If you’ve been following Thrive Themes for a while now, then you know we encourage new solopreneurs to create and sell online courses on their WordPress website.

And one of the reasons why we recommend this is because the barriers to get started are so low while the margins on course sales are high.

However, the power behind online courses isn’t limited to just paid products. You can use courses to help grow your audience, build your mailing list and even educate visitors about your brand too!

You can do this by hosting everything from Premium Courses to Lead Magnet Courses to Brand Education Courses using our Thrive Apprentice online course plugin integrated with the SendOwl digital product delivery and payment gateway tool.

But first, let’s look at how these three different types of courses can be used across your online course based business...


The 3 Levels of Course Access Restriction

What do I mean by this? Well, you need 3 increasingly exclusive levels of course access restriction if you want to use online courses to their fullest potential to grow your business.

The 3 different categories of course access restriction levels are:

  1. Unrestricted Courses: (i.e. all internet visitors have instant access). You can use these courses to help educate new visitors about your brand for the purpose of audience building or new client onboarding.

    NOTE: Check out this post on the many ways you can use online courses to grow your business.

  2. Subscriber Only Courses: (i.e. only visitors who create a free account on your WordPress site have access). Subscribers get immediate access to your course after entering their email address, creating a password and joining your email list.

  3. Premium Courses: (i.e. only paying customers have access). Use these high value courses as revenue generating info-products for your online business. (Learn the difference between what you should offer as free vs paid content here).

    NOTE: This premium course feature is only available in Thrive Apprentice if you integrate our plugin with another 3rd-party membership service or tool. However, Thrive Apprentice offers a deep integration with SendOwl for this which is what we recommend for selling premium courses.

So how do you set these different levels of course access restriction up using the new rules feature in Thrive Apprentice? It goes a little something like this...

If Your Thrive Apprentice Plugin IS NOT Integrated with SendOwl

For Thrive Apprentice users that aren’t using the SendOwl integration mentioned above, the new rules feature only allows you to create Unrestricted and Subscriber Only Courses within your Thrive Apprentice Dashboard.

First of all, all your newly created Thrive Apprentice courses are set to unrestricted access by default so if that’s what you need for a particular course, no need to change anything. 😉

However, if you need to limit course access to Subscribers Only (e.g. for the purpose of growing your email list as a lead magnet), it only takes a few clicks to set this rule up.

Start by opening whatever course you’d like to restrict access to in your Thrive Apprentice Dashboard. Then click on the “Access Restriction” tab:

Open your online course in the Thrive Apprentice Dashboard and click on the "Access Restrictions" tab.

A “Restrict access” toggle button will appear so go ahead and click that slider button.

In the dropdown menu that comes up, click on the grey “Add Rule” button:

Toggle the "Restrict access" slider button and then click on the grey "Add Rule" button.

Next, another menu will appear in your dashboard showing a single “WordPress Role” button. Click it to find a selection of WordPress role checkboxes (Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber).

Tick the “Subscriber” WordPress Role followed by clicking the “Add Rule” button.

Now finalize your new course access restriction rule by clicking the “Save” button in the bottom right-hand corner of the dashboard:

Select the "WordPress Role" option, tick the "Subscriber" checkbox, click the "Add Rule" button and finalize your Subscriber Only access restriction rule change by pressing "Save".

Once the new rule is saved, only visitors who register for your course with an email address and password will gain Subscriber access to it.

And that’s all there is to setting up any Thrive Apprentice course as list building lead magnet!

If Your Thrive Apprentice Plugin IS Integrated with SendOwl

Now, let’s say you’ve already integrated Thrive Apprentice with SendOwl, here’s how course access restriction works for you…

Just like before, open any course you’d like to restrict access to in your Thrive Apprentice Dashboard.

If you want to apply Unrestricted or Subscriber Only access to a course, follow the steps described in the previous section.

However, if you want to apply Premium Course access restriction through your SendOwl account, do the following.

Same as before, click on the “Access Restriction” tab, toggle the “Restrict access” slider, and click the grey “Add Rule” button.

