Online Training and e-Coaching Tips

Dirty Little Secret: Online Training Costs Way Too Much

October 1, 2014 9:09 by

Picture by tim, published under cc

Online training is often presented as a way to save costs on training. But as we are about to reveal, the costs behind producing and offering online training are staggering. Compared to ‘traditional’ training, you won’t save a dime. Here, we’ll uncover how you can save on the costs of online training. Hint: trainers don’t have to start from scratch.

We’ll even give you a link to a cost savings calculator, at the bottom of this article. Before we do that however, let’s get a grip on what online training is.

What Is Online Training Anyway?

Online training is training supported by online tools, or taking place through a website or a mobile application (you know, an app on your smartphone). Online training comes in two flavors:

  • Synchronous online training: trainees and trainer are present at the same time, just not in the same place (think of a video conference or a webinar).
  • Asynchronous online training: trainees and trainer only meet each other in an online discussion forum.

In asynchronous online training the trainer has more of guiding role in what is essentially a ‘self paced’ training. Trainees can take the training on their own time, e.g. from home.

Jannes Pockele

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc

These flavors can also be mixed, of course. You could set a date for a video conference for instance, while adding the requirement that everybody complete an online test (quiz) first. Most online training platforms support setting such a requirement. The platform simply checks whether you’ve got your test completed before allowing you inside the video conference. By the way, an online training platform is usually called an LMS, which stands for learning management system.

Cost of Synchronous Online Training

Basically, the cost of synchronous online training is predictable and relatively cheap. You need video conferencing software, or webinar software, and that software is your main cost. A webinar is you talking live on video (presented through a website) while your trainees are listening and typing in comments or questions. To start with webinars or video conferencing, it’s probably cheaper to not own the actual software (and the required servers or internet computers) – unless you’re a really big company.

Instead, look at services such as GoToWebinar and WebinarJam which start at $468 and $497 a year, respectively (GoToWebinar has restrictions on the number of attendees and presenters, but also offers a monthly subscription of $49).

Picture by Natesh Ramasamy, published under cc.

Picture by Natesh Ramasamy, published under cc.

In addition to the software purchase, you need to factor in the costs of preparing the webinar just like any other ‘live’ (or face-to-face) training session. This does not deviate too much from your usual preparation time, for a training session. One estimate for an hour long Instructor-Led Training (ILT) comes down to 34 hours of preparation. Next, we present the cost components of an 8 hour synchronous online training session, e.g. a webinar, for 20 trainees and one trainer – as compared to ‘traditional’ training (which includes travel expenses, etc).

As a side note: an 8 hour webinar would be way too long, but this makes it easier to compare the costs with a traditional training session, which usually lasts 4 – 8 hours.

Cost Components: Synchronous Training & ‘Traditional’
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34
C. Webinar Software Cost (simplified) $50
D. # Trainees 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150
I. Training Materials / Trainee (Handouts, Binders, etc) $20
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8

How does this all add up?

Costs of 8 Hours Synchronous Online Training
‘Traditional’ Synchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 $400
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $13,600
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software N/A $50
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $26,050

Great, you can save more than $9000 ($35,400 – $26,050 = $9,350) on traveling expenses and such, with the aid of synchronous online training. This means synchronous online training represents an actual saving compared to a ‘traditional’ training session. Now let’s take a look at the other flavor of online training.

Asynchronous Online Training Costs

With asynchronous online training, such as a self paced online training module, the upfront costs are much higher, but the delivery costs should be lower. As a matter of fact, if trainees can be persuaded to take the training on their own time, the delivery costs are practically zero. (If you’re a trainer and you’re worried about this, see the blog post Cut Your Training Session by Half to find out how you can use online training to your advantage).

Picture by Andrea Schaffer, published under cc.

Picture by Andrea Schaffer, published under cc.

