Best Practices for Monetizing Your eLearning Content

By Jerry McCoy • October 8, 2019

How substantial could non-dues revenue generated from online events and courses be for your association?

In 1953, more than 95 percent of revenue for professional associations came from membership dues. As of 2016 (the most recent year from which comprehensive data is available), that number had decreased to 30 percent. Over the last few decades, the biggest driver of non-dues revenue has been technological advancements. Technology has paved the way for innovative methods of generating non-dues revenue while providing significant value to your members.

In this article, we will discuss three of the most effective ways for leveraging educational content and technology. There are numerous technologies, strategies, and methodologies for deploying these strategies, so we will talk about best practices and key aspects to think about when trying to achieve your organization’s monetary goals.

Most Effective Ways to Monetize Educational Content

Here is what we’ve found to be some of the most effective ways for associations to monetize eLearning content:

  • Develop and sell online courses.
  • Host and sell live and on-demand virtual events.
  • Tagoras’ Virtual Events Report of 2018 revealed that more than 42 percent of associations have previously offered a virtual event, and of the about 25 percent of associations that had not yet offered one, they were planning on offering one in the next 12 months.
  • Among the associations that have held virtual events, more than 80 percent directly charge participants.
  • Live stream and/or recorded content from in-person meetings and conferences, and allow remote participants to tune in for a fee. This is not a new concept, but we still see many associations spending vast amounts of money on their in-person events and completely missing out on the opportunity to reach the rest of their members who cannot attend in-person meeting(s). By holding fee-based live streaming webcasts of sessions, you allow people who are unable to travel to an in-person event to still participate at a lower individual cost that further adds to your event revenue.

By recording content and making it available on-demand after the event, you’re allowing an even wider audience to view content they would have missed out on. Your association would also let those that did attend to get a refresher on topics as well as watch sessions they may have been unable to watch due to concurrent session schedules.

What You Need to Consider When Monetizing eLearning

Once you have eLearning content, you need to determine how you’re going to distribute and facilitate online learning. One of the most important decisions you will make is choosing the right learning management system. During the LMS selection process, one of the essential areas of functionality you should examine is the LMS’s eCommerce capabilities. You should ask yourself if you need or want to have any or all of the following features:

  • Integrated payment gateways
  • eCommerce functionality through an AMS/CRM integration
  • Group pricing – allows your association to differentiate pricing between members and non-members, attendees and non-attendees, any other group(s) of people you define
  • Coupons and discount codes
  • Recommended products based on the items in your shopping cart
  • eCommerce reporting – will you need to be able to prove and improve ROI based on how your audiences financially support your online courses and events?

Pro Tips for Monetizing eLearning:

  • Sponsors: Most associations sell sponsorships for their annual conferences and other in-person events. Why not sell sponsorships for your virtual events as well? You can leverage a one-off webinar by selling sponsorship space on a slide deck to a corporation relevant to your topic. Or you could collaborate with a corporation and trade sponsorships for access to guest speakers.

Along the same lines of collaborating with a corporation for a virtual event, you could find a sponsor for a full online course as well. Work with their subject matter experts to create an online class then offer it to their employees for free through your LMS while still charging the rest of your learners.

  • Upselling: Offer a premium for certain courses where an individual can purchase the foundational class, but also have the option to purchase an add-on collaboration session or 30-minute Q&A with one of the experts who created that course. Upselling personalized services like a one-on-one tutoring session can provide unique value to your members while creating a new revenue stream for your association.
  • Product bundles: Selling multiple courses or events at one fixed price can be extremely effective for organizations. You can group together similar courses such as the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels of one topic or you could use sales data to group together popular content with less popular content in hopes to increase sales for items that have not performed as well.
  • Clear buyer value: This is extremely important for organizations that have a large catalog of learning assets. Ensure that the value your learners receive is clearly explained in a short excerpt that can be viewed without purchasing anything. Most LMSs have an area for descriptions of courses that anyone can view. Take advantage of that and list all valuable aspects such as the number of credits earned, certificates or badges, special guest presentations that aren’t found anywhere else, or related add-on sessions available.


Selling educational content can provide many benefits to your association and to your members. Picking the ideal method of delivery can be a cumbersome task, but it is vital to the scalable success of your eLearning program. Start by asking yourself questions around eCommerce capabilities and functionality and you will be able to identify what is truly important for your association to succeed.

About The Author

Jerry McCoy is a sales development manager for Blue Sky eLearn. He regularly writes about online learning technology, online events and educational psychology for Blue Sky’s blog.