As a coach, whether you teach leadership skills, mindfulness, wellness, sales, or any other specialized skill, you have probably wondered if eLearning courses could help expand your business and whether they are worth the investment.
By collaborating with the right partner, coaches can create professionally designed, interactive, and engaging eLearning courses that are beneficial to their business and affordable.
Specifically, eLearning benefits coaches in the following ways:
Additional revenue streams: Coaches can repeatedly market their knowledge base instead of a one-off interaction with a client (or speaking engagement). For example, instead of giving a lecture to a group of 100 people one time, you could turn that lecture into an online course that could reach thousands of people. The ability to scale your business is unlimited. Additionally, evergreen eLearning courses allow coaches to expand their audience beyond the one-on-one setting to reach self-learners who prefer the autonomy and independence of eLearning.
eLearning is extremely flexible. Adding new content or editing existing coaching material is accomplished easily and inexpensively.
Save money: Not only can coaches increase revenue, but they can also save money. By offering course materials virtually, you save on travel expenses, downtime through commuting and/or travel, the cost of creating printed materials, and more.
Safe in the age of Coronavirus: With some restrictions still in place from the pandemic and hybrid models becoming the 'new normal,' many coaches are struggling to find additional revenue and/or recoup lost revenue. All your coaching services can be done from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Provide consistent and accurate content: If you are the type of coach who gives the same training(s) over and over, can you say that it was precisely the same each time? Inevitably, some training and one-on-one client work go better than others due to several potential causes. Online courses allow you to provide consistent and accurate content of the highest quality. Before any course goes live, you can check everything to ensure it is 100% correct.
Expand content: eLearning courses allow you to create clear paths for your clients to follow. As soon as you complete the first module, you can offer a second course, produce an eBook, or create a next-level course for clients to pursue. There are many possible directions that you could go to expand. For example, you could offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, each as a separate course. Another option would be to create a course diving deeper into an aspect of the previous course that clients may enjoy exploring further.
Make courses fun and interactive: While all coaches do their best to make in-person content engaging, some clients/learners simply don't retain information as well that way. eLearning allows coaches to create engaging courses and make learning fun and enjoyable through a variety of online techniques. Available eLearning technologies can employ augmented reality, interactive videos, virtual reality simulations, gamification, and more to reach learners of all types.
Build your brand: Because of the intimate nature of the coaching/client relationship, many coaches do not think of themselves as a 'brand.' This is understandable because what you do is much bigger than a product or commodity. However, being mindful of your messaging and your brand identity is a crucial aspect of the success of any coach, particularly in the online community. eLearning augments brand messaging and consistency and helps make you instantly recognizable as an expert in your field.
Global Definitions of eLearning
eLearning is an often-misused term. Later in this primer, we will explore the difference between more traditional video training and eLearning, but it's important to understand the three levels of eLearning before starting to plan your course(s):
Level One Courses (Basic): Level One eLearning is sometimes referred to as the "click next" style. It is a quick and inexpensive way to cover simple rules or procedures. Level One has low interactivity (clicking the 'Next' button is as interactive as it typically gets) and contains many static text and images. Level One quizzes are usually basic multiple-choice and true-or-false questions.
Level Two Courses (Intermediate): eLearning courses have richer multimedia at Level Two. Courses at this level contain audio and video and basic animations and transitions. This level of content is also often accompanied by narration (voiceover) and activities such as "click and reveal" interactions. Typical level two quizzes are drag-and-drop, multiple-choice questions, and matching activities. Level two eLearning is the most common because it's an excellent middle ground that offers a richer experience for the learner with affordable development costs.
Level 3 Courses (Complex): When you get to Level Three, courses become quite sophisticated, with a more complex and interactive learning experience. Level three can include extensive audio, video, transitions, animations, simulations, and more. Quizzing could involve branched, scenario-based questions that allow learners to explore multiple paths and feedback levels. Level three eLearning is often developed for more advanced training.
The ROI of eLearning
ROI is the return on investment that an organization makes (ROI = Gain or Return/Cost).
Costs for eLearning courses are relatively easy to define and include all development costs.
Determining the "value" or "gain" is trickier. We evaluate this by examining the gains for the coach and their clients.
When calculating the ROI for eLearning, dollars and cents are only part of the return to consider and not necessarily the most important part. When done right, eLearning is less expensive, more engaging, easier to implement, and, most importantly, more effective than traditional forms of learning.
The time to consider your course ROI is before it is developed to ensure your goals align with your expectations. Examples of course goals include:
augmenting your branding and visibility as an expert in your field
the ability to analyze and track learner progress
higher client retention rates
expanding your potential client base
It's important to define quantifiable goals at the beginning so you can identify and calculate a return for your investment. For example, a goal of "improved customer service" isn't quantifiable. On the other hand, increased sales and improved customer retention are tangible, measurable goals you can use to determine your ROI.
Your return can be in the form of reduced expenditures rather than increased income. The bottom line is you will likely have some goals that aren't quantifiable. These objectives should be measured and considered alongside financial ones, even though they can't be included in an ROI calculation.
