In 2012, Masiel (Massi) Encarnación was trying to cope with a bad breakup.
Feeling low about her failed relationship, Massi knew she had to do something to snap out of her funk and get back control of her life.
That's when Massi discovered Zumba, a popular aerobic exercise system heavily influenced by Latin American dancing.
Massi loved Zumba so much, she decided to become a licensed instructor. Today, Massi works as a personal trainer and fitness educator in New York City and spends much of her time doing what she loves — teaching Zumba and empowering women to make healthier lifestyle choices.
However, you don't need to visit the Big Apple to take lessons with Massi, as her fun fitness training classes are also available as an ecourse on Podia.
In this post, we'll be looking at ecourses just like Massi's. We'll examine:
- Exactly what ecourses are and the main types of ecourses available today
- Why ecourses have become so popular in recent years
- The benefits of taking ecourses
- How ecourses differ from traditional education
There's a lot to cover, but don't worry - we're here for you every step of the way! Now, let's dive in with an explanation of precisely what ecourses are.
What is an ecourse?
At its simplest, an ecourse is an educational course delivered via the internet.
Although there are exceptions, ecourses are typically taught in modules or dedicated classes in which students learn specific skills or techniques as part of the broader course.
There are many different types of ecourses. Let's take a look at a few of the most popular:
Ecourses by content creators
The most common type of ecourses are those taught by content creators just like you that you can sell on Podia. These ecourses often focus on specific skills, techniques, or disciplines.
For example, Podia content creator Chris Oliver's ecourses teach specific technical skills, including how to incorporate Stripe as a payment system in your Ruby on Rails application, how to create retro 8-bit video games using Game Creator Pro, and how to get the most out of the Sony A7R III digital camera. However, many Podia content creators offer ecourses on more holistic subjects, such as clean eating and healthy living ecourses from Podia content creator Sally Twellman, Peta Shulman's course on wholefood diets, and Masiel Encarnación's fitness and exercise ecourses.
Online learning in blended curricula and 'flipped classrooms'
Another common type of ecourse is classes that are taught as part of blended curricula or courses that incorporate both online and in-person learning environments. Many college-level courses offer blended curricula, particularly those aimed at mature students or learners with unconventional schedules.
So-called “flipped classrooms” have become increasingly popular in recent years, even at high school course levels, and take a different approach to traditional learning. The instructional part of the class is delivered via an ecourse, and the practical “homework” part of the puzzle is done in class instead.
Online degree programs
Although they're not technically ecourses in the truest sense, online degree programs are a great example of how ecourses and other internet-based teaching methods are becoming increasingly mainstream.
Hundreds of colleges are offering thousands of 100% online degree programs, and some universities have specialized, accelerated online degree programs, such as executive Master of Business Administration degrees, for example, that take much less time to complete than traditional degrees.
Self-paced online classes and ecourses
The final type of ecourse you've probably heard of or come across is the self-paced online learning resource.
These programs and resources have become incredibly popular during the past few years. Sites like Khan Academy have become an integral part of many classrooms around the world, and thousands of people have learned new skills through self-paced learning resources like Codecademy and Treehouse.
Why are ecourses so popular?
If you think about it for a minute, it's little wonder why ecourses have become so popular in recent years. It's the very worst of cliches, but the gradual expansion of the internet into every facet of our lives really has transformed the way we do... well, everything.
However, as corny as it sounds to say how much the internet has changed everything, it's also not the whole story. There are plenty of reasons why ecourses have become increasingly popular. Let's take a look at a few.
Reduced barriers to entry in skilled professions
Not so long ago, to get a job in a skilled, in-demand profession such as software engineering, you had to have a degree from a well-known school. Between the cost of tuition, physical limitations such as distance from colleges with good degree programs, and a variety of other factors, this puts a college-level education beyond the reach of many people---as well as the high-paid jobs that graduates of those programs typically enjoyed.
Today, online learning and ecourses have completely demolished many of these barriers to entry. Ecourses have opened up new career pathways to millions of people, regardless of where they live, their educational background, or their career aspirations. In fact, as of May 2017, more than 6 million students — approximately 29% of all students in the United States — took at least one ecourse or distance learning program in 2015.
