Membership Geeks

What’s The Difference Between an Online Membership and a Course?

Membership Website or Online Course?

What’s the difference between an online membership and a course?…

Aren't they basically the same thing?…

Well, there is some overlap between the two, but they’re also very different types of product.

To help you differentiate between an online membership and a course, we’re going to compare and contrast each, including how content is delivered, the price point, and some pros and cons for business owners.

What exactly is an online membership and a course, and how are they delivered?

An online membership is a website which offers gated access to a combination of one or more of what we call the 3 C's – content, coaching, and/or private community…

It typically has new deliverables added on an ongoing basis with people making a recurring payment.

A course, on the other hand, is a one-off purchase for lifetime or fixed-term access to a completed product.

If a course does get updated, then another one-off payment may be required access to the latest version.

There may not be any coaching or community with a course – if there is, then it’s usually for a limited time period while the course is being delivered live as opposed to it being a core feature that will always be there.

Another big difference between the two is the price point…

The price of an online course VS a membership

The typical signature online course is priced around $2000, and is usually only available for enrolment once or twice per year, with some element of live support over the course of 2 to 3 months.

Sometimes a course will feed into an online membership once people have completed it, so these two models can work well together – but they’re priced, delivered and consumed in different ways.

It’s important to know that we’re talking about courses as a standalone product and not as a type of content that’s delivered inside of an online membership…

You can have a signature course, or many smaller courses, inside of a membership as part of your core deliverables, but these will normally be supplemented by additional content alongside coaching and community support.

If you do have a signature course as part of your membership, you’ll likely adjust how it’s delivered to better fit the membership model, such as drip feeding your content.

An online membership is typically priced between $15 to $40 dollars for B2C and $30 to $80 for B2B topics…

And since an online membership doesn’t have a definitive end date like a course does, you can expand your deliverables over time.

Pros and cons of an online membership VS a course

So, how does an online membership and a course compare in terms of effort and revenue for digital business owners?

While both involve paying for content, memberships normally bill people on a recurring payment basis, usually monthly or annually, although some memberships may offer a single payment for lifetime access

That means a membership typically involves recurring income for the owner, rather than the sporadic payments that a course creator will receive.

However, an online membership needs to be managed on an ongoing basis to deliver new features, coaching, and community support.

Online courses may require more effort up front, but once completed, they can be left alone unless they require updating down the line…

Not all topics make sense as a course though, particularly a subject that is ever-changing. For example, a course on Pinterest marketing would need to be updated regularly for relevance since Pinterest often updates its algorithm.

To conclude…

Hopefully, this guide has given you clarity on the difference between an online membership and a course.

While both an online membership and a course deliver content, how they’re delivered, consumed, and paid for, are vastly different.

Don’t forget that you can offer both, but to be successful will depend on the strategy you use – you can find out more about this in the articles below.

Further reading you may be interested in:

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Membership Readiness Scorecard

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