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
Yakov Werde


I share a common observation on no need for statistics display to an individual user.  I would have turned it off in AOL years ago, but there is no switch to do that.  I don't have a  need for most LMS specific features since my courses are not compliance driven or learner progress measured (although this is changing now that we are doing site licenses).  However Reporting is useful in that I allows me to monitor if someone is sharing their ID.  When I see what I deem excessive plays on a module, I notify the learner about suspicious activity on their account..  One thing I can't control is someone buying a single access and then playing it in the company conference room to a packed audience...... I'm thinking of adding a 'We're a small company, if you didn't pay for your access or are using this in a group then you are stealing"

When I first got into this business in 2009, I looked at AWS and Moodle or even a "roll your own" client. (I also looked at BlackBoard - on the other end of the spectrum) But AWS would have required major effort that as a small business with a limited market appeal product was not willing to invest in.  Of course things have changed for the better as the market expands.  WordPress is a generalized platform not originally intended for courseware hosting.  I believe there will be lots of other compromises necessary there, including using 3rd party plug-ins and all their associated issues.  For me AOL has been a 0 aggravation 0 problem solution that worked from day one.  At the current point, my focus has to remain narrow to stay solvent.  I'd rather pay for a quality service and focus on my core competencies and value proposition.

Of course as a customer who pays thousands a year I'd be happier if there were minor useabliilty and incremental enhancements to AOL.....

Nick Fawbert

Hi Scott, just picking up on this - you said that you currently use Litmos but need to move on, is that right?

I was thinking of using them, so it'd be great to know what didn't work for you?

I'm not quite sure what your reason was, something about timeout access? Can you be more explicit? Is this about preventing users passing on login details for multiple access?

I'm chatting with Justin re. LearnDash, they don't have any current examples using Storyline, but since I've just completed a 2 hour course we may use this as a test case. I'll keep you updated.

Scott Hewitt

Hi Nick,

I'm happy to share our experiences.

I really like the product, the support has been really quick and very helpful. The sales team has been good - not pushy at all.

The functions are excellent and it has given us the software functions that we need. 

We are looking to sell in 2 modes - monthly subscription (rental) and sale. Litmos doesn't allow you to do a monthly subscription so that is the first issue that we have.

The second is the user control - it is excellent but not really set up for selling. Any user set above basic can add a new user (which when activated incurs a cost) which we will then need to track and re-charge to our clients - if we used those user levels.This might not be a big deal for some people.

Litmos is a monthly charge so let's so you have a course which is £20 that you sell via Litmos. After a period of time you lose that £20 as you need to cover the Litmos cost to allow the user to be able to access Litmos to access the course - unless we are missing something here! You need to cover the Litmos monthly access cost within the cost of your course.

I know that they have plans to be able to sell courses and timeout the courses - so a license for one year.

I think its great its not quite working for what we want to do in our model

I hope this helps,

Nick Fawbert

Ah, I had a look at it again, so I just want to confirm...

It seems the Litmos monthly fee is linked to how many users you have registered (for example 100 accounts), not how many are actually using it (perhaps 50 active).

So if 1 user registers it eats into your allowance. Even if they only access one course, they have taken away one of your seats and that seat is being paid for until the user is deleted.

The only way this would be manageable is if the user 'auto deletes' after a specified period (the rental period), hence freeing up the seat for someone else.

Have I got that right? That seems a very real problem!

Have you tried doing this manually and then became exasperated?

Secondly, it seems if a line manager has rights to view assessment results, they can also add further registered users without actually paying you.

is that right too? That seems a very real problem too!

Scott, it seems you and I have exactly the same problems, albeit 8,000 miles apart.

I'm looking at Absorb LMS from Blatant Media in Canada, who seem extremely technically competent, but have prohibitive set up costs of $4k and monthly fee of $1,250 - but they charge a fixed one time fee of $5 per user (which can then be allocated in sales fee).

Have you considered them?

Nick Fawbert

BTW the other element I'm looking for is some sort of 'unusual activity' alert.

For example if one user logs into an account 25 times in one day because they've passed the password to all their mates, we get this flagged to us in an alert and we can choose whether or not to suspend the account.

Absorb don't currently seem to have this, but we're checking.

Anyone seen one of those?

Scott Hewitt

You've got the user bit right but swap it round - you can register as many people as you want (for free) they only become an active user when they start using a course.

So you can have 1000 registered even if you are on the basic account.

Manual - not an option!

Line Manager - You've got it! - the LMS is mainly set up for company use and then if you added the e-commerce functionality that might be a great added value. I'm trying to get it to do something that it really wasn't designed to do.

I'd look at Absorb and about 20 others over the last 6 months, including moodle. We've actually used a moodle application called http://www.coursemerchant.com/ - we used it on a client project. It is only a few miles from our office (we've got no connection by the way!) I spoke to them last week apparently they have a new version since we used it.

The more I look it into the less I think we need an LMS which is why we've looked at web tools as oppose to LMS. The speed at which the market is moving means that we want to stay flexible and not invest a lot of money into software. I find the LMS costs are very expensive for what we are trying to achieve. Most people want to buy the course, do the course - thanks! I've seen some LMS costs that are getting up towards that of flight simulators!

Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman said:

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

Just following up on this.  We have launched the latest version of LearnDash which includes our one-click upload for storyline.  Sifting through some of the initial user issues (as to be expected), but moving in the right direction.


Yakov Werde

I have encountered similar issues with AOL albeit I manage the portal tightly from the outside.

1) Statistics: I know they are maintained in AOL because they are shown on the Home page when I log in as Admin.  I created and stored a custom report that I can run from inside the portal that returns the usage stats I need.  I made an enhancement request that statistics be made available via API calls.  But I'm not holding my breath that I'll get any relief any time soon.

2) Site license customers who want reporting capabilities on their group designate in writing to me one their installed users are the 'reporting user' who I configure as group admin.  She has access to the report writer for her group.

3) AOL meters by both users and content. My courses consist of multiple presentations that I unify as a group.  Users get group membership. Seems to me that Litmos would handle this configuration with their 'team' construct.  Sometimes, however, I need a strong navigation paradigm that costs me a metered content unit just for the menu system presentation.  

4) In AOL users and reporting users can only change their password.  They can't grant access to other users

Todd Thornton

It seems like some people are categorizing either I get a membership solution or an LMS.  If someone just wants to sell content, and doesn't need a lot of tracking then a CMS with plugins could probably do 95% or more of your wish list. 

For instance, Wordpress has already been mentioned, but you can easily extend the functionality of Wordpress using premium plugins including membership type stuff, etc. Probably the best place for that is a subscription to WPMU which I think is $550-$600 a year. They look to be having a sale now, but you can download any plugin they have with a subscription so Wordpress + Premium plugins would be much cheaper than most LMS systems. (If you didn't really need the features of an LMS)