If you’re looking to create AI courses that sell, you need to stand out in what is an increasingly saturated and competitive market. With the advent of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, over the past year the proliferation of online courses has been astonishing, and unsurprising. AI has made it easier for the masses to spew out content, so we turn to learning design for ways you can differentiate and position yourself for success.
In this article – the third instalment of this AI series, I embark on an exploration of how AI is reshaping the very foundations of education, from the way courses are meticulously designed and created, to how they are dynamically delivered to learners around the globe.
I invite you to delve into the fascinating intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the realm of online education, and look at ways to create AI courses that sell by developing learning designs that transform. Let’s recap.
In part 1 of this series of three, I talked about the evolution of AI and its role in business operations, including illustrating its use cases across a diverse set of industries. I outlined quite a broad range of opportunities that generative AI tools and chatbots presents for everyday business tasks especially customer support. I highlighted the challenges to consider, and practical steps you can take to get started leveraging AI in your business.
Then in part 2 we delved into the business jurisdictions of marketing and sales, uncovering the transformative power of AI to develop marketing campaigns, enhance customer engagement, and propel sales and revenue.
In this final part, let’s address a key third dimension where AI, and generative AI tools like ChatGPT in particular, are really disrupting established industries and business practices, leading to profound changes in market dynamics. And that’s in the arena of online education. If you want to create AI courses that sell, and don’t get lost amongst the mass produced AI-generated content based courses, the clue is in transformational learning design.
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The Future of Learning
As someone who works at the forefront of digital transformation, I’m often asked about future technologies and what’s going to change. It’s a good question, obviously. But hard to answer in terms of specifics. For business strategy purposes, the best questions to plan around are more towards what is not likely to change?
The future of learning is being shaped by the boundless potential of AI, and it’s best not to look at the tools themselves so much as what they enable in your business, and for learners and participants of the courses and programmes you develop.
I’m certainly intending to guide my clients through this digital journey so they can position their offerings in a distinctive way and leverage their time, expertise and resources in an efficient way. Creating AI courses that sell is not something anyone without expertise can accomplish just using the technology and content generation tools. Learning design is where you can gain competitive advantage.
This three-part series is a prelude to my forthcoming book, The AI Advantage – a short monograph to accompany the larger desk reference, Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age. The aim is to highlight both possibilities and pitfalls of AI, which I hope will help point you to many of the genuine ways that AI can accelerate business’ profitability and growth.
Quick heads up that I’m soon closing off registration for advance reader copies of my forthcoming book The AI Advantage
The AI Advantage is a short monograph to accompany my book Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age to address both possibilities and pitfalls of AI, which I hope will help point you to many of the genuine ways can accelerate small business’ profitability and growth.
If you’d like an advanced copy and are happy to provide me with feedback and possibly a review when it’s published, register your interest below.
Opt-in for a Review Copy
Back in the Day …
If you don’t know my background in technology enhanced practice, you’ll be intrigued or amused to hear that my experience with online education hails back to the early nineties. Yes I’m THAT old haha. And I’ve seen a lot of technology transformation over the decades.
Back in 1993, I was living in the Netherlands and in my first job after my PhD, married an Englishman and we decided to look for our next jobs in the UK. So, I applied for a research job and threw my hat in the ring for what seemed at the time to be a quirky opportunity to manage a national centre for a Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI).
As fate would have it, I didn’t get the research position, I got the quirky other job. The rest is history … and I did a walkthrough of my career in educational technology and digital transformation journey – podcast episode 11 and webinar replay (YouTube), for those of you who are interested.
To cut a long story short – this set me down a path of teaching, e-learning design and digital marketing. And I always say when you look back, there’s usually a pattern. And mine has been about technology enhanced strategies for doing things better, faster, and with more impact.
Back before the world had the web, before blogs, before any virtual learning environments, we had a bunch of basic tools, and object-orientated programming. But even then, we were innovating from a pedagogic standpoint, and constructing the technologies as best we could to support and pilot them,
So for me, while the name may have chopped and changed – technology enhanced learning, online learning, online courses, e-learning – digital is far from new to me. My research and application goes back three decades! If you do a search on my original PhD name, Jacqueline Allyson Dempster, you’ll see a fair few publications by me in this field.
And now AI – that’s a different story.
While online education has certainly surged in popularity since I started my first internet business back in 2004, AI emerges as a pivotal catalyst for enhancing the online learning experience.
But AI is more than just a tool – it’s a beacon of innovation that empowers educators and institutions to create adaptive, personalised, and engaging learning environments. The next decade promises to unlock the full potential of education in the digital age.
