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Tim Buff


Chief Learning Strategist

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5 Steps for Turning Digital Learning into Money


With a wealth of information freely available online, is it possible to turn digital learning content into financial returns for your organisation? 

After working on the challenges of harnessing eLearning content, training materials and documentation to generate tangible financial returns, I’ve noted what I think are the top five practical steps to make it happen: 

1. Make sure you own it

It may seem obvious, but particularly with content that has been accumulated over a long period of time, the method of acquisition or creation may have varied. So, check you are allowed to use it.

I have clients who have been disappointed to find that content that they paid a third party to create on their behalf and that they thought they owned, has in fact been provided to them on a restricted use licence.

This is one to watch for any new content you source externally. If you do accept restrictions on use or deferred usage payments, then make sure you negotiate a lower up-front cost.

2. Identify your target audiences

When identifying your target audience, consider; why they might want your content, what will they use it for and therefore what will they pay?

The more you know about your audience, the better you can structure your access controls, content taxonomies and user interfaces. 

3. Get your content into a usable format

Use a mix of content and media e.g. eLearning and microlearning courses, videos, eBooks, PDFs, text, podcasts etc.

It’s important to remember that effort has to go into categorising and tagging your content, so it can be searched for and found.

You may want to arrange into curricula or streams and issue and manage certificates for progress through the content. Doing all this may identify gaps, if so, don’t be afraid to source these from third parties, perhaps under some form of royalty arrangement. This can be a quick, low up-front cost pathway to completing your offering, or maybe commission a supplier to create the content for you.

4. Establish your business model

Think about charging points. There are many ways to levy charges related to your content. These will range from annual subscriptions, to per unit charging with a whole range of options in the middle. Some will be harder for your would-be customers to bear, so think generously.

Key considerations are; What will make it easy for them to buy, and then to keep coming back for more? How can you give them a great service that’s cost effective, easy and convenient to use?

If possible, avoid cannibalising other revenue streams e.g. existing instructor led training courses that have been built over the years.

5. Choose your delivery platform

The technology, such as a modern learning management system (LMS), to support your strategy is readily available today. Whichever system you decide to go for make sure it has the following key features:

  • Scalability - think big and make sure you have the ability to support a large numbers of users
  • Rich functionality - that covers modern requirements, e.g. integration with your eCommerce and existing websites, curriculum and certification management, comprehensive reporting, ease of implementation and ease of use etc.
  • Experience API - to enable the tracking of multiple different types of digital learning content, not just formal eLearning
  • Mobile support - people want to access learning content on their mobile devices, so make sure your content can be accessed when it’s needed
  • Proven - avoid technology risks and go with a proven supplier who can do all the above 


For many organisations, their content is an undervalued internal resource, hidden away in archives. With a little thought and effort, you can make your content work for you to achieve tangible results that can make a significant contribution to your organisation.

Author Profile Picture
Tim Buff

Chief Learning Strategist

Read more from Tim Buff

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