Demand for online education is surging in every industry.
E-learning has become more popular than ever, and it keeps growing.
Online education was modestly popular before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but global restrictions and stay-at-home orders kicked the industry into overdrive. Schools, universities, and corporations had to make all of their educational content available online. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Online education has since broken out of its organizational boundaries. It’s not just professors and corporate trainers who are setting up e-learning businesses. Creative professionals, blue-collar workers, and coaches of every kind are monetizing their knowledge through high-quality e-learning products.
If you have virtually any kind of skill or knowledge, there is likely an audience of students ready to learn from you – and pay for the privilege. One e-learning entrepreneur teaches students how to survive a zombie apocalypse online for $200. Only five thousand signups later, it’s become a one-million-dollar enterprise.
Developing a successful e-learning product of your own is an exciting and rewarding opportunity. Now more than ever, it gives almost anyone a chance to bootstrap a new business with almost no up-front costs or investment.
How the E-learning Market Works
E-learning has been around since 1999, but the technology that enables today’s entrepreneurs to create profitable educational enterprises from scratch is much newer.
Beginning in the late 2000s, top universities began offering access to online courses on their most in-demand subject. Harvard and Stanford were among these pioneers, giving users access to science, engineering, and business content – often for free.
On the technical side, these university courses were usually custom-built solutions at first. Over time, open-source alternatives like Moodle and TalentLMS made it possible for website owners to offer e-learning courses at far lower cost.
Leading up to 2020, major platforms like Udemy, Thinkific, Skillshare, Teachable, and Podia began offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that enable non-technical content creators to build their e-learning businesses from scratch. This made it possible for anyone to start creating, hosting, and selling content online with virtually no set-up fees, and no coding experience.
Of course, these are all for-profit businesses, and they compete with one another for the best content creators. Each one has a different pricing structure. For example:
- Udemy charges 50% of your course cost for organic course sign-ups that come through its high-traffic platform. It only charges 3% for purchases that come from coupons you send out.
- Thinkific charges a flat monthly fee based on course volume, technical features, and third-party integrations. You can host up to three courses for free, but must upgrade your subscription to increase that number.
- Skillshare pays creators through a monthly royalties program based on the number of minutes viewers spend on their content. It also offers a bonus for every referred student who goes on to purchase a Premium Membership.
Each of these payment systems are wildly different from one another and serve different needs.
Udemy charges a premium for the fact that its website generates lots of traffic. This might make sense for a content creator that doesn’t already have a built-in following of some kind.
Thinkific charges a flat monthly fee, but operates under a “bring-your-own-audience” policy. You may be able to keep more of your earnings, but you may have to work harder to get those earnings.
One of the most important steps to developing a successful e-learning product is selecting a content host that meets your needs. Identifying the resources and features you need can help you make the most of your decision.
Steps to Developing a Successful E-learning Product
There is a good reason why so many different platforms offer e-learning infrastructure to content creators. Different course creators can have different needs. Your students may have different expectations compared to a similar group of students studying the same subject on a different platform.
In order to succeed, you must position your e-learning service to meet students’ needs in a competitive way. Following these steps will influence your overall e-learning strategy and optimize its chances for success:
1. Analyze Your Students’ Needs
You should already have an idea about what kind of subject you can teach. Regardless of the skill or insight you want to pass on to other people, there a few questions you must ask first:
- Why does your audience need to learn about this subject?
- What kinds of problems do they usually face when trying to learn about it?
- How will they measure their success?
Taking the time to answer these questions can profoundly impact the success of your e-learning course down the line. If your course focuses on a group of people who share the same reasons for learning about the subject you’re teaching, you will be far better-equipped to help them achieve those goals.
2. Establish and Communicate Baseline Knowledge
Before you start recording course content, you need to consider how familiar your audience is with the subject you’re teaching. Should they already know the fundamental concepts and terms you plan on describing? Or will you start from scratch, assuming no prior knowledge whatsoever?
Baseline knowledge includes all of the information that you expect your students to know. Course creators must be explicit about how familiar they expect students to be. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing revenue as students turn away from course materials they feel are not suitable for them.
Many course creators offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of instruction. This is an easy way to segment your students into different categories and serve them content that meets their needs. It also sets up a handy funnel for guiding newcomers towards eventual mastery – selling them your course materials along the way.
3. Define Your Learning Objectives
Every lesson, unit, and course should achieve a relevant objective. You won’t be able to define a cohesive instructional plan without a well-defined set of goals you want students to meet as they consume your content.
Identifying these objectives will help you craft a lesson plan with balance. It won’t contain so many different elements that your students get intimidated and avoid signing up. Neither will it contain so few that your students wonder why they’re paying for it.
The best way to develop learning objectives for creating e-learning course content is by adhering to SMART criteria:
- Students should be able to immediately see the value of each course and its content. Use precise language to describe what learners will earn from your materials.
- The best objectives are those that offer measurable results. It’s not always easy to quantify the value of a learning objective, but take advantage of any opportunities to do so.
- Avoid over-promising on what your e-learning product can deliver. Good learning objectives take realistic timeframes and resources into account.
- You should be able to justify why each individual course is included in your e-learning product. Avoid including courses just because competitors do. Try to find out why they do, and whether you need to.
- Objectives must fit the time constraints of the e-learning product’s overall scope. Assign more time to longer, more complex subjects and less time to simpler ones.
4. Design Course Materials for the User Experience
You are now ready to start creating course materials. Whether you choose to format your videos in video, audio, text, or a combination of media, make the user experience priority number one.
Prestigious universities can get away with dense, difficult reading – although many are beginning to adjust their curricula away from it. Your e-learning product can not afford to be dense or difficult. Content creators who make complex subjects easy to consume are among the greatest successes of the e-learning industry.
This applies to any subject, in any discipline. The more accessible your content is, the better your students’ reception of it will be. Finding the right way to break complex subjects down into their most digestible and memorable elements is one of the most challenging tasks any educator has to face.
Consider creating prototypes of your course materials and getting feedback on them before publishing. The way you organize your content can have a significant impact on the learning experience and the success of your e-learning product overall.
5. Promote, Measure, and Improve
Many e-learning entrepreneurs only identify the right marketing vehicle for their products through costly trial and error. Some content creators spend months before stumbling across the right combination of messaging and positioning. Others never get there at all.
E-learning is uniquely compatible with data-driven marketing and evaluation. Since the product you sell is digital, you can capture user engagement data from customers in real-time. Analyzing this data will give you important insight when it comes to marketing and promotion.
Many e-learning professionals host their video content on digital asset management (DAM) platforms that offer individualized viewer analytics. This allows them to personalize messaging according to user behaviors – like sending reminder emails to students who didn’t finish a lesson. This kind of approach ensures that every student receives the individual level of attention they would expect from a brick-and-mortar institution.
Cincopa provides video hosting solutions for educators and e-learning entrepreneurs who value real-time user analytics. Find out how our platform can help your e-learning business thrive with a 30-day free trial.