Business Overview

Online courses are offered for many types of learning. Global Industry Analysts, Inc. reported the global, online, eLearning industry was over US $107 billion in revenues during 2015. There are plenty of opportunities to make money with an online courses business.

Online courses may lead to earning a degree, getting certification and/or completing legal requirements. Online courses are popular for corporate training, continuing education purposes, self-improvement, learning foreign languages, hobbies, and “how-to” instructions for a variety of projects.

Earning a Degree

These online courses can be extension courses offered by “brick and mortar” educational institutions. They can be courses offered by online educational institutions that only have their courses on the Internet. In both of these cases, these courses are offered usually by certified educational institutions if the course credit goes towards earning a degree that is recognized as legitimate by employers and others.

Sometimes these educational institutions hire outside consultants to develop the online courses for them.

Certification and Corporate Training

Another popular use of online courses is for the certifications required for employment in specific fields. These courses may be entry-level for those being certified for the first time. They also may be required for continuing educational purposes in order to maintain one’s certification for licensing renewal.

Examples of certification courses are those commonly used by software programmers to prove their competence in certain computer programming languages, IT technology, and software. Additionally, the instructors of these courses usually are also certified and achieved their certification by taking online courses and passing comprehensive online exams about the subject matter.

Legal Requirements

A common online course, which is taken because of the legal requirements, is traffic school. In some states, a person who gets a traffic ticket is given the option to take a traffic school course in order to avoid paying a fine and have the infraction appear on their driving record.

Other examples are the OSHA requirements for on-the-job safety training or basic first-aid training.

Continuing Education, Self-Improvement, and Others

Many people take online courses due to their personal interests in getting better at certain skills, enjoying what they do for hobbies, understanding how to complete a project, and simply wanting to learn new things, like a foreign language.

There are three styles of online courses, which are popular. These are:

  1. Level One: Online courses that are self-directed and allow students to progress at their own pace.
  2. Level Two: Online courses that are self-directed and have real-time text chat support available to answer questions.
  3. Level Three: Online courses that are guided by instructors with lectures, which are given in real-time. Students interact with the instructors via video conferencing. These courses are very similar to taking courses in person. They can be taken from the convenience of an office or a home without having to drive to a physical place. Usually, the lessons are recorded. This allows any student who misses a live lecture to review it at a later time.

Unlike traditional in-person courses, these online courses are not always lengthy. Some of these courses may only last for 30 minutes, while others may last for several weeks. The online courses may include graded work assignments, quizzes, and/or exams to track the progress of the students. This helps determine their level of comprehension for a part of the material, before allowing them to continue with the next part.

Who is this business right for?

Online courses are created by people with a considerable amount of expertise and experience in the field they wish to teach. As such, having a niche skill makes it easier to offer desirable courses. These businesses require a considerable amount of time when they are the live video-conference style.

Online courses can be more difficult to teach than standard classes as students typically need lots of interaction with the teacher. A high-quality computer and speedy internet connection are essential when teaching online courses if you intend to offer live, video-conference style courses.

What happens during a typical day at an online courses business?

The activities differ, depending on the type of online courses offered.

For level one self-directed courses, most of the processes are automated. As the business owner, you will be highly focused on marketing efforts to find students who will take the courses. You will spend most of your time creating online marketing campaigns and/or supervising those who you hire to help you do this marketing effort. You will spend some of your time creating or supervising the creation of materials for new courses in order to expand your online course offerings. A smaller part of your time will be checking the existing course materials to make sure they are up-to-date with current information.

For level two self-directed courses with live online chat, you will have similar responsibilities as for level one, with the addition that you will participate in the live text chatting with students and/or oversee the live text chats for quality control purposes.

For level three live real-time video conferencing online courses, in addition to the responsibilities of level one and level two, you will spend part of the day preparing for your online lectures and part of the day giving the lectures to students on a regular schedule.

What is the target market?

Contracting with an organization(s) to create online training courses for new employees, and continuing educational courses for existing employees, is an excellent way to achieve continual business.

For online courses taken by individuals, the best customers are those who have a need or desire to complete a course and prefer the convenience of taking such a course online.

How does an online courses business make money?

There are two ways to make money with online course offerings. They are, charge each student a participation fee or contract with an organization to provide these services for a fee.

What is the growth potential for an online courses business?

Depending on the market niche, the potential for growth is excellent. Examples of very successful businesses that offer online courses include these top-ten selected by the eLearning Industry for 2016:

  1. SweetRush
  2. EI Design
  3. Allen Interactions
  4. Allen Comm
  5. Pulse Learning
  6. Obsidian
  7. G-Cube
  8. Designing Digitally
  9. Learnnovators
  10. CommLab India

BusinessWire reports that TutorGroup is worth $1 billion. TutorGroup is the largest English language online education platform in the world.

The Training Industry provides an annual top twenty list for various types of corporate online training companies.