How to Create an Online Certification Program

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There are many reasons to build online courses. One objective can be professional certification. In this LMScast Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett focus on how to create an online certification program, why niche markets are profitable, and what makes a certification valuable.

The first thing you should be aware of is the immense opportunity in the current global eLearning market. Even small, niche markets are vast, and thus well worth exploring. The basic elements you need for a successful course offering are expertise in your subject area, an audience that is hungry for your information, and your own passion.

You may be the best source of information for your niche. In this case you can create an exclusive certificate based on levels of expertise students will gain in your subject area through completion of your courses.

Another niche is a company certificate of competence for its product. Not only does your company make money from selling the product itself, but you create another profit stream by certifying experts and consultants to support it. This type of certification also creates loyal partners for the product.

You may also choose to create a certification course for an existing product or field of expertise for which you have established competency. This involves approval of your course content and structure by the originating entity or a governing body, but your approach to training may well be superior to others. This is also an opportunity to provide continuing education and advanced certifications as the product changes and expands.

Our LifterLMS WordPress plugin offers many options for marking progress and issuing certificates of completion. One of our newest features is the automated Course Tracks application which allows you to group learning modules into a curriculum, issue a variety of achievement markers, and set a trigger event to deliver a personalized certificate of completion once the student successfully passes a comprehensive exam.

You can choose to build a linear architecture of prerequisites that lead from one course to the next, add elective courses related to the core subject as part of the certification requirements, or offer specialty certifications based on those electives.

As you are deciding how to create an online certification program, remember to stay focused on your students. Make sure their learning experience is exceptional and your courses deliver true value to their lives. Help them achieve success through your instruction and training, and you will succeed as well.

Our LifterLMS course development platform is designed to help you build the eLearning experience you want to deliver. Try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

Episode Transcript

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett, and today, we’re talking about how to build an online certification program. Chris, how’s this done? How do we complete this?

Chris: First, I just want to touch on why this is so amazing and why we’re at such a unique opportunity for certification programs or degree programs online. It never ceases to amaze me the power and scale of the internet. Right now, I’m in Northwest Montana, and you are in New Zealand.

Joshua: Yep.

Chris: We’re literally on other sides of the planet having a conversation here, and that is how powerful the internet is. I know we all know that. When it comes to building a certification program that’s relevant to a global audience, the opportunity there is really massive, and a certification program, you could also think of it in terms of a degree program.

Another thing that’s really cool about certification programs and degree programs is if you’ve read Chris Anderson’s book called The Long Tail or you’re familiar with the concept of niches or riches in niches, you can create … because if you have a global audience, you can create certifications around the smallest niches, that as long as you exist within what Jim Collins would call the hedgehog concept where your content contains an overlap of your passion as an instructor, a market size that’s … you know, people are willing and there’s demand there, a hungry market, and economic opportunity, and something you can be the best at the world at, there’s never been a better time in history to create your certification or degree program.

