When someone says, “I’m going to create an e-learning course,” they usually have one long-term goal in mind: make money. That’s a totally legitimate and achievable ambition – if you go about it correctly. There’s a lot of strategizing behind a profitable e-learning series, and an overwhelming number of options for where and how to publish. And while making money is usually the end game with a course, it’s not always the immediate concern. You may be trying to attract leads now who you can sell to in the future, or you may be building a brand platform you can later leverage to sell books or other products. It’s important to identify your top priority before choosing an e-learning platform, because your goals will determine which is the best fit. Let’s assume your course is launch-ready. You’ve shot and edited the videos, revised the supplementary materials, and proofread any text-based elements. Now it’s time to choose where to share and sell it. Here are some questions to consider before you publish.
1. What’s Your Number One Goal?
If money is your top priority, you need an established tribe that will buy your product. Without that, your initial sales numbers are going to be disappointing, so you may want to focus on lead generation. If leads are the top target, make sure the platform you choose allows you to capture participants’ email addresses. Sites such as Lynda and Udemy don’t allow this, so they’d be useless if you’re trying to grow your list. Lead generation will also impact your pricing, so consider the lifetime value of each student. They may pay only $10 for the course, but they could each be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars during the course of the relationship. Think long-term when deciding how much to charge.
2. How Important is Building and Maintaining Your Own Brand?
When you publish to Lynda, Udemy, and other established e-learning platforms, your course appears alongside all the programs in your category. The sites’ algorithms suggest other courses rather than emphasizing yours because they’re trying to maximize their customers’ satisfaction. You might have created the content for the benefit of your brand, but you’re still really helping theirs. The popularity and ease of these sites may be helpful if you’re just starting to build your following, but established companies will likely prefer to keep the content on their own sites. This way, you control the presentation and can refer people to your product pages or other materials. And if a current student shares a course with a friend or colleague, you ideally want them going to your site. Authors who already have other published materials often prefer this route as well.
3. How Much Control Do You Want?
If you’re the type who likes to play around under the hood, you’ll want to use WordPress or a similar platform that includes different integration and enhancement options. Sites such as Rainmaker, on the other hand, are more hands-off, which works for users who aren’t tech-inclined. But the simple interface often means less control over course branding.
4. Do You Plan to Use Affiliates to Drive Traffic?
Affiliate programs are a great incentive for people to share your courses since they earn commission for every referral who converts. Maybe you have the opportunity to partner with someone who already has a thriving tribe, and you want to establish an affiliate arrangement with them. Make sure there’s an affiliate tracking system built into the publisher if this is part of your strategy.
5. What Support Does the Platform Offer?
Find out how much hand-holding the company provides throughout the publishing process and what the response times are if something breaks. The last thing you want is for people to pay for your course and then not be able to access it.
6. Can You View the Analytics on the Course’s Effectiveness?
You really want to see feedback on whether people benefit from your course and how they perceive your methods. Look for platforms that give you the metrics on how quickly people are moving from unit to unit, how difficult the questions are, and both quantitative and qualitative data on students’ content consumption. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so make sure there’s an analytics system in place.
7. Do You Have the Tools to Re-Engage?
There’s an abysmal attrition rate across the e-learning industry, which is largely due to poor engagement. It’s one thing to sell a course, but it’s another to retain students for future programs. Just because someone doesn’t ask for a refund or leaves you a decent review doesn’t mean they’ve finished the course. I can think a book is fantastic even if I put it down before finishing the second half. "Just because someone doesn’t ask for a refund or leaves you a decent review doesn’t mean they’ve finished the course. I can think a book is fantastic even if I put it down before finishing the second half." The people who actually get the full value of your course are most likely to buy again in the future. Someone who only makes it to the 50 percent mark probably won’t sign up again, even if they know they’re the ones who dropped the ball. They’ll think, “I couldn’t finish it last time, so I’m not going to spend the money and then bail again” – and you’ll miss out on a sale. Look for a learning management system (LMS) that provides tools to reconnect with students who are on the verge of stopping the course. If you can identify and reach out to people to provide encouragement and support through email or SMS, they’re more likely to complete the materials. People really like to share their achievements on social media, so if you can get them to stay the course (see what we did there?), they’ll post about it to their networks.
8. Can You Interact with Students Beyond the Published Content?
Students should be able to access your content across all of their devices. You also need a system for managing their questions throughout the course – one that doesn’t require you to spend your entire day in your email. While your program might start off simple, people will likely have questions as you go in-depth on the concepts.
9. Is Your Course Device-Agnostic?
People use whichever device is most convenient to them at any given time, whether that’s their laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Expect them to start your course on one of these, then switch back and forth between devices throughout its duration. We now spend more time in mobile apps than we do on desktops, so it’s much easier for people to watch two or three minutes of video on their phones than to go home and set up their laptops just for one lesson. They’re also more likely to share content from their phones, so you really need to adapt your course to their preferences.
10. What Are the Available Teaching Formats?
When you’re evaluating an LMS, make sure it allows for different content mediums. Are all the formats they sell essentially a glorified blog post, or do you have other ways to get your point across? You want to offer students an interactive, multimedia experience. Variety creates a nice break in the content and gives people a moment to pause and absorb what they’ve learned. It also holds people’s attention more than a single-medium presentation. Reflecting on these questions will provide clarity on which e-learning platform is best-suited to your content, and they may help you strengthen your course before you launch. Most importantly, they’ll move you closer to your goals of more leads and more money.
As you can see, prior to "making money", one needs to be invested in the overall process of developing engaging and dynamic content. This takes diligent strategizing to focus on turning cold contacts into leads, and leads into long-time customers. You've got what it takes...and hopefully we've given you some tools along your journey!