In addition, online training materials can double as documentation, reference guides and check lists. There are even more benefits to this kind of online training, but for the cost estimation we’ll try to keep it simple and ignore these.

Cost Components: Asynchronous Training & ‘Traditional’
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50 $100
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34 220
C. Software Cost / Trainee (simplified) N/A $5
D. # Trainees 20 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25 $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50 $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300 N/A
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150 N/A
I. Training Materials / Trainee (handouts, binders, etc) $20 N/A
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8 8

In this table, the difference between the hourly rate for ‘traditional’ trainers and ‘asynchronous online trainers’ (i.e. instructional designers) is striking. And again, the difference between the development time for 1 hour of traditional training versus 1 hour of asynchronous online training is very significant.

Let’s run the numbers and what this means for the bottom line.

Costs of 8 Hours Asynchronous Online Training
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 N/A
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $176,000
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software: C x D N/A $100
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $188,100

Wait, isn’t online training supposed to save costs? Yes, and it does, provided that:

  • trainees take the online training on their own time;
  • you can spread out the development costs over a large number of trainees
  • the online training is used over a longer period of time (reused)

But what if you could drastically lower the costs of asynchronous online training? What if your online training would cost the same to develop as ‘traditional’ training?

Let The Trainers Run The Show

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc.

Picture by Jannes Pockele, published under cc.

I believe that trainers are highly professional people, capable of developing their own online training. Let me rephrase that: I know this for a fact because I have seen them do it. So let the trainers take over the role of instructional designers, the folks who used to run the online training show.

I also know you don’t need an entire production team to shoot videos and create interactive activities. Nowadays, you should be able to produce 1 hour of online training using the same resources as when developing 1 hour of  traditional training. Just buy a decent camera, microphone and an lms subscription (learning management system – your online training platform) and you’ve covered most of the upfront production and delivery costs.

And finally, trainers also have the advantage that they don’t have to start from scratch, when developing online training. They already have their ‘traditional’ training materials. For instance, as a trainer, you can turn your powerpoints into videos with a voice-over. (You can do so much more with online training, but it’s a start).

This is how it looks in numbers when trainers create their own online training:

Cost Parity Between Asynchronous – & Traditional Training
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
A. Trainer Cost: Hourly Wage $50 $50
B. Hours of Development & Preparation for One Hour of Training 34 34
C. Software Cost / Trainee (simplified) N/A $5
D. # Trainees 20 20
E. Trainees’ Hourly Wage $25 $25
F. Lost Productivity / Trainee / Hour $50 $50
G. Travel Expenses / Trainee (Rental Car & Airfare) $300 N/A
H. Overnight Stay / Trainee (Meals & Hotel) $150 N/A
I. Training Materials / Trainee (handouts, binders, etc) $20 N/A
J. Training Duration (Hours) 8 8

Alright, let’s see how this adds up.

Trainers Run The Online Training Show
‘Traditional’ Asynchronous
Trainer Cost: J x A $400 N/A
Training Development Cost: J x B x A $13,600 $13,600
Cost of Lost Productivity: J x D x F $8000 $8000
Employees in Training: J x D x E $4000 $4000
Software: C x D N/A $100
Logistics: D x (G + H + I) = 20 x $470 $9400 N/A
Total: $35,400 $25,700
Picture by Vinoth Chandar, published under cc.

Picture by Vinoth Chandar, published under cc.

This saves you almost $10,000. If employees take the online training on their own time, savings get even more spectacular: more than $21,000 ($35,400 − $13,700 = $21,700).

To summarize, online training can be a cost real saver if you keep development time to a minimum. Nowadays, you can do that by using high quality, yet affordable hardware (such as recent cameras and microphones) as well easy to use software, such as a learning management system (lms) which is specifically catered to trainers. Using these tools, you can take your existing training materials to create an engaging online training experience.