When calculating eLearning ROI, there are several variables, including the course level, course length, and whether outside resources are needed for assets like voiceover and video.
Tips for Creating a Valuable Online Course
Creating an eLearning course that is valuable to your clients - and you - is the top priority. Here are some basic guidelines to follow when developing the content of your course:
Teach something specific: The more detailed your topic and/or target audience is, the more accurately you can price your course. In addition, with a specific topic, the learner is clear on what to expect to gain from the course while helping you create tangible milestones for when a client is ready to progress.
Offer 1-on-1 or group coaching: Offer to work with select clients (or groups of clients) to help guide them through your course content and provide feedback.
Host monthly live calls or webinars: It's important to stay in communication with your clients as they progress through your course(s). Hosting a monthly call with each client – even for only half an hour – is an excellent opportunity to answer questions, get feedback on the effectiveness of your course, and help hold them accountable for completing the course.
Create a private group for your course students: building a community around your course content is a great way to keep clients engaged with you and with others. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through a social media group.
Include downloadable resources: make your course resources downloadable, as a .pdf file, video, or audio file. These downloadable resources also make excellent lead generation tools to add to your website.
Offer a payment plan: Provide students with flexible payment plan options that work for both of you.
Be accessible to your students: Again, engagement with your students is essential. Allow your students a reasonable amount of time to contact you by email or phone and communicate how and when they can do this.
Offer a course completion certification: Create certifications that help motivate clients to finish. One way is to create a badge or image they can use on LinkedIn and other online profiles. Also, upon course completion, provide information about additional learning opportunities to keep your clients engaged and help increase their learning and skills.
Essential Elements of Building an Online Course
Courses are infinitely customizable and should always include your brand identity. Courses can be customized to fit any style and coaching topic. However, there are some essential elements to a successful online eLearning course to consider: professional design, interactive content, useful reporting and analytics, and course navigation that is easy to follow.
Front end analysis (course material): Front end analysis (FEA) is like a blueprint for creating course instruction. When an FEA is conducted early on in the course creation process, it saves time and money. The FEA includes project requirements, a description of the ideal performance to meet the project requirements, and identifying acceptable alternatives, if necessary.
Instructional design (how to best layout the material for optimal learning): the process of instructional design consists of determining the optimum way to teach course material based on established practices. It includes planning and designing assessment activities and learning exercises that measure learners' retention.
Storyboarding (the material framework): a storyboard is a highly detailed plan (story) about your eLearning course. A comprehensive storyboard ensures your course flows correctly and aligns with your goals. Think of a storyboard as a roadmap that outlines every element you need to include in your course from beginning to end.
Multimedia (graphics, video, and audio): in the eLearning world, multimedia refers to the media content included in your course(s), such as video, audio, text, quizzes, and interactive content. Multimedia is utilized in several contexts, including content delivery and interactive exercises.
Authoring (integrating all material to fit the platform): an authoring tool is the type of software used to create the digital content in an eLearning course.
Review and Testing (quality assurance): it's important to have your course(s) reviewed and tested by an independent third party to assess copywriting errors and ensure the course design, flow, and content meet your desired learner goals.
Factors to Consider for Your Online Course
Course Length: The quality of course content is more important than length. However, the course length is one of the main factors when determining how to price your course.
Competition: Who else is offering eLearning courses on the same topic(s) in the marketplace? Evaluate the competition, and not just on price alone. If possible, scrutinize the effectiveness and completeness of their course material, how professionally it is designed, and whether or not it includes interactive elements. Research online reviews for these courses to discover what learners like and dislike about your competitors' courses. Strive to be the premium option for eLearning courses within your market segment.
The Value Outcome of the Course(s): Describe what your clients will achieve by taking your course and how it will help them. Detail exactly how and why they will benefit from your course materials. Are you saving them time? Money? Are they learning a valuable new skill?
Credibility and Authority: Your course represents your expertise. Ensure that your credibility, credentials, and experience are clear to your desired audience. Use testimonials from prior clients to reinforce this messaging. Be sure to include media appearances and publications as well.
Setting a Price for Your Online Course
How you price your course is essential and impacts virtually all aspects of your online teaching. Therefore, it's important to take time and do research to ensure you price your course(s) correctly. Some things to consider when pricing your course(s) include:
Will the price of your course affect the budget you have to market it? Relying too heavily on discounting isn't a sustainable way to sell your course.
What type are learners are you hoping to attract, and what is a reasonable price for this market?
How much support and attention will you be providing to your learners? Your time has a monetary value.
How much revenue are you projecting to generate from course sales? Ensure your course price allows you to achieve this goal.
Make sure to charge what you are worth! Online course(s) relay the same skills and knowledge you provide to your in-person client base, albeit with less face time, so be sure you aren't discounting your expertise.
When to Discount Your Course
When you are engaging in pre-launch testing: Pre-selling your course to a small group of people before launching provides you with valuable feedback and testimonials. Discount your course to your test group to reflect this.
