5 Steps to Start a Successful Online School

Wondering what it takes to get to get an online school up and running?

The demand for online education has increased massively in recent years, presenting a unique opportunity for educators, entrepreneurs, and experts in various fields.

Launching an online school allows you to tap into a scalable business model. 

And it’s not just a potentially lucrative endeavor – online schools can significantly impact students’ lives by providing flexible and accessible education options.

In this article, we’ll guide you through a five-step process that can turn your dream of starting an online school into a reality. So let’s get started!

Understanding the online school landscape

Advancements in technology, increased accessibility to the internet, and the disrruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have sparked rapid growth in the landscape of online schooling – and the eLearning market is set to continue its expansion.

In fact, the market is predicted to be worth $848.12 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.54%.

Naturally, this growth is an attractive prospect for educators and entrepreneurs looking to deliver digital education that meets the evolving need of students around the world.

Reasons to start an online school

Capitalizing on the booming eLearning market isn’t the only reason why starting your own online school is such a bright idea. Other compelling reasons include:

  1. Growing demand for flexible education options: A survey by Oxford Learning College found that 84% of students appreciate the flexibility of online courses, and 56% liked the accessible learning environment provided. As more people seek out education that fits around busy schedules and unique learning styles, online schools are poised to meet the demand.
  2. Scalability and a steady revenue stream: Revenue in the online education market is set to reach $166.60 billion in 2023. By offering a variety of courses, memberships, and educational resources, online schools can generate a steady income while scaling to cater to an expanding student base.
  3. Providing alternative learning models: Online schools offer an alternative to traditional education, allowing students to learn at their own pace and in their preferred place. However, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword and exacerbate equity issues for those without access to reliable internet or technology.
  4. Leveraging expertise in a specific subject area: Online schools present a fantastic opportunity for subject matter experts to share knowledge of specific topics, help others improve their skills, and cement themselves as authorities in their niche.
  5. Global audience and extended reach: Geographical boundaries aren’t a problem for online schools! Students from all corners of the world can enjoy access to quality education. Reaching a global audience also broadens the potential market for your courses and contributes to the democratization of education.

Types of online schools and business models

There are various online schools and business model types to choose from when starting your online education venture – each has pros and cons. 

So, let’s take a look at some of your options:

Self-paced courses

Self-paced courses let students learn at a speed that suits them. 

There’s no need for live interaction with instructors or classmates, making the model ideal for individuals with busy schedules or people who prefer to learn independently.

However, self-paced courses can lack a sense of community and real-time support, which can be a deal-breaker for some students.

Additionally, without accountability measures, there’s a potential for low completion rates.

Live online classes or webinars (cohort-based courses)

In this model, students attend scheduled live sessions with instructors and classmates. 

Webinars are a great way to encourage interaction and collaboration and provide quick feedback, and instructors can make the learning experience more engaging and personalized.

However, personalization takes a lot of time and effort on behalf of instructors, and scheduled classes simply won’t work for students with hectic schedules or individuals in different time zones.

Membership-based learning communities

These online schools offer ongoing access to educational resources, courses, and a community of learners in exchange for a recurring membership fee. 

As a result, the model can generate a steady revenue stream while fostering a sense of belonging among students.

However, membership-based communities require near-constant content creation and community management to keep members engaged. 

Maintaining a consistent membership base can also be problematic if students join and leave over time.

Hybrid models

Hybrid models combine the benefits of online and offline learning with workshops, seminars, or practical sessions – which means that students benefit from in-person interactions that can strengthen the sense of community!

Although the model can provide a more comprehensive learning experience, managing digital and physical logistics can be challenging, and you ultimately limit your audience to those who can attend in-person events.

Collaborative platforms

These collaborative models involve multiple experts, all contributing to a shared platform to offer diverse courses and learning experiences. 

The approach can attract a broader audience, share the content creation workload, and ensure that topic coverage is always varied.

Coordinating with instructors isn’t always straightforward, however. Potential revenue sharing or intellectual property conflicts can crop up, and quality across contributors can vary.

