A guide to creating and monetizing your first online course

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Online courses are more popular than ever before. But what few on the outside know is just how profitable they can be for the brands and entrepreneurs producing them. If you’re looking for a new way to monetize content, this may be the best option you can pursue moving forward.

The popularity of online courses

The data has indicated for years that online courses were ready to explode, but it looks as if some of this potential was finally realized last year. According to research gathered by Online Learning Consortium, there are currently 5.8 million students enrolled in online courses – a 263 percent increase over the last 12 years. Two-thirds of these students take online courses at public institutions.

There are multiple reasons for the rise in popularity of online courses. First and foremost, the technology has improved and online courses are, for the first time ever, fast, intuitive, and convenient. But growth in this area has less to do with the technology and platforms and more to do with changing attitudes and needs among students.

In underperforming school districts, parents and their children may not have access to good teachers or curriculum. Online courses offer a chance to supplement classroom learning with the teachers of your choice.

Then there’s the cost, specifically as it relates to undergraduate education. Whereas tuition at large universities has risen dramatically over the years, online courses and degree programs often come at a much lower price tag. The Online Learning Consortium data reveals that the annual tuition rate at top non-profit schools with online degree programs is just $3,400 to $8,400.

Clearly, the rise of online courses isn’t just a fad. Whether it’s an official degree program or a course related to a hobby or personal interest, people are flocking towards e-learning and will continue to do so for years to come.

4 things to think about

While online degree programs from accredited universities may not have much value to you (as a marketer), there’s a lot of potential in terms of creating and monetizing courses for customers. As marketing strategist Dorie Clark notes, the average instructor on a site like Udemy brings in $7,000 from courses. She admits, however, that she’s met people who earn anywhere from $60 per month to six-figures annually.

If you’re thinking about creating and monetizing your first online course, there are some things you’ll need to think about.

1. Ideation

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

Everything starts with the idea. The problem a lot of content marketers have when jumping into the e-learning niche is that they immediately focus on promotional strategies without ironing out the core concepts first.

There’s a lot of competition in the e-learning niche right now and there are only two real ways to be successful. The first involves your personality. If you’re going to replicate a course that already exists in the marketplace, you need to be gregarious. People need to be drawn to your voice and style – otherwise, you’re just another course creator.

The second way to be successful is to do something that nobody else is doing. You have to come up with an idea, topic, or angle that isn’t currently being used.

If you really want to increase your chances of being successful, you’ll come up with a unique idea and use your magnetic personality to draw people in.

2. Monetization

The second thing you have to think about is monetization. Early during the process of developing your course, you must figure out how you’re going to profit from it. There are a number of different models, including:

  • Subscription-based. One of the more popular monetization strategies is the subscription model. This is something successful sites like Mathtutordvd.com use to bring in steady revenue. Customers pay a monthly fee and they have access to as many courses and features as they want.
  • Pay-per-course. Another strategy you’ll commonly see – especially on big sites like Udemy – is the pay-per-course model. As the name suggests, customers merely pay for one course at a time.
  • Advertisement-based. A high-risk, high-reward approach is to simply launch your own website and offer free courses. The primary goal here is to generate a large volume of traffic and then monetize this exposure by selling ad space and offering add-on products.

You may choose to blend some of these different models or go your own route entirely. However, the key is to come up with your monetization strategy prior to producing the content.

3. Content

Third, comes the content. This isn’t to say the content doesn’t matter – it certainly does – but you have to come up with a unique idea and monetization strategy prior to fleshing out the details.

Developing quality e-learning content isn’t exceptionally challenging, but it is different than what you’re used to. The goal is to show and explain – not merely tell. The focus isn’t on you and your goals, but on the objectives of the student. Put them first and they’ll reward you.

4. Promotion

Finally, we reach the promotion stage. While you may have wanted to rush into the marketing aspect of things earlier on, your patience will be rewarded if you wait. Try to push as much traffic to your course as possible by pursuing as many unique channels as you can. This means tapping into your email list, promoting sneak previews on your blog, drumming up attention on your social platforms, and scheduling interviews with different bloggers and podcasters. The more you get out and really push your course, the better off you’ll be.

The content of the future

It’s nearly impossible to look at the future of digital content and remove e-learning and online courses from the equation. They’re already playing such a critical role in formal and informal education and we’ve only just reached the tip of the iceberg.

As you continue to explore new areas of content marketing and look for opportunities to build your brand and monetize your efforts, don’t discount online courses. Thanks to the platforms that are now available, it’s easier than ever to get started.

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About the Author

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. A graduate of Des Moines University, he still lives in Iowa as a full-time freelance writer and avid news hound. Currently, Larry writes for Inquisitr.com, SocialMediaWeek.org, Tech.co, and SiteProNews.com among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing.
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