Now you’ll see access restriction rule options for your Thrive Apprentice courses:

  1. SendOwl Product
  2. SendOwl Bundle
  3. WordPress Role

Select the "SendOwl Product" option, tick your respective SendOwl Product name checkbox, click the "Add Rule" button and finalize your Premium Course access restriction rule change by pressing "Save".

If you’ve already created a corresponding “Product” for a course in your SendOwl account dashboard, a checkbox will appear once you click on the “SendOwl” product button.

Now just tick the corresponding online course product checkbox, click the “Add Rule” button and finalize your new premium course access restriction rule by clicking the “Save” button.


Check out the following GIF to see all the steps of the new access restriction rules feature in action:

With the new Thrive Apprentice rule feature, you can easily restrict access to your courses for paying customers (Thrive Apprentice + SendOwl integration only) or registered subscribers to your WordPress website.

How to Setup a Course Signup Form (That Connects With Your Email Marketing Service)

In the comments, many of you were confused on how exactly to set up a signup page and connect this to your own email marketing solution so people get access to the course AND get added to your list. 

The following video shows you exactly that:

As you can see, Thrive Architect allows you to easily create this form and have nice looking, conversion focused landing pages for each and every one of your free video courses.

Now You Have The Power…

...to use online courses in all the ways you need to build your info-product empire.

If you’ve only been using your Thrive Apprentice courses as lead magnets to grow your email list, why not check out our deep integration with SendOwl and try and sell your own premium online courses — straight from your WordPress site!

If you need any help getting started, sign up for our own premium course on how to build your own info-product empire: Course Craft.

Have a question about this new Thrive Apprentice course access restriction rule feature? Leave it in the comments section below!

About the Author

Matt's a geologist turned online marketer and digital nomad. He's a Modern Manimal on a mission to cultivate a wild lifestyle – by design. When away from his tech, you can find him studying movement through practices like Aikido, AcroYoga and Barefoot Running.

  • Can you clarify please Matt. You said “you can only use Premium Option if you have integrated with Send Owl”? I’m hoping you meant to add “or any other suitable payment/delivery tool”? Thanks.

    • Hey Nick,

      As for restricting access for premium courses, this particular “Add Rule” feature in the Thrive Apprentice Dashboard only applies to SendOwl integrated courses.

      Of course you can setup access restriction through other membership plugins, but you won’t be able to do it from the “Add Rule” feature in the Apprentice Dashboard.

      However, all Thrive Apprentice users will be able to set up “WordPress Role” access restriction rules with this new feature.

      • Hmm. I’m a little confused. So you HAVE to have some kind of membership plug-in? The thing is i’m avoiding the send owl option because that’s another $9 a month.

        I have a digital delivery set up with chec.io for other products. I like this, because there is no monthly fee, so if you don’t make any sales it doesn’t cost anything.

        I think the thing i’m stuck on is whether or not the ‘membership’ thing IS required or it’s a bit of a red-herring.

        So, let me think, if i can do this…

        1. Payment form
        2. Trigger Email automation with set up instructions
        3. Direct buyer to course to create an account
        4. Log in as a subscriber

        Would that work or am i missing something?

      • Hi Nick,

        I’m not familiar with Check.io but if you can after payment send them to a WP account creation form (like I show in the video) then you can have them create an account and they will get access to the course. Now that being said, you’ll only be able to have one course setup like this (if not people would get access to all of the courses that subscribers have access to) so it’s far from airtight.

        Another “hack” might be to have another plugin that creates specific user roles and then have a course linked to a specific role.

        To be honest, that’s a lot of hacking to avoid $9/Mo 😉 But let us know if you found a good setup.

      • Thanks for trying at least Hanne. Agree in principle about the hacking, but all those $x’s per month add up and when you’re not generating any income it would be foolish to keep adding to them. I’ll figure something out i’m sure.

      • Then I would focus on creating that course and selling it (even just on a password protected page on your site) no need for a complicated setup (and wasting time and money on it) before you have something that sells!

  • So this feature is available only integrated with sendowl???

    When we could see a thrivecart integration????

