With the promise of faster national and global broadband networks comes opportunities for entrepreneurs in the training industry. As an independent e-learning consultant, I’m often asked how to develop e-learning courses as a viable revenue stream for their business – to sell to clients. You can imagine the answer is complex. Although the reward seems tantalising, below is a synthesis of 5 challenges that can stand in the way of success.
1. Analyse your idea.
It all sounds like a good idea. But is your idea based on hard facts? Have you done your homework to understand demand, price point and client needs? Now, I appreciate sometimes clients don’t know what they want until it’s presented to them. My strong advice is before you start, get a client willing to sponsor your development or to share costs.
2. Educate yourself on the development process.
Developing e-learning courses is multidisciplinary. You need a platform to manage enrolments and completions (a Learning Management System or other). You need to be clear about what topics are in and what’s out. You need knowledge about instructional design, visual/graphic design and multimedia development. You need to understand the diversity of the IT operating environments your clients use. You may bring experts on board to help you with all of these facets, but you need to have some level of understanding yourself in order to manage the project effectively.
3. Educate yourself on what ‘quality’ looks like.
There is so much mediocre e-learning courses out there. You need to be sure you know what quality looks like – what you are aspiring. You need to be sure of your client and end user expectations. In the age of YouTube, Social Media, personalisation and instant gratification of information, is your 60 minute page turning e-learn really going to cut the mustard?
4. Understand e-learning courses have a short shelf-life.
This is true from both a business and a product perspective.
Online business models are changing rapidly – new alliances, new distribution channels. What this means is that your ‘go alone’ approach to developing e-learning courses may not be viable long-term. Take OpenSeseme as an example of a business shaking up the distribution of e-learning.
From a product perspective, our understanding of instructional design is ever evolving, and our preference for graphics and multimedia is also changing. What this means is that an e-learning course that looked good in 2013 can look pretty tired by 2015. And, with changes to operating systems, it may mean your e-learning no longer works for some of your clients. Not to mention your content may become redundant due to new legislation and new practices. Once implemented, e-learning requires constant attention.
5. Finding a large customer base.
This point relates in part to point 4 and business models. The bottom line; you need a good distribution channel. Your usual training business website may not have the traffic or search engine optimisation to generate the right visitors. Where 20 paying clients a year may be enough for classroom training offerings, you will need hundreds of e-learning sales to get return on investment.
Other learning technology options may be more viable
Developing e-learning courses is expensive and time consuming. The development process does not enable you to respond quickly to changing client needs. Before embarking on developing e-learning courses, consider other options such as webinar, video and mobile apps.
Got a question about this topic or any other e-learning topic, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you.