News Articles

March 2021

How to sell courses online

Selling courses online is an attractive proposition because there is no need for the logistics of face-to-face learning delivery: course materials, classrooms, tutors and scheduling. Once your course content is loaded into an LMS (Learning Management System, such as Moodle or Brightspace) and connected to an eCommerce system that enables learners to pay for access, you are immediately in business. There is no wait for enrollment dates to come around. Your course can reach a wide audience easily and instantly.

Types of courses that can be sold online include video training, live lectures, pre-recorded audio and video lectures, interactive animations, even virtual reality. The teaching possibilities of online learning are now so rich and varied that a course can be presented as a blend of the above formats or just kept simple as text and images. The only limit is the imagination and time the course creator puts in.

LMS's can handle courses in many of the ways a classroom teacher would, and tutoring, if included, can be delivered remotely via the LMS. A course can include revision sessions, quizzes, interactive debates, messaging and discussion, tests, exams and certificates.

Online learning can deliver any type of learning content. An LMS connected to an ecommerce system and payment gateway is a flexible channel for selling training courses online, be it safety training, academic courses, professional training, hobbies or lifestyle courses.

What are the fundamentals of selling a course online?

What are the fundamentals of selling a course online?

1. A Website

Firstly, you will need a website that functions as a storefront for your learning product. It should make it as easy as possible for learners to find your course on the web, read about it and ultimately purchase it. Ideally your website should make it as easy to buy a course as it is to buy something on Amazon, with a shopping cart and checkout that makes selling online training a breeze for both you and the customer. Course Merchant integrates seamlessly with any existing website. We build a course catalog in Course Merchant that is design-matched to the existing site for a seamless user experience. Learners pick courses from the catalog, add them to the shopping cart and check out, and it all appears to take place on your own website rater than being redirected to a third-party payment processing system. This looks professional and inspires buyer confidence, which reduces shopping cart abandonment and leads to more sales.

A Website

2. An LMS

The Learning Management System is the software that delivers the learning to the end user. It manages course materials, quizzes, tests and certificates. Learners log in to the LMS at any time they choose and continue where they left off, which makes it a flexible way to learn. Your course may or may not have deadlines for tests to be submitted and digital certificates issued, but the learners can organise their own learning around their other commitments rather than having to attend classes at regular times.

Course Merchant can integrate with existing instances of Moodle, Totara, Joule and other variants of Moodle, the world’s most popular LMS. If you do not have an LMS set up yet, we can create and host it for you. For those who want to sell courses online, we can cover the whole process from the ground up if required. Existing eLearning course providers often decide to connect their LMS to Course Merchant when they discover the limitations of their current ecommerce setup.


3. An Ecommerce platform

This is the step where learners add courses to a shopping cart and then check out with a credit or debit card. The strength of Course Merchant is that it handles all of this and then enrolls learners instantly into the LMS. This means they can start learning straight away. There is no need for you to email them their LMS login credentials, so there is no delay for them and no enrollment admin to do on your part. Course Merchant creates a user profile for a new learner directly into the LMS so that on first (automatic) login the account has already been created and they are ready to go.

Course Merchant can be connected to any hosted payment gateway. These include SagePay, WorldPay, PayPal and many others. The course provider chooses which payment gateways they want Course Merchant to connect to. Course Merchant does not itself handle card details but allows a user to connect to the payment gateway where the secure transaction takes place. This makes Course merchant fully PCI compliant in that it does not handle any card details.

An Ecommerce platform

4. Marketing

Leading people to your course and encouraging them to buy it is the purpose of any marketing activities you do. To sell your courses online it will be necessary to engage in some degree of marketing, otherwise few people will find them. Fortunately there are tried and proven methods for raising awareness of your online courses. These include SEO, content marketing, social media, blogging, PPC (Pay Per Click), email campaigns and video marketing. A great site dedicated to promoting and selling training courses online is our sister site

Next post: some problems that often arise when selling courses online, and how to solve them.

Why Course Merchant? 5 Key Reasons

December 2020

Why Course Merchant? 5 Key Reasons

Since it began over a decade ago, Course Merchant has been specifically tailored to the needs of those who need to sell courses online. It has been developed from the ground up to serve those specific needs in the most efficient ways.

Here are 5 key selling points of Course Merchant – 5 good reasons why so many top education institutions and training providers choose it to automate their payments and enrollments.

1. Hands-on bespoke store deployment

Our Customer Success Team builds your Course Merchant store to your needs, with a range of customizations that help to provide a best fit with your operations. These include customized registration fields that capture the exact data you need for third party applications such as membership databases, as well as custom checkout options, payment gateway integrations, and sales reporting options.

We take care of the web design, too. Your Course Merchant store will look and feel exactly like part of your website through our expert design match service. This breeds brand familiarity and customer confidence, which helps to reduce cart abandonment. The store URL will be under your site URL via a CNAME, for example, rather than a third-party URL which can drive away customers.

When your store is ready and we switch it from staging to live you get a handover webinar with our Customer Success Team and full documentation. This is backed up by technical support for the life of your store.

2. A real web store outside the LMS

On today’s web, discoverability is what drives sales. Course Merchant is a separate web store with its own custom URLs and SEO possibilities, rather than an eCommerce plugin within the LMS. This liberates courses from the confines of the LMS and puts them on the open web where they can be found in searches. The URL for your course description page can contain relevant keywords that get it found in searches and drive customers your way.

A Course Merchant store allows customers to browse a complete catalog of learning products without being distracted by the learning technology itself. It uses standard eCommerce flows that everybody is familiar with as well as features that are specific to selling courses, like multi-seat purchase options and delayed enrollment (Pay By Invoice).

3. Instant learning access

Course Merchant’s single sign-on (SSO) into the LMS gives learners instant access to their courses upon successful purchase. They arrive at their LMS course with their account created and already logged in. This means no more multiple logins to gain access to learning materials, and a seamless user experience. If your LMS is branded to your organisation, the user experience is ideal for brand familiarity, from the initial web search to the course catalog, through checkout and into the course itself. It is simply the most professional way to sell online courses. That is why so many large organisations like universities, government agencies and professional bodies use our software.

4. Salesforce and SugarCRM integrations

We have developed a set of modules that draw learner and sales data from the LMS directly into your chosen CRM. These modules are developed specifically for selling courses online, and include grade data, learner attendance data and highly granular sales data – all within the CRM where it can be analysed, filtered, and reported upon with ease. Our CRM integrations liberate your data from the LMS and put it into a powerful CRM where you can do things with it that would be hard or impossible within the LMS itself. No more spreadsheet exports! Streamline processes and automate tasks with our LMS to CRM link that is purpose-built for selling courses online.

5. Security

Our infrastructure provider is AWS, a resilient and reliable cloud service with the highest standards of data security. AWS’s super-secure global infrastructure ensures the safety of your data. For more information on AWS’s secure hosting, see their security information page.

We are ISO 27001 certified. That means we have been audited on our information security policies and procedures and proven that these are constantly tested and improved. From our backup policy to our disaster recovery plan, we have shown the ISO auditors that we do everything we can to protect our customers’ data.

To find out more about a professional, scalable solution for selling courses online, get in touch via our contact page to discuss your needs.

Futureproof your course sales with a mobile-friendly store

November 2020

Futureproof your course sales with a mobile-friendly store

In 2017 mobile internet access achieved parity with desktop. That is to say, for the first time 50% or more of all user internet access took place via mobile devices. It makes perfect sense. Our mobile devices are always with us and are easy to grab and use, so it’s natural for mobile to become the norm.

Now that 5G is rolling out, mobile adoption is only likely to grow further. A 2019 report by mobile trade body GSMA and the World Advertising Research Center suggests that by 2025, about 73% of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones.

eCommerce stores have been forced to catch up with this trend towards mobile or else fade away. Most of us have had the frustrating experience of trying to buy something on a website that doesn’t adapt to screen size, is clunky and unreadable, and has links and icons that are all but impossible to click with a human finger.

It is also well documented that there is a strong trend towards mobile as the leading content delivery platform for online learning, for all the same reasons as the general growth in mobile web access.

More and more people shop via mobile and learn via mobile. That’s why we pay particular attention to the mobile usability of Course Merchant stores. We design them so that the customer experiences a seamless user flow from browsing the fully responsive eLearning store, through intuitive and straightforward eCommerce flows to make their course purchase, and then instant access to the eLearning they have just purchased, all on the same device and with no clunky bits.

A major feature of Course Merchant stores is our design-match service. We build the store to look like a natural part of the customer’s website by matching all colours, logos and layouts. It even sits on the customer’s domain via a CNAME so that the customer is not redirected to unfamiliar URLs. A typical store URL for is, rather than All this is reassuring to customers and reinforces brand familiarity. The result? Fewer shopping cart abandonments and more course sales.

Our store designs are fully responsive. The store will arrange itself perfectly on any mobile screen size and stay clean, professional and easy to navigate. Load times are kept to an absolute minimum for a fast, responsive feel. This great-looking front end is backed up by Course Merchant’s industry-leading set of eCommerce features developed specifically to save time and effort when selling courses online.

Want your course sales site to be one of the best on the web? Book a demo to find out more about Course Merchant and see how it can help you drive online course sales growth.

