Educational business share in the Web is growing exponentially. There are thousands of online courses already available for users and the number will continue growing as getting educated online becomes the best option for those who have no time on attending offline courses.
Nowadays, online courses are common and became the best way to get profession of get proficient in some kind of field. And the best way to monetize online courses is to run a membership site. To ground this, let’s analyze all other ways of monetizing online courses.
Ways of Earning on Online Courses
There are several types of online courses:
- Individual lessons via Skype
- Flipped courses
- Hybrid courses
- Membership website
E-book dedicated to education is the simplest way to monetize online course. Of course, it is not easy to write an e-book and include all your competence to it in a simple and convenient for user way. However, once you have written an e-book your job is almost finished – you only need to bring some marketing efforts to sell your book.
The thing is no matter how high your sales rates are – once your e-book is sold you are done with a user that bought it. You won’t earn from him anymore (just in case he was satisfied with your e-book he may buy your next book – that’s all). And when you choose e-book as a way of your competence monetization the person that bought it faces following disadvantages of educating from e-book:
- Misunderstanding – if there is something he did not understand he has no convenient way of asking a question. He only can write you in case you leave contacts but here is where you face with disadvantage – if you decided to answer all the question you will spend hundreds of hours on answering them.
- Content gets outdated – if your e-book has been written 6 months ago, there is a possibility that info you provide is already outdated especially if it concerns e-marketing. Of course, there are things that remain actual always, but all in all we usually see that trends and techniques are being updated or changes very often – so user that bought you e-book is not aware about new effective techniques. It is not your fault, but it is a common problem for e-book.
- User comes face-to-face with your e-book and there is no one around to help or support him – this can be demotivating for most of people. It won’t affect your sales rate as book is already sold, but it highly affects value of your book for user.
To sum up, when dealing with e-book user pays once for structured information which he has to process on his own without any support. I am not trying to bring discredit on the idea of e-books – I am just trying to be fair about vulnerabilities of this kind of monetization and education method both for client and supplier.
However, there are some strong sides for e-book both for user and author:
- E-book is to be written once – you can add revisions from time to time but the main work is already done when e-book is finished.
- Information is structured and user can always get back to the chapter he did not understood for better consideration.
- Purchasing any e-book is definitely cheaper than going to online courses.
Webinars are live broadcasts where there is one lector and numerous students. Once lector finished with the lecture users can start asking questions and begin kind of discussions. Actually, it is like a common lecture in university limited by technical issues – as it can be demanding to provide for students an option to ask questions and lead discussion with voice – so usually only chat is available for them.
Let’s consider strong side of webinars both for students and author:
- Listener can ask questions during the translation and get answers.
- Broadcast is live so there is an option to make lecture interactive.
- Listener usually gets permanent link on webinar video which he can watch after webinar ends in case did not attend it or if there are some questions remaining.
- Webinar lasts 1,5-2 hours and author can get prepared to it by making a plan.
And here are the disadvantages of webinar courses:
- Webinars are scheduled, so time-frames webinars are conducted limited which means that not all potential students can participate in webinars.
- There are usually technical issues appearing during webinar session due to high load.
- Technical limitations do not allow listeners to participate in webinar in the most convenient way, so questions and discussions to be led in text – and due to time limitations not all questions to be asked.
- There is no opportunity to provide individual approach as webinar is conducted for group, not a single person.
- There is no option for webinar supplier to protect the content.
- Number of students that can be accepted per webinar is limited due to technical reasons.
This is not the full list of minuses of such an approach. One of the biggest disadvantages for webinar courses is the fact that education is scheduled and not all students can fit to the given schedule.
Individual Lessons via Skype
This is the kind of remote education you can name most convenient for student, but although least convenient for education provider. It usually looks like a face-to-face interaction when tutor and student are having a discussion and after lesson student gets homework which is being checked and revised by tutor during net lesson.
There are advantages for this kind of learning:
- Tutor only needs to be competent in the issue and have a plan for lessons.
