There are several ways to offer course materials. You can choose an online course on your website, or for example, for a course on a membership website. What are the differences? What time investment do you need to make to offer a course on either platform? What does offer online course pay? In this article, we zoom in further. Although there are only minor differences in the basics between offering an online course and offering content on a membership website, it is important to take a closer look at them when making a choice.

Three key differences between an online course and a membership website are in the workflow, the time it takes, and the price you pay for it. We don’t just express the price you pay for it in the costs of a particular choice. Think also of the (missed) turnover that this choice gives you. 

What is a membership site?

A membership website means an online platform on which members can access different forms of content. Examples include templates, e-books, and online courses. You can give members of the platform access to all available content, as well as distinguish between different types of users. For example, one user can access the online courses, while someone else can use the templates in addition to these courses. The difference in content to be viewed translates into a difference in price for both memberships. 

A clear difference between an online course and a platform that sells memberships is the time investment. Later we will go into more detail! The time investment is immediately noticeable based on the description already given: a membership website is much broader than a separate course. On the other hand, you can also say that a membership website can be opened already with a small course. You can expand the amount of content over a longer period. 

Pros and cons of a membership site

Below you will find an overview of the various advantages and disadvantages that a membership website entails. What are the reasons for choosing this solution? What reasons make it less interesting to choose a broad online platform? 

Benefits of a membership website

  • A membership website is mainly interesting for topics that consist of different parts. Think, for example, of a broad subject like “mathematics,” which you can divide into several separate subjects. 
  • Use a membership website even if you intend to expand your existing online course with new content eventually. You may want to release a follow-up study or combine this course with a course on another topic. 
  • In general, it is easier to achieve turnover on a membership website! More content is offered, which allows you to reach a much wider audience with such a website. 

Disadvantages of a membership website

  • A major disadvantage of a membership website is the fact that you have to keep investing in it. To keep members engaged with the platform, you need to add new content at least once a quarter. 
  • It can be very difficult to find a suitable price. In the beginning, you charge a relatively low price because the content offered is limited. During the year, you will add new content without being able to adjust the price directly to it. It sometimes takes longer for a platform to become profitable.

Online course: the pros and cons

Compare the pros and cons of a membership website with the pros and cons of an online course, as we described below. It helps you choose between both possibilities easier. Do you already have a picture of the solution that seems most interesting to you at the moment? 

Benefits of an online course

  • You can focus on an online course on what is in demand. This can be a specific topic that you regularly get questions about or, for example, a new piece of technology.
  • An online course is also ideal for working out a tutorial. You start with an introduction and then gradually explain how one comes to a predetermined end goal. Think of putting together a playhouse, playing a song on the guitar, and so on.
  • After you’ve launched an online course, it hardly takes time and energy to maintain it where the revenue continues to run.
  • An online course generally has a relatively high price, which makes the course quickly profitable.

Disadvantages of an online course

  • On the one hand, it can be an advantage that a course does not have to be maintained. At the same time, this can also be considered a disadvantage. An adjustment to the online course is difficult, without the entire course has to be revised.
  • It is very difficult to determine what revenue you generate with an online course. This often takes place in waves. Where a subscription often already shows how much you generate annually.
  • There is only limited interaction between a student and the organizer. After all, a student follows the course at the time he or she desired.

Time investment in a membership site and an online course

Earlier in this article, we briefly looked at the time investment in an online course and an online platform. At the base, it takes more time to work out an online course. Partly because the course needs development before you can sell it, after all, you don’t want to offer half a course! However, one of the advantages of an online course is that you don’t have to maintain it. This is a one-off time investment.

It is an important difference from an online platform on which subscriptions are sold. For an online platform, you don’t have to work out a full course. You can open the platform before the first course is ready. After all, you can divide a course into several smaller parts. Whenever you have a part ready, add it to the platform. The disadvantage of such a platform is that you will spend a lot more time over a longer period. After all, you have to keep adding new content all the time.

Proceeds from an online course and membership site

An online platform with subscriptions often pays per month or year. The advantage of this is that the income keeps coming back. Unless a subscriber is no longer satisfied with the content offered. In the basic, however, the revenue of such a platform will be lower than with an online course. Only when the website has the necessary content can you increase the price for a subscription. The advantage of such a platform is that it is usually found more easily than a separate online course. The target group of the platform is considerably wider because you offer different courses and e-books.

Although the price of an online course is often higher than that of an online platform, this does not guarantee higher sales. The number of customers of the course often develops in waves. When a student is satisfied, he will recommend the online course to colleagues and friends. Because the course often focuses on a specific topic, the number of people who recommend the course will be limited. In this way, such a wave often goes out over time. It is then waiting for a new wave to come.

Compared to a membership website, an online course offers the advantage financially, that you only have to invest in it once. Then you can continue to sell the course as long as the subject and content of the course are up to date. If you don’t provide an online platform with new content, the revenue will quickly dry up.

Which choice is the wisest?

In this article, we highlighted several factors that may affect the choice you make. It is important to ask some questions before you make a choice.

  • Do you want to explain a specific topic in your content, or do you share information about a much broader topic?
  • Do you intend to offer a one-off course to interested parties, or do you want to continue to do so?
  • Do you want to see the provision of training courses or courses as your most important income, or as a second source of income?

The answer to these questions helps you make a choice. Online courses focus on specific topics, which you can explain once and which you can offer to generate a second source of income. With an online platform, you can provide a higher income in the long run, provided you intend to continue to generate content and take a broader topic as the theme. What fits your ideas better: an online course or a membership website?