Do most people really need a 40 million dollar eLearning solution to create and offer online courses? In today’s LMScast Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett talk about how to create an eLearning marketplace clone from a development platform like our LifterLMS WordPress learning management system plugin by leveraging the power of disruptive innovation.
First, what is a marketplace clone? Basically a clone is a less expensive and generally less robust version of an industry standard product or service. In the eLearning marketplace, Udemy is an outstanding example of an established platform used by instructors to present their own coursework in subjects of their choosing and then receive income from those courses. Courses are developed and distributed through Udemy, and clients are subject to their policies and fee structure. Instructors receive a portion of tuition fees charged for their courses.
In contrast, LifterLMS is a WordPress plugin LMS platform that instructors purchase to design their online courses. It is compatible with distribution and marketing services such as Infusionsoft and can be expanded and integrated by developers according to the instructor’s individual needs. Instructors then maintain complete control of their course offerings and receive tuition fees directly.
Udemy was developed with approximately 40 million dollars worth of funding from investors and other interests and is an extremely powerful platform with high-level marketing to attract clients and users. The LifterLMS option was developed with a few thousand dollars of independent funding and can be expanded into a true marketplace clone. Marketing, distribution, and fee structure are ultimately handled by the instructor.
For some instructors a service like Udemy is the best choice, but for others an option that builds upon a basic development platform is a better way to go. A WordPress-based solution leverages their power and versatility. WordPress is itself a fine example of disruptive innovation.
Disruptive innovation, as demonstrated by examples like WordPress and Kickstarter, is a fresh approach to an established, standardized system. It basically democratizes an expensive, top-heavy industry standard by making it less expensive and more accessible to a greater number of people, and by removing restrictions and costs associated with use of institutionalized systems. Disruptive innovation is responsive, flexible, and user defined, and is most attractive to people who want more control over the products and services they offer.
For eLearning, WordPress is a dynamic platform that places all the power of content publishing in the hands of the user by giving them the essential tools they need for development and application to directly present their work on the internet. A plugin development platform allows an instructor or developer to create and distribute online courses with WordPress, then employ a marketing and distribution service to promote and sell the course offerings and profit directly from those course offerings. Instructor’s costs are greatly reduced by integrating and coordinating these platforms independently and maintaining complete control and oversight of their products and services.
An innovative developer like codeBOX can customize a development tool and expand its capabilities and functionality to compete effectively with any industry standard. Hiring a developer does increase costs for an instructor, but it can mean the difference between a few hundred dollars and several thousand. The real question is, do you really need the highest-level capabilities available to create and market your online courses?
To realize how to create an eLearning marketplace clone all you really require is a WordPress installation, a development platform, a marketing and distribution service, and possibly a professional development service. All the capabilities you really need are covered within this simple structure.
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Joshua: Hello everyone. We’re back with another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage. I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. We’re talking about marketplace clones. We get a lot of requests from people who hit us up and ask, “Can LifterLMS be like Udemy?” Udemy was funded with how many millions of dollars, Chris?
Chris: I believe it was 40 million dollars.
Joshua: 40 million dollars, so the answer is possibly, not at the current state, but it possibly can become a Udemy clone or what we would call marketplace clone. We don’t want to single out Udemy. There’s other marketplaces out there. It’s an awesome idea. I love the people who have that ambition and that drive to go out and build something and connect teachers and allow them to post their courses and then bring in the audience. I think it’s an ambitious goal for the people that want to create this.
It requires a lot of technical development that’s just frankly not available right now in LifterLMS. I can see us going that direction and adding those features, but Chris, let’s dive into the psychology here. Why is LifterLMS still a better option than trying to do the Udemy thing or marketplace thing?
Chris: I guess I would start with the very power of WordPress itself and the concept of a disruptive innovation. When something disrupts the marketplace or is really just shaking things up in the industry, what it’s doing is it’s taking something that was previously either very expensive, time consuming, or just took a lot of crazy effort and collaboration to pull off. It makes that easier and more accessible. If we look at WordPress itself, which is at the core of a huge ecosystem in the internet, 20-25% of the internet at this point, we see that WordPress has democratized publishing and as a platform for development.
What that means is it just puts that power in the hands of normal, everyday people like you and I to publish. Let’s take LMS and eLearning off the table for a second and just look at blogging and publishing and putting content out there. Even major players now like CNN run their blogs and their online presence off of WordPress. The reason for that is is WordPress just came in and brought the tools to the people. Hey, if you want to publish content online, here you go. It’s not so hard and it’s not so expensive anymore. That’s just the basic concept of the disruptive innovation.
