Teachable insights: offering limited and lifetime access to your products

Frances Wong

| Nov 05, 2020

Subscription models might be in trend, but the simplicity of one-time payments for online courses will never go away. It is an easy, low commitment strategy to get an interested student to purchase your online course. What is often up for debate with one-time payment courses, however, is how long your students should get access to the course.

It’s common to see course creators market and offer their courses for lifetime access. It’s a catchy phrase and simple sales strategy. By offering unlimited access to content students want, you’re removing blockers such as “I don’t have time now”, “Can I complete the course in 90 days?”. But, is it really that simple?

Increasingly, course creators are being asked what “lifetime” means. How long is a lifetime in the ever changing world of the internet? Is it my lifetime, your lifetime, or the lifetime of the software it is hosted on?

To allow creators to have the flexibility to change their launch strategy and pricing models, Teachable rolled out the feature to let you set your own course access durations. Three months later, our creators have set up over 10,000 products with limited course access duration that have generated over $3.5 million USD.

Let’s dive into some numbers on how creators are using this course access duration feature, and how you can utilize it in your online course offerings.

Limited access on online courses

As business owners and course creators, you probably love exploring numbers and finding out what they mean. So do we. Here are some statistics on how creators have utilized the limited course access duration feature:

Teachable Insights: Limited Access Course duration

How Teachable creators use the course access duration feature

Since we rolled out the feature in the summer, almost half of our paid members have created a product with the limited course access. In fact, about 25% of those creators only have courses with limited access, completely removing any lifetime access to courses they offer.

When you set time limits on course access, you can choose to set a specific date or a specific time frame when the course expires. For example, if you choose a specific date such as December 31, 2020, then all enrolled students will lose access to the course at the end of the year regardless of when they purchased the course. In contrast, setting a specific time frame will allow all students the same amount of time to access your course, starting from the date they purchased the course. If the course was available for one month, a student purchasing it on March 1 will lose access on April 1. Similarly, a student who purchased it on March 15 will lose access on April 15.

As shown above, setting a specific time frame is more popular than setting a specific expiration date. Specifically, the most popular time frames are one year, one week, and one month, which are easy time frames to market and for your prospective students to digest.

Semesters and cohorts

How you price your launch and your pricing strategy is heavily dependent upon the type of course you are creating. Prior to launch, we spoke to a lot of course creators who were interested in offering limited course access duration. One common strategy creators want to implement is cohorts. The idea is to create cohorts that mirror school semesters, a learning behavior that most people are already familiar with.

Across all different course categories, this course strategy works. In fact, the leading category for limited course access is health and wellness, followed by professional development, business and marketing, academics and languages, and other.

Top 5 Categories with Limited Course Access

You can create three-month cohorts that mirror the semester schedule, or create shorter or longer cohorts that best fits your curriculum. In fact, you can see how many creators have already created three-month, semester-like courses in the chart above.

This not only helps with how you market to your audience, but it also helps you better manage your content and finances. With planned cohorts all year round, you can add in refining sessions in between to update the content, if necessary, and to project how many students you can enroll, giving you more predictable recurring income without a subscription model. That’s why 10% of our users are already only selling courses with limited access.

Psychology of choice

Whether you’re offering an online fitness bootcamp or a professional development course, offering a limited-course access option might help you boost revenue and student engagement.

Boost revenue with plan options

There’s been a lot of research done to prove that if you give people three options, they will likely go with the middle, more neutral option. You can do the same with your online course. For every course, you can offer more than one pricing plan, which means you can offer more than one access duration. Set up three different pricing plans with three varying course access durations to increase average revenue per purchase.

Pricing plan options

Offer different pricing plan options

Increasing student engagement

When you have a course expiration date, your student has pressure to finish the course. While this may be a barrier to purchase, it can also weed out prospectives who are truly not ready to take your course. When you are upfront about the timeframe they have to finish your course, they can set out time to commit to it. This is important for student satisfaction, making sure they got the most of the course, which most often will help lead to better testimonials and marketing content for you to use.

Plus, if they don’t finish, you can upsell them with a discount to re-purchase your course for additional access to complete what they started.

Launch and learn

Based on how our creators have utilized this feature, we recommend you test this feature out to see if it impacts your sales and student engagement. Take one of your courses and test to see how this might perform via one of your marketing channels or campaigns. Learn and iterate based on how your audience is responding to your offers, and see how limited course access duration can impact your business.

Frances Wong is a Product Marketer at Teachable. Outside of Teachable, Frances is an avid sports fan and dedicates her weekends to Manchester United and Georgetown Hoyas games.