One of the big things we have seen in recent years on the internet is the growth of online courses. These offer a way to learn something digitally without the need to visit a college or university and can fit around other aspects of life. The popularity of the online course has led to another development – the membership site. But is this right for your business?
Membership sites versus online courses
While there is an overlap between the two – courses are often offered within a membership site for example – there are different elements to the two and different approaches to payment as well. There are dedicated platforms to create online courses as well as hosting them on your website and there are also various Membership Software Solutions that are custom designed for membership sites.
A typical membership site includes access to the content that is tied into a monthly or regular fee. There is a bank of content available and an emphasis on creating new content to add to this on regular basis. There is also a sense of community with it that allows people to get to know others in the membership, often with access to exclusive Facebook groups or member forums.
Also with a membership site there is no defined end and the program continues as long as the operator or member wants to.
Online courses tend to have a one-time fee or an instalment plan for set payment to grant long-term or lifetime access to the content. Most take a module or lessons structure with a clear path through the content for the student to follow. Content can be available all at once or drip fed over time and there is progress tracking with some assignments or quizzes optionally involved. There can be support or groups of students.
How to make a choice
Deciding which is the best option for your business is about looking at what you offer, what you plan to offer and how your customers want to consume the content.
For example, if your chosen topic has a clear learning path from start to finish, then an online course can be a good option. Here you can plan the lessons, deliver the content and the student then goes on to use that learning in their desired way.
On the other hand, if you have a number of topics around a central theme that you want to create courses or mini-courses on, then a membership site can be an ideal way to offer these. It allows students to pick the content they want to use at any particular time to suit their needs.
Time is another consideration when making a choice. When you create a course, there may be an annual update needed or a change if something major happens with the topic. Otherwise, it can be created and left largely untouched. Membership sites need regular new content to ensure people stay subscribed so it is therefore more time consuming and ongoing.
Another reason that membership sites can be a good choice for your business is that they create a sense of community. People get to know others in the membership and make friendships. They also then recommend it to others and bring their friends to it when it is relevant to them. This can help build your customer base in organic ways.
Building community can involve more work as you need to tend that community. Facebook groups are a popular addition to a membership site but do need someone to act as admin for them and keep things on track. But if you have the resources for this, it can be a great way to build loyal members.