I recently came across a post by Esme Wang called Is The E-Course Market Saturated? that I found really interesting. While I don't think that the e-course market is too crowded, it certainly is picking up speed. A couple years ago nobody even knew what an e-course was and now you can learn anything online. As with any new industry though, there are some growing pains. There isn't a "tried and true" format for an e-course, many times customers aren't even sure what to expect when they sign up for a course. There is a lot of trial and error going on and everyone seems to be trying to figure out what works best for them.
Going back to Esme's post, she talks about 3 main factors that seem to prevent her from signing up for a course: It's "live", there is a huge time commitment, and it's expensive. These complaints really resonated with me. Obviously, I love e-courses. And in the (almost) 2 years that CourseCraft has been up and running I've spent an insane amount of time researching e-learning and also participating in my fair share of online classes. In that time I've developed some pretty strong opinions about online learning and where I think it's going, or at least where I'd like to see it go.
How many times have you seen an e-course that has a huge offering like this?
- 16 weeks of modules with 5 new lessons per week
- a professional level assignment posted every week
- weekly quizzes to test your knowledge
- personal feedback from the instructor
- a comprehensive 30 page download full of worksheets and lists
- weekly 1-hour live Q&A sessions
And all this for only $299! I see this all the time. The instructors have really good intentions. They have a lot of information and knowledge to share and just want to pack it all into one course. They think that adding more things like live sessions and assignments is adding value to their course. And it is, but it's also scaring people off.
The vast majority of people who will be interested in your course have busy lives. They have jobs, families, social obligations, homes to take care of and naps to take. These people simply don't have time for your course.
Before I get too far with this, I want to make something clear. It isn't that I think these types of mega-courses shouldn't exist. Not at all! Some people will make room in their schedule for something like this and will have a great experience. Some skills are just too complex to learn any other way, especially if you're aiming your course at people who want a career change or a big life change. Sometimes an intense program is completely warranted. BUT if you want to appeal to a broad audience and sell more enrollments, you need to simplify.
It's really hard to convince people to put in that much time and energy into an online class. So what am I getting at? I think that the future of e-courses is in small, affordable, easy-to-digest classes that don't have a specific start date.
The ladies at A Beautiful Mess know what I'm taking about. Their flagship course "Blog Life" is only $50! You can sign up at any time and work through the course at your own pace. There's no worry that you're going to fall behind or miss an assignment because your kid caught the flu. Blogcademy also does this. Their "Home School" modules are only $20 and break down a huge subject like blogging into manageable chunks. Again, there's no specific time commitment. Just sign up and work through the material on your own time.
If you want your course to appeal to a wide range of people, I think you should stick to these principles:
- open enrollment (no specific start and end date)
- moderate price
- limit "live" components
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Let me know what you think in the comments.