Step 1: Identify your target audience and course idea

A successful online school has a clear and well-defined target audience and course ideas that align with their needs. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Identify your ideal customer profile: Consider your target audience’s demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Understanding your audience’s motivations and challenges allows you to tailor courses and marketing efforts.
  2. Conduct market research: Investigate the needs and preferences of your target audience, and identify gaps in the market that your online school can address by conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups.
  3. Analyze competition: Assess existing online schools and courses targeting the same audience. Pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, and look for opportunities to stand out from the crowd with unique modules.
  4. Develop a unique value proposition: Use market research and competitive analysis to create a compelling value proposition that differentiates your virtual school – and make sure to communicate your value proposition in marketing materials to attract students.
  5. Brainstorm and validate course ideas: Generate course ideas that address the identified needs of your audience. For example, you might create a high-ticket online learning program for C-suite executives with large budgets and lofty expectations regarding quality and outcomes.

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Step 2: Choose the right platform and setup

Picking the right platform for your online school is crucial. After all, it’ll significantly impact the user experience for you and your students.

However, there are many platforms to choose from, including self-hosted platforms, Software as a Service (SaaS), Learning Management System (LMS), and membership site platforms. So, consider the following factors when weighing up your options:

  • Ease of use and customization options: Besides being user-friendly, the platform should offer customization options to create a unique learning environment per your vision.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Choose a platform that can grow with your business, supporting new courses, memberships, and features as your online school expands.
  • Integration with other tools and systems: Ensure your platform integrates seamlessly with essential tools such as payment gateways, email marketing platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
  • Cost and pricing structure: Familiarize yourself with the platform’s pricing structure, including any upfront costs, monthly fees, or transaction fees, and stick to your budget!
  • Customer support and community resources: Look for a platform with responsive customer support and a robust community of users who can provide guidance and troubleshooting assistance.

AccessAlly is a stand-out platform that’s ideal for starting an online school. 

It’s a flexible, scalable solution that allows you to create and sell online courses with minimal hassle. 

Plus, you’ll be able to nurture a dynamic online community thanks to its CommunityAlly add-on!

Choosing AccessAlly also eliminates the need for multiple WordPress plugins or restrictive SaaS platforms. 

As a result, you’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls of relying on a fragile combination of WordPress plugins (like CRM, LMS, and more) or platforms that limit your control and ownership.

And AccessAlly is far more than just an LMS! The all-in-one tool allows you to run online courses, memberships, coaching programs, and communities seamlessly in one place. 

All in all, AccessAlly is a surefire way to ensure your online school and learners are set up for success.

AccessAlly – manage monthly membership pricing options

Step 3: Create and manage engaging content

Naturally, the content offered by your online school will play a pivotal part in its success – and your content creation and management strategies are just as important.

So, let’s run through key aspects to keep in mind when developing your courses:

  • Instructional design principles and best practices: Apply instructional design principles such as the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) model or Bloom’s Taxonomy to create engaging and well-structured course content that meets your learning objectives.
  • Multimedia content creation: Utilize media formats like video, audio, and written materials to cater to different learning styles and preferences. A variety of formats also contributes to a more dynamic learning experience!
  • Assessment strategies and tools: Implement various assessment methods, including quizzes, assignments, or project-based evaluations, to measure student progress and provide feedback – which you can use to improve future content.
  • Ensuring accessibility and inclusivity: Design your course content with accessibility in mind, ensuring it’s compatible with screen readers, keyboard navigation, and other assistive technologies. Additionally, consider providing transcripts, captions, or alternative text for multimedia content to accommodate diverse learning needs.
  • Managing and updating content: Review and update your course materials regularly. This ensures content is always high-quality, relevant, and accurate.

AccessAlly has your back when it comes to content creation and management, thanks to its flexible course builder. 

You can also use the tool to track student progress and ensure an outstanding learning experience!

AccessAlly – create and organize course content

Using the intuitive interface and customization options, you can design courses that cater to specific audience needs and preferences – and ensure your material is accessible to all learners.

And remember to take advantage of AccessAlly’s gamification features and points system to add extra interactivity!

AccessAlly’s progress tracking functionality also allows you to monitor student engagement and performance, and help you pinpoint where and how courses can be improved. 

Learners will also be able to visualize their progress and pick up where they left off when they return to their coursework.

