Who is getting paid?

I've been generating a pretty steady stream of income for a few years now using AP. I'm also testing with SL and liking what I'm seeing there. So here's my question:

Who in the forums here have online presentations/courses that require payment for access? (This does not include developers/designers who are doing projects under contract.) I'm referring to people who are creating materials that generate residual income for the creators. I'd like to create a "mastermind" group of people to privately discuss the issues in this type of business model (how do you handle membership access, what kind of fee structure works for you, how do you generate leads, how do you market your product, etc.)

35 Replies
Russell Still

Thanks for the reply, Dave. Yeah, I'd seen that thread already. A bit of a different case than I'm talking about. I'd like to get a group of people together who are already in the business of creating courses, then selling access direct to end users. I'm doing pretty well at it but want to brainstorm some issues with others who are doing the same thing.

Jim Kitzmiller

Hi Russ,

Although I haven't published such a course yet, a friend and I have done a fair amount of research.

We're leaning towards creating membership site(s) with a tool such as Wishlist Member or MemberWing-X. The courses would be available to those who have bought specific membership levels.

Some of the big Internet Marketing Gurus manage their courses through Magnetic Sponsoring.


Russell Still

Howdy, Jim. I tend to use a more brute force method - I create a PayPal payment button, then after people pay they're taken to a page that supplies the password. Upside is that it's low tech and easy. Downside is that everyone gets the same password (making it easy to pass around). One of the membership tools I've played with a bit is aMember. It works pretty well, but I just don't like the aesthetics of it.

I also have some more advanced sites that do their own databasing. They're clearly the best way to do it, but also the most difficult to implement and maintain.

I guess not many people are selling access to their own courses. I would have thought otherwise. Maybe most people in here do it as a job for a company, or develop under contract to others.

Steve Flowers

Hey Russ,

I've been working with a colleague to look at options and put a plan together.The options / requirements we're looking at include some asynchronous facilitation / discussion elements and offer some presence / identity features in addition to launch and track of content modules. One of the systems on our short list is Ruzuku. For the price, it's hard to ignore. They integrate payment and also offer the facilitation and connection features we think add the human touch that can be absent from an exclusively self-paced module.

We also thought about customizing a Wordpress installation to do something similar. I think this could also work but would require quite a bit of customization.

Jim Kitzmiller

Hi Russ,

Thank you for the feedback.

I'll keep you posted about what I learn.

It would great to have a way to manage course sales to corporations. For example, corporation ABC buys a course for 100 of its' employees. Employees join the course through the corporate link. The system ensures that there are not more than 100 students from corporation ABC.

There would be an LMS and a forum that could be optionally dedicated to the corporations' employees.

Haven't found anything like that yet.

It seems that there are two approaches.

* Start with an LMS and work out the membership management.
* Start with a membership solution and work out LMS details.

Any ideas?

Thank you,

Cathy Moore

I use WordPress and Wishlist Member for the Elearning Blueprint. The blueprint is more of a reference site than a course, but some of the principles involved are the same.

I'm not sure that I would recommend Wishlist Member, but when I've looked for a replacement, I haven't found anything really appealing. I agree that aMember isn't very good-looking or intuitive.

An additional challenge is that many membership site programs assume you're selling individual access directly to consumers, so if you're actually selling group access to a business, you might have to customize or force things. Wishlist lets you determine how many IP addresses can use a single log-in, so one team of X people can share a log-in but can't spread it throughout the entire organization.

The "sell-your-course" sites assume that you're selling a linear, screen-by-screen course. These give you the advantage of LMS-style tracking for clients who need it, but they limit the formats you can use. For what it's worth, of the more than 500 customers of the blueprint, only two have asked if they can track users, and both were fine with the fact that they can't. (Again, however, it's more of a job aid than a course.)

Finally, I recommend avoiding PayPal. I'm one of those PayPal horror stories. PayPal froze my business account with all the money in it when someone else used my SSN somewhere in Minnesota. PayPal notified me of my lockout with an email in which they flatly accused me of stealing my own SSN, even though they had received and approved all of my proof-of-identity docs two months earlier. After several intense phone calls, I got unlocked again and left.

It's definitely worth it to go through the minor hassle required to be approved by a real merchant account provider and Authorize.net. Not only will you be treated professionally, your money will go directly into your own FDIC-insured bank account.

Russ, if you set up your mastermind group, I'd be interested in joining.

