How do blended trainers earn money?
6 ways of adding value with technology to your training business
By Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma
We are probably not the only ones who thought that technology would at some point replace face-to-face training and coaching all together. It took getting to know the corporate world and understanding what people want, to realize we were wrong. Dead wrong.
Trainers in the ever changing training industry justifiably stick to offering face-to-face training to groups of learners. Why? Because people need inspiration from other people. People need to leave their jobs, leave their desks, and leave their day to day routine to learn from more experienced professionals and to meet and learn from peers. Indeed, instructor led training is very much alive and needed.
Now mind you, we love educational technology and all sorts of great eLearning is being developed but our shift in perspective from “technology is all” to “blended learning is better” was key when we started thinking about developing an online platform for professional training and coaching.
A few years on, we find ourselves dealing with blended trainers all the time. We now realize that the rise of blended learning is bringing on a whole new challenge for the professional training world. Are you a trainer? The good news is that your billion dollar market is not going away but it is evolving and you’ll have to evolve with it. You need to ask yourself: “How do blended trainers earn money?”
Each of the following added values – not necessarily in this exact order – lets you save money, charge more or offers you competitive advantages in the incredibly competitive training market.
Added Value 1: Online office management
As a trainer you might have designed a series of live group activities (we’re assuming you’re good at that) and all the learning happens there. Without noticing it, you’re using lots of digital tools to promote, sell and organize the courses. Just think of all the digital tools like e-mail, YouTube, Dropbox, LinkedIn, e-forms and other online tools that you might be using. If you’re an agency, you might be starting to realize that the out of pocket costs are low but the amount of time spent on this online office management is rising. You are probably charging for the learning like you always did but you’re spending more time than ever dealing with your digital tools.
Result: Some cost saving. No competitive advantages.
Added Value 2: Flip the Classroom
You are using a set of online tools to flip the classroom, a term coined in the educational world to describe the process of moving passive activities like watching a video or studying a text out of the classroom. Activities that need guidance, interaction, networking between participants are moved into the classroom. Typically you are sending our time consuming homework like watch a longer video or reading some pdf-documents.
Result: You’re adding value and saving time but it’s not very tangible yet and a hard sell.
Added Value 3: The learning platform as an additional service
You are offering an online platform as an additional service. You have designed and developed a course timeline containing materials, events and interactions and offer a collaboration space for your participants to learn from you and from each other. The platform is branded so that not only your client will appreciate you as a trainer (agency or department) but your participants (your future clients) will get to know you as a brand, not only a trainer.
Result: You’re offering value and you’re saving money due to cost efficiency (depending on the cost of the platform), but your losing money as you’ll probably be offering less training hours but not charging for your online services
Added Value 4: Blended training as a business
You have designed a learning path for a group and sold this to your client based on an approach that combines traditional face-to-face learning with an online, digital component. You are charging for the class based events, charging for your online product and services (a mix of platform and materials), charging for online moderation, and reviewing assignments. You might even be reselling online resources. Quite often your face-to-face hours are more expensive than your online work; however, the online component can sometimes go to the less experienced people within a training agency.
Result: You are creating a business that can move flexibly with your client’s needs. You have created a huge competitive advantage.
Added Value 5: The Learning Community
You have designed and sold your blended training services but have gone on from there. A learning community is a group of people that stay together for some time to learn from each other. This might be a mix of participants from training groups, even from many (international) locations. Learning Communities need a collaboration space sometimes combined with online materials. A coach or mentor will monitor the group, stimulate collaboration and learning with assignments, discussions and other activities. The coach might be charging for the platform, the monitoring and the regular introduction of new learning materials. The community can also be the starting point of new training activities, workshops, etc.
Result: you are adding long term value for your participants (inspiration, networking, and learning) and staying in touch. Your future clients are getting to know you.
Added Value 6: The Blended Training and the Blended Coach
You have sold courses and realized that an external training provider (that’s you) can do only so much (remember the 70-20-10 principle) unless you get in touch with your individual participants as a coach. You are not only charging for a well thought out blended training course but are adding personal coaching services, either in person or through your online platform.
Result: you are becoming a part of your client and are making a huge difference to their business.
Trainers and agencies who are actively thinking about how to change their business model will be the ones who will be thriving in the future. We can safely say that very few training providers have a future-proof business model yet (so don’t worry… you’re not running behind), but as cloud based tools and platforms mature we see that the strategic thinkers are starting to move forward faster than ever before. Are you joining in?
Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma are veterans in the eLearning world and are the founders of LearningStone – the online platform for blended learning & collaboration.
firstname.lastname@example.org / Sjoerd@learningstone.com