Following up on my earlier announcement about a deep and thorough redesign of platform interface, I am happy to announce that the team here is ready to move the new product from https://beta.rukuku.com to production and general availability starting Monday,
Last year we were very actively involved with our customers, working on a variety of certificate courses and course marketplaces.
In the process we collected tons of very valuable insights. Our customers advised us on what needed to be improved. In November we started working on version 3 of our interface. I am happy to announce that a completely revamped product is quickly coming to life.
The team is now busy updating the User Interface and simplifying User Experience.
Some of the key improvements and new technologies that will be coming live in the next several weeks are:
- WebRTC video conferencing implementation in the Webinar module: this should simplify video camera permissions, and give our users a choice of whether they want to use Adobe Flash or WebRTC plugins.We will also be able to implement screen sharing, recording and other great features that can be implemented with the new technology.
- Elimination of “Private webinars” altogether – now to create a webinar, simply create a course and place a Webinar module in it. This is the way most of the webinars were organized in the past, so we simplified everything, and made it the only way.
- Hosted domain is now available on both business plans: Storefront could be mapped to any domain or subdomain of your choice on both the Business and Enterprise plans. The iframe embed option for Storefronts is available on all plans.
- Many customization options are coming to Storefront design wizardRukuku gets a completely new, modern interface that is simpler, cleaner and more intuitive. This is accompanied with an upgrade of the under-the-hood infrastructure.
As you might have heard, our friends at Zaption are no longer an independent company as they have joined forces with Workday on June 30, 2016. This is great news for Chris, Charlie and the team!
However, Workday decided to stop supporting third-party integrations with Zaption. We had to remove Zaption integration and so the widget is no longer a part of the instructor toolset in the Course Builder.
Most of the great interactions that Zaption provided can be done with the Quiz Module instead. We’ll improve the Quiz Module further to fully substitute the functionality that many of our customers used in their courses.
Online courses and webinars are becoming a good revenue source for the pioneers of the online learning revolutions that is unfolding in front of our eyes. The revolution is taking place right now, and we at Rukuku are in the middle of it all which is pretty exciting. In one of my previous posts, I talked about the independent instructor becoming the new success phenomenon in the world of media, and I concluded that the world of instruction will produce a lot of instructor entrepreneurs who will do well, and then there will be a small group of instructors who will do extremely well and have celebrity status.
The truth is anyone can be famous for 15 minutes with a course, but how does one get sustainable popularity? Here are three tips:
Make engaging and useful content
In the online training and education world the answer is no different than in any other media: an instructor has to generate fun, useful content. Remember the boring lectures at university that sucked the living soul out of you? That would never work online, and never make a course successful. The modern independent instructor needs to think in terms of entertaining their audience while training them. This thinking should permeate the design of the course as well as the presentation style of the instructor.
Less is more
Many large organizations are holding on dearly to their legacy e-learning content. At these organizations nobody is bothered that the traditional e-learning modules are badly designed: they are too long! This usually achieves one goal very well: numbing the mind of the course taker. The new knowledge that we have is that it is best to break up the courses into smaller chunks of 1 to 6 minutes long. This helps avoid learner fatigue as she moves from one logical chunk to another in a steady rhythmic way
Do niche marketing
Producing a course and formatting it in an appropriate way is only the first half of the job. The other half of the job is promoting the course and the instructor’s brand. For example, one of our instructors has figured out that her customers are best reached through professional associations so she started reaching out to these organizations on the phone and worked out a promotional deal whereby the associations became resellers of her courses. In essence the instructor found a good distribution channel for her content and invested in it by sharing revenue with the distributors. She then collected feedback from the many students that took her course and made improvements based on that feedback. Those who master the marketing and promotion game will stay relevant for years on end: good marketers know their target audience through and through, and that knowledge will then feed back into content production and formatting. We have come a full circle.
It is easy to see that in the heart of it all is learning everything about the end customer as well as understanding what, how and when they want to learn from you.