    • Hi Umberto,

      This particular “Add Rule” feature now allows you to set up SendOwl integrated Premium course access restrictions as well as WordPress Role access restrictions from the Thrive Apprentice Dashboard.

      A ThriveCart integration with Thrive Apprentice is on its way, but I can’t give you a date for that yet.

  • I love Thrive, primarily because I don’t have to use anything else. The integration and functionality of the entire Thrive product family is fantastic. The inability to protect content has been the only exception. This hasn’t been fixed because having to use SendOwl (or their equivalent) isn’t a solution. I’m disappointed.

    • What we need is form like Thrive leads/box we could add to any page to get access. Sounds simple enough. I wonder if a workaround might be to have an instant pop up with “required” fields and no close box option?

      • Hello Nick,

        Do you mind if I seek some clarification so I’m 100% clear what you’re trying to achieve?

        My understanding is that you’d like the following:-

        1) A registration form that’s displayed sitewide
        2) On signup the user’s details would be sent to your mailing service
        3) The user would then be redirected to a specific Apprentice course
        4) This specific course would be available for free and operate as a lead magnet

        Is there anything I’m missing from your requirements?

      • Yes Paul, that’s right, although, more – ideally – specifically:

        3. The user would then be redirected to a course registration page
        4. This specific course would be available for free (to those registered) and operate as a lead magnet

  • Up until now, I am using Membermouse Plugin to handle the access restrictions and Sendowl to handle the payment and the VAT part of the payment and its documentation.
    Does this now mean I no longer need another plugin to handle access restrictions for paid courses?

    • Hi Ulf,

      If you’re already using SendOwl for payment and VAT, I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t also use it for your access restriction.

      This would eliminate your Membermouse monthly expense while also streamlining your access restriction setup.

  • Hmm, ok, so with the subscriber-only option, someone needs to click on the ‘Register a new account here’ link right? But that refers to a WP account yes? Can that link (or another) be set up, so you can add a mailing list subscriber form that is integrated with your email automation provider? If not then it seems a bit complex and confusing to set up access as a Lead Magnet as you allude to. Is this piece of the jigsaw missing* or am I just missing it? Thanks.

    • Hi Nick,

      Yup, you can integrate Thrive Apprentice with your email marketing tool so that when a new subscriber registers for your “WordPress Role” restricted course, that email also gets tagged and added to your email marketing service (like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp).

      • Thanks. I am familiar with Email automation and setting up Thrive Leads forms etc, but i’m not quite getting ‘how’ you connect your subscription form with apprentice or WP log in.

      • Hi, I have a problem as I don’t have in my lead generation/more option the button “connect to multiple services”. I double checked the API and I have both of them active…

      • Does that mean we could manually add people to an existing course, now using Thrive Apprentice? Or could existing members have a link to get their own password to access course resource area?

      • If people are already a subscriber “member” of your site then you could just send them the link to the course, yes.

  • What is not clear to me is how you would connect Thrive Apprentice to your email marketing software so that every person who signs up for a given course is added to a given list.

    If people subscribe as WP users, they don’t automatically get on your email list in the email marketing software, so I must be missing a step there…

    • [UPDATED] Hi Lorenzo,

      You can add an extra service to the connection.

      I added a video on how to do it in the post.

      • Sorry the link got stripped 🙁 But I now made a video tutorial that I added to this post. Hope that helps!

      • O…k…but that connects WP users to Thrive LEADS, it does not connect the email marketing software to APPRENTICE, does it?

        People register to the courses via a single, universal registration page, NOT via a Thrive Leads form.

        Am I missing something? You didn’t add the link for the tutorial.

      • Sorry the link got stripped 🙁 But I now made a video tutorial that I added to this post. Hope that helps! Let me know if you still have questions.

        You’ll see in the tutorial that I’m not actually using the universal registration page (I don’t think that’s the best user experience in this case.)

      • Thanks Hanne, the video was very helpful!

        Follow-up question: how does Apprentice differentiate between contacts that are subscribed to Free Course A from the ones that are subscribed to Free Course B?