Holly MacDonald

This isn't a freebie, but does look nice and depending on your size, could be an option: http://www.memberclicks.com/products/index.html. There does seem to be a gap in the market for solutions that don't fit either the education model or corporate model. Many of my clients are looking for LMS lite and as vendors of custom e-learning, there are probably a few out there who would be interested in what you are suggesting. I'm following this thread with curiousity

Yakov Werde

I'm real late to the party.  Hope someone is still listening.  I've been successfully selling my courses to individuals for a couple of years using a 'lazy' model I developed in cooperation with an industry organization.  But as Bob Dylan says, 'The times they are a changin' and I'm looking to improve my practice, expand my horizons and ultimately generate more income.  Please include me in any off line discussions

Justin Ferriman

Nick Fawbert said:

Do those 3 actually support Storyline?

The Sensei one and Chris Lema both seem to just use simple text and video (i.e. blog) type material.

Cheers for your help guys

Hi Nick-

Yes, LearnDash supports one-click storyline uploads, which is especially effective for TinCan API.  We are releasing this feature in the very near future.

Kind Regards,

Justin Ferriman

Founder, LearnDash

Yakov Werde

My company eLearnIT LLC, which is both a software consultancy and training provider, has been selling eCourses hosted in AOL for almost 3 years. We sell both individual timed access licenses and corporate annual site licenses with pre-negotiated numbers of concurrent users.  Using the AOL API I created a .NET based site license self service client that allows the corporate learning manager to maintain their user base. Internally we use a a .NET & light weight DBMS based subscription management system that I built.  It uses the AOL API to add/delete subscribers to my courses.  

In our case a course is composed of multiple learning modules (presentations) that are members of a course (group).  This system has been working quite well.  I chose AOL because it was a complete integrated solution with AP. Using it allowed me to focus on perfecting my content and not dealing with hosting issues. My start up costs and aggravation were almost nil.

Here's a link to the sales page: Nothing fancy, but it works well for our intended audience  

Yakov Werde


In  addition to the many years I spent in the software development trenches, I served umpteen years as a contract and W2 trainer honing my expertise in my little niche.  You can read my story in this recent blog post (scroll down to the My Story section).   You can read about our courseware's value statement in this recent blog post

AOL does show a %complete for each module.  *Unfortunately* the # is not 100% reliable - meaning it doesn't properly track the percentage.  (Why doesn't it show me 100% complete is at the top of my FAQ list)   Oftentimes I have 'hidden' pages that I added for various technical reasons and/or embedded quizzes and interactions. My courses are not linear.  A learner may skip a summary or topic intro page or any other page for that matter.  However, the figure does give a learner and their manager a strong indication of progress.

Here are links to demo pages. Once in click on the PPT image to navigate load the Articulate based demo (You can get to them from the sales page by clicking a course name) 

Intro Course

Advanced Part 01



Scott Hewitt

Great thread.

We've been looking at solutions for our courses that we are selling at www.reallearner.co.uk. We've been using litmos.com and its e-commerce functionality. I like the functions but the monthly fee doesn't really match up with selling courses as you can't time out your course.

Cathy's comments about PayPal and also LMS are really interesting. I see more and more people selling courses without LMS functionality - they just want the content.

Does anyone have any links with site examples using Learn Dash and Sensei? This would be really help?



Yakov Werde

Hey Scott,

Thanks for the tip about Litmos.  I tool an initial look at it.  It is interesting.  In many ways it seems similar to AOL but with what seems like many minor enhancements and advantages.  It is functionally similar to AOL -- one *major* difference - Seems like Litmos is a core product to the their owner Callidus Software - a Cloud service vendor.  Second, it seems like Litmos is a core product that is current and continually enhanced whereas AOL while totally functional and not problematic is (and has been) currently in the background to Articulate's current initiatives.  Nothing much new in the platform for over 2 years. 

As far as timeout user's access to  a course:  I handle that outside the LMS using software I developed and the AOL WebService API.  Most probably I could adapt my client to Litmos using their RESTful API.  Sound interesting?

Question Litmos touts Mobile access (iPad) - Will they automatically convert an Articulate Presenter Flash based presentation for mobile deploy?

Scott Hewitt


no problems. Litmos has iPad support but won't run Presenter files in an iPad- there is no converter.

Litmos was bought by Callidus.

At the moment we are looking at other solutions so thanks for the offer but we are trying to get a full solution as opposed to having to code or develop elements onto existing products. I'm not even sure that we will go LMS! As Cathy said in her post she had little demand for LMS functionality and we are seeing the same.