aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Stop Aiming at Your Shoes

Posted by Ellen on March 8, 2009

If you haven’t gotten yourself a copy of Jeff Cobb‘s 2008 Association Sector E-Learning Survey Summary Report, GET IT and READ IT and HIGHLIGHT IT and LIVE IT.

Far too much here to summarize, but a few things popped out that struck me as counterintuitive. Of course, I generally function in a counterintuitive way, so perhaps someone will let me know what I’m missing….

Under “Business Goals & Marketing,” Jeff notes that,

“A slim majority of respondents already using e-learning (50.2%) as well [as] respondents planning to use e-learning (52.5%) indicated that their offerings must [be] self-sustaining and profitable. An additional 33.7% of current users and 38.3% of planned users indicate that their offerings must be self-sustaining though not necessarily profitable.”

He goes on to report that,

“The vast majority of respondents currently using e-learning (86.0%) or planning to use e-learning (77.4%) charge or plan to charge for some or all of their offerings.”

So… most organizations need to offer financially sustainable, if not profitable, online learning. And most are planning to charge money for them.

Recently, a separate study indicated that the average price for a Webinar is $230. Remember, a Webinar is a one-time deal. (I’m making an assumption here — that if a recording is offered, there’s a pricetag on it.) Elearning, particularly asynchronous courses, are generally provided for a much longer period of time.

With me so far? Okay. Jeff’s report goes on to share what respondents had to say about what they charge or plan to charge for their e-learning:

“The average price per course hour for organizations currently offering e-learning is US $56.79. For organizations planning to offer e-leraning in the next 12 months, the average projected price per course hour is US $52.24.”

HUH???!??!?  Why would you charge less than average? Why would you LOWER that per hour course rate when people will need e-learning more than ever in the next year at least? Doesn’t it make more sense to charge what you must in order to at least meet your expenses?

What am I missing in this picture?

Because it seems to me if you keep aiming at your shoes, you’re bound to shoot yourself in the foot.

2 Responses to “Stop Aiming at Your Shoes”

  1. Jeff Cobb said

    Ellen –

    Ugh! You are making me realize I have some typos in there. The danger of trying to crank things out in my spare time! Off to fix those as soon as I finish this reply. More importantly – I agree with your point about pricing. Organizations tend to price e-learning lower than face-to-face in the first place – not something that necessarily makes sense – and I think there is a real danger that in the current economy there will be a tendency to deflate prices even more. That could have a long lasting impact on the sustainability of association e-learning programs. In general, I think there are valid reasons why associations can and should charge more for e-learning (I include webinars in that – and I don’t think the association avg. is anywhere near $230 based on what I’ve seen), but organizations seem to really struggle with articulating the value proposition for their e-learning – and then really getting the word out.

    Thanks for mentioning the survey! – Jeff

  2. Ellen said

    Jeff — Thanks for your comment! Often I’ve seen pricing determined this way: “I don’t think our members will pay more than $25, so we should probably keep our registration fee right about there.”

    Certainly it’s important to respect any sensitive price points. But doing so without considering the actual cost of what we need to invest verges on budgeting via idiocy. Saying it will cost $2000 to offer a Webinar that we think 50 people will pay to attend, then charge $25 each for it is financial lunacy, unless you’re planning to find a sponsor to cover the $750.

    The business woman in me would add: but even then, you’re not accounting for your overhead. Staff time. Rent. Utilities. That money has to come from somewhere. Associations that especially rely on their educational programs to support the overall revenue base need to look hard at their margins.

    Sometimes taking a hit is necessary. Take too many and you’ve done a more damage than just shoot yourself in the foot.

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