Moodle eCommerce with Course Merchant, the definitive solution

September 2020

Moodle eCommerce with Course Merchant, the definitive solution

With the world’s most trusted and widely used LMS – Moodle – turning 18 this year, we’d like to celebrate our ongoing involvement with this popular and ever-evolving global learning platform. For well over a decade now, Course Merchant has been enabling Moodlers to successfully manage their sales of courses with software solutions tailored to their needs. Our software has helped universities, training companies and professional bodies to turn their Moodles into efficient course sales machines with professional front ends and easy-to-administer back ends. Our expertise in bespoke eCommerce software development has made us the go-to company for those seeking reliable and fully featured solutions to the problems of monetizing Moodle.

It is 18 years since Martin Dougiamas first released his Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE). Via numerous version updates and contributions from enthusiastic open-source developer and user communities, Moodle has grown to occupy a current adoption share of 67% in higher education institutions worldwide and is by far the most popular open-source LMS.

Release 3.9 hit servers in June 2020 and there is a big build-up to Moodle 4.0’s release in November 2021. Exciting improvements will include an ‘app store’ type plugins marketplace, multiple UX fixes, and much else designed to keep Moodle relevant and ready for the coming decade in the fast-moving world of EdTech. A global network of developers devoted to making Moodle the best LMS it can possibly be will continue to ensure those goals are achieved.

Course Merchant have been deeply involved with Moodle for almost its entire history. Moodle was conceived in academia; its creator Martin Dougiamas created it as part of his PhD studies. Its origins in academia mean it lacks commercial features such as an eCommerce front end and flexible payment processing options. This is where Course Merchant comes in. For well over a decade we have been developing solutions to enable course sales, track learner data, communicate with learners and administer sales and customer data. Course Merchant has become the most customizable and professional course sales integration for Moodle and is used by many universities and commercial learning providers. See some of our clients here.

What does Course Merchant do?

Course Merchant was developed to serve the needs of those wishing to sell Moodle courses online by integrating with Moodle’s internal course structure and presenting customers with an attractive store front catalog of courses. Customers can browse the course catalog intuitively without having to use Moodle’s own user interface, which is rather less intuitive. Users can select courses and add them to an eCommerce shopping cart before checking out in the same way they would on any eCommerce site. The course catalog is design-matched to an existing website for a seamless user experience – they are not redirected to an unfamiliar payment environment, which helps to reduce shopping cart abandonment.

When payment has been processed via one of the large number of payment gateways supported by Course Merchant, course enrollment is instant. There are options for delayed enrollment if desired, multiple enrollments in one purchase, bundled products, payment by invoice, and many more features that have grown out of our work with real-life course providers and listening to their needs.

We now have a long history of satisfied customers who have chosen Course Merchant as their solution provider for selling courses online using Moodle. Here’s what some of them say.

learning with D2L

September 2020

Course Merchant: at the business end of online learning with D2L

As a D2L Technology Partner, Course Merchant are right at the forefront of D2L’s commitment to helping businesses and training organisations reach their learners in these challenging times. Most years, you will find us at D2L’s Fusion conference making new friends and speaking about the ever- tighter integration between Course Merchant and D2L’s platforms. This year is different, though. From July through to December, D2L are holding a virtual Fusion where the discussions take place entirely online. CEO John Baker has said that attendance is ‘through the virtual roof’, with around six times more attendees than usual. This is one indicator of the urgent need many organisations are experiencing to transition to online learning as quickly as possible. Accelerated by COVID-19, this dramatic uptick in remote learning adoption has been dubbed ‘EdTech’s hockey stick curve’.

Many companies and training providers have been abruptly forced to rethink their training delivery strategies and find ways to scale learning to remote audiences on an accelerated timetable. Much training that was previously delivered face-to-face must now be delivered remotely, while maintaining the same (or better) quality learning experience that is efficient, flexible, and tightly integrated with the organisation’s goals.

>We’ll be there at Fusion as we are every year, but this time, virtually. As a Premium Sponsor of Fusion, Course Merchant will be hosting Partner Office Hours on August 11 and September 21. These are drop- in sessions in a Zoom room where you can watch or request a demo and ask questions – just the same as if you were meeting us at our exhibition stand. Come along and Meet Course Merchant, and join in the discussion. Find out how your organisation can benefit from integrating Course Merchant with Brightspace by D2L to reach every learner in a way that is as effective as, or more effective than, face-to- face learning.

Following the two virtual office hours, we have a speaking/presentation slot towards the end of Fusion 2020 in December. We’ll post details here when the exact time has been arranged.

If you can’t wait to learn more about how Course Merchant can bring your online course sales up to the next level, then please fill out our contact form and we’ll get straight back to you to discuss your needs and arrange a demo.

In case you’re not sure what we do ...

As an eCommerce front end to Brightspace By D2L, Course Merchant presents an easily navigable course catalog and shopping cart system that takes payments and instantly enrols learners into their Brightspace courses. Course Merchant’s feature list has been developed specifically for the needs of organisations who need to sell courses online, through more than a decade of consulting directly with those organisations to make it the most seamless, feature-rich, flexible and professional eCommerce application out there for selling courses online.

