How to Start an E-Learning Business
If you like sharing knowledge with other human beings, the e-learning industry might be just the right thing for you.
The e-learning industry has exploded with popularity and innovation in recent years, as remote tutors, online courses, workshops and other remote-learning resources have become more accessible, more rewarding and better recognized.
As per data from Supplygem, every dollar spent on e-learning makes companies back $30 in productivity, and 93 percent of companies say they plan to adopt online learning in the near future.
As one of the web’s fastest growing industries, entrepreneurs in the e-learning industry can leverage this growth to build a potentially lucrative e-learning enterprise, with few starting resources necessary in many cases.
Become a remote tutor
As more people work from home than ever before, and many students now complete their studies from home, the demand for remote tutors has never been higher. This represents an excellent opportunity for educated and experienced individuals to make money by sharing their insights and knowledge.
Depending on your field of expertise, you can expect to earn anywhere from $10 to well over $100 per hour of remote tutoring — with the potential for significantly more in highly niche fields or for very experienced tutors. This is all while being able to work from the comfort of your own home, whenever you want, in whichever field you are most passionate about.
Getting started with remote tutoring is simple, because there are dozens of different platforms available that can be used for this very purpose, including Chegg, Skillshare and Teachera. Once you have chosen your platform of choice, you will be free to start offering your services, either charging an hourly rate or selling your services as a package deal.
As with most things, different platforms tend to have a different customer demographic and might cater towards different niches better than others. Because of this, it’s wise to play the field somewhat to see which of the numerous platforms offers the best mix of payment, flexibility, regularity and more to see what works best for you.
As a remote tutor, you will typically deliver your classes through video conferencing software like Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype, but you might also need to make use of virtual whiteboards and other real-time collaboration tools to make your lessons a more interactive experience.
Create your own content
Although remote tutoring can be a highly rewarding endeavor, many entrepreneurs instead opt to create their own e-learning courses, because these can be used to drive passive income that can last months or potentially years in some cases.
Unlike remote tutoring, which typically sees tutors hold classes with a single student or a small group of students at a time, e-learning courses are generally self-study. This means the tutor simply creates the course once, and it is then served to users through one of the myriad course distribution platforms, such as Udemy or Coursera. Some lessons might be given away for free as introductory material or as part of a marketing strategy to help boost conversions.
As with all things, it’s important to do your homework before creating your own e-learning courses. This includes researching your audience, brainstorming for content ideas and developing the template for your courses. You’ll also need to put some thought into your platform of choice, because these can vary considerably in their commission, reach and the tools and services they provide to tutors.
Many content creators start by using platforms like Thinkific and Kajabi to create their courses, because they offer many of the tools needed in one place.
Some of the top earning courses on Udemy earn their creators well in excess of $10,000 per month, whereas top teachers on Skillshare can expect to earn in excess of $3,000 a month. Because these courses are typically prepared in one batch rather than being delivered as daily lessons, once the course is created and launched you're done. Any income generated from then on is almost entirely passive other than a little occasional minor upkeep.
Make or buy?
Despite the fact that Udemy and other e-learning platforms are able to connect their course creators and teachers with a significant potential customer base, some entrepreneurs in the sector still decide to build up their own platform from scratch. "The big platforms are great if you’re starting out and want a simple solution for hosting your course, however developing your own unique platform has a lot of benefits that Udemy and others cannot provide,” says Connor Marriott, who is teaching entrepreneurs the art of scaling an online business through his e-learning company Instinct Education.
“Research suggests that a customer’s initial experience with a program will determine how regularly they use it and ultimately the results they experience. By building your own platform you can ensure your customers are impressed with your course from the moment they first enroll, which will lead to higher consumption rates of the material and greater implementation of the course content. Of course, this also means higher customer satisfaction and, most importantly, better results for our clients,” he says
With the global massive open online course (MOOC) market predicted to grow as an estimated CAGR of 18.13 percent for the next five years, and more people than ever before signing up for online courses, there’s still ample room for fresh talent in the space. With that in mind, those who do best are usually those who build their presence well beyond their content delivery platform, taking advantage of social media, email newsletters or even an entire content marketing funnel to drive traffic to their courses.
Workshops and boot camps
For those who love the efficiency of e-learning courses but still want to maintain direct contact and tutorage with learners, consider creating an online workshop or boot camp.
An online workshop is essentially an online interactive course that typically features small class sizes and direct communication with the course creator. Much of the content may be prepared in advance, similar to a MOOC, but most workshops typically have significant back and forth between the students and the course creator, helping to tailor and personalize the content to the individual needs of the students.
Many online workshops take place on specific days and at specific times, where the tutor is usually on hand to help students collaborate and guide them through the material, whereas other workshops are described as “asynchronous” in that students can go through the workshop material at their leisure and use a chat feature or similar tool to communicate with other students and the workshop host.
Unlike with standard online courses, tutors can typically command hundreds to potentially thousands of dollars per student for a workshop slot — again depending on the reputation of the host, target industry and content covered. Workshops in emerging industries and highly sought after niches like financial technology (fintech), blockchain, cannabis products and consumer goods can be a good start, but these are best broached by tutors with authority and experience in these fields.
To kick it into the next gear, consider stringing several workshop-like sessions back-to-back to create a more intensive program, known as a boot camp. These give students a rigorous schedule to follow and helps them network with their peers while allowing you to condense your classes down into a short window — helping you maximize efficiency and boost your output considerably.
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