        From what I can tell, it doesn’t and people subscribe a single time for ALL free courses, correct?

      • That’s correct. If you want different access for different free courses you would need to use different (sub)-domains and different installations of Thrive Apprentice.

      • Hanne, it would be better when we could give access to different courses under one domain. In my case, I don’t want to give access to all my free courses for everybody.

        Background: I want to create bonus courses for those users who bought under my affiliate-link.

        Creating a separate sub-domain and Apprentice installation for each course is not a nice solution in my opinion.

        Therefore it would be great if you guys could implement something to control that. I would be really happy about it. 🙂

      • Sorry the link got stripped 🙁 But I now made a video tutorial that I added to this post. Hope that helps!

      • Sorry the link got stripped 🙁 But I now made a video tutorial that I added to this post. Hope that helps!

      • Hanne, thanks for the tutorial. With this setup, it seems we have to send them to the landing page first. What if we want to send them directly to the courses page first? In that case, I’m not seeing a way to send them back to our landing page to signup since the Thrive Apprentice signup form and bottom doesn’t appear to be editable.

      • Hi Stephen,

        Yes that’s right, the universal registration page is not editable ATM (it’s something that will get fixed in the future). So I would suggest making a really nice landing page that “sells” your course well (you can put the outline on the landing page eg.) and use the technique outlined in the video.

        In any case, a landing page will do a much better job at making people sign up for your course than the course overview page will.

      • Have you tried to test the described setup with double-opt in? GDPR-wise the user needs to confirm that he wants to access the course. If i set it up with double-opt in – the user will not be registred in wordpress. Or am I missing something?

      • Double opt-in is about the email service. So they would already have created their WP account (and thus have access to the course) but they still would need to confirm whether or not they want to be on your email list.

  • Hi Matt,

    What if I’m using Wishlist Member? Does it simply take the place of SendOwl on that list?

    • Hi Andrew,
      We’ve been discussing with the ThriveCart team on how to best implement the integration and they’ve been working on their API so we can hook into it.
      Long story short, we will be able to start working on it from our side now.

      • Hanne & Matt,

        Thank you for all the hard work delivering world class products. I truly appreciate the article and the good news you share about the upcoming ThriveCart integration.

        Best regards.

      • Approximately how long do you think we are away from this? Thanks Mat

      • Thanks, Hanna, and while we eagerly await the Thrive Cart integration update, are you guys also looking into something like CartFlows?

      • As an integration you mean? Or doing something similar within our suite?

      • My client is needing this feature and I’m weeding through workarounds right now. I’m wondering if it would just be best to wait? Is the release a few weeks or a few months?

      • A few months rather than a few weeks because an update needs to happen on ThriveCart’s side for the integration to work well. We’re pushing it through as fast as we can, though.

      • Hi Hanne – I can’t see the dates of the previous posts – would also love the thrive cart integration. Any more info on the ETA? Today is 23-04-2020. Many thanks!

      • Hi Hanne,
        Thank you for putting this on your development list.
        Much appreciated

      • Exciting! Really looking forward to ThriveCart integration! Would be awesome to use ThriveCart natively with Apprentice (just like Sendowl does)

      • I am not Steffen, but I can answer it: DigiMember itself is a membership plugin that uses Digistore24 as the payment processor.

      • So is it possible to define WordPress roles with Digimember and integrate it this way with Apprentice?

  • One question I have is how the email from the subscriber is tied to my email provider so I can respond with a thank you email automatically.
    As you know, you can’t add a Thrive Leads capture in the course content so I’m interested in knowing the best method to tie it together.

    Great Post Matt and It’s just exactly what I was looking for right now!

    Enjoy the day

    • Hi Russ,

      I added a video that shows how you can connect your email marketing tool with the WP signup form. That will allow you to send a specific welcome email to specific course subscribers.

      Let me know if you have any other questions about this.

      • Hanne, thanks for the video.

        But the way you demonstrate it is for single opt-in only.

        Here in Germany, we need to use a double opt-in process to add subscribers to a newsletter.