Joshua: I think that what you can do with WordPress now is so far beyond what it was a few years ago. It’s really become a web development, web application framework. Matt Mullenweg who is the creator of WordPress, or one of the creators of WordPress, has made that statement. We’re only going to see tools and methods and libraries and things come out for WordPress to make it a much more dynamic platform. I think that’s important to note when it comes to learning management systems, because learning management systems cannot be simply blogs. They need to be more dynamic. They need to have interaction and things like quizzes and things that require a little bit more back and forth.
I’ve seen some pretty incredible things be developed on WordPress, chat clients and Facebook clones and that sort of thing. We’re not far away from what we started talking about, which was marketplace clones or that sort of thing and bringing that technological innovation down to the individual who wants to create a marketplace around say, a topic area like gardening or something like that, which is essentially what you’ve done in a totally different way. I think if you had to do it all over again, you’d probably use LifterLMS, right?
Chris: Yeah, probably. I’ll be transitioning Organic Life Guru to LifterLMS shortly, but I’ve seen this before. We were talking about we get this request from people that they want to build a WordPress powered learning management system that functions like Udemy, which is a 40 million dollar VC funded startup that’s more evolved at this stage. LifterLMS is a three figure plugin. It’s not a multi-million dollar plugin that you can buy and install on your site, but hey, that’s the power of disruptive innovation. Even like in the crowd funding space, for example, you can see a lot of really amazing WordPress themes and plugins emerging that do crowd funding just like Kickstarter.
I bet, I don’t know the back story of Kickstarter’s organization, but I bet they had a lot more investment than just a WordPress theme and a WordPress plugin, but now people are asking us for this and the eLearning in the WordPress LMS space. The answer is it’s close. We’re not quite there yet with some of the features that Udemy has, but in the hands of the right developer, you could get there very quickly. I think it’s important to take note of that. You mentioned that WordPress is a platform for development.
At codeBOX, the company that we own, a lot of our clients, we build WordPress sites and we do heavily customized stuff where we’re building themes from the ground up. We’re building custom plugins, custom functionality from the ground up to meet the needs of the client. Maybe they have really deep Infusionsoft integration needs and really custom Infusionsoft work that needs to happen. We’ll bring that in, too. It’s very custom and we make that happen, but at the end of the day, there’s a big difference between starting with a 50 dollar theme or a 200 development plugin or a 50 dollar plugin to what is custom development?
Does custom development need to cost 40 million dollars? In most cases, absolutely not. You can get rolling with a WordPress installation and some really solid development help to take your vision and bring that into code and bring that into an actual functional platform. I just want to encourage people who are looking for an eLearning solution or a WordPress powered learning system to really unpack that difference between three things, buying the plugin and doing it yourself on your WordPress theme, buying that plugin and having another developer do something with it to customize it and maybe tweak it a little bit, or just do the tech part.
Then getting it more high-end development help like what we offer where you can take it to a whole other level of build software on top of that or just customize it in a much deeper way. You’re not going to need 40 million dollars in involvement capital to do that. That’s the power of disruptive innovation.
Joshua: I think that’s a great point to make. You can make a platform that could compete with Coursera or Skill Share or Udemy or something like that with WordPress and a plugin like LifterLMS for 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars, significantly less, an order of magnitude less than what they did. That’s just the development. Of course, you’d have marketing expenses if you truly wanted to compete, but I think it puts it in perspective. The cost of building something like that with a platform like WordPress and LifterLMS has significantly dropped the cost. I think it’s awesome. We build that stuff all the time.
It’s so much fun to build these platforms that truly change the fundamental foundation of how a business functions. I know that we’ve done that for a couple of our clients, and it’s been cool. It’s been really cool to see that shift take place. Awesome, Man. Do you have any final thoughts for the folks at home listening or in their car?
Chris: I would just say that a lot of that 40 million dollars in investment capital and venture capital, it’s not just about the product and the software and the innovation. It’s also about the marketing and the influence of the VCs or angel investors or what have you. If you do want to build a seriously enterprise level learning management system powered on WordPress, you could do it. It’s not just about the tech though. It’s also about your marketing jobs and your ability to penetrate a market and get that mass market drive or really exploit a vertical where you want to offer your educational material.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous episode, true entrepreneurship is a really almost half and half blend between marketing and innovation. If you’re going to go deep on the innovation side, make sure you go deep in the marketing side, too.
Joshua: Yeah, that’s good. Awesome. Until next time, we’ll talk to you then.