screen of frustrating options and settings. Like a brand new pilot being asked to fly a 747 instead of a Cessna – you risk spending more time reading the manual, than actually building and launching your course.

So what changed?

We think Thrive Apprentice can offer LMS features the way they’re meant to be done… simple, intuitive, and entirely optional.

And optional is important... you don’t need fancy LMS features to launch a successful course. Plain old text and video lessons can still sell like hotcakes, and we don’t want you getting lost in the tech or distracted by shiny objects. But when the time comes that you do want more learner-centric LMS features, we’ll have your back.

Quizzes, dripped content and improved progress tracking just to name a few. No promises on exactly which features will be added – or when – to Thrive Apprentice, but we can reveal our team is currently working their magic on giving you the choice of how simple or feature-rich you want to make your online course learning experience.

To set your expectations: full visual course editing is the priority (it’s going to be awesome!), so expect LMS features to come after that, later this year.

But you don't have to wait until these advanced features are released... here's a great video showing how easy it is to build an online course using Thrive Apprentice right now.

Full Control Over Your Course Material, Design, Learners & Marketing


Ownership and control.

Possibly the two most important factors for building a long-term, profitable course-based business.

We’ve always urged you to retain ownership and control over every aspect of your course, whether that’s the teaching material itself, your design choices, or even the contact data of your learners.

With Thrive Apprentice, this won’t change. In fact, we’re building in systems and features to give you unprecedented control that you won’t find in most other online course platforms.

But why are ownership and control so important?

OK, gloves off time...

Hosted solutions like Teachable and Thinkific

You’re building your business on someone else’s platform, forced to comply with their terms of service, your course design is limited to only what they allow you to customize…

... AND you get to pay them for the privilege.

Online course marketplaces like Udemy and Skillshare

A race to the bottom. You’re building someone else’s business by giving up your great course material for them to discount, bundle, and even give away for free as part of their terms of service. You barely – if at all – get access to your customers’ data, because they’re not really your customers.

And don’t forget the devaluation of your brand when your course is sold alongside hundreds of $20 low-effort competitors.

WordPress LMS plugins like LearnDash and LifterLMS

Significantly better in the ownership department, these online course solutions are lacking when it comes to control. Sometimes they offer too much control over every irrelevant, minute detail, so you’ll need a Ph.D. in payment gateway APIs or WordPress user roles before you can even build your online course.

But mostly, they lack the design control you’ll need if you want to customize the look and feel of your course. LMS plugins are also pretty expensive with yearly subscription fees that rival Thrive Suite in cost… and you only get a single LMS plugin for that!

Simply put, today’s online course scene is begging for someone to come along and build a product that gives you full control over every. single. aspect. of your online course-based business.

Better Integration with other Conversion-Focused Tools in Thrive Suite


Successful course creators know that you can’t just build a course and wait for the sales to come rolling in.

“Build it and they will come” is a beginner’s trap. And it stops so many people from achieving their dream before they even get a chance to prove themselves.

Remember...

You’re not just building an online course.
 You’re building an online course-based business.

You have to take design and marketing super seriously.

That’s going to require great tools to help with design and landing pages (Thrive Architect), marketing (Thrive Leads), social proof (Thrive Ovation), and engagement (Thrive Quiz Builder). But more importantly, it’s going to take all these tools working together as an integrated solution to sell more of your courses and convert more customers.

We’ve already laid the groundwork for better integration by moving away from selling our WordPress plugins individually, to simply offering EVERYTHING together under Thrive Suite.

Next up is to bring Thrive Apprentice fully into the same total design control ecosystem that powers our other flagship tools. It’s nearly there!

And one more thing... 

We aren’t just building Thrive Apprentice into another online course plugin. We’re transforming it into an online course solution for marketers. That means all the conversion-focused bells and whistles you need to sell and deliver your course as a paid product.

We're already planning 3 steps ahead for high-converting features that will help you sell more courses, upsell your students, keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Are you serious about building your own business by teaching through online courses?

Thrive Apprentice gives you everything you need to build your online courses today. It's part of Thrive Suite, a collection of powerful WordPress tools to transform your courses into a successful online business.

What are you most excited for?