        Could you explain the process for DOI, please? I guess instead directing them directly to the course page we need to send the user to the thank you page first and link the confirmation link to the course page. Is that right?


  • Normally people leave enthusiastic comments when you release a new feature. Now I only read comments about needing integrations with other payment methods than SendOwl. I second that. I would like to see a Woocommerce integration before I start using Thrive Apprentice for myself or will recommend it to my customers.

    • Thanks for your feedback.

      We’re fortunate to have a very vocal community that helps us develop the most important features next.

    • Same feeling here. Instead of restricting content based on WordPress user roles, it would be great to have access linked to people who have successfully completed a WooCommerce purchase. Right now if I have 100 courses, I need 100 WordPress user roles to make Thrive Apprentice work.

  • Thanks guys – this is a definite improvement.

    I’m now able to lock down my premium courses even more securely by restricting access via a WordPress Role. There was a bit of a gap in the system that I had to workaround before to fully protect a course using ActiveMember360…but this is more elegantly solved now.

    For anyone waiting for their favourite membership plugin to integrate directly with Thrive Apprentice, keep in mind that if your plugin directly integrates with WP Roles capability (like ActiveMember360 does) you now have an added alternate way to lock down your courses.

    Otherwise, SendOwl seems quite inexpensive…so I wouldn’t let the cost hold you back if you’re serious about selling a premium online course from your own site. Just my experience and extra 2 cents 😉

    • Thanks Mike,

      Great to hear your experience.

      We’re doing our best to test and try with as many membership plugins/payment solutions as possible, but we can always use input like this to help other users too!

  • Is there a way to hide a course’s chapters and lessons for non-logged in users? I know they cant click in to view the actual content, but I don’t want them seeing the chapters and lessons either. I would like non-logged in users to only see the top tier Module. Is this something that can be accomplished by the SendOwl integration? I hope I am making sense…
    I also have other pages not included in the course that I don’t want people to access unless they have bought the course. Is this possible?

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Yes you’re making sense and unfortunately that’s not possible at this moment.
      We’re looking into it to see what the best solution would be to accomplish this.
      SendOwl with Thrive Apprentice will only protect the course content, not other pages on your site.

  • This is a great new addition to the Apprentice lineup! Thank you! I’m still a bit new to the various forms of integration, so please forgive me if this has already been mentioned. If I’m using WishList member with Woo Subscriptions, can the three “levels” still be obtained?

    • Hi Lani,

      I’m not 100% familiar with that exact setup but independent of what tools you’re using for your paid courses, you’ll be able to set up the free course for subscribers.

  • Hi, do you know a way to cache videos? I need to creat a elearning platform that will work in an android app. And what I am looking for is that the studen can access a video class wile in airplane mode.
    Something similar to Netflix.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Hello Matt. Thanks for the new feature. I recently have been building a couple of courses for one of my clients and we got SendOwl and Apprentice, BUT had to drop it because they do not offer support for our Payment Gateway, Authorize.Net. I have also had to drop use of Apprentice and built a course routine with “Easy Digital Downloads”. It has given us the ability to restrict standard WP pages access to purchasers of different course programs. Would love to see an integration that would enable us to go back to using Apprentice rather than the way we have cobbled our courses together. Thank You.

      • any ideas on the timeline for that? i am using sendowl right now but am really not happy with the customization options for the checkout pages and also that you can only have one upsell for each product. so would really love to migrate to thrivecart

  • This is wonderful! I reached out to Send Owl and asked what plan could I get to add the subscriber-only restriction but they said it couldn’t be done only with their service. They said I needed a membership plugin on top of Send Owl.

    I was kind of bummed because I needed to do more research and spend more money.

    But now, I don’t have to do that. Thank you so much for everything you guys do! I love your products!

    – Jonathan

  • The SendOwl integration looks slick! But are other payment integrations available? Most of my clients already use SamCart, Thrive Cart or ClickFunnels w/ Stripe?

  • Since SendOwl is not the best option for people outside of Europe and North America, I still pray that you create other integration options or a “ThriveCart” that I can link with some Brazilian payment gates.

