E-learning site business models: Which do you prefer as a customer?


(Leland Fiegel) #1

Something I’ve wanted to do for a while is create a series of WordPress theme development courses. After the basics (HTML, CSS, template hierarchy type things), I’d want to create courses that deep dive into how real-life themes are made, like how exactly I coded the Adaline theme on WordPress.com. Not so much theoretical stuff.

I can get into more detail on that later, but for now my question is, as a potential e-learning site customer, which model do you prefer?

##All-access for a recurring fee

This is what Laracasts and Code School do. You get instant access to a massive library of content for an insanely low monthly or (at a slight discount) yearly fee.

Laracasts also describes itself as “kinda like Netflix for developers.” This subscription model has catapulted Netflix into one of the fastest growing companies in the world, so it seems it’s not just popular among customers, but shareholders as well.

It also keeps things simple. There aren’t any complicated upsells or downsells. Just a simple decision: would you rather go monthly or make a longer commitment and save a bit of money by going yearly?

While many would consider this a good problem to have, customers may feel overwhelmed with and pressured to rush through courses to “get their money’s worth.” Perhaps they’d rather just take a break than continue paying a monthly fee.

Not to mention, there’s also pressure on the content creator to create continuous value.

Also, taking it one step further…what if a monthly option was off the table? Membership sites like Post Status have only yearly options, presumably to cut down on churn. Would you still be interested?

##Lifetime access to individual courses for a one-time fee
This is what Udemy does, albeit in a more “marketplace” style. Courses à la carte.

Laser in on a course that appeals to you, pay a one-time fee for lifetime access. No pressure to rush through anything. There could be community forums or a Slack channel for ongoing value, but course updates would be more for accuracy and not so much for new material.

For the customer, especially ones who prefer a slower pace, this would likely be cheaper in the long run.

For the business owner, while you’re missing out on recurring revenue, there’s not nearly as much pressure to create ongoing value. Customers could still be sold on future courses for additional revenue later on.


As a customer, I’d lean toward the lifetime model. I know I feel the “subscription exhaustion” like I described when I floated the “Pro” accounts idea here on WP Chat. This is something that was discussed in the theme/plugin license renewals thread.

While recurring revenue is all the rage these days, it’s no doubt it’s a turn off for a lot of people.

As a business owner, it’s also appealing to not have to be constantly pressured to create ongoing value for recurring members. Sometimes, the inspiration just isn’t there, which may lead to forced, low-quality content for stretches.

I can go all-in creating a course, take a break, and repeat the process when I’m ready to give it my full attention again.


So yeah, which do you prefer? I'll leave it up to a poll.
  • All-access for a recurring fee? Bring it on. I’d get my money’s worth.
  • Lifetime access to individual courses for a one-time fee. I prefer a slow pace and would rather not worry about “wasting” money on courses I don’t have time to take.
  • I’d never pay an e-learning site. I prefer reading free tutorials online and learning by doing.

0 voters

And of course, I’d love to hear your general thoughts below. Besides the general business model, what do you think is in the realm of reasonable as far as pricing goes?

Personally, I think $9 per month for Laracasts, for example, is insanely cheap. But if that’s the sweet spot in terms of maximizing revenue, then that works.

What about for individual courses? How much would you pay for a really in-depth theme development course designed for total beginners (I know a lot of y’all are not, but imagine if you were)?


(FoolPress) #2

I feel it depends on the style of the course. If the course never evolves then a one-time fee but if it’s a growing and evolving I’ll be happy to pay monthly. To use an example, I have purchased Udemy courses and for the most part they never update, so I can watch them whenever. I also have a Laracast and Treehouse subscription. Both are always growing and offering courses on the latest and greatest. I’d also say the quality for Treehouse and Laracasts is generally much better than what you’ll find on Udemy. This is not merely a question of the personality of the presenter but also the tech used to record on Udemy tends to be a bit lower.


(Peter) #3

I like Treehouse model and how it works there at all.
It depends on how your courses will evolve if there is something extra - forum, chat, examples, tips, homework … :wink:
If I pay monthly/yearly I expect access to everything, otherwise, it’s turn off for me. In this case, I don’t like any available upsells.
Personally, I don’t like to pay a one-time fee for any service/software (unlimited, lifetime and things like that) if usage of that service/software is continuous.

Anyway if there is not enough content, probably one-time fee for that course is ok with some limited extra stuff if you would like to stay profitable :wink:


(Brad) #4

@leland Build a community. Not a course :wink:

You’ll find the total lifetime value of the customer will skyrocket when you charge a recurring fee for access to the course, but more importantly: to the community


(Leland Fiegel) #5

Wanted to single this out as something I shouldn’t lose sight of. Thanks. :smiley: