Could a Subscription Model be The Future of Learning?

Claudia Reiners
November 1, 2022

Could a Subscription Model be The Future of Learning?

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

Subscription learning is an exciting approach to learning that education providers can introduce to learners as a way to boost urgency to learn, student engagement, and establish a pattern of lifelong learning.

In this article, we’ll go through some of the benefits of subscription learning and weigh up whether this learning style could be the future of higher education.

What is subscription learning?

Subscription learning is a style of education delivery where students will pay a monthly or yearly fee to get access to a wide range of courses and educational content. 

Experts predict that this approach to course delivery could grow in popularity and follow a model similar to subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify as a financially sustainable way to get access to educational content at any time. 

Recent research from PwC found that Australians spend an average of $55 per month on entertainment subscriptions, demonstrating that most consumers are already comfortable with using a subscription model. 

If you’re an education provider, you might be wondering whether it’s worth investing in this style of education delivery, or if you already use it, you might be keen to find out more about how to grow your subscriber base.

What are the core benefits of subscription learning

Subscription learning can be a powerful tool for education providers and offer additional opportunities to increase student enrolments and improve learner engagement. This style of learning delivery can also offer benefits to education providers in other ways as well. 

Allows providers to give learners access to the latest content

When education providers are seeking to connect with learners and show them their latest educational content, it can be hard to know how and when to target new users. Sometimes, the times when new courses become available or providers update current courses don’t coincide with periods when learners are keen to enrol on a new course.

Subscription learning helps to fix this issue. This is down to the fact that providers can make learners aware of upcoming or improved courses whilst a learner is taking part in a course. Alternatively, if providers know that a course will be added to their library in the next few months, they can suggest that as a course a learner can take on once they’ve finished their current course. 

The key here is that providers can have a subscription base that they can target with new course content, confident in the knowledge that these learners have a vested interest in finding new and interesting content from you as a provider. 

Instead of retargeting former learners with new course content months after they’ve completed their course with you, you can suggest to current users you know will still be keen to take on new courses as part of their subscription.

Allows learners to plan learning that aligns with their career and financial goals

For learners who can see a clear path ahead of them regarding career progression and career-related financial goals, subscription learning can be an ideal choice for them. Education can be a key tool in boosting wages, and this is a key factor for learners considering taking on courses during the current cost of living crisis. 

One of the key benefits of offering a subscription learning model is that you can demonstrate to users how they can take on certain courses in an order that matches their career goals. If a learner has already subscribed to you, it’s simpler to predict what kind of courses they’d like to access over the period of a year or more.

One way to predict how a subscriber will behave is by getting them to complete a survey before they start the subscription that asks them what level they are at currently in their career and what level they’d like to reach. 

Once you have that knowledge, you can set up a learning schedule or provide them with course suggestions over a period of 6-12 months, ensuring that they’re aware that you have their long-term goals in mind whilst also giving you the ability to predict enrolment rates to courses reliably.

Improves student urgency to learn

Research conducted by Candlefox found that post-pandemic, student urgency to learn was at an all-time low, meaning that learners may need more encouragement to take on new courses. You can increase student urgency to learn by demonstrating the positive outcomes of course completions, outlined through testimonials and other key selling points, and show students how they can spread out their learning over a subscription period.

Instead of trying to convince new learners that now is the time to choose a new course, you can suggest to subscribers a series of courses that could be completed over an extended period. 

Additionally, you can suggest relevant courses that can be taken within their subscription period once they’ve already completed a course with you. Giving them unlimited access to new content could inspire them to take new approaches to upskilling and e-learning and see the opportunities for professional development.

The key way this can increase the urgency to learn is that it makes the process of taking on a course more natural and gives the learner time to think about which courses they’d like to do next whilst studying within a subscription model. As the user will have already been considering how they can get the most worth possible out of their subscription, they’ll already be open to hearing about and enrolling in new courses you have available.

Encourages microlearning and gamifies learning

Taking on learners in a subscription model means that you can set learning goals and ‘gamify’ their learning process. In the same way that you would set learning goals, adding a level of gamification can boost engagement and improve learning urgency to access an online course. 

In practice, this could take the form of interactive tracking tools, which the learner could use to see how much progress they’ve made or how close they are to achieving the learning goals they’ve set out. This also couples well with encouraging students to take part in micro-learning, whereby they take on engaging short courses designed to boost skills in a specific area. This is a fast-growing area of learning, and subscription learning complements this model well.

Gamification can be a powerful tool for providers to use. Teachers who introduced gamified learning found that creating voluntary learning ‘quests’ for students saw an increase in engaged learning of 300%. Gamified learning experiences like this show the potential that this learning style could have for education providers looking to boost student engagement and interest in their online education courses, which could dramatically improve customer retention rates and lead volume.

Are there any downsides to this learning model?

As with all learning delivery options, there can be some downsides as well as upsides. Although there are many positives to subscription learning, providers may run into some common issues down the line.

Significant commitment from learners needed

One of the main obstacles of this model is that it requires learners to give a significant amount of time and money over an extended period. Accessing online learning content with a monthly subscription fee might be ideal for some learners, but it’s important to bear in mind that there will always be learners who don’t want to commit to learning over a long period. 

Less freedom to explore different courses

If your course library is very large, you may not run into this problem, but for smaller providers, learners may feel restricted in the range of courses they can explore. If you’re a large provider who can give learners access to a high volume of courses or you can offer comprehensive coverage of courses in a particular area, this may not be an issue, but this issue could arise for smaller providers looking to use this model.

Is it the future of learning?

Overall, subscription learning is an exciting and interesting course delivery style that could benefit education providers. Much like the success of entertainment subscription services, it could be time for the education sector to use a payment model that’s more in line with the spending habits of everyday consumers. 

It could be a solid revenue stream for the right kind of provider, but it may be ambitious for all providers to expect this to be the main business model they rely on. However, it’s worth noting that for smaller providers, convincing learners to commit to you long-term if you have a limited course library could be difficult. Providers would have to ensure that they’re demonstrating value for subscribers as much as possible in order to fully maximise the benefits of using this model.

A subscription model is one of many styles of education delivery that could help to boost student engagement and generate a higher volume of enrolments.

Thinking about unique ways to connect with learners and deliver high-quality courses can be a vital tool for providers who want to establish themselves as leaders in their space and outpace their competitors. If you feel that you want to boost enrolments, offering services like subscription learning could be the key to unlocking greater success down the line. 

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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