Of all the questions I get when I’m consulting with a new or potential eLearning client, only one leaves me speechless: “How much should I charge for my courses?” That one question tells me that this person is not ready to embark on offering eLearning as a product or service.
- In order to prepare a business case for your eLearning site, you need to know what courses in your subject area should sell for.
- You have to know what price the market will bear before you can estimate revenues (and profits!).
- To create a curriculum, you have to know how much content should be included in each course – this is the other side of the price coin.
Knowledge – and the transfer of it from one person to another – is not a commodity. Learning is not something you pay for by the unit. There is no such thing as a “standard charge per hour or page”.
To prove my point, I want you to go to the nearest university book store. Find three text books that are about the same size; one should be written by the world’s leading expert in that subject. These books are likely to be – oh, I don’t know – $75, $150, maybe a lot more. The one by the world’s leading expert is going to cost considerably more than the others. Now, find a current bestselling novel that is about the same number of pages of your selected text books. Chances are, it is somewhere between $15 and $25.
You’re not paying for the paper or the ink, or the time it takes you to read it. The same is true when it comes to eLearning; people are not buying hours or pages.
If you’re reading this and thinking “uh-oh”, don’t despair!
Here’s what you should do:
- Create a curriculum for your content, based on traditional training you’ve done, what others are doing, and/or your best judgment. This curriculum should contain:
- Get online and search for eLearning courses in your subject.
- Do others have similar curricula? If not, how do they differ? Is this something you want to consider changing, or do you have a “better way”?
- What are others charging for their courses? If there is a large variation, can you tell why? Is it their reputation? Are they offering more personal attention or other extras? What accounts for the price difference? Are they bundling courses or services?
- Remember that your competitors are not just other online courses in this topic. Your competition also includes online courses in other subjects, face-to-face courses in the same or similar topic, and even self-help videos (often free on YouTube!) and books. The world is full of options. What are the alternatives to your online courses? What are their costs and perceived value?
- If you plan to offer CEUs, make sure your curriculum meets those requirements.
Once you know how much content will go into each course, who the audience will be, who will be paying for the courses, and what others are charging, you can begin to price your online courses.
The factors that go into pricing intellectual property (which your eLearning is) include (but are not limited to):
- The reputation of the author/expert.
- The complexity of the topic (and how good you are at explaining it, compared to your competitors).
- The need to know the topic.
- The desirability of the knowledge. How eager are people to know this?
- The perceived value of the knowledge. This can be high if students believe they will see a return on their investment in a short time, through better jobs, weight loss, improved quality of life, etc.
- The ability of those who want to take the courses to pay the price. To overcome the budget shortcomings of your otherwise-eager students, you can offer smaller chunks at lower prices, bundle courses for volume discounts, offer free services to go with paid courses, etc.
Once you have priced your courses, you definitely want to revisit your business case and make sure this is still a business you want to be in.
For more on the steps to launching eLearning as a new product or service, view the presentation in Using Moodle for Business: Moot Presentation. Pricing is a critical component of the Business Case, Step 1.