In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the biggest catalysts for online learning in history, and how creators of online courses and participants alike made the most of lockdowns to scale these learning offerings
- Why we’ve pinged four specific types of online courses because of the waves they’re making in their respective verticals
- How to replicate the success of other course creators on the Disco platform
The pandemic was a catalyst to what was already set to be the most lucrative, dynamic decade of learning by creating profitable online courses.
Online training and learning was already on a steady incline pre-pandemic, but as we spent more time at home and on our devices during lockdowns, the demand for it grew bigger and faster than ever.
We saw some of the most popular online courses developed during this time.
High demand for professional development and technical skills
In fact, Forbes reports that Google searches for online courses increased 100% worldwide between March and mid-April 2020.
With that demand surge, the entrepreneurial-minded saw an opportunity: Create topical, applicable online coursework for people to complete while sheltered at home so they can learn new skills, hobbies, and experiences when the world opens back up.
Create they did — as a result, the online learning industry is set to hit $1 trillion by 2030. More than ever, creators of online courses are realizing how lucrative of a business opportunity it can be, while participants in online courses are netting results they never thought possible outside of the traditional classroom.
Whether these were free courses or paid courses, professional training or personal development, a crash course or a one stop shop for everything you need to know about a particular niche, it was — and still is — the prefect time to create an online course.
Learnings from people creating online courses
We’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of founders of online courses and learning communities who sell courses and are creating course content geared towards any affinity, interest, or career path that warrants some level of expertise — everything from:
- Digital marketing and social media marketing
- Project management
- Food photography
- Data science and data structures
- Content marketing
- Travel writing
- Public speaking
- Home improvement
- Time management
- How to host a Youtube channel
Where traditional courses can't get as nuanced on these different niches and topics, a great course creates a chance to really dive deep on these subjects for your target audience.
Anyone who offers courses is simply hoping to share their expertise with the world to give potential students a better life and make some money in the process.
There are four verticals in the learning industry that are growing particularly fast, and we’ve learned a lot from those who have paved the way in helping that growth.
Pro tip: Hosting an online course is as rewarding as it can be lucrative, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck when you curate a learning community with multiple learning experiences for them to explore. Enjoy the ultimate guide to learning communities.
4 types of online courses to take inspiration from
Anyone, anywhere can become an entrepreneur because of the incredible work organizations like the ones we’ll discuss below have made it possible for entrepreneurship to be accessible and attainable by all.
There are many, many entrepreneurship learning communities like accelerators and incubators both online and in person, but these are a few we’ve really admired:
On their mission to democratize entrepreneurship at a global scale, YSpace is helping over 500 startups find their niche, target audiences, and create MVPs in the company of a tight-knit, supportive community. They’re using Disco to do so, and you can read our interview with Entrepreneurship Manager Nafis Ahmed.
Read how YSpace is using Disco and helping the small business community of tomorrow further learning and democratize entrepreneurship in their successful course at York University.
The founders of tomorrow — kids interested in entrepreneurship — find mentorship, courses, and other learning experiences from adult entrepreneurs in the immersive community of FutureFounders.
Every founder is at a different stage in their journey, so there are multiple courses Founder.University offers to help you take your business to the next level.
Members of Unsolved pay $0 to access the wealth of knowledge in this learning community and its relevant online courses, making entrepreneurship accessible to all who seek it out.
Pro tip: A self paced online course is a great way to host your own course and not have to deal with the complex processes of creating cohorts, hosting live lectures and class times, and employing staff to handle it. Learn more about how we support them at Disco.
For decades, graphic design and art direction were some of the only career paths one with design proficiency could participate in. Now, designers can create what a user needs to see on the Internet, on mobile apps, web apps, webpages, software, and other devices. It takes a professional to really capture what a user needs in these scenarios and bring it to life skillfully.
Unfortunately, the design talent pool is too small to keep up with demand, so one of the fastest-growing areas in the online course space are those focused on design and all of its different aspects.
We’ve highlighted five virtual design academies that are upskilling the next generation of design professionals:
Bridging the gap between business and design in his cohort-based online course, d.MBA founder Alen Faljic has created a curriculum so desirable, he has a waiting list out the (virtual) door of students eager to join future cohorts.
