Is an online course platform really necessary to sell courses?
That’s all well and good – and I’m happy to provide what help I can – but it’s always worth pausing to ask whether you really need a specialized online course platform.
One of the more impactful “courses” I’ve purchased in recent history, for example, made use of nothing other than e-mail and unlisted YouTube links. This was a year-long subscription series from someone well known in the consulting field. I’ll call him Bob, simply because I’m not sure whether he would want his approach broadcast along with his real name.
Bob provided information about the series on his Web site (which is built on WordPress). He took orders through a standard shopping cart (1ShoppingCart in his case, though there are plenty of other low-cost options).
Then, every week, Bob would send out a link to a new five-minute video he had recorded – basically, him talking to a single camera to provide his view and actionable tips on a topic highly relevant to your average consultant. If you happened to sign up after the series had started, the welcome e-mail simply included links to the videos already released.
If I remember right, I paid about $500 for this, and it was more than worth every penny.
On other fronts, when we ran our first online learning platform selection boot camp at my company, Tagoras, we did opt to use a simple course platform, but that was only because we are in the platform selection business and find it valuable to try things out. Truth is, we did not really need one. (We used LearnDash – the best WordPress LMS plug-in, in my opinion.)
Like Bob, above, we mainly used our Web site (again, built on WordPress) for hosting the boot camp. We had MemberPress installed to control who could access what (and also to run e-commerce) and we used the BuddyBoss theme to provide for discussion forums that we use as part of the course. Otherwise, we delivered the majority of the content through a combination of Zoom and various templates we provided using Word and Excel. We posted access to the recordings of our live sessions, but we only needed MemberPress to limit access to those – an actual course platform wasn’t really necessary.
So What’s the Benefit of an Online Course Platform?
If all you are doing is providing access to recorded videos and downloadable documents to a limited set of people, there may not be a benefit. Again, a membership plugin will do. Or, you can just set up a password for the pages you need to protect in your Web site (easy to do in WordPress). Or, you follow Bob’s example above, and just host them in a private area on YouTube or another video host.
A true online course platform will add value if:
- You want to provide features like quizzing and testing
- You want to assemble multiple types of content – video, documents, images, etc. – into a cohesive path for learners to follow. Yes, you can do that in a regular Web site, but it becomes time intensive and not very user friendly pretty quickly
- You want to be able to monitor student progress through courses, track completion, and possible award credit and/or a certificate
- You plan to publish many courses and want to be able to manage them efficiently – again, possible with just a web site, but “efficiently” tends to go out the window pretty quickly
Those are just a few of the key ones. There are many others, but stay focused on what you really need to accomplish, and if it just providing limited access to a relatively small, simple body of content, you probably don’t need a true online course platform.
Don’t Over Think It!
In general, there is a lot that can be achieved with relatively little technology if the value is there. So, put your time, effort, sweat, and stress into the value – not the technology.
And, even if you do decide to go with a specialized platform – e.g., a Thinkific or a LearnWorlds or a WordPress plug-in like LearnDash – this isn’t a life decision. Changes can be made in the future – again, let value lead the way. Do what makes sense to get started, but by all means, get started – whether that means with your first course our your next one.
That’s all. If you have come up with simple and/or creative ways to deliver your course(s) without specialized technology, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your story. Please comment and share.