In the past several years we have seen how computer programmers changed the world: they wrote software that transformed our lives, and ultimately enabled data flow in all sort of ways. After the software was good enough for large scale adoption, we saw the spectacular rise of content sharing: from Facebook, LiveJournal and Huffington Post to Medium and Svbtle – marketing driven content platforms continue to change and speed up information exchange.
In other words, content is king. This is especially true in such content and communication heavy areas as education and training. Rukuku was started with an acute understanding that instructors generate a ton of content all the time: they prep for classes, write books, make presentations, draw illustrations and so on. They create day in and day out for a very specific, engaged and content-hungry audience: their trainees and students.
In the past, there was a huge problem: these people could only influence relatively small groups of people – those whom they could meet in a classroom environment. Nowadays with our service and other technologies, instructors can scale beyond the confines of a classroom and impact millions of people. Data shows that this will essentially be a blended training revolution.
The collective effort of these entrepreneurial and creative instructors will change the way people learn and acquire skills. I believe the blended training revolution will impact the instructors themselves in a spectacular way:
- Some instructors will become famous – I define this category as “altruists”
- Some instructors will become rich – “entrepreneurs”
- Some will be both famous and rich – “celebrities”
- Most will have limited or no impact or success – “hobbyists”
Given the massive scale of this process, my view is that the power law will apply here: the true revolution in education and skills training will come from about 20-30% of all involved independent instructors, and these individuals will become the new heroes of this decade.
Producing content is a difficult, slow and often expensive process. Although the cost of production has gone down thanks to new technologies and desktop editing, it is still a logistical hurdle. And many discover that after so much effort, there is risk that the content will have limited appeal to the students. All of these are legitimate concerns when it comes to course authoring. For these reasons, many instructors are reluctant to author courses and forego on a wonderful opportunity to make the world a better place and earn some money in the process.
However, quite often an independent instructor’s course gets a ton of success, scales well, spreads quickly on the web and brings its author a considerable income: in some cases in the hundreds of thousands, and in exceptional cases – millions of dollars. While multi-million dollar success stories are exceptional and extremely rare, an average online course of decent quality generates anywhere in the range of $3,000 to $30,000 of revenue a year.
How do you get there? First and foremost, before you think about marketing, distribution and other business issues, the content of the course has to be relevant, useful and interesting. We are convinced that webinars are an excellent tool for iterative development of online course content, and here’s how the whole setup pans out:
1. Agile development
At Rukuku, we are big fans of agile development and customer discovery. Last year, we were blessed to have been selected for the National Science Foundation’s iCorps training program at UC Berkeley. It is not surprising therefore that we think that lean methodologies and iterative development should be applied to course authoring. Agile development methodologies for course authors can be summed up as:
- build your course in small increments one piece of content at a time – Rukuku Composer is perfect for that
- collect data and feedback on each additional piece of content – see point 2 below
- improve the content
2. Customer discovery
Collecting feedback is all about getting out of the building and talking with people. Pick up Steve Blank’s book, read Alexander Osterwalder’s book, or better yet – take Steve Blank’s free course on Customer discovery. This methodology is a reliable and tested approach to discovering what is right for your target customer. Simply, it boils down to doing three things in a structured and organized way:
- talking to your customers
- recording and organizing customer feedback
- analyzing this feedback and acting on it
Use webinars as your Minimal Viable Product (MVP) testing environment. Rukuku is perfect for doing webinars, whereas webinars are an amazing way to test your content. When you are hosting a webinar, it is easy to collect feedback from your audience. You can ask the attendees to provide feedback during and after the webinar, as well as analyze the questions posted during the Q&A session or while you were going through your slides. Besides, recording the webinar and analyzing it is a great way to take a step back and look at your presentation skills and course content: pay attention to how you use your voice and how you present yourself on video; take note on the structure of your presentation, engagement of your audience, quality of your visuals and handouts – all of these elements can be tweaked to create a better course. Perhaps the best part about webinars is that you can collect payments from participants and offset the costs of producing your amazing course.