aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Online Learning Pricing

Posted by Ellen on December 24, 2007

Dear Ellen — So I can figure out if our association should even go this route, I’ve got to get some idea of how much online learning is going to cost us.  I know it depends on how much we outsource, how much content we want to present online, and other factors, but do you have any guidelines so we can make some general estimates?  Thanks! — Going for Broke in Alexandria, VA

Dear Going,

You’re wise to get at least a range of projected costs so you will know what you have to work with.  And you’re also right — several factors will make a difference in what those projected and final costs will be.  Pricing for online learning is fairly complex, but asking yourself some questions will help you get started. 

A few things to consider:

  • What content do you want to develop or convert (“repurpose”) for online delivery?  Is it primarily informational? Will you be training a skill? Teaching a decision-making process? Making the correct match between your content and the type of online learning is critical.  Just because Webinars are popular doesn’t mean they are the best match for the content you will be delivering. 
  • Given the answer to the previous question, what will the structure of your online offering be? Instructor-facilitated (similar to the type of courses ASAE and The Center offer through their Center U?)? Or a stand-alone, “instructor-independent,” asynchronous course?
  • How interactive will the course be? If instructor-facilitated, how much personal interaction among students is desired? If instructor-independent, how many embedded quizzes, activities, simulations, and other features are desired?  In either case, how many job aids are you planning? Will you link to a wiki, blog, chat, or other Web applications to enhance the course content?
  • If you were to gauge the ability of you or your staff to write and design the course, how experienced would you say you are?  What about your skills in developing the course? Linking the course files to a course management system, your membership database, and getting the course online?
  • Do you need to track attendance? Completions? Scores from embedded quizzes, tests, or other activities?
  • Are you anticipating large numbers of registrants for your course? If so, will you need to link registrations and password pass-throughs from your membership database system to your course management system? Or could you manage manual registrations if system compatibility seems questionable?
  • How will the course be launched, hosted, and accessed? Does your association’s server have the capacity to house the course and manage the traffic to and from it? Would it be better to host the course on an outside system, either via your Web site host or a third party?
  • Given the answers to the previous questions, you should have an idea of the general type of online course you will be developing, the features and tracking capabilities needed,  and the level of expertise you have on staff to handle any of the development.  How much outsourcing will you need to do?  Just the technical aspects? Or the development? Or the content conversion into storyboards?

Each of these factors will drive your overall cost — type of online course; tasks you, your staff, and/or your volunteers can complete; technical issues related to tracking and deployment.

If reading this post makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and say, “What have I gotten myself into?” don’t despair.  Many others have walked this path successfully and will help you down it.  Take it step by step and you’ll get there.  Trust me!

Next time — what all this means about pricing.

In the meantime, if you’ve completed a similar gut-check in preparing for online learning, let us know how it went.  Did you ask different questions?  Take a different approach entirely?  What did you learn in the process that you wish you’d known when you started?

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