Creating an online course 'changed my life'

BBC Technology 22 Jun 2020 11:02
By Susie Bearne Technology of Business Reporter
Lucy Gough launched an online interior design courseImage copyright Lucy Gough

Like many others, interior stylist Lucy Gough saw her income disappear when the coronavirus hit and naturally felt anxious about her future prospects.

"Within one week the four shoots I'd been prepping for were all cancelled," she recalls.

However, rather than do nothing, London-based Ms Gough decided to pivot her business and create an online interior styling course after teaching a similar course at London design school Central Saint Martins.

"Even though I'd wanted to create a course for the last year it wasn't until lockdown was confirmed and all my income evaporated that I started creating it," she says.

Covering six modules including shoot styling and home staging, Ms Gough launched the self-paced course in mid-May and within two weeks had already attracted 112 students from as far as Canada and Poland. She estimates that the course might make her £20,000 this year.

"It has changed my life in terms of giving me an income when all my jobs as a stylist were cancelled at the beginning of Covid-19," she says. "I always envisaged my online course being a career sideline but at the moment it's my only focus. When shoots are scheduled in again it will start to become the passive income that I had imagined."

Even before the coronavirus crisis, the value of the sector was forecast to jump to $300bn (£250bn) by 2025, up from $190bn in 2018, according to the research firm Global Market Insights.

Ankur Nagpal, founder and chief executive of New York-based course-hosting platform Teachable, says lockdown has greatly accelerated the number of people starting an e-learning business.

Total revenue earned by course tutors on its platform has also grown significantly since the outbreak, with its teachers set to earn more than $43m in May, up from $24m in February.

Greg Smith, founder of Vancouver-based Thinkific, which provides the software for entrepreneurs looking to create online courses, says, "Consumption has gone up as people are stuck at home and want to learn new professional skills or take up new hobbies to entertain themselves."

However, it is not all rosy in the world of online courses.

Jonathan Little, 26, a content outreach executive living in Crewe, enrolled in a 14-day free trial of a graphic design course via Shaw Academy, an online learning platform, in May in a bid to improve his skillset.

"You have to log into your account and then you go through five to six different screens, each one giving you the same spiel about 'don't give in on dreams'.

Mr Little says it has made him think twice about signing up to online courses in the future. "It's made me a bit more cautious. I always usually look at reviews online but I just did it in the spur of the moment. It's made me cautious about signing up to things I've not heard of before."

"We apologise that the customer's cancellation process took longer than usual. We take customer feedback and satisfaction very seriously and are currently reviewing our cancellation process to see whether we can make it easier for the small number of people who choose to cancel our services."

Image copyright Amanda Rosewarne

"One scam involves creating a site, charging you for a course, and then never delivering the product," she says. "Scammers can also easily hook you by selling a course, but then once you have completed it and 'passed' the assessment, the professional certificate or licence fails to materialise in the post or by email."

Despite some problems in the sector, for some, running an online course can be life-changing.

The Vienna-based course creator says teaching online has changed her "whole life".

For those who never want to go back to an office, online courses might be the future.

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Ms GoughLucy GoughThinkificShaw AcademyMr Little