Ever heard the expression “information is money, but knowledge is power”? While true, when that expression was made it was likely before the dawn of the World Wide Web where it suddenly became plausible to both use information for power AND money.
It is never the more true than in the world of online course software.
Online course software is the means to connect an audience between the knowledge you possess and members who are willing to pay money to obtain lessons from it. No longer can products only be sold in tangible terms where a customer can touch or smell. Content, is also a vital resource, and there is money to be had selling it.
How do I make money?
What is your profession? For example, let’s say you work in general construction. Have you ever considered posting videos that teach others how to do basic home repairs such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC and painting?
Or maybe you are a professional in a niche industry, such as a writer who has published a novel. Did you know that writing a book is among one of the most popular desires on people’s bucket list? How many people do you think would be willing to pay for a six week course that outlines how they too can become authors?
Everyone has knowledge, and if you know something particularly well chances are you can not only teach someone else more about doing it but also make a little money in the process.
Online Course Software: The Lowdown
Online course software sounds and is pretty straightforward: it is the platform you use to create and manage an online course. However, its simplicity ends there.
Like most things in this world, not everything is created equal. So while there are quite a few online course software providers on the web; some are not necessarily better than others yet cater to a specific need or desire of the instructor.
For example, one online course software program may only allow individuals to upload audio and not video. But if you prefer to interact with your audience face to face (in the digital sense) than that is not going to be an appropriate option.
But before we can dive into all the terrific features online course software can provide, let’s begin with the first thing you will be doing — creating and launching the online course.
Online Course Creation
One of the really cool aspects of online course software is you get to customize the experience for your audience. Instead of getting some predefined template that every educator has to adhere to, online course software creates your virtual classroom from scratch.
Are you a regular computer user yet not too technologically savvy? Then you will appreciate the “drag and drop” creation many of these programs tout. Or, maybe you are quite skilled and even have a little HTML or CSS knowledge? You can build a course using code.
The ability to have custom domains, build for multi-language support, enable multiple instructors, set-up hidden or locked courses and allow a free membership option are just a few of the ways entrepreneurs can tailor the online course to their own wants and needs.
The primary question you must ask is how much of a technological background do I have and how much control do I need over my online course(s)? There are a variety of services that cater to every single skill level as well as the amount of control and tools you can have over the content you sell.
Then, the next question is how will you structure the online course? Will also the information be made available after the purchase is made? Or will the online content be revealed over time, perhaps in sections of 12 weeks? Do you want to offer a free trial membership or monthly membership fees? How about completion certificates to award diligent customers? Again, the varieties are endless and online course software can help make it a reality.
Lastly, how do you want to go about accepting payment — credit card? PayPal? Stripe? All of the above? It is important to find a secure and reliable source for your transactions, as well as understand what is an appropriate price for your course and how much profit you will receive (more on that, below).
Once you decide all the nuances of your online course, it is time to move forward to the learning tools the course will provide. Again, not all online software software is created equally so doing research on what learning tools a specific platform allows is very important.
Video and audio are two very common learning tools and for good reason. How popular are “How To” videos on YouTube? Popular. Most people prefer to learn visually as opposed to reading directions from a technical manual. Fittingly, you should use an online course software provider that supports various forms of media and files. The more the better. You can never have enough resources.
Most online course software platforms will also have a way to provide downloads to your customers. They can range from common file types like PDFs and Word docs to more specific types of files. Digital information comes in all shapes and forms from mp3 to HD video.
Lastly, a good online course should also include quizzes and discussion forms to expand the conversation as well as test understanding. How much interaction do you want to have between yourself and your audience? Consider the popularity of social media, people want to make their opinion known and like to interact in an online environment. Provide them with it.
Marketing and Analytics
After all, what good is an online course if no one attends it?
Another aspect of online course software is to present the entrepreneur with the necessary tools to help market and promote the material. Email marketing integrations and sales page templates are but a couple of examples of how various programs can help you get the word out.
Additionally, online course software can also help you analyze the performance of the course. How many visitors are stopping by compared to how many are actually enrolling? Are you getting repeat visitors? These are examples of the metrics teachers may analyze.
