Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How do I market my online training courses?

Effectively marketing your online training courses can be one of the most challenging aspects of building a training business.  As subject matter experts, you are expected to know the topic you are teaching but to be an effective training business person, you also need to know how to attract and sell prospective clients on your services.  Here are a few tried and true rules and tips to keep in mind.

1.  Identify your market (be specific!) - To begin marketing, you must be certain of your market. Be very specific. If you say "Anyone can take my course" then you should start marketing door-to-door.  A well defined market might be "Electrical Engineers who require annual continuing education courses".

2.  Know your audience - Who is the typical buyer? What are their motivations for buying your course?  What problem does your course solve for them (CE credits, hard to find skills etc.)?

3.  Do what already works - If you are effectively marketing classroom based training, the same marketing techniques will work for online courses.  Putting your courses online doesn't create a new market for you, it creates a new audience of consumers.  Don't assume you have to do all your marketing of online courses through online methods.

4.  Make it measurable - Use promo codes, tracking codes and coupons to help identify what tactic you use is effective and what is not.  Make sure you plan time to tally and measure the results so you can use that data to refine your message and focus on the most productive tactics.
If you follow those rules, it's hard to go wrong.  Here are a few tactics that have been most effective for our customers.

a.  Email blasts & Newsetters - Your best clients are your existing clients.  Send them helpful, simple informative emails (not more than monthly) that let them know about new courses and special offers.  Email is (almost) free and has fast, measurable results.

b.  Direct mail - Direct mail (yes, I said that) post cards and tastefully written (ONE PAGE!) letters to your target market.  We are on the Internet now, direct mail is dead right? WRONG! You get dozens of email ads every day but how many letters do you get?  Direct mail can go to new contacts the CAN SPAM law don't allow you to email.

c.  Business to Business - Find associations and organizations that would benefit from offering your courses and get them to promote the course for you.  The right affiliate partner can produce thousands of new clients.

Notice, nowhere did I list a great flashy website.  The internet is clogged with websites. Yes, you should have a site but don't spend more than 15% of your marketing budget on web design, it simply won't pay you back.  Web advertising can be highly effective, (DigitalChalk get's over 80% of it's business from online ads) but it can be expensive per new client unless your training packages sell for several hundred dollars or more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Create eLearning with HD Video

Building great elearning courses using HD Video is getting a lot easier.  When we launched DigitalChalk over four years ago, we devoted a significant effort to making it easy to upload and share videos for training.  Unfortunately the elearning market wasn't quite as ready for video as we hoped.  Things have definitely changed and at this point even the most technology aversed instructors are embracing the idea that they can and should use video as a training tool.  
Earlier this year we launched a new technology for building courses using high definition video called HDLearn. We dramatically increased the maximum quality of the video that can be delivered and significantly reduced the complexity required to upload and share videos in DigitalChalk.  I thought it might be helpful to give you a few tips on how to produce videos that can be shared quickly on DigitalChalk.  
1.  Camera options - There are really two kinds of video used in elearning, the video captured from a video camera and the kind of video captured by recording software on your computer.  When talking about recording video of lectures or discussions it's important to be sure your camera supports 720p or 1080p recording in MP4 or MOV formats.  If you camera has both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, it will give you the most flexibility.  I recommend you stay away from MiniDV cameras because moving the files from tape to a computer is an unneeded hassle with today's flash and hard-drive capabile cameras.
2.  Lighting and background - It's really essential that you spend time thinking about the lighting and the background behind the subjects on video.  Poor lighting becomes very obvious to the students.  A neutral low contrast background will also improve lighting as well as help keep students focused on the subject on camera.
3.  Screen recording tools are very plentiful.  Make sure the recording tools you use can export a standard video file type.  In our experience, it's better to use standard video formats rather than Flash or Silverlight animation files.  Standard video formats can be edited with other camera video and you can use any standard video editor to make changes.  
4.  Video editors - Depending on what you are recording, there are a lot of options for video editing.  Most computers have either Windows Movie Maker (WMM) or iMovie (Mac) preinstalled.  These products are perfectly fine choices for the casual media editor who is cutting a few clips together.  Most businesses have access to Adobe Creative Suite or FinalCut Pro for the Mac.  
5.  Importing video to DigitalChalk - Once you are satisfied with your editing, it's time to export your file from the editor and upload it to DigitalChalk.  With DigitalChalk HDLearn technology you have a maximum of 1 Gigabyte per video file you can upload (or one hour, whichever is greater) per individual lesson.  The best settings for exporting are as follows:
    HD Video Sizes  a) H.264 MP4 codec (others are supported but this is ideal)
      b) 720p (1280x720 widescreen or 1280x960 standard screen) size
      c) Target bit rate or quality of 2.5 megabits per second (2500kbps) 
If you follow these settings you should be able to export a high quality video file of up to an hour long at well below 1gigabyte in size.  
Once you have created your lesson chalkboard in DigitalChalk you select the Manage Media link and click the + button to add your media file.  
6.  Tips for video lessons - Don't forget that DigitalChalk has a lot of options for putting in chapter points, check point questions and displaying slides in the chalkboard editor.  Sometimes you can mix the media and ask a question on video with a pop-up that is triggered inside of the DigitalChalk chalkboard to create a highly interactive feel to your video lessons.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sell Online Courses

DigitalChalk has become a market leading platform to sell online courses.  We are thrilled to see the growth in sales our content partners are enjoying on DigitalChalk.  When it comes to online video training software, DigitalChalk has taken the lead in giving you a complete toolkit to develop, sell and deliver online classes that include streaming HD video.
sell training onlineIf you are interested in marketing your professional skills in the form of online training courses or take your current classroom content to the Web, we would be honored to serve you.  DigitalChalk currently has over 1,600 organizations delivering more than 4,000 courses worldwide.  
Contact us if you would like to see a live, no pressure product demonstration from one of our specialists.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Setup Training Online

The effort to setup online training has become much easier in the past few years with the introduction of hosted software systems like DigitalChalk.  The hurdles of purchasing, configuring and managing software and servers have been removed with the introduction of Software as a Service (SaaS) products.  If you have course content ready in a digital format such as Powerpoint, video or SCORM modules, you can setup, configure and deliver online training in just a few hours.  
At DigitalChalk we are constantly striving to reduce the time and complexity required to product high quality elearning courses for online delivery.  We offer online tutorials on how to setup online training for free.  If you would like to have a live demonstration, contact us at 877-321-2451 option 1.

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