If you are about to raise your course price, run a limited-time promotion urging people to 'sign up now' before the price increase.
On a case-by-case basis, depending on client needs and circumstances. Consider decreasing the services offered when lowering your price.
When Not to Discount Your Course
Many coaches are tempted to offer a discount to promote sales when marketing a course. However, this is 'lazy' marketing, and it directly impacts your revenue and ability to price your course what it's worth over the long term.
Discounting can hurt your brand. There is a perception among consumers that 'you get what you pay for.' If your course is discounted, it can make prospects believe that quality isn't up to par.
You are selling your knowledge., not a commodity. Therefore, discounting undervalues the knowledge and expertise you bring to the table.
Competing on price is a race to the bottom. Instead, focus on longer-term revenue goals and hold true to what your knowledge base is worth.
It takes the same amount of time and effort to create a high-priced course as it does to create a low-priced course.
When You Should Give Your Course Away for Free:
Create an introduction module as a lead generation tool. Users can access this module for free in return for providing contact and email information you can use for future marketing efforts, like email marketing.
When you are giving away full or partial access to select courses as a promotional tool when clients purchase another service from you.
For lead generation purposes, allow prospects access to some of your course material.
The Difference Between eLearning and Video Training
One common point of confusion we hear a lot from coaches is, "I've seen eLearning courses that seem just like a video: what's the difference"?
Let's start with a general definition of both:
eLearning encompasses all the training delivered through electronic or online technologies, regardless of its format (web page, video, pdf, live streaming), length, or other features.
Video Training is the delivery of training in a linear video format.
How can a coach be sure they present their material in the correct format? Let's examine the differences between coaching with an interactive online course and video training based on the following key criteria:
Length of Training
eLearning: eLearning is better suited for more complex content that needs to be presented in smaller segments, with the ability to assess after each stage, allowing coaches to keep their finger on the pulse, the pace, and effectiveness of their clients' learning
Video Training: Training videos offer bite-sized learning, meaning that the entire training is completed in one brief video that should be under 10 minutes long. Coaches can use videos when there is some quick information to be expressed rather than a skill set that needs to be learned.
eLearning: For eLearning courses, tracking is highly recommended because it allows coaches to monitor what their learners are doing, how much time each module is taking, where they get stuck, etc. Tracking enables coaches to adapt their content to best suit their learners' needs and understand how effectively it allows learners to achieve the final learning objective.
Video Training: Because videos are best for teaching a specific skill, especially concepts requiring a series of sequential steps, no monitoring is needed. The learning objective is short, concise, and skills-based instead of more complex content and concepts.
Video Training - While interactive videos are available, they are expensive to create, do not allow monitoring or tracking, and generally are used for teaching a specific task or action rather than soft skills or more complex subject matter.
eLearning - Interactive eLearning courses increase learner focus, engagement, and retention by utilizing methodologies such as gamification, scenario-based learning, and adaptive learning. These modules are more successful at holding the learner's interest throughout the course.
Ease of Use for the Learner
Video Training –- Most learners are familiar with watching a video, and they can watch videos on their cell phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc. Because videos are downloadable, no internet is required.
eLearning – Typically, an internet connection is required for eLearning courses, although this is not always the case. You can develop downloadable courses learners can complete and upload when the internet is available. Technological advances have made eLearning content accessible on all mobile devices at any time and anywhere.
To summarize, video training is most useful for:
Concise and clear step-by-step processes
Quick, to-the-point updates
Refreshing your learners periodically after providing in depth-training
eLearning is most useful for:
Teaching more complex concepts and content to learners
Creating engaging, interactive, and entertaining content
Remaining connected to learners, monitoring progress, and adjusting course materials
Comparison of Video Training vs. eLearning Course:
The best way to understand the essential differences between video training and eLearning is to experience it yourself.
In the following two examples, you will note that the video training is passive learning, where the learner listens to the information imparted. eLearning is active learning; the learner participates in exercises and engages with the content.
Click on the image to experience a sample of each type:
Video (passive) Learning Example (click images to view):
eLearning (active) Learning Example:
The Benefits of a Professionally Developed Course
There are several benefits to working with a professional to develop an eLearning course, with the two most important reasons being time and expertise.
Many people believe that cost is a primary reason not to hire professionals, but this is not always the case. Professionally developed eLearning courses can be affordable for everyone, including solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, coaches, and small businesses, depending on the professional partner you choose.
Your time is valuable and is best spent building your coaching business and working with clients. The amount of time it takes to create an eLearning course varies based on several factors, but it is always the case that it takes longer than you estimate when doing it yourself. Unless you have the necessary skills and resources, be prepared to spend weeks – if not months – creating a course from scratch.
The skills needed to create a course include instructional design, storyboarding, multimedia (video, graphics, and audio), and authoring (integrating the course into the technology platform).
By working with a professional, you have access to all these skills in one place, eliminating the need to outsource elements, which can become expensive. Working with a professional allows you to have one point of contact who manages the entire project to fit your needs and budget.
Additionally, working with a professional eliminates purchasing equipment to create audio and video assets.