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A Tablet for Trainers

July 14, 2014 9:06 by

Asus Transformer TabletTrainers are on the road a lot. To travel lightly, consider replacing your notebook / laptop with a tablet. A tablet is lighter, smaller and the battery lasts longer. It also allows you to use a projector, beamer or big screen monitor without being glued to your laptop. In other words, you can walk through your classroom with your tablet in hand, displaying the content of the tablet on the big screen.

Here are the requirements for the ideal tablet for the trainer.

  1. Number one is battery life. You don’t want your tablet to die half way through the day because the battery is completely drained.
  2. Screen size should be at least 9.7 inch. Any smaller than that, and you might as well just use a smart phone. On the other hand, you don’t want it to be much bigger – or you won’t be able to walk through your classroom with it (of course, this only applies if your training is classroom based). Here’s a video of a teacher walking around the classroom while using a tablet.
  3. USB ports. You want to be able to connect your tablet to peripherals (printers, monitors, etc.).
  4. An easily accessible file system. If you’ve got a video or a some heavy presentation slides, you don’t want to upload all files through Dropbox. You want to be able to connect your tablet to your pc at the office (where you prepared the presentation) and simply copy the files to the right place. This pretty much rules out Apple (i.e. iOS based) devices.
  5. Bluetooth support. You should be able to hook up your phone to the tablet so you can access the internet. Bluetooth also provides the wireless connection with the projector, beamer or big screen in your classroom.

Like ordinary PCs, tablet computers have an operating system (OS) too. Most PCs have Windows, Apple has OS X. For tablet computers there are currently three major operating systems: Windows (a special version of it), iOS (on iPads, from Apple) and Android (from Google). And just like ordinary PCs, tablets can run computer programs too, except they’re called “apps”.

Because Windows’ apps are still not up to a par with Android’s (strictly speaking about mobile devices of course), I’m leaving out all Windows based tablets (as well as Apple iPads for reasons mentioned above), focusing exclusively on Android devices.

Market in July 2014

I did  a little bit of market research in July 2014 and based on that I’ve compiled a small list of tablets which meet our requirements.

  • Acer ICONIA A3-A10-L662: 11 battery hours; $255
  • Acer Iconia Tab A510: 15 battery hours; $380
  • Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF300TG: 14 battery hours; $300
  • Asus Transformer Pad TF701: 13 battery hours; $350
  • Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10: 18 battery hours; $240
  • Sony Xperia Tablet S: 12 battery hours; $290
  • Toshiba Excite 10 SE: 12 battery hours;  $350

Prices are based on features and properties such as working memory (ram) and storage memory, type of microprocessor and all the other usual stuff for computers in general.

Not all reviews of the listed tablets were positive. For instance, quite a few reviews were very negative about the Lenovo Yoga tablet, especially the pre-installed software (and adaptations made to the OS, or operating system – Android, in this case). I’ve used a unit in a store very briefly, and I didn’t find anything wrong with it. But then again, I haven’t actually used it as thoroughly as the reviewers presumably did.

The Winner Is…

THHcmr6esLf2Izu0_500I’ve used the Asus Transformer TF300TG extensively for a few hours and I was very charmed by the detachable keyboard which comes along with it. I prefer a real keyboard over the screen based keyboard as introduced by Apple’s iOS. On the other hand, while reading or browsing I don’t want to carry a superfluous keyboard. So a detachable keyboard is the perfect solution for me.

The Asus Transformer TF300TG is probably still a perfect choice for many people, but I wanted a little more power. So in the end I chose the slightly more expensive Asus Transformer Pad TF701, trading a little battery life for better performance.

Coming from the original iPad (the one which started the entire table industry), I have to say it took a little while to get acquainted with the Android platform (the operating system behind the selected Asus Transformer tablet). If you’re new to Android as well, you should spend a few moments looking around in the ‘Settings’ menu. Here you can adjust notification options. You don’t want your presentation interrupted by a chime or a message flashing on the screen.