Imagine a world where every learner has a personal tutor, adapting to their unique pace and style of learning. Envision a classroom where assessments are not limited to standardised tests but are based on a deep understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
AI brings these visions to life by analysing vast amounts of data, adapting curriculum in real-time, providing instant feedback, and fostering collaborative learning experiences. In this episode, we’ll explore the myriad ways in which AI is revolutionising online education, from personalised learning pathways to intelligent tutoring systems.
AI is redefining online learning, making it more accessible, engaging, and effective than ever before. It’s really exciting!
At the same time, courses created using generative AI are drawing from the material that the platforms have been trained on – the internet. And as you know, much of what’s around on the world wide web cannot be trusted as accurate or unbiased sources of knowledge.
Whether you’re an educator passionate about enhancing your students’ learning experiences or a lifelong learner eager to embrace the possibilities of AI-driven education, AI is reshaping online education. If you want to ensure you can create online courses that sell, and are actually profitable for your business, you’ll need to avoid falling into the adoptive learning trap and look to more adaptive learning designs.
The Proliferation of Online Courses
Over the past two decades, the rise of the internet, online courses and e-learning platforms has made information and knowledge more accessible than ever before. No longer the territory of universities, colleges and schools, many individuals and businesses are now creating and selling courses on various subjects.
Online courses is nothing new.
Now with generative AI powering content creation, there’s been a massive proliferation of online courses – that’s what’s new. Because it’s so much easier and faster to create a course using generative AI tools like ChatGPT. But do these help you create AI courses that sell?
Brokerage businesses that sell other people’s online courses – like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda), Udemy, Teachable, and others – have grown massively from the consumer demand for online courses. Certainly here, teachers are still very much involved in the instructional design of the course, but are no longer necessarily involved in its delivery.
I still recall the early days in 1993 when I left research and started this career in e-learning. We didn’t even call e-learning that back then, it was computers in teaching, which as you can gather meant the opportunity was much more teacher-centric, focused on efficiency, and at best versatility.
Instructional design as it’s still called in north America, which here has evolved into curriculum design and learning design, was originally much less about students and the learner experience.
Later we called it educational technology and then the field deliberately shifted focus – we started to use the term technology-enhanced learning and later e-learning.
One might argue that the past 20 or so years have been about taking academia and teachers out of the process. With AI, the next 20 years will be about placing teachers back at the heart of both curriculum design and delivery.
This proliferation of online courses has been like the frog in the pan of water, gradually dying as the water heats up. When you jump into that pan now, you feel how ‘hot’ the water is and tread carefully.
And there’s a new tidal wave of competition that hit us in the last few months – excuse the mixed metaphors. For course creators today, the water is so hot it’s bubbling with increased competition, which makes it way more challenging to stand out in a crowded market.
If online courses are part of your business model, as experts and teachers we are now increasingly hitting up against the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has brought about significant changes to the way we learn and consume information as well as the speed at which we can create reasonably good content.
However, despite the vast opportunities presented by this trend, selling courses in the arena where non-experts are using tools like ChatGPT is not without its challenges.
How do we overcome the obstacles to create AI courses that sell?
There’s no doubt that AI has seriously disrupted the traditional education system, not only by offering a way to create content at lightning speedsß, but also its ability to deliver adaptive material and provide instant feedback in ways that support personalised learning experiences.
Selling online courses has become a major risk area for many education institutions and online training providers, as well as educational entrepreneurs, course creators and instructional designers. Designing online courses that are differentiated in value terms in the marketplace has therefore become more complex.
Some of the biggest obstacles include: the oversaturation of the market, the need for personalised learning experiences, and the challenge of maintaining relevance and currency in the market.
Let’s address this head on by understanding one important differentiator.
The Value Perception Gap
The most obvious question people ask in the age of AI is how will people know that your expert course is different to mediocre courses based on content created using AI. The topic would suggest it’s the same thing you’ll learn, right?
So from a business standpoint, this presents a “value perception gap” for selling your e-learning courses, that you now have to cross. It’s actually nothing to do with your credentials or skills, it’s all about positioning and pricing.
Before the age of artificial intelligence and chat bots, and way before anyone started talking about ‘hybrid’ courses, I’ve always made a big differentiation between information, knowledge and understanding – and, in particular, the ability for someone to apply what they’re learning.
Let me explain.
With information-based courses, you will definitely learn something, but you won’t necessarily be able to do anything differently or at least not competently or effectively.
With an educational course, the design is typically a content plus model. Only one component of how you help a student learn is content – the plus part is where the magic happens.
