How to Leverage Your eLearning Investment to Grow Your Business
Until recently, eLearning generally has stayed within an organization’s four walls or its membership, focused on utilizing intellectual property or content for training an internal workforce and/or for value-added member training. But today, organizations of all types are seeking to create different and new types of revenue streams.
Leveraging your company’s investment in your intellectual property is one effective way to accomplish this. You can distribute your content through learning technologies and an extended enterprise to take eLearning content to new learners—generating new, untapped revenue and extending the company brand and influence beyond its traditional reach.
But there are several pieces of the puzzle you must complete to be successful. Along with content, your company needs the skills and resources required to develop, promote, sell, distribute, and manage an eLearning system. Here are seven critical components to successfully growing and sustaining your eLearning business.
- Extended enterprise technology. There are currently more than 650 learning management systems (LMSs) on the market and growing. An LMS is an important first step in presenting a catalog of online courses, allowing learners to register for, take, and complete courses. But an LMS is only the first step to building out and growing an eLearning business. Extending training outside membership or internal training requires sophisticated distribution management tools, inventory control, e-commerce capability, the ability to set up multi-domains or portals, and analytics and reporting, to name a few. An extended enterprise is key to turning learning into a revenue-generating, sustainable business. Also, more sophisticated extended enterprise solutions come with technology and services to distribute content through resellers, corporate volume users, affiliates, etc., as well as built-in business development and marketing support.
- A profit-focused approach. Don’t undersell yourself; an eLearning program should be a continual revenue stream for your company, not a loss leader. Yet too often, organizations fail to put an appropriate price tag on their eLearning. This devalues the product, restricts revenue, and promotes low participation rates. When someone pays for something, they perceive it as having greater value than something that is free. So be sure to price your online trainings in a way that is representative of the value the education brings to the learner, especially one outside your organization.
- Consumer-focused content. Often, organizations develop eLearning based on what employees want or a perceived need by members. In order to broaden your business reach, elicit feedback from your staff and members, but also through focus groups, surveys, or a gap analysis within the current industry environment. What courses can you offer that will attract learners within your company or association—as well as outside—to register for your content? To move courses, you need to settle in on the “hot” topic first.
- Live customer service. Part of the appeal of on-demand learning is that it can happen 24/7. But that means you must have the resources to provide customer support—whether that is via e-mail, phone, or live chat. Your eLearning reflects your organization, and you want your learners to have a frustration-free experience (thus, leading them to come back to you for your top-notch training). You must strive for a 100 percent resolution of problems. To accomplish this, your technical support staff must have key support messages, online product backgrounders, and a call center protocol. Additionally, you want your call center to be ready to launch on day one of your eLearning going live. Finally, ensure your call center is poised to capture learner feedback, so you can make any adjustments and updates to your training as soon as possible.
- Business development and marketing matters. Without robust, integrated marketing campaigns, your eLearning business will fail. But it’s not just about driving registrants to your content; it’s also about conveying your organization’s messaging and mission with every marketing effort. A successful eLearning marketing program is like a marathon that requires patience and persistence. You must target your potential learners through several different channels—including e-mail, SEO, Google Adwords, social media, and more—with an approach that is aligned with the target audience. Finally, generating leads is one piece of the puzzle. To sell courses through partners, you need a business development team to set up distributor networks and turn leads into closed bulk/group course sales.
- Data-driven decision making. Without analytics, you will not know how well you’re doing in meeting your eLearning goals or what changes are required to ensure success. You need a real-time dashboard that can generate and aggregate data regarding learner use, preferences, and performance, as well as summarize sales data, distributor sales, and other data about your eLearning business. For instance, you should be able to determine how many people used the flashcards versus the study planner. You also should have access to data about time spent on various features, including within content segments (e.g., how long does it take to get through each module). Aggregate test results, learning efficiency, click patterns, and psychometric data for practice problems (e.g., difficulty and discrimination data) are other metrics to which you’ll want access. You should consult your learning management dashboard daily so you can course-correct, as needed. The analytics also will help you determine the return on your investment based not only in terms of dollars, but also on the impact of the program on your credibility and brand. Analytics also can help you identify new markets and develop future programming.
- Learner feedback loop. Upon completing a course, you’ll want to conduct a post-program learner assessment. This enables learners to assess their own progress, and it also provides you with valuable intel that can be used in future promotions and course development and refinement. ELearning assessments should go beyond a simple course satisfaction survey. It should be based on establishing educational outcome metrics linked to learning objectives.
Deb McMahon, Ph.D., is CEO and President of Scitent eLearning. She sets the strategic vision for Scitent’s eLearning business and technology services, applying nearly 25 years of experience in education to help organizations develop their eLearning business. For more information, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org