If you’re new to Thrive Apprentice, now’s the time to get onboard and build your first online course in WordPress. There’s some amazing things coming soon, and we’d love to see your business blossom and grow.

If you’ve been a Thrive Apprentice user for some time now, well you better hang onto your hat... things are about to get wild (in a good way!) We’re super excited to say thank you for your early faith in Thrive Apprentice, by making it the best and only online course builder you’ll ever need.

And if you’re just here to dream about starting an online business, you’re very welcome too! Drop us a comment below and we’ll be happy to share what we know.

by David Lindop  April 8, 2021

124

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    • Thrive Apprentice works as a standalone tool with any theme. It comes with our visual editor integrated for the courses so no need to use Elementor.
      But if you have it on your site already it should not interfere with Thrive Apprentice.

      (that being said, you risk wanting to switch everything over to Thrive and ditch Elementor but well… 😉 )

  • Are there plans to be able to integrate the headers used in theme builder and Architect with apprentice?

  • Great article. I am new to thrive apprentice and would be happy if you could integrate thrive apprentice with digistore24.

    • This year we’re focusing on adding tons of great features to Thrive Apprentice, and that might well include 3rd party fulfilment integrations.

      No promises to exactly which tools and when, but we’ll keep you updated when it happens!

    • Hello Oliver. See my reply to Roland on the same question…

      This year we’re focusing on adding tons of great features to Thrive Apprentice, and that might well include 3rd party fulfilment integrations.

      No promises to exactly which tools and when, but we’ll keep you updated when it happens!

  • I am so glad I purchased Thrive Themes! And I’m excited that you are maturing the Course management as I grow my business.

  • I loved Thrive Themes from the beginning and love it more as I go. I am most excited about dripped content options and integrations with other tools, like quizzes etc. Awesome!!!

      • Awesome article….
        and I’d like to request dripping content
        I am waiting for it since years. THANKS for the great work.

      • Another +1 to dripped content from Ulf 🙂 I’ll let our developers know it’s such a popular request.

      • I +1 the dripped content. Most consumers have great ambition and tend to power through content when given to them all at once. It’s a human tendency.

        There it all is…let me get after all of it as fast as I can.

        It’s essential, if a course creator wants to be successful, that he/she is able to get their customers to take action.

        Dripped content provides that simple control.

        Glad it’s on the roadmap. Maybe, since it’s such a hot request it can move up on the map.

      • + 1 to drip content too! I love Thrive products and integration with Thrive Cart and Woocommerce are amazing, but I use learndash because they have drip content. I’m waiting this to move my courses to Apprentice.

  • Apprentice does look fantastic!
    But until dripped content is made a part of it, I personally cannot use it.
    Releasing lessons in a planned and orderly fashion is essential to courses, in my opinion.

    But I am standing by….

    ==>Jim

    • Totally understand, Jim. Dripped content is a great tool for maintaining engagement and showing you’re adding value, but there are countless successful courses that don’t use it.

      Most advanced LMS features are great for enhancing the learner experience – and we’re really excited to be adding them to Thrive Apprentice – but I’d urge you to not wait on a single feature before building and launching a profitable online course.

      • Hi David, I take your point.
        I’m currently using Digital Access Pass for a couple of courses, but would prefer to consolidate everything here.

        My need for dripped lessons is not primarily about engagement, but reducing the incidence of people racing thru a course without putting the steps into action…
        … and thereby reducing cancellations and refunds.

        Courses and membership sites without dripped content don’t retain clients as well….

        Anyways, I’m not arguing with you, just expressing my personal opinion… ==>jim

      • I agree that dripped content is my biggest ask for Apprentice!

        Still…very excited to see the Road Map & the future development directions! <3

      • Your opinion is super valuable to hear, Jim. I love what you say about the need to encourage learners to put the steps in to action to see real results and reduce refunds. Great point.

        Dripped content is definitely on the roadmap

        In terms of our timeline, we’re focusing 100% on visual course editing first. That’s our priority and it’s coming in the next few months. LMS features come after that.

      • I already have courses built on another platform that use dripped content. I can’t migrate to Thrive Apprentice until that feature is added…

      • If you’re already running successful dripped courses, then yes, wait until we add it before migrating. In the meantime, let us know what else you’d like to see in Thrive Apprentice and we’ll share it with the team.