Content in the absence of application and feedback does not usually help with understanding or effective application. The content is only one component of how we construct new meaning from the information we’re being exposed to and the knowledge we’re gaining.
Think of it as rooms in a house. Constructing the rooms does not generally give you a well-designed home. Information and even knowledge is what we call adoptive learning, if this is the only component it does not on its own bring about any kind of shift in thinking or performance. What’s missing is dialogue, and that’s where you the expert come in.
Whether it’s feedback or coaching, or peer learning, that learning loop is where the magic happens. A content-only course without support is more like a book. It’s one-way transmission of information. Without dialogue the reader or learner has no opportunity to find out if what they think or understand is in fact accurate, or what they’re doing is any better or how to further improve.
And this is all assuming that the AI-generated content is any good in the first place. It may look amazing, and sound impressive, but does it get the facts right? A learner won’t be able to tell – that’s why they’re a learner!
So how do you make sure your potential customer knows the difference?
The Course Builders Ninja Strategy
The good news is there are two ways around this that only you as the expert are capable of. These strategies not only help you create AI courses that sell, they also produce real transformational outcomes for your learners / participants. Both turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
Used together, these approaches have driven every client sale I’ve ever acquired, be it consulting gigs, business growth delivery contracts, or my coaching programmes.
#1 – The first ninja element is that of building value in the mind of your buyer. When you differentiate for your client the difference between knowing what to do and being able to actually do it, the value perception increases.
This is where you’re usually able to wrap a guarantee around the outcomes they’ll get. And, the more high-level those outcomes, the more of you will be needed in course design terms.
When you make the case for more, better, faster in ROI terms, including the cost of inaction, the value perception increases. AI generated content based courses undoubtedly can’t make such claims and promises.
But even given a set of instructions, recommendations and areas for improvement, my clients still have to figure out on their own how to implement it all. They can ask ChatGPT for a step-by-step, but given most transformation is complex, it’s likely no substitute for using a true expert consultant or coach who’s been in the trenches and can offer real insights based on experience.
Drawing on mountains of dubiously reliable ‘data’ or the latest ‘trend’ from across the internet does not produce a valuable strategic implementation plan, nor help you execute even a valuable one. You need the insights and perspective to know what will or won’t work in your specific context.
This is why at the end of every business audit or strategy call, I will ask: is everything clear, does what I suggest make sense to you, and (prompting the next engagement) given our expertise in this area, having helped hundreds of businesses like yours over the last 20+ years, would you like some help to implement this?
#2 – The second ninja element is that of seeding demand by involving your target market – the people who want the transformation that your course or program delivers. It works through a process of co-creation. What do I mean by that? Well, essentially, you involve your pilot participants in co-shaping and co-building the curriculum. It’s a classic case of ‘learning by creating’.
I first did this back in my university days when I was doing both curriculum development and professional (staff) development. You know how I mentioned about gluing things together to use early technology to do clever pedagogic stuff?
Well, I was running some pretty exciting national educational innovation projects working collaboratively with subject matter experts in academic departments. The tutors asked the students to co-create the content for a new course for the next cohort. And the course evolved every year.
Bear in mind this was in the late 90s, early noughties, where there were no website builders, learning management systems, not even blogs. We were gluing tools together, forcing a rudimentary ‘system’ in order to innovate what we wanted students to create and share and talk about.
What’s really cool about this approach to piloting a new course, is you’re getting market research as you seed the idea behind the course, and at the same time you’re giving people context so they understand what the course will achieve for them.
And the outlining, drafting and shaping of the material is where the skill lies – in the age of AI and ChatGPT, this is the emerging new role of the “prompt engineer”.
The bad news, as Danny Iny proclaims in his latest book ‘Guide on the Side’, is that AI has introduced another challenge or obstacle into the mix. And that’s the fast growth of spamification. You’ve heard of gamification, well this is the opposite. It’s about people spewing out mediocre content, mediocre courses, and questionable “education”. (If you’re listening not reading this, note the use of quotation marks.)
Danny is CEO of Mirasee that specialises in the business of online courses. I coach on their ACES acceleration business program, so I’m intimately acquainted with him and his co-authors of this insightful book. Guide on the Side is just out on Amazon and I reviewed it, just as I’m producing this episode.
In the business marketplace, AI has caused a downward pressure on pricing and people’s willingness to pay premium prices. Even for a course that is well above average, way more than mediocre, the sheer volume of low-cost and free courses drives prices down.
