What Is An Ecourse?

Maybe you’ve never asked yourself what is an ecourse, because if you don’t know that ecourses exist you can’t ask yourself what they are.

Today I wanted to explore the world of ecourses, what they are, who should be creating them, and why.

What Is An Ecourse?

When I first published this article and video back in 2012, the whole concept of ecourses was still as fresh as a newborn… and unbeknownst to me there were two different definitions for what is an ecourse.

On the one hand, you had digital marketers and like myself creating “email courses” that get sent through an email marketing platform.

Photo of a woman holding a cup of tea and asking what is an ecourse

On the other hand, the e-learning industry was using the term ecourse to describe any form of online education… which might include emails, but often consisted of a members only area with training materials and possibly more advanced things like videos, quizzes, and so on.

So what’s the difference between what it takes to create ecourses and create online courses? Well today, there isn’t much of a difference anymore.

Any form of online learning or e-learning (for electronic learning) could fall under the ecourse terminology.

The e-course industry has grown up and is now up and running, and many enterprising teachers are able to earn a great living by creating and selling ecourses online.

Now let’s take a look at why you should consider starting an ecourse.

Surprising Stats About Ecourses

You might be surprised to learn how many ecourses and digital students there are enrolling in online learning each and every year.

The eLearning market is anticipated to be a $37.6 billion market in 2020.

Who participates in the world of E-learning?

  • Companies that need to train their employees and contractors
  • Universities offering distance learning e-courses
  • Schools giving students options for different learning styles
  • Parents wanting to give their kids more learning opportunities outside of core curriculums, or home schooling parents
  • Employees wanting to up level their skills to earn more promotions
  • Self-employed professionals who want to advance their careers and businesses
  • Associations that want to offer additional benefits to their members
  • Experts who want to share their knowledge and earn additional income by creating e-courses

How to Create an Email Course to Grow Your Email List

An ecourse can be short for email course. Usually an ecourse is delivered over time in several modules or sections sent via an email auto-responder.

Now you might be asking what is an ecourse doing in your list building tips series? In the video below I’ll walk you through how to explore a course idea and flesh it out so it helps grow your business.

YouTube video

What is an ecourse if not the best form of email marketing available?

Here are 7 reasons to create an ecourse for your online business.

  1. An ecourse trains people to open your emails. No more landing in the spam folder.
  2. An ebook can be too much for people to read and implement in one fell swoop. With an ecourse you can release your content over time, and make it more digestible and actionable.
  3. When you write an ecourse, you can educate an unlimited number of people as they all go through your process.
  4. With ecourses you can test, adjust, and rewrite without spending lots of time redesigning or editing a PDF.
  5. Ecourses also lend themselves to being shared better. You can ask your participants to forward your emails or share them on social media.
  6. You can build a relationship over time by providing value consistently through an ecourse, rather than a once and it’s done freebie.
  7. Creating an ecourse is as easy as writing an email, what’s not to love?

What tools do you need to create an ecourse?

Now that you know what is an ecourse, you might be wondering what tools you need to run an ecourse… and whether you need to do any custom coding or if there are off the shelf options that might save you time.

The good news is that you don’t need to start off with any expensive or complicated ecourse creation software.

Email Platforms to Run Ecourses

In fact, I recommend starting with an email sending platform and a few emailed lessons. You can include a few downloads (like PDFs or supplementary materials) but keep your use of video or media to a minimum.

You can find my recommendations for the best email marketing companies here, and one of the key things you’ll want to look for is the ability to create “automated sequences” that drip emails out over time.

That way, someone can enroll in your e-course and start to received timed emails that go out every few days or each week with new lessons.

After you’ve done a “proof of concept” course and you’ve tested your material with real students… you might want to invest in an ecourse platform that allows students to login and review materials over time.

There are a few different options when it comes to ecourse software, so let’s explore each one below.

Do you need a membership platform to run an course?

You might have heard the term “members only site” before, and you’ve certainly used one if you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, used Gmail or logged into Facebook.

So what’s a membership site? Well it’s a website where each student can login and access your content, ecourses, and manage their own learning and payments.

You’ve already seen that you can run an ecourse without a membership site by using only emails to deliver your training.

But the benefit of using a membership site to your online courses is that you can create a much better learning experience, and you can continue to update and evolve your content over time.

For example, you might have an e-course that lasts a full 6 months, where you add new lessons or modules over time.

Plus with a membership site, you can easily take payments for your online courses and allow members to update their credit cards and so much more.

Hosted SaaS Ecourse Platforms

Now that you know the benefits of using a membership area for your ecourses, let’s look at a popular breed of e-course platforms: the hosted software-as-a-service options.

These tend to include companies like Teachable, Thinkific, and Udemy… where you can upload your e-course content and these platforms will handle hosting and delivering your courses to students.

It’s a great option for getting started because you don’t need to know how to code, and you don’t need to worry about any of the design aspects of your e-courses because they do all of that for you.

At some point though, I’ve found that many people outgrow these hosted platforms and want to move their e-course to a more flexible system that gives them more control.

This often comes up when a digital teacher asks themselves “what is an LMS and how can it make my job easier?”

Learning Management Systems for Ecourses

A Learning Management System (or LMS for short) is a way to track students’ learning progress and tailor their experience to their own needs.

Often an LMS will allow a trainer to start:

  • Tracking students’ video views, so they can see where people get stuck while going through an ecourse
  • Quizzing students to help them test their knowledge and retain what they’re learning
  • Rewarding students as they move through an e-course, so they don’t lose motivation
  • Offering “certificates of completion” when a course is completed, which is great for online certification programs
  • Setting learning objectives to help students focus on the most important aspects of an ecourse

When it comes to LMS plugins and platforms, you’ll need to decide if you want something that can take payments to help you run paid courses or if you’re running a free course in an academic environment where payment is already handled.

One set of LMS solutions that offer the most flexibility and that are accessible all over the world are WordPress ecourse plugins.

WordPress Ecourse Plugins

As the founder of an LMS Company and a huge fan of all things WordPress, I have a pretty good perpective on the different Ecourse plugins out there.

The difference between hosting an Ecourse on WordPress and another platform like say Joomla, is that WordPress hosts over 30% of all websites in the world… And is constantly evolving and having new plugin developers create tools for it.

WordPress is also a very extendable open source platform, which makes it ideal for anyone who doesn’t like to be “locked in” on someone else’s platform.

You can read my full LMS Comparison guide here.

Are You Ready to Learn From & Start Your Own Ecourse?

Now that you have a better understanding of the power of e-courses, and you’ve seen a few different options for creating an ecourse…

It’s time to begin the online course development process!

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I’m the founder of a tech startup called AccessAlly, a powerful course and membership platform for coaching industry leaders.

I’m also the creator of the free 30 Day List Building Challenge:

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