Who are Course Merchant’s customers?

January 2020

Who are Course Merchant’s customers?

The global eLearning market will reach $325 billion by 2025. The eLearning industry as a whole has grown 900% since the turn of the century. There’s an amazing and unique opportunity to make a success out of selling courses online.

But what type and size of organisation are you? How do you actually take payment for courses? That step is often treated as an afterthought when in reality it is crucial to success.

Which features will you most need when it comes to an ecommerce solution? After over a decade working closely with a wide variety of organisations and listening carefully to their needs, Course Merchant has evolved into the most flexible and feature-rich payment and enrollments system available for selling courses online.

Let’s put some of the companies who have chosen Course Merchant into three groups and look at their different needs.

  1. Professional training. Large organisations with lots of members. These customers generally provide CPD training for professions like healthcare, legal and financial. One example is Vetbloom, a training organisation for the Veterinary profession. Here’s what they say about their Course Merchant store.

    What they tend to need: advanced custom features such as integration with tax systems e.g. Avatax, membership database integrations, customised registration fields, advanced store search functionality, student transcripts, CPD progress reports.
  2. Universities and colleges. Extension learning programmes such as University College London’s UCLExtend or Cornell University’s Pesticide Management Extension Program.

    What they tend to need: not much apart from core Course Merchant Functionality in the case of straightforward extension programs. They are selling courses just like anyone else, so the usual features of standard out-of-the-box Course Merchant allow them core features such as instant enrollment, membership discounts, bundled course products and store design match to their websites. Some institutions have more specific needs, however, and the Course Merchant team are capable of deploying custom solutions tailored to their requirements.
  3. Everyone else. The National Skills Academy for Financial Services, accountancy training providers, personal wellbeing, life skills, health and safety, fitness, charitable trusts, IT skills, dog training, and just about anything else that is deliverable via online courses.

    What they tend to need: simplicity, robustness, an easy-to-follow checkout flow leading to instant enrolment and single sign-on into their LMS, bundled products, multi-seat licence management, voucher codes, buy now buttons. All of these are included in standard Course Merchant.

So where do you fit into the Course Merchant world? There’s only one way to find out. Sign up for a webinar or email or to discover how Course Merchant, CourseIndex and CourseCRM can make your courses fly.

January 2020

New feature: enrollment by application form

It is now possible to delay the enrollment of a student onto a course in the Course Merchant catalog until they have submitted a course-specific application form and that form has been approved. It is also possible to reject applications.

This means there can now be four sales workflows in Course Merchant:

  1. Instant enrollment upon payment of fees via credit card or PayPal
  2. Instant enrollment on courses that are free-to-register
  3. Delayed enrollment when the course fee is to be paid by invoice
  4. Delayed enrollment pending the acceptance of an application form.

Here’s how it works.

1. Select Product to Purchase, Submit Application

Note that in place of the usual ‘Buy Now’ button there is a ‘Pre-Register’ button. Button text is configurable.

Select Product to Purchase, Submit Application

2. Complete the Application Form

After clicking ‘Pre-Register’, the applicant is taken to an application form. The form can have any number and type of data fields enabled.

Complete the Application Form

3. Data passes into the CRM

Upon submitting the form, the applicant is notified on screen and via email that their application is under review and they will be contacted in due course. This text is configurable.

Form data appears in the CRM under a Course Sale/Pre-Registration Info tab.

The relevant admins are notified that there is a new application waiting to be reviewed.

Data passes into the CRM

4. Admin Approves or Rejects the Application

The admin updates fields within the ‘Approval Information’ tab to approve/reject, confirm the date and give a reason. These fields are configurable.

The applicant receives an email confirming the approval or rejection.

Admin Approves or Rejects the Application

5. Approved Learner Completes the Purchase

Upon approval of their application, the learner receives a link to complete the purchase. It is possible to create a third-party account at this point if the course is being paid for by someone else.

When payment is complete the learner is enrolled on the course in the LMS.

Approved Learner Completes the Purchase

All these activities are logged in the CRM to give a full audit trail. Approval emails and links can be re-sent. Third-party approvers can approve via email links without needing to access the CRM.

See you at D2L Fusion 2019!

November 2019

Where are you on your eLearning journey? Course Merchant Professional Services can help you reach your goals.

With all the LMS expertise we have in-house, Course Merchant have spun off a new division to provide a one-stop shop for anyone wishing to provide learning content online.

Housed at our sister site, The Professional Services team provide enablement services for course creators and subject matter experts who want a straightforward route to bringing their courses to market and prefer to work with real people rather than automated websites like Udemy.

Here is a team who listen carefully to the needs of course creators and online educators. The result is a package of services tailored to the needs of the client, rather than the client having to fit to the shape and limitations of an automated system.

Our Professional Services fall into three broad categories:

Low-cost LMS Portal

Instead of paying through the nose for a dedicated LMS and its associated hosting and tech support services, why not hire space on our multi-tenancy Moodle solution? It provides all the functionality of Moodle but at a fraction of the cost of having your own LMS. Customers can build an online school within the ‘walled garden’ of their Moodle portal and run it without the technical hassle – because we take care of that.

There are no lengthy contracts – in fact there’s a walk-away guarantee. The customer effectively rents LMS space by the month and we take care of the day-to-day running, hosting and everything else, plus full phone and email technical support!

Pricing is a fraction of what is paid for a dedicated LMS, and our hosting bandwidth is the best in the business. We think it’s a no-brainer.

To find out more and make an enquiry, visit this page.

Course Building Service

We’ve worked with thousands of eLearning customers, and we’ve helped them all every stage of the course development process – from handwritten notes to Word docs to PowerPoints to existing eLearning courses that need repurposing.

This means the Professional Services team can engage with customers at any point along their eLearning journey.

Rapid content authoring is one of our specialities. We can convert your slides, docs and lectures into well-designed online courses, and also provide the eCommerce functionality you’ll need if you plan to sell them.

If you have learning materials that you’d like to see out there as an eLearning course, make an enquiry via this page.

Course Marketing Program

Online courses don’t sell themselves. The marketing program uses the power of a popular, content-driven site to get ads in front of thousands of readers, most of whom are actively looking for courses.

The Course Marketing Program is designed to send traffic to customers’ websites. It includes:

  • An instant premium listing on the courses search engine for an unlimited number of keywords. This will be a direct link to your site.
  • 10,000 ad impressions per month on the magazine format website. Display ads on have an average click through rate (CTR) of 2.19%, compared to the Google Display Network average of 0.35%. ads are over 6 times more effective than Google display ads. That’s what a targeted website does for your courses!
  • Three uniquely designed adverts to be displayed on You are welcome to supply your own ad artwork if you prefer.
  • Six original articles written by our in-house editorial team and published on the site over the course of 12 months.
  • The ability to submit an unlimited number of additional articles that we will publish on the site (subject to our own editorial approval).
  • Listing in the catalog for up to 25 of your courses. This will be a detailed product / course description listing with a link back to your own 'Buy Now' button.

Subscribe to the course marketing program here.

So wherever you are on your eLearning Journey, get in touch with the Professional Services team today to discuss your needs and we’ll help you get your courses to market and selling!

September 2019

Course Merchant’s relationship with D2L goes from strength to strength as we do our part to help them fulfil their corporate motto ‘Reach Every Learner’. Course Merchant integrates with D2L’s Brightspace Learning Environment to provide eCommerce features that facilitate the sale of courses in Universities, colleges and businesses around the world.

In October, Course Merchant will be attending as Partners, the D2L Connection in Dublin. This brings into focus the increasing demand we are finding for ecommerce within the Higher Education and Corporate sector in Europe and we look forward to meeting Friends old and New.

Course Merchant at D2L Connection in Dublin

University College Dublin (UCD) Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

If helping your organisation market course offerings or training programmes to a broad audience of learners, is your quest, then utilising Brightspace with the Course Merchant ‘Add-on’ gives learners a seamless, self-serve way to register for courses. The storefront can be designed to match your organisation’s branding. Single sign-on allows them to move directly into Brightspace when registration is complete.

Course Merchant will be available at the Connection event on October 9th and 10th where delegates can share effective ideas, catch up with the latest developments and engage in product feedback along with other Learning Professionals.

July 2019

Course Merchant post D2L Fusion catch up

After attending a very busy D2L Fusion in Kissimmee Florida in July, we are now beginning to see the benefits of the strong partnership that we enjoy with D2L and how this helps to inform their customers about our ecommerce solution and its strengths in supporting new revenue streams. A vital factor is the tight integration that Course Merchant has with Brightspace and allows a seamless user journey.

There were two packed days with Course Merchant discussions and demonstrations and our presentation, 'How do you build successful ecommerce and new revenue streams with your online learning?'

Course Merchant post D2L Fusion catch up

From our conversations it was interesting to tally with Higher Education's thoughts in looking at some current trends & research, demographics & sector news.

Salient points were; in the current educational landscape, pressures from declining state budgets, demands to compete in the higher education space, peer institution competition, all drive the need to be able to find a niche, a way to deliver the academic wealth of the university to a global & socio diverse audience. Those that have already taken the first steps, by introducing an online ecommerce offer are primed ready to capture a willing, eager & technologically advanced audience.

There is a growing user base employing Course Merchant to truly sell courses online and reach every learner, globally.

This year, our Director of Client Services, Matt Willingham attended and reported some fantastic conversations with several clients using Course Merchant and their large-scale transactional volumes throughput with Course Merchant powering their online course sales ecommerce. For Matt, it was a great opportunity to meet the people he has been working with remotely and to hear first hand the successes that have come from using Course Merchant.

We look forward to D2L Connections in Dublin, later in the year and will report in October.

See you at D2L Fusion 2019!

June 2019

See you at D2L Fusion 2019!

This July 15-17 Course Merchant will be speaking at D2L Fusion 2019 in Kissimee, Florida. Client Services Director Matt Willingham will present case studies on two very different Course Merchant deployments that highlight the platform’s flexibility, and Business Development Manager Mike Bailey will be explaining how Course Merchant integrates with Brightspace for seamless and feature-packed eCommerce sales capabilities.

In 2017 we drew attention to the need to sell online courses & online training as a blended & added value route in Higher Education, reaching a global audience & every learner.

Our 2019 presentation will zoom in at a granular level & discover the facets of the Course Merchant ecommerce solution that power Brightspace online course sales. Workflows & security, ease of enrolment, catalogue design, branding match, payment types, discounting, & landing pages will all be key parts of the discussion that inform the audience.

  1. Course Merchant can be used as a CMS system that runs entire websites.
  2. Course Merchant can be setup as a stand alone catalog that seamlessly integrates with your corporate website.
  3. Course Merchant can be used as a checkout only, so utilizing your existing website and marketing pages.

Here we have two examples of this versatility.

The University of Derby
The University of Derby had invested a great deal of time and money building up their existing online presence, so they did not want to have a negative effect on such things as SEO by introducing another set of pages to sell their courses. So their strategy was to sell access to their online courses through their existing website. They achieved this by adding 'Buy Now' buttons to their existing online pages. Course Merchant generates these buy now codes, which can be used on any website, landing page, email, newsletter and even social media platform to sell access to your online content. This approach can be scaled up at any time to start using Course Merchant as a fully featured online catalog.

BDC had a completely different strategy. They integrated the Course Merchant catalog into their existing website. They have used the same branding and design to provide a seamless user experience. Menu options and links are displayed on both their main site and the Course Merchant catalog. This promotes user confidence and retains a strong brand awareness. They are also using the full ecommerce features available through the system.

So see you at Fusion 2019!

Course Merchant Knowledge Base goes live

May 2019

Course Merchant Knowledge Base goes live

There has always been full customer support for Course Merchant customers from our dedicated helpdesk, plus training webinars and other support services. We have now enriched the support offer to our customers with an online knowledge base that serves as a complete reference for store administrators.

The step-by-step instructions walk you through everything that Course Merchant does as standard, including adding and editing products in the store, connecting them to courses in your LMS, administering seats and licences, setting discounts, creating voucher codes, editing categories, setting featured products, creating course bundles, sales reporting, and how to get the most out of all the other powerful features of Course Merchant. The knowledge base contains a glossary of terms, is cross-refenced and easily to navigate via a topics list.

The knowledge base also contains downloadable PDF training documents including a Getting Started Guide, and a selection of video screencasts that walk users through some common tasks.

Coming soon: CRM documentation

As well as full documentation for using Course Merchant, the knowledge base will soon contain a detailed how-to guide for the optional CRM reporting layer. The CRM reporting layer allows the manipulation of data from the Course Merchant store and the LMS (Moodle or Totara) to create detailed and flexible reports, automate admin tasks, view course attendance and gradebook data (Moodle and Totara), communicate with learners, and aggregate all essential business information into one application.

From Shanghai to New York in one Click

April 2019

From Shanghai to New York in one Click

In the modern eLearning landscape, colleges and companies can be treated as similar entities with a common aim: profitability. A few weeks ago Course Merchant’s David Hill wrote on how organizations can monetize their instructional content by breaking free from the traditional confines of the corporate or college LMS and into a fruitful new territory: a standalone eCommerce store that is SEO-friendly and permits learners to pay for courses via familiar methods, the same way they pay for their Amazon purchases and their groceries.

No longer is it acceptable to learners to pay for courses via bank transfer or cheque. With sites like Udemy around, they expect to be able to browse an online store, choose a course, pay for it via a familiar payment method and be enrolled immediately. In the age of microlearning and just-in-time skills acquisition to pursue immediate career goals, there can be no waiting around for an administrator to process payment and add a learner’s name to the student list. When confronted with such cases, learners will go elsewhere.

Online course vendors – a group which in today’s learning environment includes colleges and business organizations – need to reach learners easily and make them feel at home by allowing them to pay for their online courses via a familiar method. The global nature of the Internet makes this ever more true. Selling to China? No problem – Course Merchant integrates with any hosted payment gateway, so a store can be set up in yuan, using a local payment gateway and local payment methods. In the fragmented payments landscape we currently inhabit, such flexibility is a boon to course vendors.

