In Start Your Own eLearning or Training Business, you'll find information on all the steps you need to start and run a distance learning business. In this edited excerpt, the Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. discuss the four areas of digital learning that are seeing the more interest from those wanting to learn.
Distance learning has many portals and markets that could use your skills. Before outlining your offerings, get a solid understanding of the primary markets: corporate training, higher education, continuing enrichment and professional education, and child and young adult education. Think about your personality, lifestyle, and working habits, and ponder how you might match up with each of these areas.
1. Corporate training
The array includes training employees for skills in leadership, conflict resolution, corporate strategy, and critical thinking, to name just a few. Technical, industry-specific skills training, and new hire orientations for large corporations are more popular needs. Corporate training requires critical listening and implementation skills, teamwork, and the ability to process lots of new information continually and rapidly, as you work with companies to create ways they can achieve their goals. To lead group training successfully, you need a broad understanding of human behavior. You also need to accept and tolerate many different personalities.
Sometimes working for busy executives means your scheduled training or meeting dates will be cancelled and rescheduled. Are you patient, resourceful, forgiving of erratic human behavior, and creatively aggressive about getting what you want?
Directing group discussions online or off requires leadership skills and focus. Sometimes frustrated employees will try to dominate the experience for others by taking the set discussion subjects off course. Do you have the affinity to use intelligent humor and great storytelling skills to reel attention back in? If you're easily irritated by people and think you can mostly stay behind the safety of your computer in your pajamas slurping java, reconsider. Most online corporate training does well to follow the flipped classroom model, incorporating a few live, face-to-face sessions for enthusiastic discussions and presentations.
2. Higher education
With the popularity of massive open online classes (MOOCs), which are often free, students can take classes from prestigious colleges and universities. A study by edX, an online learning resource project governed by MIT and Harvard, showed that in 2012 and 2013, 138,000 Americans enrolled in MOOCs, followed by Europe at 72,000 and India at 60,000. Slightly more men than women take MOOCs and usage by level of education is evenly spread from secondary education or below, through bachelors and post-graduate degrees. Websites like Open Culture list free courses from top Universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, and MIT. View their list of 1,100 free courses here.
Just studying how markets behave isn’t enough to direct your career path. It’s important to stay on top of which products within the markets are most sought after, and what related products the same market uses. The higher education crowd consumes massive amounts of test prep services for the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT.
Students spend thousands on higher education degrees and still find the job market reeks of a stagnating economy. Money smartly spent on to-the-point skills in schools that target fields with high starting salary averages will get students quickly earning and immersed in their occupation where they can continue seeking mentors. Filling in the gaps with free lectures at Open Course Ware or Coursera can make a very rounded professional ready to take the world by storm. What kind of training might you add to this unconventional real-life M.B.A. concept?
3. Continuing enrichment and professional training for adults
This arena is very creative and encompasses learning that is as much for enjoyment as it is for occupational enhancement. Many colleges have an adult continuing or enrichment education sector that is sometimes called "community ed." You’ve probably seen community ed catalogues featuring everything from photography and watercolor classes to training on interpersonal skills, relationship counseling, and even flirting. This delivery system is open to most any idea as long as it is fun and non-offensive.
While most community ed classes are conducted face-to-face, there is room for creating online tools such as videos, quizzes, and lectures that greatly enhance the experience. This section of the industry may offer the most room for creativity because there are no standardized experiences to be measured against, or pre-designed certificates or degrees.
Aligning yourself with community centers and continuing education branches of colleges helps advertise your product and reach a large audience already interested in self-development, entertainment, meeting new people, or just plain fun. Being an entertainer as well as a teacher—someone who can make sometimes shy people feel welcome—is critical for this area of distance learning. Because people often reach out to enrichment learning as a social function, they're not just looking for information; rather, they seek stimulating exchanges with likeminded people. You can also go solo and receive additional exposure by affiliating in some way with other businesses and organizations, which means you need to have good presentation, networking, and social skills. Giving talks to specialty clubs on your area of expertise is a good way to test the receptiveness of your subject matter on your would-be market and see if you enjoy the interaction that ensues. You can follow talks up with an online module focus group.
4. Child and young adult education
Distance learning is filling gaps all over this market, such as those to help the Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) succeed. The state-led CCSI, developed in 2009, has been adopted by 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The standards are informed by the best state standards already in existence and the experience of teachers, content experts, states, and leading thinkers. Students are put through the latest retention methods to ensure the information is really sinking in and that they can refer back to the materials using critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Distance educators seeing a great opportunity here are using the latest retention methods in their designs.
Another goal of CCSI is to create a globally competitive U.S. workforce, which brings the opportunity to focus children on the subject matter of other cultures and languages as a must. Some schools use an immersive online language program to fulfill state curriculum requirements without hiring more instructors. Gamification is a trend that adults and children have made popular by favoring this style of teaching that takes learners through a game of fun challenges, making learning totally absorbing. Creating courseware that combines this style with filling a need makes it extra magnetic.
As new priorities change the structure of traditional education, your key to success lies in creating products that address several needs at once. Keep your eyes on trade journals and research to make sure trends don’t shift without you.