There was a time when academics and people of standing sneered at online courses. Not even ten years ago, when you thought about online courses, you immediately thought about dodgy internet degrees from exotic places that you had never heard of.
The humble online course has evolved considerably from those times, however, and is now an entirely legitimate form of learning (and business). If you’ve become an expert on any specific topics, there are many people in the world who would exchange their time and money for an accelerated learning experience from someone who can teach them how to do exactly what they’re wanting to achieve. Yes, you can make money with online courses!
According to the Babson Survey Research Group’s, 2014 Survey of Online Learning, there were 5,257,279 distance education enrollments in formal online training in America in 2013. This is about 25% of all college and university students. Even the established universities now recognize the importance of online study, with 70.8% of Chief Admission Officers (CAOs) agreeing that online education is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy.
Education online is a highly significant, and growing, industry. Some further statistics worth considering (from a Training Zone analysis) are:
An entire industry of online education has been born, to address the increasing demand for topics like building necessary career skills, establishing a foundation for starting a business of your own, and learning how to use emerging online tools. The range of people participating in this includes traditional learning establishments, major universities, e-Learning start-ups, and individuals.
Many of these are known as MOOCs, massive open online courses. These are generally free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Itunes University is a good example of a MOOC. You will find thousands of courses on a broad range of topics. Of course, being free, you will be studying these by yourself, usually without any feedback or accreditation.
Somewhere in between the officially sanctioned university courses and the free-for-all MOOC platforms are the online education marketplaces (like CreativeLive, General Assembly, Treehouse, and Skillshare). You could consider these markets as destinations to hone your career skills. Each site contains many specialist courses, focusing on specific, often niche, topics. There is a bias towards computing, technology and creativity in the courses offered on most of these online platforms today.
The Columbia University Center for Career Education has put together a useful summary of which marketplace is best for particular skills:
Technical: Lynda.com, Udacity, MIT OpenCourseWare, edX.com, Treehouse, Udacity, Media Bistro, General Assembly and Hacker School.
Microsoft Office: Lynda.com and Microsoft Virtual Academy.
Industry specific: CreativeLive, Skillshare, Treehouse, Udacity, Foundation Center, Media Bistro, General Assembly and Hacker School.
Communication and other soft skills: The New York Public Library and The Learning Annex.
Clearly, there’s a demand in the marketplace for online educational experiences. This means there is an incredible opportunity to brand yourself as an expert and create your own specialist website where you can regularly offer courses tailored to your particular niche. For instance, I provide courses on Writing a Winning Freelance Proposal and Starting a Business While Working a Full-Time Job on my personal website.
Most of us have some area of expertise that we have honed, in which we have a detailed knowledge and understanding. You might not realize it, but just because you find something easy and natural, other people may find it uncertain and challenging.
This brings an enormous opportunity to create a community and following, help others, and in turn start offering your meaningful advice for sale as digital content. It is scalable, passive, and still very useful to people. Given enough time, all students who persevere at something, eventually mastering it, can become a teacher of that topic.
Suppose you have jumped from learner to educator. You may, of course, choose to place a course on one of the marketplaces such as Skillshare or Udemy where they’ll help market your course, in exchange for a revenue split on each sale. If, on the other hand, you decide to host your course on your own site, I have a list of plugins (that I use myself) which will make your life a lot easier.
Online education is a huge industry, and it is growing every year. People currently have a seemingly endless thirst to increase their knowledge, in numerous fields. There are online courses created at all levels from universities to enthusiastic amateurs displaying their knowledge.
What areas of knowledge do you have that you could use to create a course that will meet people’s’ needs? You might surprise yourself.