    • Hi Cubo,

      What would be a good solution for Brazilian payment gates?
      We’re looking into integrations based on demand (and on feasibility of course 😉 )

  • Hey Matt

    Great new feature and step by step video

    Love the way Apprentice is constantly developing.



  • This looks great. I’ll echo some of the requests for ThriveCart integration – glad to hear that is in the works. I would also love to see ProductDyno as an integration, but could get by with just TC.

  • Hi ThriveThemes Team,

    When you first introduced the ThriveApprentice/SendOwl integration it was impossible to properly protect restricted content. So I went for MemberMouse. That being said, it’s great that you have now enhanced the protection features.

    But if I am already using MemberMouse to restrict access to premium content, why would I now switch to SendOwl?

    And if you could clarify why you are biased toward SendOwl as opposed to MemberMouse (or other membership softwares) that would be great. What’s the motivation? Do you not use MemberMouse yourselves to control you ThriveThemes Memberships?

    • Hi Izak,

      No need to change if you’re happy with MemberMouse but this is the reason why we recommend SendOwl.
      You’re right that we use MemberMouse to deliver our software, but we had to do a lot of custom coding and integrations to make it tax compliant, to have an affiliate program, … so we can’t actually recommend it for the solopreneur.

  • Another interesting new development. How does GDPR affect offering subscriber-only free content to people in the EU? Am I right in thinking you can’t do it? (I’d love to be wrong.)

    • Hi Clive,
      You have to check with your lawyer, but the way we interpret GDPR is that as long as you make it very clear that they sign up for an email list, they can simply choose not to do so.

  • I’ve just watched also Hanne latest video on Apprentice.

    The whole team deserve a huge congrats, thanks, you thrive!!!

    I’ve made a simple solution without SendOwl to go even further on my bootstrap strategy:

    – “Capability Manager Enhanced” Plugin

    I copy the subscriber role to a customer role and then manage paid clients with this role(or any other that I would like to add).

    I have a few clients that I offer some kind of consultation-coaching, so while I’m not offering a course that is no need for an automated process and the cost of SendOwl (that I know that they are really nice and affordable).


  • This is a good add-on. I am curious about the subscriber version though. If I only have the choice of using WordPress or SendOwl, how do I use this with my autoresponder?

    It may be possible, but the video didn’t explain this.

    Thank you,

    • Hi David,

      If you use the WP option, you can see in the video above how to create a signup form that then also connects to your email provider.
      For SendOwl, they have integrations with email providers so the moment someone buys they get added to your email list.

  • Thank you, Matt, for this update and the complementary video.

    You are as perfect as Brad, David, Hanna, and Steph in simplifying Thrive Themes products.

    Reading through the comments, I saw here Hanna answered a question regarding Thrive Cart integration, so that answered part of my question, which is, can I in the time being, use the embed functionalities of both Thrive Cart and Thrive Themes in place of Send Owl?

    As a matter of fact, I’m going to try it this afternoon.

    Good job at Thrive Themes, Shane and his team, rock!

  • If you already use ActiveMember360(membership software WordPress), you have also a same kind of option as with SendOwl. You can use the Role to Tag mapping in ActiveMember 360 (integration with Active Campaign and WooCommerce). And else you have a new idea 😉

  • Currently I am using Gumroad (to process payment) to sell eBooks along with Active campaign. I am considering to launch some courses using apprentice. I was wondering if I can keep using Gumroad + Active campaign for handing payment and user accounts with Apprentice.

  • Hi – so I have several courses on a different platform (Kartra). I want to switch to Thrive Apprentice. That means I’d like to take my existing (Kartra) customers and add them to “mirror” versions of those courses that I am re-creating in Thrive Apprentice.

    I am transferring those customers to ConvertKit email lists (specific to each product). Is there any way to tranfer those email list members as a block import to each of the relevant membership products in Apprentice?

    There are several advantages I’m looking forward to AFTER this migration – but it seems I might be stuck in the situation of manually adding each individual customer by assigning them each a Word Press role specific to each membership course….?


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