- Student gets all tutor’s attention and can have an individual approach.
- Lesson’s time can be revised by tutor or student in case of need.
However, there is one huge minus for you as an education provider – this kind of learning cannot be scaled unless you hire other tutors – which is already another kind of business. One person can only educate one student per hour – no more. And your income is limited with hours you spend tutoring and that is probably not what you want.
Flipped courses usually look like recorded videos with lectures or practical tasks solved. It is type of education which considers you as a provider to record tons of video with all necessary info concerning the field which then can be viewed by your subscribers/clients. Once you start such courses you need to make sure all types of questions that may arise are answered in videos you make.
Let’s list advantages of flipped courses:
- Your job that relates to content ends when you record all necessary videos.
- Video clip is the best and most popular way to transfer information which is very convenient for student.
- It is very easy to update video and make changes to it if needed.
Now, let’s consider disadvantages and problems you and students face when dealing with flipped courses:
- It is not very convenient to search necessary information in video compared to text content. When dealing with text content you can find any issue using ctrl+f and entering keywords, while in video you have to find the frame that contains information you need.
- Student is standing alone during education. He has no convenient way to discuss or clarify issues that arise – if only you do not leave an option to give feedbacks and answer questions. In such a case you face the same problem like with publishing e-book – you need to waste tons of time to answer questions on your own.
- Just like with e-book – content in course can get outdated and you need to make changes continuously and provide updates for current students.
So, when starting flipped courses you face the same problems you have when writing e-book. The only significant advantage is that video content is easier to understand as you have more tools to explain the essence of issue and even to show how to solve it.
Hybrid courses comply strongest features of face-to-face classical education and advantages of remote education. Usually that means that students get theoretical materials which they have to learn on their own while all issues and questions are solved and discussed during online lessons – those can be either webinars or Skype lessons.
Advantages of such a way of learning are obvious – by combining remote lessons with self-dependent learning both students and service providers get more benefits compared to situation when only one way of learning is provided.
However, let’s list advantages:
- All theoretical materials are given for student’s stand-alone learning, so he has not pay for lesson with tutor where all of these things are described, while service provider doesn’t waste resources on theory.
- All issues and questions are discussed and clarified during online lessons or webinar.
- Tutor usually only need to be competent enough to answer questions arisen and have a plan of lesson/webinar.
However, some disadvantages of these two combined methods for hybrid courses still remain to be the same:
- Limitation for number of students that can be tutored – no matter whether hybrid courses are provided for group or one student – there are still technical limitations either for webinars listed above and scale issues for individual lessons.
- Limitations due to scheduling – learning process is limited by schedule – and nothing can be done with it, so student cannot delay learning and has to fit to time frames.
Although, mentioned above types of online courses bring results and allowed many people to get educated there are still mentioned above disadvantages and problems that exist. Therefore there are limitations and problems that need to be solved. And educational membership site is the kind of business model that allows business owner to solve most of them.
Online courses for membership site differ from all above types of services with three main features – limitless, flexibility of educational process and subscription monetization model. These features are considered by the essence of membership site. Why?
Membership site is kind of a social network dedicated to specific subject. And due to possessing all features that social network has it offers incredible opportunities for leading discussions, sharing and creation of content.
Due to the structure of membership site you can customize content dripping, membership issues and all other features that allow you to manage membership website.
Starting online courses on membership site means you need to make a clear and easy-to-use navigation within content available and it takes much time and efforts to create a structure content in the way that will fit best for educational purposes.
Advantages of membership sites:
- Limitless number of students (subscribers) learning simultaneously.
- An area for discussion process, an ability to answer to frequently asked questions in an article available for all members.
- An ability to answer questions of students 24/7 due to existence of community in a membership site.
- Stability – you know the moment you reach break-even point.
- Scale is not limited – your job is to provide content and scale of business depends only on your marketing skills and educational program value.
- Students can choose schedule on their own as all educational content is available online until they remain to be members.
- There is an option to solve individual approach to student issue in case of need.
