Online courses and membership type sites are the most prevalent digital information products in the market today. Time and again, the term “course” and “membership” has been used interchangeably.

As such we get a lot of queries on:

Should I create a course? Or a membership site?

What’s the difference?

The difference lies in the type of content, the way you want to present that content and how you want to control the access to this content.

When to build a Membership Site?

Membership sites are suitable for building single course style membership areas (with drip, or not), when you want to charge a subscription fee. This is a typical model where you have a sales page selling a single course, and buyer gets access to the membership area to access your course.

Membership Checklist: The 4C’s

1. Content access controls

When your content is subscription based, the access to your content will generally stop as soon as the subscription stops. Irrespective of subscription payment intervals – monthly, quarterly, yearly or one time, you can control till what time the members can access your content.

2. Content drip-feeds

If your audience requires a scheduled access to content which will be unlocked/accessible when they complete a previous lesson, choose building a membership site.

3. Continuous ongoing content

Release of regular new content is an apparent prerequisite of running a membership type site. Rule of thumb – list down all possible topics/chapters that can be covered over the year with one new chapter release scheduled every month.

Can you manage enough content? Close your eyes and build a membership site! Okay, you may do that with open eyes as well 😉

4. Commitment

This is related to the previous point, but yes, you should know beforehand, that to provide continuous ongoing content to keep your members paying, it will demand considerable amount of efforts, time and research. Build a membership site if you can manage contributing your time and efforts on a regular basis.

Conclusion: Go for MemberFactory

When to build a Course?

Building an online course is more suitable if you have a truckload of courses (multi-niche), and want to adapt a store type model. Think of or, where courses are sold with one time price and students get access to courses, quizzes, and can even download certificates.

Course Checklist: The 4C’s

1. Complete Content Access

Build an online course if you are okay with charging one-time fee for access to complete course content. Drip-feed scheduling of content is normally unavailable in courses. The recurring plan option (i.e a subscription based access to the partial content) is also not suggested in courses. Nonetheless, the access to your course can range from 1 day to lifetime.

2. Course diversification:  Store styled single site

Building a course selling site will allow you to capture multiple niche markets through a single site. How? Through the concept of schools. You can create unlimited number of schools (multiple niche) with unlimited courses, having multiple authors serving unlimited students. Sounds big enough? All this through a single site.

Have skills in multiple areas? Have access to skills in multiple niche markets? Have capability to create lots of courses in multiple niche markets?

Go for building a course selling site.

3. Creative Learning –  Bundles, Certifications & more

Build course bundles (to create discounted packs), quizzes (for an interactive learning experience), course completion certificates (for an added credibility).

4. Corporate Trainings through – Group Memberships

Most suitable to pitch to the corporates as training service provider. Sell your course on a per seat basis. This is a great model if you plan to sell your courses to corporates.

Conclusion: Go for CoachRack

Keep it Simple

Think Membership Site as 1 Course = 1 Website

…and Course Store as Multiple Courses = 1 Website

This concept will keep things simple and easy for you, and will force you to think “course & strategy wise“…which is how you should be thinking.

So, what do you want to build today?

A membership site or an online course?

Japneet Arora

I hope someday to write something worth plagiarizing!

3 Responses

  1. Michael Schubert says:

    This is the most helpful discussion I have read, thanks so much.
    I’m developing content at the moment and had not become clear about the difference, now I am,

  2. Ann says:

    Thank you for this post. Clear and enlightening!

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