Dribbble is a staple in the design community, and they began offering product design courses during the pandemic. They’ve achieved great success by “designing intimacy at scale,” breaking cohorts into sub-groups and encouraging deeper connection.
The Fountain Institute
The Fountain Institute offers an array of design courses, from product to UX, as a means of expanding access to learning for a more diverse set of future designers to make the industry more inclusive.
Beginners and experienced designers alike can access DesignLab’s suite of online courses to bolster their skills and begin finding jobs in the design field.
Mento Design Academy
Founder Radu Vucea, a self-taught designer himself, created the curriculum for Mento Design Academy as a way to “fix the bootcamp model” he was a mentor in for many years.
Pro tip: To host the most profitable online course, make it cohort-based to provide the most comprehensive digital training for different niches.
During the pandemic, women in online learning jumped from 47% to 52% (according to Forbes), a growth largely influenced by data that suggests women complete 75% of the 16 million hours of unpaid labor in the workforce.
These online courses — founded by women and designed for women — are making some of the biggest waves in every industry and helping them upskill and reskill into lucrative careers or develop new habits that will help them excel in life.
We’ve already compiled our favorite six women-founded learning communities, but we’ll give you an example of a few that are really changing the game:
allWomen is creating global access to tech careers for females across the globe, and they’re using Disco to host some of their many online courses designed to teach women the most invaluable tech skills.
Read how allWomen is a prime online training example of how people connect over shared knowledge and find careers they love — and how they're using Disco to bring it to life.
Women in Tech SEO
SEO may fall under marketing jurisdiction, but it’s a highly technical role that involves a specific skill set. So few women are in SEO, so they’ve created a learning community through Women in Tech SEO geared towards bringing that pool of people together.
While also applicable in the design category, Hexagon UX is relevant here because of its unwavering support for not only women but trans, non-binary, and other intersectional people who want to work in UX.
Humans have been bartering, trading, and selling for centuries — millenniums, even — yet the sales profession still has a great need for skilled salespeople to get to the heart of what people want and find the solution they need.
A successful salesperson isn’t just a schmoozer; they understand people. They build and maintain relationships in order to drive solutions and results. With this niche skill set in mind, online courses bolstered by learning communities are the best way to develop it, not by sitting in a classroom digging into theory.
These five sales academies have their finger on the pulse of what the next generation of salespeople need to succeed in what is the most crowded market ever:
Hyrise changed the game for students when founder Dominic Blank made the course entirely free; rather, they now monetize recruitment and placement services for entry-level sales professionals at organizations who require them.
Bluebird is at the forefront of providing sales training for underrepresented communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this type of learning. They’re doing so by offering income share agreements, among other payment plans, that allow students to waive tuition until they’ve landed a job.
Uvaro Tech Sales
Uvaro Tech Sales puts community at the core of its curriculum, which is designed to not only efficiently but quickly place people in sales roles they love with the training they need to succeed.
Pre-sales is one facet of the sales pipeline that rarely goes acknowledged, yet PreSales Academy focuses on those individuals in a sales organization that tee up qualified leads in order to make the best sale possible.
SV Academy makes the placement aspect of their business — placing qualified sales trainees in roles — as critical as they do the learning and coursework aspect of their business, using both streams to generate revenue and keep people coming through the door.
Pro tip: An online course platform or a learning management system are the best way to ensure the operational and administrative tasks are being handled so you can focus on creating a diverse, immersive online course.
Other examples of online courses worth noting
While these online courses may not fall into specific categories, they are creating exceptional curriculum for learners to enjoy and cover different niches.
Regardless of what line of work you’re in or what you do day to day, we can all take cues from nature and replicate natural systems that are working around us.
Agile systems work to keep many tech companies on track, but these principles are applicable to plenty of other organizations – and Agile Academy is helping these businesses scale that system internally.
Riches truly are in the niches, and this European-based course is on track to upskill 800,000 battery professionals over the next 5-10 years.
Start building your online course today
There are more resources than ever to build, operate, and scale your online course — and Disco is one of the best.
Whether a cohort-based course, a self-paced course, or a blend of the two, you can create a curriculum with our intuitive builder and duplicate courses for each new group of students that comes your way.
Try Disco free for 14 days to see why it’s the best possible online course platform for creators of virtual courses that are going to take the learning industry by storm.