re you thinking of creating an online academy or starting a school? Even though it is a great idea, it can be pretty challenging. Why?
The primary reason is that many confuse “academy” with “school”, or use these words interchangeably. Sure, “school” can sound far better for branding. A fair number of learners will choose "Modern School of Ads Creation” over “Ad Academy,” solely by the name.
Thus, we need to draw a clear line here. The academy is often a larger business, taking a systematic and consistent approach to learning provision. Usually, it comes with greater scale, complexity, and income. That’s why it requires so much planning and research.
Read on to learn crucial concepts about online academy business and get an essential guide on how to create your own academy.
Things to know before you create online academy
Let’s start with a definition: what is an online academy?
In modern terms, an online academy is an educational organization that provides courses, infrastructure, and qualified instructors for deep learning.
Enrolling in the academy gives students access to career opportunities, specific knowledge, and a particular network. Even before starting a course there, they usually have a thorough background or understanding of what they are about to learn.
Interesting fact. About 1.4 million people would need reskilling by 2026. The academies are to serve the market needs, providing a great alternative to traditional education if accredited and recognized.
In terms of business, it is a system with long-term goals, clear vision, partners, and consecutive development strategy to sell expertise. Such an approach allows owners to create online academy value and be different from single creators, self-paced courses, and schools.
If you are considering opening a smaller institution or a school, check out our other article.
Crucial business aspects
The role of market needs and labor trends is significant for the development of academies. Thus, if you ask yourself, ‘How can I create an online university globally?’ the correct answer lies in considering business aspects and education specifics. They refer to:
- Type of university or academy model. Do you want to create a network of courses or faculties, a night school, a bootcamp, or a career ladder? Each has its advantages and is suitable for various audiences.
- Mission. To be an academy, you need a mission and vision to give your institution integrity and value.
- Area and expertise. You must have enough information about the inner workings, people, and industry your academy will provide deep knowledge about.
- Organization. Will you provide solely online education? Or do you think of offline events as well? How many courses will you have? Your answers will significantly affect the choice of tools and premises you will need.
- Team. Successful academies work out only if both the team and students are satisfied. Besides experts, you will need to think of instructors, managers and administrators, sales specialists, and marketers.
- Partnerships. Consider businesses that will accept your students. That way, you can grant career opportunities to the students and support your authority.
💡Highlight: To create your own online academy, you should combine the business model with an educational organization, where the primary value would be the knowledge that can be applied in the real world. For it, consider the audience, market, and organization needs.
How to start an online university, academy, or large school?
- Step #1. Find an audience and test an idea
- Step #2. Pick an array of topics
- Step #3. Define the type of learning that suits your academy best
- Step #4. Determine the business and payment model
- Step #5. Select an LMS solution that answers your learning needs
- Step #6. Create online academy curriculum
- Step #7. Figure out branding and marketing strategies
- Step #8. Define a suite of tools to support your strategies
- Step #9. Enroll first students and launch a course
- Step #10. Gather feedback and improve your courses
Step#1. Find an audience and test your idea
Before you create an online academy, you should be sure that the knowledge you offer will be valuable and that the audience will need it. In this regard, online academies have primary instruments: research and validation.
Here are the most effective ways to do it:
- Research the market and available courses. (Start with the keywords people search for and trends on the market.)
- Do polls among the target audience. (You can ask your network, do cold outreach among experts, ask professional circles, or send forms as target ads).
- Run a workshop, small course, or webinar related to an industry or expertise you want to build an academy around. (That can be a great test to see the demand and audience needs.)
- If you have an audience, use data from lead magnets to check their interest in the topic.
In the end, your goal is to see whether your course will solve the audience’s issues and answer your and their expectations.
Step#2. Pick an array of topics
Upon the research, you will get a picture of what the learners need and whether your academy can be profitable. Your next step is to pick the topics relevant to your students and your vision.
To find the ones, focus on the ones you can cover effectively and provide deep knowledge. That’s why the best way to start with subjects you are an expert in or have a network that can be guest lecturers.
Besides, engagement matters, so your topic should be interesting for the audience and for you or your lecturers to provide lessons.
Step #3. Define the type of learning that suits your academy best
One of the objectives of prominent academies is to provide the infrastructure and environment within which students can get the most effective learning. What can affect it significantly? The choice of the learning framework.
Whether you choose synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid, collaborative, or adaptive learning, it should match the content you are to provide and the level of interaction you seek for students.
Besides, picking the right option should come with considering the following factors:
- Number of students
- Students’ occupation
- Subject complexity
- Intensity and deadlines
In the end, to create online academy infrastructure that is effective, you should put relevance and convenience in the center.
Step #4. Determine the business and payment model
Besides, it is crucial to think about the business part of the online academy creation. You need to set clear terms and conditions for students to access courses, as this is how you start to start an academy that is profitable and stable.
In this regard, you may use two common e-learning business models or their combination:
- Night school: students pay for access to the course materials, working great for specialized courses or a bootcamp.
- Academy: students pay for membership access to all content and community, monthly or yearly, promoting long-term relationships.
At the same time, it is worth considering your students' payment methods. In this regard, we recommend looking toward such systems as PayPal and Stripe.
Step #5. Select an LMS solution that answers your learning needs
How to start an academy if you have no infrastructure? You simply won’t.
