I think it was 2006 was the when I first read the acronym, LMS (Learning Management System). It was during a time when I was searching for information and researching how to deliver content online to paying students abroad. Believe it or not, most of my research was done on Barns and Noble’s magazine section, not online. I needed to peer into the looking glass of web’s future and see what was to come.
At the time, all I could uncover online for teaching martial arts courses to students in other countries was pretty crappy technology geared heavily toward industry systems and a very, very small amount to higher learning, mostly in the medical or engineering space.
Yes, there was YouTube and a few other sites providing a resource for experts to upload content for viewership, but linking the pieces together to offer a topic centered, single solution ecosystem that offered a private learning experience for members only just hadn’t developed yet.
There was no way for any trainer to build authority in their market, turn an audience into a community and monetize their skill set to whoever wanted to learn. Myspace didn't cut.
I think it was actually an article in Inc. magazine that wasn’t even about elearning or the web per say, instead it was about the rapid advancements in all areas of technology, how these changes were right in front of us and positioned to disrupt the conventional day to day lives we’ve had for decades. In fact, this article’s topic was on futurism and offered a ten year plan that was hard to grasp.
One element of the article spoke about how the way students learned anything; from learning shapes and colors to earning Ivy league diplomas, it would all be driven by Learning Management Systems powered by algorithms that tailored lessons to the specific cognitive learning style of the student and calibrated delivery based on their current rate of topic comprehension. These lessons would each be uniquely calibrated to suit the students learning needs and based on their individual behaviors, habits, weaknesses and strengths. Pretty sick, huh? One year still to go with this prophetic article and I honestly believe it was quite accurate.
At the time, most industries were considering the internet as nothing more than a shiny object that wasted time, versus a central part of their coming business model. But after reading this article, it was obvious to me that if the habits of learning were to change, then so too must the habits of teaching.
As I sat on the couch in the book store, my mind went further down the rabbit hole of how disruptive this technology will be, or how revolutionary it’s potential is for people committed to changing lives for the better.
The one place this article missed on was timing. While it was accurate in a sense that we have arrived, it failed to state that our arrival is a mere step up to the starting line. The race for gaining authority in what I believe is still and extremely small space, has yet to begin. While learning online is relatively accepted today, I argue that it's still very much in it’s infancy. So much so that I believe that anyone who is now positioning themselves correctly as a teacher online, serving students abroad, has an amazing opportunity unlike any other in business history.
So why us? In a space that is extremely centered on providing physically demanding lessons, what place do we have involving LMS technology into our business?
Since that day in the bookstore, my thoughts have been centered on this topic and seven reasons why a moving arts studio must have offer their teaching online.
Let me share:
Global Audience versus Locals Only
This is by far the most important reason in my opinion, though it really has no financial impact. The access to tools and knowledge to grow your studio’s membership into the hundreds or thousands of students is practically free, therefore there’s no excuse other than your lack of desire to grow.
For those who truly want to share their message and teaching, there simply is no limit to what they can accomplish. No longer are we chained to the local market, unless we choose to be.
This category should be titled Recurring Income and Systems that are simple to use, (unlike those crazy third party tuition management systems). Having students from around the world as members of your online studio allows for more subscription memberships and recurring income, which obviously helps your bottom line and allows more resources to be allocated to constantly and consistently improving your own learning and the learning experience of your students. As well, with simple payment gateways online, you can easily set up your studio’s tuition management system to serve both online and local students within one interface.
Predictability of Income
Being able to measure and predict your income from your online studio is easier than your brick and mortar business. Sometimes you just can’t understand why you had a dead month at your studio or why ten people called for a trial class in one day. But with your online members, it’s extremely predictable as you're able to see analytics from
With your local newspaper, you simply have no clue. When you want to increase traffic to a campaign or promotion, you just throttle your google ads budget up a few dollars and more targeted traffic arrives to you landing pages. Yes, it’s that easy.
Stronger Market Authority
When you are teaching students abroad, you begin to get this appeal from your market that comes from social proof. Take Miguel for example. Miguel is my top distance member, who built his own Dojo and has followed my curriculum since 2007. He now has an amazing group of students from his city in Mexico, travels to New York every year to train with me and sponsors me to travel to his school to teach. Think about the message this has to people who are newly attracted to my teaching. Seeing that people travel to my studio from around the world and that I teach seminars internationally, immediately gives me credibility. There's really no other reason for them to think this beyond,
"well if he's doing all that he must be good."
Now Miguel is just another student, (a great one I might add), but my point is that the relationship I have with him would never have happened were it not for my online studio and through this, I have created more and more students abroad and much greater authority in my market.
Long-Term Growth and The Multicasting Effect
There is no denying the amount of work it takes in the early stages of a membership site to get it going. It's alot of work, but it’s work you’re doing anyway, isn’t it? If you're delivering quality instruction, with a super value-centered proposition to prospective students and at a cost that you would pay yourself, you will grow members faster than they will cancel. It's that simple. And that’s the key! You must increase at a rate greater than decrease.
Yes, you will lose members, it’s part of it.
By running an organic, evergreen or archived model LMS, that is constantly being updated, groomed AND you are engaging with your students with a frequency of no less than once per day, than your success to profit scale is certain.
The secret to growing your studio is found in value centered content delivery. For super success in this growth, something that is often overlooked is multicasting, or re-syndicating content in different modalities to reach those with different learning styles, while providing your message on different platforms. Example; while you may be creating a great video lesson, the multicast effect demands that you consider all of the following;
... and much more.
Increased Customer Value and Member Tiers
Versus a one-time payment for a product, having members who are paying recurring fees of more than six months will greatly increase your average student value versus overhead. Compare the percentage of 100 students paying $29 per month in your online studio, versus 100 local students paying $100 a month at your academy that may cost $3k in overhead, (and that’s being conservative!) Overhead for a robust online studio? Average at about $30 per month, more boutique solutions at $100 month, tops. Which has a better return on your time and investment?
As well, your membership site allows for different tiered membership groups for upgrades and higher paying members, along with a host of other value centered profit centers that are all mostly automated. Once they're built, they're running. Unlike in a conventional school where you have to pitch an upgraded program over and over, costing time and money.
Add this together and in short time you'll discover that the return your are seeing with your online work will surpass your local student value in short time. But, there’s a value point about your local students that hasn’t been considered yet and that’s the intrinsic value added to your lessonsand the role your students play in the overall learning experience of your distance members. That’s impossible to put a ruler to, but should not be discounted.
Teaching What You Love
We’ve all been there, not wanting to teach to pay the bills. With an online studio that is growing and profitable, you're able to focus more on the core of your teaching versus looking for new, trending profit centers to put in place to pay the bills.
Instead, by having students abroad seeking you out based on your message, you're actually able to be more selective in your teaching, more honest in your delivery and thus provide for more real, authentic teaching, unhindered by the pressures of watering down your work to appeal to the needs of a market you never wanted to serve in the first place.
While there are certainly immense financial benefits to having an online studio, I feel the opportunity to serve a larger audience without compromise is the best of them all. By focussing on value and quality, serving those who truly want to consume your teaching, this is the essence of why we do what we do. Don't you agree?
So are you prepared for the revolution of learning, reaching students from every corner of the world? Or have you not yet taken that first step to the starting line? Now is the time.