People ask me if I can help them convert content they’ve developed or plan to develop — in some cases it’s a video, in other cases it’s a book, and so on — into an online course.
Hey, Jeff, I did an hour-long webinar earlier in the year, and I recorded it. I’d like to make it into an online course. Can you help?
My short answer is “yes”.
But here’s a caveat:
The experience and insights I’ve gained from studying education at the graduate level, teaching elementary and high school students, and developing and delivering adult training programs compels me to stress that there’s a lot that goes into making a “course” that is a truly effective learning experience.
Instructional systems design is a complex process that requires rigorous planning, development, and testing. It takes more than simply chopping up a sixty-minute video into ten six-minute video segments (or sixty pages of text into 12 electronic “chapters”) to produce an effective training course.
That said, if you have expertise in a particular subject matter area and want to share it with others, I encourage you to explore the opportunity to turn that expertise into an online course that allows you to reach and educate your target audience — and even make you some money.
(And it probably goes without saying that I can help…)
Let me paint a picture
To that end, let me paint a picture of how it might play out to offer an online course.
What You’ll Need:
- WordPress (self-hosted version)
- MemberPress (membership plugin for WordPress)
- MemberPress Courses addon
This scenario assumes you’ll be using WordPress with MemberPress (and the MemberPress Courses addon). This is my platform of choice and one I’ve used for several projects (like the one I wrote about here), and it’s accessible and user-friendly for what I call “civilian users” (computer-literate website owners with limited knowledge of web technologies).
MemberPress is a robust and popular membership plugin for WordPress that is the engine that controls who has access to what content, and it integrates with payment processing systems that allow you to monetize your courses and other protected content on your website.
I know you want to know about monetizing your online course
This blog article is not a soup-to-nuts tutorial in everything you need to know to set up WordPress, MemberPress, and MemberPress Courses. I plan to cover various aspects of this process in a series of future articles.
What I figured I’d do today is address what seems to be the #1 issue on everyone’s mind when they talk about offering online courses:
So, let’s focus on how to monetize your online course.
Scenario: An Accountant Offers a Course in Financial Management
In a MemberPress site (and this is also true for sites that use other membership plugins), you control access to content by creating memberships and membership rules and then “assigning” different content (e.g., your online course) to a specific membership or memberships.
Suppose you’re an accountant and you’re developing a course on Basic Financial Management Concepts and Practices for Business Owners. The course will consist of 15 lessons, each of which features a short video (ranging from two to ten minutes) that focuses on a different aspect of the topic.
You want people to pay to take this course.
Assuming for the moment that this course is the only restricted content you’ll be offering on your website (at least in the short term), you would create a single membership and an associated membership rule that controls access to this course.
The name of this membership could be the same as the name of the course (or something a little shorter, like “Financial Management for Business Owners“). You’d then create a membership rule that would restrict access to that course to people who have registered and paid for that membership.
A Plethora of Options and Lots of Decisions
When it comes to monetizing content (such as online courses) on your website, you have lots of options and thus lots of decisions to make. Your first decision might very well be, “What should I charge?”
The dreaded right answer is, “it depends.”
The fact is that the question of pricing is more complicated than that. (Remember my saying a few moments ago, “lots of options and thus lots of decisions”?) But don’t fret; this is as good thing.
MemberPress lets you choose the term of every membership (month-to-month; annual; lifetime; etc.); and the price you charge will depend, in part, on that choice.
For example, you can make this a recurring monthly membership that costs $49 per month and auto-renews every month until the member cancels.
Or you can make it a recurring yearly membership that costs $499 per year and auto-renews every year (until the member cancels).
You could even choose to make this a Lifetime membership (the lifetime of your product, not of the member) for $649.
And to really complicate matters (not really), you could offer all of those options as a choice for the people to make themselves!
But wait… there’s more!
You also have the option of offering free (or reduced-price) trial periods. And there are even options with respect to what happens after the trial period ends. In fact, the number of ways you can structure the monetization of your online courses is practically dizzying. (Again: I can help…)
I’m not trying to complicate matters. Honestly.
I’m really not trying to complicate matters. What I am trying to do is convey the rich possibilities that MemberPress offers to subject matter experts who want to share their expertise in the form of online courses.
Clearly, there are many considerations that go into your decisions about pricing, and I plan to discuss those in upcoming blog articles.
But while we’re still on the subject of pricing for your online course, don’t discount (no pun intended) the option of offering your online course for free.
Why would you offer a course for free?
Maybe this is your first online course, you’re planning to create and offer other online courses, and you’re treating this course as a loss leader. By creating a free membership that gives people access to this course, you’re presenting a low barrier to entry, and you’re obtaining contact information from all registrants. Essentially, you’re building a captive audience. When you roll out your second course, you can easily market it to those who enrolled in your first course.
Or maybe you’ve created two courses: one of which is introductory and another is more in-depth. You could offer the first course for free with the hopes of enticing those enrollees to sign up for the (premium) in-depth course.
Check out a live example of a free online course
If you want to see — and experience first-hand — an example of exactly this type of free course I created with Dr. Steve Levinson, please consider signing up for our “Following Through Introductory Program“, which gives you access to our “Following Through: A New Perspective” course at followingthrough.org. You’ll not only get a taste of how MemberPress courses work, but you might even improve your following through skills!
Let’s tie things up…
If you’re getting the idea that I’m pretty keen on the opportunities that MemberPress and MemberPress courses offer, it’s because I am.
There’s so much more to say about how you can use this robust membership plugin to serve members of your target audiences — and generate revenue — but I’ll save that for future blog articles.
For now, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and have encouraged you to seriously consider converting your expertise into online learning experiences that will benefit others as well as yourself.
I welcome your comments and questions. Let me hear from you in the comments section below, and feel free to contact me directly if you want to find out how I could help you set up your own membership site with online courses.