Do You Need an App for Your Online Courses?

Sometimes we want something but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need it.

Over the years I have seen a pretty typical lifecycle for those who are successful with creating their own online course programs. It usually goes something like:

  1. Begin marketing the course before it’s built
  2. Use an LMS like LearnDash to build out the course
  3. Offer the course to their email list
  4. Grow their course catalog with complimentary courses
  5. Provide more value to the course experience

The final phase (enhancing the course) is the last one for a reason. If you attempt to provide additional value before you even have people taking the course then you are wasting your energy. Only after people start to go through your course content can you think of productive ways to improve the experience.

Which raises the question: how do you improve the experience and add value?

There is not one answer to this question as often times the direction you go in will depend on the feedback from your learners. For example, some people add community elements to their courses using built-in forums or perhaps Facebook Groups.

Others will implement a more robust gaming (or point) system for learners to use as a form of digital currency.

And then there are those who want to “up” their mobile game by implementing a true app experience.

Decide whether an app actually is a value-add.

The first thing I tell people who are interested in adding an app to their LearnDash courses is to make certain that the app has actual value to their offering. In other words, there is no reason to get an app for your course just because you want to say that you have an app for your course. That isn’t a strategy. That is a waste of money.

The truth is apps in any context require an investment. If you’re building it yourself then be prepared for many, many hours of development, trial, error, debugging, and more. If you are paying someone to create an app from scratch then expect a heavy financial investment.

Before pulling the trigger on an app define the business case for having one. For example, if you have a lot of micro-learning content that learners would benefit from having quick access to via an app “on the go”, then an app sounds like a perfect fit. This is especially true if your learners are working “in the field” and cannot dedicate vast amounts of time to searching and viewing course content.

Should you use an app builder or get a custom native app created?

Let’s say you have a business case for getting an app. Well now you need to decide the approach you wish to take. Generally speaking people will go one of two ways:

  1. Use an app builder platform
  2. Get an app custom developed

The benefit to using an app builder platform is that you’ll save a significant amount of money upfront doing it yourself and potentially get your app available quicker. On the flip-side, it will have less custom features and branding. It’s not “cookie-cutter”, but it’s not completely custom either.

The benefit to getting your app custom created is that it can be completely branded and created in a way that aligns with your business objectives. More features are often at your disposal and as a trade-off for the investment you don’t have to be the one building & testing the app. Of course, custom apps will require a higher financial investment so that is something to consider.

Maybe you don’t need an app, and that is okay.

As cool as having an app sounds, it might not be needed for your courses. For instance, if you are using LearnDash and you have a mobile responsive WordPress theme then that might be good enough. Learners can log into their account and view their courses from smartphones or tablets just the same as they would a laptop.

Whatever you decide to do I would recommend that you don’t rush the decision. Take time to really understand what your learners need from you and your courses. Talk with them and solicit their feedback. Mature your program first so that you know that the decision you make is best for your learners.

Author

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Twitter | LinkedIn

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