Email course is getting big again?

Do you remember how Lynda.com get up and running?

Yes, that's right. She was sending new lessons teaching graphic designs via email. No website, no CRM and no sale page. The mail list grew, her business expanded into 1.6 billion valuation. It was acquired by Linkedin. It was a happy ending but also a grand opening for video-based online education. Platforms like Udemy, Udacity, etc started to come into horizon.

With the rise of newsletter, we can expect the comeback of email courses. But hold up, aren't they just course like ones on Udemy? Absolutely no, and the difference is exactly why you care.

  1. You don't have build an entire course in one go. Just design a syllabus and drip content to your newsletter subscribers. I think this is a game changer for new creators who often get daunted by the thought of spending months creating new course.

  2. Email course is conversational. With video-based courses, students just watch, often use them as reference material and therefore barely finish. With email, you can spark meaningful conversation with readers, incorporate their feedback and create a community around that. This is a game changer in terms of engagement.

  3. Content delivery of email course is more dynamic. You can use text, video, audio, pictures rather than just use videos and other media are just reference materials. To be honest, I hate learning coding by watching tutorial, and enjoy reading books or deciphering codes. Are you shy in front of cameras? So are 90% of the world. Email course really accommodate a diversity of media. The future is multimedia instead of video!

So, reading this, how do you think about email course? Please let me know or just drop me an email in the bio.

  1. 3

    I know someone who created an email course through highbrow: https://gohighbrow.com - they made a bit of beer money.

    I think email courses can be v. powerful as lead magnets and community builders - that's how @momoko started her newsletter and community blogging for devs (recommended).

    I also took BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits email course which loads of people rave about but did nothing for me (might not have been the best time).

    Personally I'm bullish on interactive content in courses , but with online learning there's space for lots of different formats because people learn in different ways and on different schedules.

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      Thank you. There're a lot of gems in what you're sharing! By interactive, do you mean something like Datacamp? am I right in thinking coursemaker is specifically for code teachers?

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        Datacamp, educative.io, brilliant.org, vexpower.com - note that these are not all for coding. But they're all leveraging interactivity.

        CourseMaker is targeted at technical course authors (devs, data scientists)

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          that's great. in addition to interactivity, all of them are leveraging multimedia as well instead of focusing on videos. I am building an interactive multimedia platform but for language teachers. Very excited that you're doing something similar but for other groups of course authors.

          The biggest obstacle I am facing is how to convince teachers to spend one month (at least) on making a course. How to tell them the platform is different and not in conflict with what they are offering. I am tinkering with email course because it seems new and doesn't take a lot of effort upfront to produce. I could be wrong!

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            Maybe target teachers who are already hustling outside their dayjobs, e.g. on tutoring sites. They might be more inclined to put in the work

  2. 1

    Email courses look cool and one day I would want to try creating one, but emails don't seem like the best way to ship technical content which is what I do.

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      What kind of technical content that you want to ship?

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        Tutorials, guides, and explanations. Email doesn't seem like the best way to send tutorials/guides/explanations that have code.

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          how about email as an introduction and students open up a web to see the whole lesson? is it something that you would consider? I reckon that technical stuff require text and illustration as much as video.

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            I don't really use illustration, more of just text and then also code blocks which probably won't look good over email.

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              I think you can send part of the lesson and users can go to the webpage to see the rest?

  3. 1

    Though I've never offered a paid email course, I do offer a free one. So far I think it's better to offer short tidbits of actionable tips over a period of time, rather than just dropping a 30 page pdf.

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      Hey Welly, yes, I think dripping short and actionable content really shows your thoughtfulness about readers.

      Birdsends looks great. Is it like Substack + Convert kit?

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        Nah, BirdSend is more like ConvertKit but we track revenue from your emails out of the box plus we're much more affordable.

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          do you allow creators to archive all of the content on a website like substack does? I think that's critical for most creators.