Add to this an SEO-friendly storefront, instant LMS enrollment, an industry-leading feature set, CRM integration, bespoke store development, dedicated support and reliable hosting, and you have the perfect solution for selling courses online in the current business environment.

We built Course Merchant around our customer’s needs and continue to develop it to meet them. Our customers include major universities, colleges and businesses of every type with knowledge and expertise they seek to productize and sell. Course Merchant just makes it easier for them to do that.

How to succeed at selling courses online

March 2019

How to succeed at selling courses online

Course Merchant invites you to a recording of a live webinar given in collaboration with open source LMS specialists Lambda Solutions. Course Merchant Sales Director Martin Broughton contributed a report on how to get a bigger slice of an eLearning marketplace, which is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025.

Companies, institutions and individual subject matter experts can profit from offering their training and learning materials online to the public. Course Merchant is a key component in achieving this monetization of existing and future learning resources.

In this webinar, Martin covers the overall project of becoming an online course seller: the marketplace for online courses, the benefits of selling courses online, marketing, SEO and user experience, plus a couple of success stories to show what can be achieved in this marketplace and how Course Merchant can help to get you there.

Be sure to bookmark our webinars page for upcoming events from Course Merchant and our partners. Each event takes a slightly different angle on the world of online course sales and how we can help you turn it into a profitable addition to your business – or a business in its own right, as the success stories in the webinar show.

Watch the webinar recording

Learn more about Course Merchant

Gateway to Success: Course Merchant’s Top 5 eCommerce Payment Gateways

Feburary 2019

Gateway to Success: Course Merchant’s Top five eCommerce Payment Gateways

Course Merchant only works with hosted payment gateways. So neither Course Merchant nor the course vendor get involved in handling payment card details – they are sent securely to the payment gateway provider for processing. That takes a lot of the headaches out of processing payments for courses.

Course Merchant supports an ever-growing number of hosted payment gateways for taking online payments for courses. If you wish to use a gateway that we haven’t come across yet, we can develop a Course Merchant integration with it.

Here are the top 5 most common payment gateways course sellers ask for when setting up their eCommerce store with Course Merchant. Whether it’s simplicity, features or low fees you’re looking for – or a combination of these – there’s a payment gateway here to suit almost everybody.

1. PayPal
PayPal’s main benefit is its popularity. In many countries it is the preferred payment method for eCommerce in general, meaning that many shoppers are familiar with it and comfortable using it. Learners can buy courses using funds in their PayPal accounts or using their credit or debit cards. In the latter case, they don’t need to have an account with PayPal at all.

2. is one of the oldest payment gateway providers and remains one of the most popular. They don’t tie you, the course vendor, into a long-term contract. They offer good support for multiple currencies and have robust anti-fraud and security features. They can set up a merchant account for you if you don’t already have one, or you can sign up with them directly if you do have a merchant account. After that it’s usually plain sailing – but just remember that the fee structure is different depending on which of the above options you choose.

3. Stripe
Stripe is a phenomenally successful new kid on the block, founded in 2010 by two brothers from rural Ireland and as a company now worth $20 billion. Stripe combines the payment gateway and merchant account components, which allows them to charge competitive per-transaction fees. If you process over $25,000 a month with them you can negotiate lower charges. There are no monthly fees and their documentation and support are very thorough.

4. Moneris
Canadian payment gateway provider Moneris is a direct processor, meaning they process all transactions in-house rather than by using third parties. This means you will always be dealing with the same company when solving payment processing problems. Processing fees are negotiable on a case-by-case basis but depend largely on your monthly sales volume.

5. WorldPay
As the name suggests, WorldPay is a global payment processor with locations around the globe. A pioneer of internet-based payments, it goes back to 1989. WorldPay is also a direct processor like Moneris. Agreeing on a fee structure with them is a case of negotiating. You need to be sure before choosing WorldPay because there is a three-year contract with quite a hefty early termination fee.

See more Course Merchant payment gateways

Email us to discuss a Course Merchant store for selling your courses online

Are you using the right kind of language to sell your courses?

January 2019

Are you using the right kind of language to sell your courses?

Online course vendors sometimes miss a trick by not spending time creating excellent sales copy for their courses. A list of units, modules and topics and a few sentences about what the course involves might be factually accurate but not be pushing buyers’ buttons to motivate them to make a purchase. Because at Course Merchant we’re in the course selling business, we’d like to offer a few tips on how to polish your course description until it shines, which can boost your sales.