Step 4: Establish your brand and marketing strategy

Cultivating a strong brand identity for your online school can help attract and retain students – and you’ll need an effective marketing strategy to spread the word about your offerings. 

Here are a few ways you can make your mark:

  • Defining the brand’s mission, vision, and values: Clearly articulate your online school’s mission, vision, and values to guide your marketing efforts. This will also help you create a cohesive brand identity that resonates with your target audience.
  • Developing a visual brand identity: Design a visually appealing logo, select a consistent color scheme, and choose appropriate typography to represent your online school and make a lasting impression on potential students.
  • Crafting compelling messaging and storytelling: Develop messaging that speaks to the needs of your target audience. Additionally, utilize storytelling strategies to share the benefits of your courses and the success stories of your students.
  • Selecting the most effective marketing channels and tactics: Identify the most effective way to reach your target audience – like content marketing, social media, email marketing, or paid advertising. Be sure to focus on marketing channels that’ll yield the best results.
  • Measuring the success of marketing efforts: Track the performance of your marketing campaigns and adjust your strategy as needed. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website traffic, conversion rates, and customer acquisition costs to evaluate your efforts’ effectiveness and identify improvement areas.

If you like the sound of reinforcing your branding by creating professional-looking order forms, then AccessAlly is the tool for you!

AccessAlly – personalize membership order forms

AccessAlly can also support the marketing efforts of your online school with personalized CRM automation features that can boost engagement, and integrations with popular marketing platforms like ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Keap.

Leveraging AccessAlly’s features and integrations allows you to streamline your marketing efforts and focus on other critical goals – like growing your online school’s reach and impact.

Step 5: Monitor analytics and optimize your online school

Once you have your online school up and running, you’ll need to utilize analytics tools to optimize its performance and ensure its ongoing success.

Below, we’ve listed some of the ways you can effectively use data to improve your online school:

  • Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs): Determine the KPIs that you can use to measure the success of your online school and the impact of your courses, like student enrollment, course completion rates, student satisfaction, and revenue growth.
  • Using data analytics tools: Employ data analytics tools to track and analyze your online school’s performance. Tools like Google Analytics, CRM systems, and LMS reporting also let you examine user behavior and engagement.
  • Gathering feedback: Collect feedback from students and other stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. Surveys, interviews, or focus groups can provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your courses.
  • Implementing changes and improvements: Use your gathered data and feedback to improve your online school. This might involve refining course content, enhancing the user experience, or adjusting your marketing strategy.
  • Continuously optimizing: Monitor your online school’s performance regularly, and continue to optimize your courses, marketing efforts, and overall strategy to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of your students.

AccessAlly makes it easy to keep track of analytics and gives you the tools you’ll need to optimize your online school, including features allowing you to track student progress, engagement, and other essential metrics.

Whether you want to drill down into module progress, track audio and video listening/watching patterns and student logins, or view engagement metrics, AccessAlly has it covered.

You’ll have a wealth of valuable performance insights at your fingertips – and you can use them to make data-driven decisions that ultimately enhance your online school’s offering and ensure it remains relevant to your target audience’s needs.

AccessAlly – track student performance across modules

Launch and grow your online school with AccessAlly

The journey to launch an online school starts with a single step – though there are plenty of considerations to make along the way.

For example, you’ll need to choose the right eLearning platform, create high-quality content, develop a strong brand identity, and monitor analytics to foster continuous improvement.

Fortunately, AccessAlly is designed to support entrepreneurs each step of the way.

The powerful WordPress plugin is incredibly flexible and capable of scaling alongside your business – so your online school can grow without limitations. 

Moreover, with stunning mobile-friendly order forms, you can present your offerings professionally to potential customers.

AccessAlly also ensures your learners benefit from a stress-free and outstanding learning experience packed with interactive features and multimedia materials. 

There are also personalized automation features that can help your students remain engaged and satisfied with their learning journey.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and start your successful online school, you’ll want AccessAlly at your side! 

Try the all-in-one solution today, and experience a robust platform designed to meet the unique needs of online educators and entrepreneurs – and their community of learners.

Ditch the duct tape with AccessAlly for WordPress.

Run your online courses, memberships, coaching programs, and communities in one place.

Duct tapeSee it in action

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