Significantly more affordable than traditional education
It almost goes without saying that comparing a six-week ecourse with a four-year degree program is like comparing apples to oranges. That said, cost is a significant factor in the explosive growth in popularity of ecourses in recent years.
Data from higher education nonprofit The College Board states that, in the 2017-2018 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public university for an in-state student was approximately $9,970. For out-of-state students, that figure rises to $25,620. At private colleges, it rises to an eye-watering $34,740. That's *per year,*by the way.
When the cost of earning a traditional degree is this high, it's no wonder why so many people are turning to ecourses as a viable alternative.
Convenience and accessibility
Think about the last time you went into your local bank to conduct a transaction. Not the ATM vestibule, but inside the actual bank, where you have to stand in line and wait for a teller.
Now think about when you last checked your balance on your bank's smartphone app.
Convenience and accessibility are both major factors in the popularity of online courses in recent years. Online classes and ecourses have definitely made it easier for students living in remote areas to acquire new qualifications and skills, but even students living near their college are opting for ecourses over in-person classes. According to a recent report published by the Babson Survey Research Group, more than 56% of students who took online classes exclusively in 2017 lived within 50 miles of their school's campus.
Ecourses aren't just cheaper and more convenient than traditional classes, they're more accessible, too. Data from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics suggests that the overall rate of people with disabilities among the United States population was almost 13% in 2016 — the equivalent of almost 42 million people. For many people with disabilities, online classes and ecourses are significantly more accessible than traditional educational programs, another reason for their consistent growth in recent years.
Diverse range of topics and subjects
Another reason why ecourses have become so popular is the sheer range of topics, subjects, and skills you can learn that would be impractical — or even impossible — to teach in a traditional classroom or degree program.
For example, what if you wanted to know how to improve your marriage? Or what to expect from a divorce? How about which herbs to plant alongside the basil in your kitchen container herb garden? Or which weeds you can safely eat on a hike through the countryside? None of these topics are suited to traditional education (imagine taking a four-year degree to prepare for a divorce!), but they're all perfectly suited to ecourses.
What are the benefits of online courses?
We've already covered some of the benefits of ecourses and online classes, but there are many other benefits beyond cost, convenience, and accessibility. What are some of the other benefits of taking ecourses?
One of the main benefits of online courses for creators is that selling ecourses is an excellent way to earn a passive income.
Podia offers creators the option of selling individual ecourses or creating a membership-only site that is only accessible to people who subscribe or become members of your site. Both of these approaches are a great way to increase your income without having to do all the legwork of finding new customers or actively selling to prospective students.
You focus on creating your ecourse, and let us worry about everything else!
Ongoing professional development
Let's face it — the job market is absolutely brutal right now. With competition for jobs more intense than ever before, it has never been more important for people to learn new skills and ensure they remain professionally relevant.
“As a leader, when you’re hiring, *look for lifelong learners,” *Pat Wadors, former senior vice president of Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn, wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “Look for talent who has demonstrated the ability to learn new skills to advance their career, which shows they have the ability to learn. It means they can learn new skills — which they will need to do continuously to be successful.”
Continuing professional development is only going to become more important in the future. With more than half of American workers seeing ongoing professional development as “essential” to their future career success, it's vital to continually learn new skills.
Broaden your audience
Another benefit of selling ecourses online is that doing so is one of the fastest and easiest ways of broadening the reach of your personal brand and reaching many more prospective customers.
Although a few of Podia's content creators only sell their work on Podia, many more use Podia as part of their broader engagement strategies. For example, Massi's ecourses are available on Podia, but Massi also operates her own website (which students can use to make bookings and inquiries about Massi's workouts). By adding her content to Podia, Massi has significantly expanded her potential audience without relying on any one specific platform.
Selling ecourses on Podia is one of the best ways you can broaden your reach, attract more prospective students, and ultimately earn more money. What's not to like about that?
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Learning new skills isn't just vital for professional growth, it's crucial for personal growth, too.