Be aware though: this site lists a few very unrealistic entries, reporting a battery life of 1240 hours in one instance. This is obviously wrong, things start to get realistic at 18 hours and lower.

No erroneous entries, but no option to select multiple features.

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The Secret to Finding Profitable Training Markets

June 1, 2014 10:01 by

How do you find high demand, low competition training markets? If you’re looking to start a career as a trainer, this is an important question. But even as an established trainer you might want to enter more profitable markets. In both cases you’re looking for niches, or sub-categories, in the training market that are underserved.

To identify these profitable niches you have to do some market research. But not the type where you invite lots of consumers in your test panels and feed them your new frozen yoghurt. Instead, we are going to explore a number of relatively cheaps tools which have become available in recent years.

But first we need to talk about your passions and strengths. Not all the profitable niches you’ll identify shortly are a good match. Some may be very boring, some may involve working with people you may not like. Even if these niches have great potential as profitable markets, they may not be suitable for you. It is very unlikely that you’ll be successful in market where you have to do work you absolutely hate.

Mapping Your Skills And Strengths to Niches

To find niches which suit you, make a list of your strengths, or skills, and passions. To illustrate the difference between a passion and a skill, think about aircraft spotters. A plane spotter’s passion is obviously planes. But amongst their skills is probably not piloting a plane (or else they’d be doing that instead).

A nice tool for compiling a list of your passions and skills is MindMup, an online mind mapper which lets you save your mind map to your Google Drive. Here’s an example of my list.


Now, using your strengths and passions, try to come up with a list of suitable niche training markets. Don’t worry about profitability or competition, that’s something we’ll be looking at shortly.

Here’s a list I compiled as an example.


 Generate Keywords to Find Niches

We now have a short list of interesting niches where you can apply your strengths and passions. To expand your list, you could start using Google to find related niches, based on keywords.


Just type in your keyword and you’ll see that Google automatically shows a list of related keywords (other search engines do much the same thing nowadays).

While this is a nice start, Google offers a more comprehensive tool as well: the Keyword Planner. To use the Keyword Planner, sign up for Google Adwords (you may be required to input your credit card, but using the Keyword Planner is free).


Once you’ve logged in to Adwords, find the menu option ‘Tools’ and select ‘Keyword Planner’. Then select ‘Search for new keyword’:


Enter your keyword, ignore all other options and hit the ‘Get ideas’ button.


The Keyword Planner will now show you a number of related keywords, conveniently listing the competition in the advertising space as well.



Keep in mind that we’re specifically talking about Google’s advertising space here: the ads that Google shows next to the search results on its regular site (called Adwords). If you plan to use Adwords, you should not select a niche based on keywords with a high level of competition.

There’s one more thing you need to know. Unless you’re planning to sell your training in a location independent way, for example as an online training, you should restrict the keyword list to your country, state or even city. In the left column, click on ‘All locations’ under Targeting to enter e.g. your city.

Once you’ve done that, Google will retrieve a new list and the numbers will be lower (because you’re no longer searching globally). If the search volume for your niche is high, and the competition is low, go for it!

Advanced Competitive Analysis

As I said earlier, the competitive analysis Google’s Keyword Planner provides, is limited to just the advertising space: for a given set of keywords, how many advertizers are out there and what are they paying per ad? While that is interesting information, you may also want to look further.

Here, I’ll show a tool for analyzing the competition on the web, or more specifically their rank in search engines such as Google. This is called SEO competition, after Search Engine Optimization. SEO competition analysis tries to find out how hard it is to get on the first page in Google. So, if the SEO competition is low, then your chances of reaching the first page on Google for the keywords of your niche are good.

The rational behind a competitive analysis based on SEO competition is that everybody is on the web nowadays. If you find a number of related keywords with low SEO competition, that probably means there’s also little competition in the ‘real world’. And even if that assumption is not true, it still means you have found a marketing channel that is underutilized by your competition – allowing you to reach that niche cheaper than they do.