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            Not currently, but we do plan to in the future.

  4. 1

    +1 on the dynamic offerings! so much better now.

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      yeah, I think it is inevitable. The future with videos must be boing.

      Anyway, hey John, just subscribed the letter, love your mission and the future you're building :) eventually, is it going to be a SAAS for community builder or a repository of good practices for community managers?


      1. 2

        really appreciate that @dory_ng!!

        it is a b2bsaas (or commsaas as we like to call it.

        we're test-driving it right now.

        would you like to help me test?

  5. 1

    It's something I'm definitely keeping an eye on. Paid newsletters are booming, paid email courses might be the next big trend for all the reasons you mentioned.

    1. 1

      Hey Andre, glad that this is something you're interested. I think sending content to students' mailbox is just a third of the battle. There are plenty of missed opportunities for creators to create customised content, for students to connect and for a community grow around the course. When it comes to learning, presenting knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have newsletter? If you create an email course, what do you think may hold you back? I really appreciate your input!

      1. 2

        Yeah I have a newsletter: Zero to Marketing. One thing that could hold me back might be the fact that people aren't used to pay for email courses (yet).

        1. 1

          Ahh I see. Actually, I see it differently. It is the other way around. People used to pay for email courses and now they don't. Content must be very unique for someone to pay for it. Why would they pay for one lesson very day/week while they can have access to the bigger archive of course else where? Well, in that case, your content must be absolutely unique and no where to found else where. Well, in that case, you must spend a lot of money on marketing to communicate the message or share revenue with big content aggregator/marketplace. Content is getting so saturated that readers are getting more and more reluctant to pay.

          The good old day of solely selling content like hot cake like Lynda used to may be gone, so I am looking other benefits on top of content to help make email course sexy again, and more importantly help creators bring more values to audience to earn money to subsidise their works.

          Please let me know how you think. I just subscribed to your newsletter, can I hit reply to chat with you via email?

  6. 1

    I'm a big fan of paid email courses for all the reasons you shared. You can build and refine the product as you go, lessons are dripped to the buyer over time rather than overwhelming them all up front, and the creator doesn't have to spend a ton of time on packaging, design, and setup.

    Here's one I made back in 2013: https://nathanbarry.com/10days/ (It's not active anymore, so don't buy it).

    This is all really easy to set up in ConvertKit Commerce.

    1. 1

      Hey Nathan, love ConvertKit. Love your mission and the way you inspire creators practically and viscerally. Your course gives students assignments. I wonder if you give them feedback individually or as a group? Do students can exchange ideas or read submission from each other? Your input would be fantastic for the project that I'm working on. Thank you

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    This comment was deleted a month ago.

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      Totally agree. Eventually the effort that creators have to put into content remains the same. It is about distribution of effort. Rather than sitting in a room and imagine what your students may need/want. You can start the very first lesson with some assignment. Then you can customise the course based on the submission, give them some personalised feedback at either group or one-person level in next lessons. So yeah, same effort but less intimidating, and your course will be more about you and your students.

      Yes, conversation can be daunting but I guess that's also an opportunity to create more content for your email course. And if the content from conversation/consultation/coaching is be available for a community, it can be a feature rather than a bug. Agree that there isn't a straightforward way to do this, but the potential is there and technically possible. As you may notice, the comment section is on IH is even more helpful than the post itself. Or Retweets are even more interesting the tweet itself. Meanwhile, the conversion in email course is still one-to-one.

      Video can be powerful. I just don't like it to the epicentre of a course. If I learn creative writing, learning by video can be rather off-putting. And I think only 1% of brilliant developers are able to make good videos, but I'm dying to learn from them.

      I think technology comes and goes. In the end of the day, it's about content and people (either coaching or community). If writing snail mail helps me deliver those values better than Slack, I don't mind doing that for a living :))

      Please let me know how do you think?

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        This comment was deleted a month ago.

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