The Force of the Course

Perhaps it’s because course creation is a pillar of my business, or maybe it’s that I spend all my time in a virtual (virtually & literally) business bubble, but I perceive online courses to be all the rage right now. Everyone has a course or wants to have a course. Experts want to tell you why you should or should not have a course. And opinions vary about whether online courses are on the rise and here to stay or if the market is saturated and courses are about to experience their downfall.

I, for one, believe the industry will continue to grow. And since my livelihood is at stake, I went searching for statistics and other evidence to convince me one way or another. Turns out, it’s harder to gather the right information than I expected. I thought I’d share some realizations.

Finding Data – A Bit of a Quest

First of all, most of the data available online is related to online training or e-learning among businesses and institutions of higher learning. That is, it was difficult to find information about the amount of and the effectiveness of online programs offered by small business owners.

For example, it’s easier to find statistics about how many businesses have implemented virtual learning into their employee training programs and about how those businesses determine the effectiveness of the training. However, at least some of that information is still potentially transferable to the entrepreneurial training world. When I see that IBM calculates that their people learn five times more (!) from virtual training – without spending more time in training – it seems that online courses can also be effective for the person taking 7 Basic Guitar Chords or Learn to Knit a Potholder This Afternoon (I made those up!).

Score a point for online courses.

Similarly, there’s a lot of information available about the number of high school and college students who are taking some or all of their requirements online. The numbers are on the rise. Among the reasons for this phenomenon are that it’s flexible, timewise (and therefore family-friendly) and that learners can control the pace of their learning (which also increases their engagement).

Point number two earned for online courses.

Now we’re going to let online courses run up the score.  Consider these facts:

  • Since 2000, the e-learning industry has grown 900%
  • It’s estimated at being a $100+ billion industry
  • There are at least 700 learning management system (LMS) suppliers
  • Virtual learners are estimated to be ~70% female

Online courses: 100 billion more points.

So What About Entrepreneurs’ Courses?

Here’s the best that I could do, without going completely down the internet rabbit hole. Really quickly, let’s take a look at the statistics from some of the most popular LMSs.

Teachable’s homepage indicates they host 22k instructors (who have earned an estimated $100 million), 34K courses, and 7 million students.

Thinkific boasts 25K instructors, from 164 countries (and 20 languages) on their homepage.

Podia’s homepage reports 11K instructors. When I reached out to them to ask if they had additional statistics (number of courses, revenue), they* told me they didn’t share that information because it was potentially sensitive, as well as being their client’s information and not theirs to share.  I love that answer, and not just because it’s my platform of choice. (*What else I love: “They,” who told me this, was Spencer, the founder of the company, staffing the chat box on the Fourth of July!)

Online course point total = 100,107,058,002 (but don’t check my math)

The bottom line: If you have been thinking about adding an online course as an income stream but had doubts about its staying power, I’d lay those doubts to rest. At least for now, online learning continues to grow in terms of popularity and sales (e.g. Forbes estimates it will be a $325 billion dollar industry by 2025!). Therefore, the online course continues to be a driving force for online business success.

Next time, we’ll talk about why YOU need a course!

Until then, stay Brilliant, my friend!

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