How Organizations Can Monetize Their Instructional Content
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Ways That Organizations May Monetize Their Instructional Content

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) have been around in the corporate world for about two decades. For most of this time, they have been little more than on-site databases, and rather short on User Experience (UX) design. There has been little real need to make them attractive or even easy to use because much of what they deliver has been compulsory and/or for employees’ eyes only. This type of LMS is destined to stay locked away within the corporate walls on the company intranet.

The LMS landscape has changed with the advent of cloud-based LMSs and a growing desire among C-suite execs to find ways of monetizing their organization’s instructional content by delivering it to parties not directly employed by the company: sales channel partners, franchisees, retailers, contractors, and individual customers. Customer education is a proven way to boost sales. And if you can also charge the customers to educate them, it represents a doubly significant revenue-building opportunity.

Many organizations are interested in selling courses to groups, as well as individuals. To achieve this, there is a need for flexible, robust, secure, and reliable eCommerce functionality. It may be desirable, for example, to enroll a cohort of learners all at once in a single transaction, or to give group membership discounts. There is often the need for time-constrained price flexibility, as in early-bird offers or seasonal price changes. If these can be pre-set by an administrator to run automatically, a great deal of administrative work can be saved, thus streamlining the operation and increasing its profitability.

Where To Sell Instructional Content

A wide spectrum of organizations can boost their revenue by selling courses online: associations, social enterprises and non-profits, institutions, training companies, and colleges, as well as enterprises. The end consumers of their instructional content can include individual learners as well as groups, so both B2B and B2C eCommerce feature sets are needed in a catch-all eCommerce solution.

Top B2B features are site branding, time-sensitive subscriptions, bulk purchase of learning content coupled with a simple enrollment of cohorts, payment by invoice, and support for purchase orders, flexible voucher codes, and CRM integrations.

Useful B2C features include a course catalog that is external to the LMS, support for a large number of different payment gateways, bundled products, immediate access to learning content upon successful payment, and the ability to handle the sale of physical goods such as CDs, DVDs, and books.

Some of the 700-plus LMSs on the market offer some or all of these features, but migrating to a new LMS is a major operation that needs to fit the organization in all other ways apart from the eCommerce side of things. The choice of LMSs is overwhelming, and many initially attractive features actually are a poor fit or end up not being used at all. Some organizations may prefer to keep their existing LMS and seek a third-party eCommerce platform that integrates with it and allows them to access much of the functionality outlined above without having to switch their LMS.

Another hurdle to reaching wider markets is that courses are hidden away inside an organization’s LMS. Accessing them requires user login credentials and knowledge of where the course is located within the system. The LMS is also closed to search engines, making course information unavailable to the wider web. However, if the courses are displayed in a web-based catalog, with keyword-rich course descriptions and search engine-friendly URLs, these pages will be indexed and appear in web searches. Search engine visibility is a crucial part of marketing online courses. Keeping them locked up inside the LMS can only hamper efforts to sell them to a wider customer base.

The ideal solution for many, then, is a ‘super-plugin’ to their LMS that offers considerably more than the simple ability to take online payments. To reach outside the organization and into the commercial world of selling instructional content, the most effective outlet is a web store that can be shopped in intuitively via eCommerce flows that everyone is familiar with from shopping online. Coupled with the B2B and B2C functionality outlined above, such a store is a professional solution to the technical challenges of growing revenue by selling instructional content online.

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