Joshua: Yeah, and there’s an exclusivity. I talk to a friend of mine who runs a company that helps other companies create certification programs, and he said it’s an untapped revenue stream too, where a company’s core business, the best example from my world is Infusionsoft. Yes, they make a lot of money selling Infusionsoft, but they also make a good chunk of change certifying their Infusionsoft certified consultants or now they call them partners, ICPs.
Chris: That’s a small niche. That’s like the Infusionsoft certified, people who can use the technology. That’s a really small niche.
Joshua: Absolutely-,
Chris: It works.
Joshua: The other part of it though is in addition to becoming certified, there is an increased loyalty from those certification partners. They want to promote you, and you can do special things with them that you can’t otherwise do. The question is what system do you use to do this?
Chris: I’m bias, so I’m [inaudible 00:02:50] go to straight to LifterLMS, and one of the reason we’re talking about this today is that we are introducing a new feature this Friday. This podcast is being recorded at the tail end of August 2015, but this Friday we’re releasing a new feature that we’re calling Course Tracks where you can put a group of courses, you can create a triggering event. If you’re familiar with what’s really unique to LifterLMS, which is our ability to create engagements. Google LifterLMS engagements, if you don’t know what that’s about and you’ll find another podcast episode in other pages on the website, but a certificate is a type of engagement.
If you complete a group of courses that you want to then say, “Okay, if somebody completes all these courses and wants a certificate, you can now automate that entire process with LifterLMS. Let’s say you have multiple certifications and you want to use the same intro course, you can use that same course in the different programs, and that triggering event, the completion of those courses, you could also fire off achievement, which is like a badge to gamify your platform or send an automated email that may or may not have a delay that’s personalized to the user. That’s all possible inside of LifterLMS.
That’s what it’s all about, and I think it’s important to say that you could do this right now by just having a bunch of courses in a chain, then the last course … the prerequisite, prerequisite, prerequisite, pass the test, then you get a certificate.
Joshua: Right.
Chris: The world’s moving away from this linear learning model, moving to a more non-linear style. People like to jump around, so maybe your certification program contains a little bit of stuff that’s chained together in a prerequisite format, but then includes other materials that you could take in any order, other courses. Then once you’ve completed all that, no matter which way you choose to go through that, then you can get your certificate. We’re also trying to address the way learning is changing.
Joshua: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that’s phenomenal. From a content perspective, what do you think is important when we are building a certification program in regards to content?
Chris: I think the first thing comes down to the education entrepreneur who creates it, and creating a certification out of your mind is one thing. Another thing, and we’ve seen a lot of successful learning management systems and helped build some of these, where there’s some kind of governing body that already has a designation or they already have whatever that certificate is for, whatever the letters that go at the end of the name or the job title.
You just have to get your course content approved by that governing body, and then they allow you to build your business and deliver a certification program, and especially in industries where this type of continuing education is required, it’s really, I won’t say easy, but the environment is there for the entrepreneur to come in and build a viable business model that has a recurring revenue element in it around continuing education training related to maintaining certification.
Joshua: I think the other thing that I would add to that is just that in my mind certification means competency, so if you’re going to create something and you’re going to certify someone, you need to make sure they’re competent at whatever it is that they do. I think in a lot of ways, I’m not afraid to say it, but in the ICC world or ICP world, I don’t think Infusionsoft does do a good job with that. I think it’s a money maker and they get people to be certified. I’ve seen that with other organizations too.
However, my father is a Gallup strength finder coach and he’s a certified strength coach, and they put him through a really rigorous training and a lot of in class and outside of class exercises where he had to analyze people who are his peers, and then he actually had to go and do free assessments in the community and analyze them in the report [inaudible 00:07:09]. It was a good 3- to 6-month process. You know my father. Obviously, I’m bias, but he does a great job at the strengths coaching.
Chris: He does a really good job, and we always say this, it’s a part of the LifterLMS brand and the CodeBOX brand, that as long as we are always focused on the end user, which may be the student in your LMS program and helping them find success and value, everybody wins. If you’re going to do a certification program or a degree program, really think about the value that not just the LMS creator but that end user is going to experience when they get your credentials or your certification or your degree.
I think an example that we can draw on for that is if you think of something like the life coaching niche, I’m not that familiar with it, but I do know that there’s some certification programs that it’s more the platforms might be just trying to make money and sell certificates, but if you’re really focused on creating a unique designation that changes people’s lives for way more than 10 times the value of the certification program, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about creating stuff that adds value.
Joshua: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s great. I think that’s it for this episode. I think it’s going to create a lot of ideation for people to think about how they can get certification in their business model and in their organization. We’d love for you to check out the website at, and hit us up on Twitter @jmillage and @ChrisBadgett, right?
Chris: That’s right.
Joshua: Then, as always, you can go and check out our WordPress LMS plug-in at Chris, any final thoughts?
Chris: I would love a review on iTunes or a comment on this video on YouTube if you’re watching the video version. It really motivates us with this podcast, and we’d love to hear from you what episode you’d like us to make next.
Joshua: Absolutely. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.

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