      • I’d like to see reminders triggered by an event.

        For example, if a Learner has done one or two lessons, but then hasn’t done any more, I’d like to be able to automatically send them an email or text reminder.

        There may be many situations where a trigger sending an email or a text could be extraordinarily beneficial to maintaining user engagement, course completion, as well as learners signing up for an additional course.

      • Guy I can’t go into specifics, but I predict you’re going to very happy in the not too distant future.

        Thanks for your suggestions and confirming that we’re on the right track!

      • Hi David,

        I’ve been following Thrive Apprentice for years. Another friend of mine has been in love with it and has been using it on her own website instead of LMS. I learnt from her trial and errors of using other products for WordPress 🙂 When we had a business idea with an online course in the family I immediately thought of Thrive Themes and Thrive Apprentice. It was perfect timing as you all made it ready for us :))

        Can’t wait for the dripped content feature!

        My husband really wanted to drip content but we went ahead with creating his course with what we got in Thrive Apprentice as he started with live sessions that we recorded to offer an evergreen course. For the first students, it was ideal (dripped content by force LOL).

        I agree with not waiting and start with something.

        I also agree with others here saying that dripping content makes sense in their situation. For instance, it would really benefit in my husband’s case as his course follows a certain path and skipping levels would be exactly the mistake people do when they learn on their own from different sources.

      • Thanks for sharing, Andrea. It’s great to hear so many real use cases for dripped content; it really helps us to understand how to prioritize and implement it.

    • Hey Jim, I’d just add to David’s reply that you -could- consider a workaround involving page protect/unprotection with a CRM (e.g. Infusionsoft, Active Campaign) to automate tagging users (whether live or evergreen) to give them orderly and predictable drip access to content over time. Coupla cents… 🙂

      • Thanks Daniel… I do use Active Campaign, and had not considered using AC tags as a drip mechanism… I’ll give it some thought, but my current system does drip very simply.

        Appreciate the help! ==>Jim

  • With regards to WooCommerce integration, what would be a GOOD solution to bring in affiliate management?

  • Thanks for this (the article, Apprentice, basically everything y’all do at TT!). I love how y’all design and create such wonderfully crafted software for us.

    Question: My struggle is that I want to have a community area on my site as well where people can connect with each other, talk about the courses (and coaching) they’re getting from me. This would also be regular monthly income.

    Do you have -any- plans to create a community area that would be integrated into Thrive Suite? I’ve seen Shane talk about how that is not a favorite strategy, in part because it can be a lot of time to maintain.

    But having a community area that’s integrated with Thrive Suite would be a complete game-changer for me..

    • Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for your suggestion. At the moment, we don’t have a plan to integrate community in our Suite.

  • I’m MOST excited about dripped content. My courses need that, so that’s the one feature that keeps me from migrating to Thrive Apprentice. I’ve been chomping at the bit!

    • Yet another +1 for content drip. I’d like to use it with my free course so users have multiple opportunities to see a pitch for my premium course. Would dearly love to see this bumped up the priority queue.

      • We’re working on some things behind the scenes that are a dependency for the drip feed feature so expediting the feature isn’t really possible. That said, it’s a “core feature” that we’re prioritizing as much as we can.

        When our drip feed feature that we’re planning is released, it’s going to make what you’re currently use seem so inflexible and basic.

      • That’s great news, Paul!

        I have a membership business model, so only with drip content Thrive Apprentice makes sense for me.

        Otherwise I would overwhelm new clients with content for 1 year..

  • Great update David. I use the entire Thrive Suite except for Apprentice because my clients require tracking of user (their employees) status and quiz results for safety training/liability reasons. So for that reason, I’ve had to use Learndash for the last year with this Fortune 25 client.

    Any suggestions on how I could integrate with another tool to meet these requirements. I much prefer the Apprentice interface and features.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Jeff. See my reply to a similar question from Lasse…

      Sounds like you’re describing corporate accounts, where a central organization manages and approves students. I’ve seen this work well for corporate training courses and other group-based learning. Sometimes it includes centralizing billing and progress reports.

      Right now, this isn’t a Thrive Apprentice feature, but it’s a great idea! I’ll pass it along to our team.

      I know MemberPress has a ‘corporate account’ plugin, and LearnDash has a