And as Danny puts it “AI wears a convincing mask”. The content you can produce using GPT tools, like ChatGPT, looks super impressive. In fact, it’s really really good, which exacerbates the problem, and challenges experts like us to go beyond the early adopter advantage.
In terms of design for learning, the market just isn’t yet able to see the difference between information, knowledge and real education. It may not even recognise the difference between automated chatbot conversations and expert coach conversations.
And yes if you’re creating content and building courses that are used as part of a blended learning experience, you can rise above all that. But only IF your target audience knows the difference. And for most people, it’s a real blind spot.
So, I’d like to share a FREE RESOURCE for you to download that takes you through the 7 biggest challenges for selling courses in the age of AI and how to overcome them.
Of course, there are more than seven, but this will get your started thinking through how to make online courses work in your business, even with the rise of AI and proliferation of content and courses in the marketplace.
Grab this handy guide to create AI courses that sell …
In summary, the 7 biggest challenges of selling online courses in the age of AI – just to whet your appetite to go get the free guide – are as follows:
#1 – Competition from AI-powered learning platforms
#2 – Keeping up with the latest AI trends & technologies
#3 – Ensuring data privacy & security
#4 – Developing AI-powered content & delivery systems
#5 – Adapting to changing client or student expectations
#6 – Effectively Marketing and Promoting Courses
#7 – Overcoming scepticism & resistance to AI
Key Opportunities for Educational Entrepreneurs
Selling online courses in the age of AI presents unique challenges, but also significant opportunities for educators and online platforms.
Online courses have become an increasingly popular form of education in recent years, with the rise of e-learning platforms over the last couple of decades, and more recently the fast pace of advancements in technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Chatbots.
Tools like ChatGPT present unique challenges that educators and online learning providers must overcome to ensure success.
In that free guide I mentioned, I take you through seven of the biggest challenges to selling online courses and provided some strategies for overcoming them.
By leveraging the power of AI, educators and online businesses can develop and deliver high-quality, personalised, and engaging online courses that meet the needs and expectations of today’s students.
Traditional one-size-fits-all courses are no longer enough to meet the diverse learning needs and preferences of today’s learners. Instead, learners expect courses that are tailored to their individual needs, interests, and learning styles. They want to be engaged and entertained as well as educated and empowered.
I really liked this article in Medium by Sukant Khurana who talks about using AI to provide personalised learning experiences that save educators time and headaches, so we can focus on the more human aspects of supporting our learners.
To create a unique learning experience that can only happen with a human teacher, facilitator or coach, course creators need to focus on creating courses that offer personalised learning experiences.
This could involve incorporating interactive elements such as quizzes, assessments, and simulations that adapt to learners’ progress and provide individualised feedback. It could also involve offering different learning paths or modules that allow learners to choose the topics and skills they want to focus on.
In addition to incorporating personalised learning into courses, course creators can also leverage AI and machine learning technologies to enhance the learning experience further.
For instance, AI-powered chatbots could provide personalised support and guidance to learners, while machine learning algorithms could analyse learners’ data to provide insights into their learning progress and areas of improvement.
By creating personalised learning and leveraging AI technologies, course creators can meet the growing demand for customised and adaptive experiences in the age of AI.
Taken together, the overriding challenge to businesses that sell online courses and programmes is that of maintaining relevance and currency. In today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing world, information and knowledge become outdated quickly, making it essential for course creators to continually update and refresh their courses to remain relevant.
Course creators need to adopt a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning themselves. They need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and industry developments and incorporate these into their courses. They also need to be open to feedback from clients/students and continually seek ways to improve and enhance their learning designs.
So, that’s a wrap – hope this has been insightful to you – and brings together a whole hog of articles and perspectives around the impact of AI on business, marketing and sales, and online course building.
And again, blatant plug – by year end, I’ll be closing off registration for advanced reader copies of my forthcoming book, The AI Advantage.
This is a short monograph – less than 100 pages although it packs a punch. It’s a deep dive into the specific topic of AI and ChatGPT to accompany my book Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age. While social media platforms come and go, AI isn’t going anywhere. It’s becoming part of the norm as we go about our digital lives.
I hope the text will help point you to many of the genuine ways you can leverage AI to accelerate your business’s profitability and growth. So I’m offering my book readers, subscribers and clients an advance copy and are happy to provide me with feedback and possibly a review when it’s published.
Opt-in for a Review Copy
FURTHER RESOURCES & LINKS MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:
- Video review: My educational technology and digital transformation journey – podcast episode 11 and webinar replay (YouTube)
- Jay’s book: Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age and accompanying monograph (coming soon, see below)
- Workbook: 100+ iDEAS to Boost Online Course Sales