Why You Should Consider Growing Your Business Through Online Courses in 2020

Frances Wong

| Jan 24, 2020

“Do what you love”—if there was one, that would be the motto for the 2010s. We saw the surge of startups, the boom of social media platforms, and the rise of online courses—and it doesn’t stop there, at least, not for online courses.

In the early 2010s, the e-learning landscape was still forming. There were established players, like Lynda and Udemy, focused on e-learning marketplaces, and new rising companies, like Coursera and EdX, looking to disrupt the space with university-partnered online programs. It’s no surprise then the e-learning market hit the projected revenue of $107 billion set by market research firm Global Industry Analysts.

Since then, we’ve watched and led part of the growth in the online course business. And with the e-learning industry predicted to grow to $325 billion by 2025, we’re expecting even bigger things to come!


“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”—Walt Disney


Trends in Online Courses

Having your own branded online course hub wasn’t always the norm. The early 2010s focused on e-learning marketplaces with course topics heavily focused on software and web development. Since then, there have been many new software platforms, including Teachable, that provide creators and business owners with a new way to offer online courses.

So, how has the new opportunity for creating your own digital storefront changed the trends in online courses?

Top 5 Categores in 2019

Top 5 Categories 2019

Top 5 Categories in 2019: Marketing & Business, Technology & Gaming, Personal Development, Academics, Other

Back in 2015, the top five course categories were marketing & business, arts & creativity, technology & gaming, health & fitness and personal development. 

Today, we have over 450,000 schools on Teachable—which is more than ten times the number when we first launched five years ago. Among these schools, the top category has always been marketing & business, which doesn’t come as a surprise in this age of entrepreneurship and side hustles. 

What’s exciting is that we’re seeing academics break through into the top five categories. The category of academics within Teachable doesn’t point to university-based programs, but instead, courses like tutoring A-levels or writing support for college admission essays. This indicates a change in not only how people are learning and consuming content, but also, in how traditional in-person businesses are run.

Tailored Tutors Course Offerings

Tailored Tutors Course Offerings

Take Tailored Tutors and Tutor Ted for example. They’ve pushed past the traditional in-person private and group classes that not only require upfront rent cost for classroom space, but also, adherence to a specific time table for completing the work. With their online courses, they are able to help more students from around the world and provide individual support when needed.

Top 5 Fastest Growing Categories

Top 5 Fastest Growing Categories

Top 5 Fastest Growing Categories: Languages, Personal Development, Academics, Health & Fitness, Other

Outside of just the top five categories, we're also seeing a different mix of the fastest growing online course topics. We have languages, personal development, other, academics, and health & fitness. In 2015, only 175 schools taught languages—now we have over 6,000 schools teaching different languages from all over the world.

The most mysterious and intriguing category here is “other.” The categories that we offer in our onboarding survey include academics, arts & creativity, health & fitness, investment & finance, languages, lifestyle, marketing & business, other, personal development, spirituality, and technology & gaming.

So, what’s missing? When we dove deeper into other, we were excited to find niche topics such as drone certification, homesteading, card magic, and blacksmithing!

Teachable Nice Topics

Teachable Creator Examples

These schools aren’t just fun examples—they’re all active courses that are earning income from the creators behind them. The most exciting part about these courses being lucrative is that each sale represents something many other niche creators may not think exists—demand for out-of-the-box content.

Take 52Kards for example. Asad Chaudhry started this business with a Kickstarter to see if there was demand for the course. Now, he enrolls more than 2,000 students each year and teaches people from different countries how to build their foundation for more advanced card magic.

Now, let’s look at Pro Home Cooks. Michael Greenfield started out with a YouTube channel sharing his tips and helping people get over their fears of being in the kitchen. While still providing valuable free (and entertaining!) content, he’s started a side hustle of teaching others how to make sourdough bread and kombucha! He’s only just gotten started and already has over 600 students.

Pro Home Cooks Courses

Pro Home Cooks Course

The way people are consuming information and learning new skills is changing—and so is who they’re willing to pay and learn from. No matter how niche the subject of your knowledge is, there could be a demand for it. It all comes down to how you build your brand and relationship with your students.

What We Expect to See by 2025

The growth opportunity isn’t limited to people who identify as teachers or educators, and no longer defined only by material for career transitions. It’s expanded into everyday hobbies, spiritual understanding, and nutrition and health. With the increase in diversity of courses, we are expecting to see more small business owners and content creators expand into the space.

Led by companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and WeWork, the startup boom gave college graduates and professionals the courage to do more than just their 9-5 desk jobs. In fact, today, roughly 35% of the US population pursues a “side hustle”, and there are estimated to be over 40 million solopreneurs in the US workforce.

Whether it’s to acquire new users or add a revenue channel, online courses are a great medium to grow your business. Much like blogs became content marketing channels in the early 2010s, online courses are going to be the new channel for business in the 2020s.

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.