Disadvantages and problems for membership site online courses:
- You need to bring a lot of efforts and time to create and structure content.
- There are issues with explaining value of membership to those who never dealt with membership sites.
- Usually, membership on educational sites for current users lasts less than 6 months if you do not manage to provide sustainable interest of audience by providing extended concepts and content for advanced users.
In order to sum up all advantages and disadvantages for all types of online courses there is a table below:
Should I Create Membership Site for Online Courses?
Membership business model is ideal if your can comply requirements below:
- You can provide valuable content.
- There is a target audience already interested learning your subject.
- You know what your audience wants.
- You are competent in the subject.
- You can provide ongoing content on the permanent basis on the matter of the subject.
It is clear that there are tons of information on any subject on the Internet so you really need to have some valuable insights to be able to provide valuable content for your website’s members.
You need to know there are people who want to learn the subject as the only way to earn on membership site is scaling – attraction of a big number of members. Otherwise it is better to provide individual lessons as your efforts won’t be rewarded if there are only couple of enthusiasts interested in the subject.
You need to be sure your target audience needs are clear for you and you know the ways to satisfy those. Selling membership is tough nowadays and making a specific offer to the right audience is a key to success.
The condition membership site can exist is the fact new valuable content is produced on the permanent basis. Otherwise, you cannot keep members paying for subscription plans.
Running Membership Site for Online Courses
Before you start membership site you need to make sure the content you can provide is worth to be paid. The thing is your competence must be undoubtful and grounded by practical experience which you should be able to transfer to your website’s members.
Along with theoretical basis you need to be able to provide practical cases with successful (or failed) examples.
When starting membership site you need to decide whether there will be several membership levels or only one and decide which kind of content is allowed for viewing for each level. Such a levelling can by provided if you use Membership Site Supsystic Plugin.
Create separate membership level for different content on your site, specify the cost and earn the money! Let’s check all advantages of using this feature –
- Customize the description, price and buttons of Membership level for paid content
- Enable Recurring Subscription for level content. Set up the Recurring Billing instead of one-time content fee.
- Configure Content Settings of your Membership level. Specify post categories or specific pages/posts for paid content.
- Enable Dripping Content. Make the schedule of your membership level content and release the content with regular intervals. Read more..
- Use “Purshase button” shortcode where you want on your membership site.
With Membership Ecommerce addon you will be able not only create paid content, but also customize nice advertisment of your Membership level. You can add description for level with html editor, set up name for purchase button. It will look like this –
If your post will be available for several membership levels, it will look like –
Besides Membership extesion allows you to show ordered levels for each membership user and also in profile settings –
Why do you need several member levels? It is a valuable feature to ensure steb-by-step learning process. For example, for the first-level member you can disclose only basics and after basic course is finished you can open an access to advanced level.
One practical advice should be considered when you start membership site. If it is launched to provide online courses you need to set up time-frames. It is noticed that if courses are stated to be termless there are less users ready to become subscribers. The thing is your future member needs to be sure he can get all necessary info to get proficient in subject within some period of time.
However, this doesn’t mean that if you make term of 3 months to get proficient in subject, you will lose subscribers after three months. It only means you need to make sure you have enough interesting content that will make your current members stay. An ability to post valuable cases and materials of advanced level is enough to ensure that your members stay subscribed when the base course is finished.
Make sure you organized educational process in the most convenient way. Once you finish creating content for membership site you will face the situation when there are tons of content – videos, articles, tutorials and you need to make sure members of your site know how to navigate and what to start from.
That’s why you need to provide plan for learning and set clear goals and description for each part of content.
Use emails to notify members about coming soon events and live translation or for newsletters sending. Make sure your subscription lists are organized properly and growing as it is the best way to communicate with target audience.
Motivate members to create content and share, comment and discuss it – once you are running membership site dedicated to online courses you are the main content creator, however, that doesn’t mean members cannot create there own content related to website’s topic. Provide sharing options and integration with social networks.