Unless you already have a well established audience, and even then, a huge concern is not only the creation of an online course but how you are going to get people to spend money on it. If you have struggled in the past with this issue, it is likely not because your information is worthless but rather people are unaware about it.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as creating a website and waiting for people to visit it. The World Wide Web is a VERY competitive environment. Even if you have been a successful businessperson in the real world the Internet is a whole other animal. You are competing not only against so many other sites in your industry but the Web as a whole.
Thankfully, there are several proven tactics, with one of the most common being email marketing. Most of the top online course software providers integrate email marketing. Then, there is the process of getting help with SEO through sources like a blog to drive in more traffic.
The All-In-One Package
After researching a few different products you may notice that some online course software providers advertise themselves as being an “all-in-one” package. What does this mean? It usually describes a service that will not only build an online course for you but will also provide the custom domain, web hosting, storefront and/or website to run alongside the online course.
This is a very good value because you generally need to go through at least a few other parties to A) purchase a domain, B) secure web hosting and C) develop the website or hire someone else to do it through a web page editor. Alternatively, the all-in-one online course software package will include everything you need along with customer support to help you with any questions or concerns that may arise.
How much does Online Course Software cost?
Online course software is actually fairly affordable. Of course, the price will depend on what software you decide upon, however, the average going rate for the top rated online course software is currently between $40 to $50 per month.
The all-in-one packages described above usually cost more per month because you are saving a few steps by paying one software provider to offer domain, hosting, web development, selling, marketing and payment processing all under one roof.
It is also worth noting that while you get more “bank for the buck” with a paid plan, some of the best online course software on the web also has a free option. Referred to as a “freemium” by tech geeks, free plans can at least get you launched and sometimes come with nearly as many tools as the paid option.
Understanding Course Fees
Before you get too ahead of yourself, however, one must consider the going rate or fee the online course software is going to charge you, the instructor or entrepreneur. Online course software is a business like any other so naturally they need to make a profit somehow.
The result? These software providers get a percentage of each customer you enroll. For example, if you charge $20 for the class and go with a provider that takes a 10 percent cut — you will end up with $18.
It is worth mentioning because the various software providers charge various fees. The fees will also differ between a free or paid plan: free plans take a larger chunk while paid plans take less. So depending on your enrollment, or expected enrollment, it may help you decide which membership plan you want.
All online course software providers have tiers of pricing. They usually have a free or “basic” plan followed by a middle of the road option as well as one designed for an established business. With the ability to begin a free trial on most platforms, as well as the opportunity to always upgrade — the best suggestion is to start small and think big!
Course Fees vs. Monthly Subscription
Although most platforms do take a cut of each person you have enroll in your course there are a few, like Podia and Kajabi, that do not take a cut. However, they make up the difference by charging a higher monthly subscription fee. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
If you are already a high volume seller than you are probably more prone to want a higher priced plan that does not charge a transaction fee on every purchase. Yet if you are a startup or have a small following, it probably makes sense to stick to a cheaper online course software provider even if they do take a percentage of the transaction.
An important factor in the success of the online content you want to sell is budgeting appropriately and setting realistic expectations. If this is a brand new idea and you do not already have a major following, a good suggestion is to start small. Growth online takes time with a lot of resources and dedication required.
There are other ways to sell products, even online content online, with the most basic being creating your own website from scratch and doing it on your own. So another advantage to subscribing to online course software is not only will you get a web builder that is easy to use for creating a course and marketing tools, but also access to customer support and learning resources.
Thinkific and Podia, especially are well known for outstanding customer support whether its resolving a technical issue or learning more effective ways to sell online content. They feature quick responding agents and have resources such as an e-University, user forums and webinars. They understand that selling online can be complicated so they are doing their best to make it as simple as possible.
What is the best online course software?
It is difficult to narrow the list down to one as different software offers different features and depends vastly on your own personal needs. However, Thinkific and Teachable are two with some of the best reputations on the Web. They have millions of users and also extend into academia. Meanwhile, Podia and Kajabi are far more business-driven, with the ability to really take your online empire to the next level.