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Why online programs are part of the reinvention of work and learning

Those who are not steeped in digital media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter) may not be familiar with a phenomenon that has exploded in the past few years.

For lack of a better descriptor, I will call it the rise of online programs.

Perhaps the best way to explain an online program is to articulate what it is not.

I do not mean colleges and universities putting academic courses online. Stanford has been one of the trailblazers.

You may also have heard about MOOCs (massive online open courses). Or the free (and amazing) Khan Academy supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

Online programs are valuable to both leader and participants

I am referring to a wide range of marketing, business strategy, technical skills and life coaching programs, led by an expert and offered – often for a fee – via the Web.

These online programs can be hugely useful and fulfilling for both the teacher (who can be based anywhere) and the participants (ditto – they tune in from any country or time zone).

They are part of the reinvention of work and learning.

The programs or e-courses consist of Internet or Web-based learning in the form of emails, Webinars, teleseminars, video and Skype sessions. They include discussion forums or private Facebook groups. They are usually offered for a set period of time: 4 weeks or 8 weeks or monthly over the course of a year.

Delivering an online program is both art and science

Guru of nonconformity and author Chris Guillebeau references a number of online programs in his latest bestseller, The $100 Startup. They are created by micropreneurs who have a passion about something, have developed a following and have a keen understanding of what their people want and need related to that passion.

Figuring out the what and how of an online program is an art and science and involves trial and error. (See my post on I am not Seth Godin… but you knew that.)

Who is your ideal audience? How do you reach them? What value can you deliver? In what formats? Over what time period? What is the right price?

Not surprisingly, there are programs that teach you how to deliver programs.

How do you like to learn? Audio, video, reading?

The content of an online program is purposely offered in different modalities to accommodate different learning preferences.

You can listen to an MP3, watch a recorded Webinar or video, read a PDF transcript or handout, interact with other participants on Facebook or a discussion forum or perhaps connect directly with the course leader via email or Skype video.

The programs often feature a members-only (password protected) area of a website where you can access the materials and resources for the class. A new and popular platform for hosting an online program is Ruzuku. Another one is Udemy.

Some of the interaction with the teacher or program leader is real-time. Some of the learning is self-serve, at your own pace and on your own schedule.

I’m a big fan of these programs. They are an efficient way to get access to – and interact with – a recognized expert. Or to learn a programming or technical skill.

A few examples of online programs

Melbourne-based SitePoint (founded by the amazing Matt Mickiewicz) offers courses in Web design, WordPress, Photoshop and more. They are one of the pioneers in e-courses.

Jen Loudon (best-selling author and life coach) and Michele Christensen (business and relationship coach), offer TeachNow (full disclosure: I am currently enrolled). The course offers advice, inspiration and support for those who are teaching, both online and off. It’s both soulful and practical. This is one example of a program that teaches you how to deliver a program.

Ramit Sethi, best-selling author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, offers ongoing courses for his tribe of 20 and 30-somethings. He is a master at marketing his programs and I study what he does closely.

Jonathan Fields, best-selling author of Uncertainty, offers TribalAuthor to help authors market their books. I love his emails and I study Jonathan closely as well.

Pam Slim, a business coach and best-selling author of Escape From Cubicle Nation, has just launched a year-long business development course called Power Boost Marketing 2013 (full disclosure: affiliate link).

I’m enrolled in PBM 2012 and it has helped me take Voxie Media to new places, as well as generate more revenue. You may have heard me talk before about how inspiring I find Pam.

The value of Beta Author Boost for me

And finally, a word about my own Beta Author Boost program. Over on the sales page (dang good reading, promise), I wax eloquent on all the things Beta Author Boost can do for you and the value you can get out of the program.

Indulge me for a moment as I explain what the value of Beta Author is for me, in this new world of working online.

Beta Author Boost is a way for me to work one-to-one with a small group of aspiring business book authors.

The program creates a structured setting in which I can truly offer help to those plunging into the lonely business of writing a book, even a short one.

Yes, the program generates revenue for Voxie Media. But the greater value for me is in developing intimate and ongoing relationships with the folks who sign up. I mean intimate in the sense that writing is difficult and very personal.

For me to get into your writing and thinking space is not something I take lightly. It’s a privilege. It’s also my passion. See Chris Guillebeau above.

Luckily, participants say the program creates huge value for them as well. There are a few spots left in the next session. Learn more.

 

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