Thus, with all thoughts about topics, content, and learning style, you should pick an LMS that will be relevant and effective, and fall under your budget. There are various types of LMS that you can apply to your system.
The common solutions are:
- Create a custom LMS (Be sure it is quite expensive and requires significant effort.)
- Use a suite of various tools that support communication, content management, and organization of tasks. (This option can work when you have a few courses, but will drain a lot of time and resources once you decide to scale.)
- Use flexible SaaS LMS (This option can make you dependent on the third party, but usually is pretty flexible.
A third-party LMS solution is the most effective option for academies of different kinds. Why? They can save resources and time and spend it on developing quality learning experiences.
In particular, such academies as Mento Design and Ironhack have third-party systems.
Note. EducateMe platform is one such solution, offering powerful analytics, engagement, and management functions.
There, you can not only manage all the activities in several clicks but also analyze the engagement and performance of the students. IT can help you identify who requires a cheer-up or assistance or may want to suspend a course.
Step #6. Create online academy curriculum
Once you have picked the LMS, consider how you will build the course. It is much about the curriculum and the methodology you will pick. At this stage, organize the activities and reflect on critical subjects to form a great course.
What things to consider apart from the number of milestones and students?
- Course’s timeline. If you are to take an intensive course or bootcamp, you will likely have a lot of lessons in a short time.
- Engaging activities. Group projects and meetings have some peculiarities that can affect when and how to insert them into the course.
- Feedback and assignments. They are crucial for learning and engagement. So, if you want to offer quality and deep learning, you will leave space for such activities.
Notably, the more students you have, the more time you will need to manage and engage with them. The same applies to the complexity of subjects that may require additional lessons or time to cover.
Creating a curriculum that is relevant to your students is an ever-changing process. Once you finish one program, you can duplicate the previous ones and react to the feedback or student engagement. There is always room for improvement, especially if you have various groups of learners.
Note. Even though you may want to use your own curriculum or plan. EducateMe offers an AI prompt feature upon which you can create a structure for the course and save time on editing.
Besides, you can duplicate courses, while the Calendar with Automation can help you easily schedule your lectures throughout the learning period.
Step #7. Figure out branding and marketing strategies
Next, consider using specific branding and marketing strategies.
First, think of simple things, like logo, branding colors, mission, and goal. It will help you connect with future learners and show how you are different from other academies.
From there, creating a website you can use for marketing purposes is a good idea. And, without proper marketing, it is hard to create your own online academy. Future learners will simply fail to see you. Therefore, define the budget and determine the critical channels for course distribution. They are concerned with:
- Social media. Use Meta, Instagram, and TikTok to promote your courses and send targeted ads. If you already have a big audience, then you can promote it via a personal brand.
- Google ads. Once you have a good landing page, use this method based on the ideal leaner persona you developed.
- Influencer marketing. If you have a network of experts, try reaching them and asking them to promote your product. You can invite some to your course or lecture, and their audience may also come.
- Direct sales. You can try direct outreach toward managers if you offer premium coaching sessions.
Step #8. Opt the suite of tools to support your strategies
You will need some tools once you have a course and set your next marketing steps. They refer to both the learning process and promotion.
In particular, you will need an email service to notify the students of upcoming lectures, assignments, and communication. At certain stages, you will need analytic tools to track the inflow of students and how your marketing strategy does.
What about the apps related learning process?
Well, you may want to use messengers like Slack or collaboration tools like Figma and Miro to support engagement and discussion among peers. Also, a Zoom account is a must, especially if you plan to have live sessions or provide pre-recorded pieces.
On the other hand, how to start an academy if you have only one course? By scaling. And scaling of courses will surely come with more apps and events that will reflect learners’ and your team’s needs.
Thus, be ready to scale and have a separate budget for the LMS and marketing integrations.
Note. EducateMe allows you to integrate essential apps that relate to online learning, including Notion, Slack, Figma, and Loom.
Step #9. Enroll first students and start a course
After you have enough applications from students, start preparing for the course.
How to do it right? Here is a small checklist:
- Write emails and set the notifications to be sent after registration and at the beginning of the course.
- Set up accesses for the admins and students.
- Prepare a Zoom account and link it up with meetings in the calendar.
- Schedule all the events in one place.
- Create forms for polls and feedback.
- Run a course test to see whether everything works fine.
Step #10. Gather feedback and improve your courses
Lastly, after your course is live, start collecting feedback and analyzing how students reflect on the materials you offer to them. Remember that to create your own academy and run it successfully, you should constantly improve it.
The best way to do it is to answer students’ needs and requests. That’s why feedback is essential. Use statistics, performance reports, and comments to see the issue and change the curriculum to fix it.
Final words on how to create an online academy business
All in all, creating an online academy is a complex process. It comes to the particular main stages of academy development:
First, you validate an idea and find the right audience. Next, you select the topics and learning style. Only when you have a picture of the learning model to use should you choose a suitable Learning Management System (LMS). If you are looking for scalable options with significant engagement and management skills, EducateMe should be your choice.
When your course curriculum is ready, it is time to think of a business model, branding, and marketing. There, you need a website to which you can lead people from social media or targeted ads. Notably, you should not forget about a suite of tools that will help you operate the course. Lastly, prepare for the course, enroll students, collect feedback, and make improvements.