Cultivating new skills and learning new things can be immensely beneficial. Learning a new skill is a great way to keep your mind sharp, meet new people, and make the most of your free time. That's not all, however. If professional development is an investment in your career and future, then personal development is an investment in becoming the person you want to be. Tackling an ambitious challenge, learning something new or difficult, or committing to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone are all excellent ways to see yourself differently and work toward becoming a better, happier you.
Create more compelling courses by prelaunching
One of the biggest challenges facing content creators who are considering launching an ecourse is figuring out what people really want to learn.
No two people learn in exactly the same way. Similarly, what one person may find essential to their learning process may be completely irrelevant to another student. By prelaunching your online course, you can gauge interest in (and the commercial potential of) your ecourse before you put in the work of actually producing the content for your course. This not only allows you to use your time and production resources more effectively, it also helps you determine which modules or topics your prospective students most want to learn.
Although we talked about accessibility a little earlier, it's worth mentioning again in the context of non-traditional students.
Distance isn't the only barrier that prevents some students from getting ahead. Many people who could benefit from further education cannot do so for many reasons, including poor educational attainment. However, just because somebody didn't get great grades in school doesn't mean they can't benefit from learning new skills. The same goes for students living in rural areas without a major college or university, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, and other people who might otherwise struggle to enter or succeed in the traditional education system.
Ecourses also level the playing field in terms of student choice. Rather than being forced to choose between the programs they can afford or get to easily, students can choose the course that will help them achieve their personal or professional goals — not just the course that's closest or cheapest.
What makes ecourses different from traditional education?
We've already talked about some of the key differences between ecourses and traditional education programs, but there are still several crucial distinctions between the two that you should be aware of.
Less stringent entry requirements
One of the most important differences between ecourses and traditional education programs is that of entry requirements. Many degree programs have highly selective application processes and entry criteria, including minimum grade-point averages, letters of recommendation, extensive interview requirements, and more.
On the other hand, most ecourses don't even have entry requirements, beyond having the equipment to actually complete the course and the fees to enroll. This makes ecourses significantly more accessible than most traditional education programs.
No mandatory foundational classes
Something that frustrates many undergraduate freshmen is the number of foundational classes they have to take in subjects that are completely irrelevant to their chosen major. Not only do these classes take up the entirety of an undergraduate's first year of college, they also drive up the overall cost of earning a degree considerably.
By contrast, ecourses almost never have mandatory foundational classes, aside from a minimum level of knowledge required to actually complete the course. This means less time wasted on irrelevant subjects and more time spent studying the topics you really want to learn.
Significantly more affordable
It's no secret that the cost of higher education in the United States is out of control. Total student loan debt recently exceeded $1.48 trillion, and the average individual student loan debt for graduates of the Class of 2017 was $39,400, an increase of 6% over costs for the previous academic year. At an interest rate of 6.8% over a repayment term of 10 years, this would put your monthly student loan repayments at $453 — and that's just for one student loan. Many students have several. (Oh, and on a loan like this, you'd pay more than $15,000 in interest alone.)
In light of costs like these, it's little wonder why so many people are turning to ecourses to learn new skills. By comparison, most of Podia's ecourses are less than $100, and even our more comprehensive courses, such as Seth Mosley's Music Production Mastery course, costs less than $1,000 — a fraction of the cost of a traditional qualification.
Different grading and evaluation systems
Something else that distinguishes ecourses from traditional classroom-based programs is how students are evaluated. Most colleges in the United States use the grade-point average (GPA) system to measure student performance. However, although GPA can be an important factor in gauging how well students are doing, it's only one metric — and a narrow one at that.
Just because a student doesn't have a fancy degree or a 4.0 GPA doesn't mean they aren't a good student or that they're less motivated to learn new skills. Fortunately, ecourses almost never require students to maintain specific grades as a condition of continued enrollment. Some ecourses don't even have formal grading or evaluations. Although this might seem a little counterintuitive, it makes a lot of sense. Just as not all subjects are suited to classroom environments, not every topic can (or should) be graded conventionally, either.