SEO Competition Analysis Tools

First of all, you could probably gather all the data you need by just using Google. However, there are various tools which make life easier by saving you a lot of time. I have tried two of them Jaaxy and Market Samurai. I found Jaaxy to be… lacking in features.


For instance, if you’re looking for related keywords, Jaaxy will come up with a nice table showing the keywords, the monthly searches and the competition, but the columns in the table cannot be sorted. Also, the trial version is limited to just 30 searches and even then imposes some additional constraints.

Market Samurai is a much better SEO competition analysis tool. The trial version is completely functional and provides real value. The only drawback here is that you need to input you Adword account data – which is usually your Gmail account. So, in the background, Market Samurai is using Adword data to perform its analyses.

Because Market Samurai is so much better than any of the other tools (that I know of) out there, I’ll include a brief tutorial on Market Samurai here. If you know any better tools, please let me know in the comments.

Market Samurai

Market Samurai is a tool that lets you analyze the SEO competition. You can use Market Samurai to find a niche in the training market where the demand is high and the competition low. There’s a nice video introduction, but using the tool for the first time can still be overwhelming. Here’s what is most important.

Generate Keywords

You start by inputting your main keyword and then generating additional, related keywords. Simply click the “Generate Keywords” button to do that.


Once Market Samurai has retrieved a number of related keywords, you can have these analyzed by hitting the “Keyword Analysis” button.


For now, only a few metrics are interesting:

  • Total Searches – How many people enter this keyword each day, on average?
  • SEO Traffic (SEOT) – The maximum potential daily clicks that a number 1 ranked site for this keyword term could potentially achieve.
  • The average price per click-through in Google Adwords (AWCPC)

Using the check boxes, you can uncheck all the other columns.

So, what have we just learned? Well, the keyword ‘onboarding’ is promising in that, worldwide, quite a few people search for it every day. On the other hand, advertising through Adwords would be very expensive indeed: $8 per click on your ad. That’s a whopping $2000 a day (250 SEOT x $8). This is not within our budget, so we need to know if we can make it to the first page of Google with our site, when people are searching for onboarding, because then we won’t need any advertising.

SEO Competition Analysis

Select the SEO Competition menu item to find out how other sites are ranking for the term onboarding (or really any other training related keyword, of course).


You’ll be presented with a large table of information. Uncheck all columns through the checkboxes “Off Page” and “On Page”. Then select these columns:

  • PR: PageRank – the strength of the website’s position in Google’s search results, determined by the number and quality of incoming links
  • BLP: Page Backlinks – the total number of links pointing to this page
  • YAH: Yahoo Directory – is the site listed in the Yahoo Directory (this is still important in the USA, but less so in other countries)
  • Title: is the keyword in the title?
  • URL: is the keyword in the URL?

Together, these metrics will give you a good indication of how easy (or difficult) it will be to enter the top 10 search result with your website, for the selected keyword. If you see a lot of yellow and red here, you’d better start looking for another keyword to find your training niche.

Tip: compare the competitive analysis of a new niche (keyword set) to a market you already know intimately. For instance, I happen to know (from experience) that the e-learning market is highly competitive – both in the real world, in the Adwords advertising space, and in Google’s index. So, if you put the keyword e-learning (or preferably your competitive market’s keyword) through Market Samurai’s SEO competition, you’ll get a feeling for what those yellows and reds (see screenshot) really mean.

Training Niche Selection

To summarize, if you want to select a profitable training niche you need to:

  1. Find out what your skills and passions are;
  2. Map these to potential niches in the training market, using related keywords to find additional niches;
  3. Identify low competition, high demand keyword sets with the help of SEO competition tools.

Of course, once you have identified a great niche the real work starts. Talk to potential customers in the niche market. Put up a website centered around the keywords, specialize in this niche, learn new skills if necessary. Good luck and have fun!

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