Back in 2017 we posted about creating sales copy and course descriptions that make learners feel as if they would be missing out on something great if they don’t get their credit card out and click ‘Buy’. Our post referred to an article that used the analogy of food packaging. Do the foods you buy at the supermarket come in featureless packaging with uninteresting descriptions of its contents? No! They generally come in boxes and packets that make you drool with anticipation, and use enticing words to conjure up images of deliciousness, healthfulness and satisfaction in your mind. Well, with courses it’s pretty much the same thing – only that the nourishment on offer is food for the brain!

eThink Education have just published a blog post on the subject of writing compelling course descriptions, written by Course Merchant writer David Hill. It presents a 6-step system for writing better course descriptions that will get more people to purchase a course. This copy-writing method is designed to lead buyers on a journey towards a purchase by speaking to their inner desires and motivations. Check it out on eThink’s blog here.

Why are there so many abandoned colleges in the U.S

December 2018

Why are there so many abandoned colleges in the U.S.? have published an article about the number of abandoned college campuses in the United States. Search YouTube, they suggest, for ‘abandoned college campus’ and you will find a long list of such places being ‘discovered’ by urban explorers. Some of the abandoned colleges are old, some are even brand new.

What does this tell us about the financial burden of running a bricks-and-mortar campus? It tells us that it is often unsustainable in the modern educational landscape.

The article dwells on one institution in particular: Knoxville College. Forced to close down in 2015, it is attempting a renaissance by offering online-only courses, ‘hoping to transition to a residential institution once again.’

If you were planning to start a college today, would you go to the considerable expense of acquiring and maintaining residential facilities, or would you launch an online-only college?

Course Merchant has two typical types of customer:

  1. The bricks-and-mortar Higher Education institution that also offers online-only or blended learning courses for which course fees are payable separately from the annual matriculation fee;
  2. Entrepreneurs who sell courses online and have little or no physical infrastructure to maintain.

With modern learning content development and delivery systems, selling courses online is easier than ever. Course Merchant provides the professional ecommerce and catalog capabilities needed to sell courses online at volume. In a changing education landscape, we give course providers the capability to reach learners anywhere, any time.

Course Merchant partners with authoring tool Softchalk

October 2018

Course Merchant partners with authoring tool Softchalk

We are pleased to announce that Course Merchant is now an authorised reseller of rapid eLearning authoring tool Softchalk.

Softchalk is an easy-to-use eLearning content authoring system that integrates directly with popular Learning Management Systems. It also runs in the cloud, making it compatible with any LMS by providing access to course content via simple hyperlinks to Softchalk Cloud. It is popular in Higher Education and K-12 and we like it so much we have decided to offer it to our own core market: training companies and organisations offering online learning as well as universities and colleges.

Our expertise in implementing online course sales programs means you get more than an authoring tool when you buy Softchalk from us; you get professional eLearning services that support you aims and allow you to reach your goals. We help you create, develop, package, market and sell your online courses in the most professional way possible and in a way that suits your scope and budget.

This new tool in our armoury is part of our 360-degree, start-to-finish suite of services that enable us to engage with your needs at any point along your eLearning journey. Softchalk comes in at the beginning, by enabling the rapid and efficient creation of high quality, educationally sound courseware. We can then take your project live on the web and enable you to sell it via our online course catalog and eCommerce services.

The most frequent customer comment on Softchalk is that is it really easy to use. Take the pain (and a lot of the cost) out of eLearning content authoring by using Softchalk. Talk to us about it today and find out more about Softchalk here.

Can you earn back the cost of an LMS by selling courses

October 2018

Can you earn back the cost of an LMS by selling courses?

Course Merchant’s David Hill has written an article outlining how organizations can generate extra revenue by freeing instructional content from the confines of the corporate LMS and releasing it into the wild for customers, stakeholders and the public to buy online.

To achieve this, he writes, a robust eCommerce platform is required that presents a catalog of courses in a web store. From catalog to cart through to checkout and enrollment, the process of selling courses online needs to be seamless, flexible and intuitive. It needs to have a specific range of features and be built from the ground up specially for selling online courses.

A range of different types of organization can benefit from Course Merchant’s flexibility, robustness and ease of use:

‘A wide spectrum of organizations can boost their revenue by selling courses online: associations, social enterprises and non-profits, institutions, training companies, and colleges, as well as enterprises. The end consumers of their instructional content can include individual learners as well as groups, so both B2B and B2C eCommerce feature sets are needed in a catch-all eCommerce solution.’

Read the full article on

Course Merchant: just a Moodle eCommerce plugin? Think again

September 2018

Course Merchant: just a Moodle eCommerce plugin? Think again

We have worked with Moodle since its early versions. It was the first LMS we built an eCommerce solution for and has been one of Course Merchant’s core platforms ever since. What can we do for those using Moodle who need eCommerce to sell courses online?

Course Merchant is much more than an eCommerce plugin. It is a suite of services, all of which are directed towards helping you sell your online courses. Visit our Moodle page for Course Merchant’s Moodle features and further information about our Moodle integrations. We work closely with Moodle partners eThink, Synergy, Remote Learner, Elearning Experts and others to provide robust, professional eCommerce solutions to their customers.

Here’s an example of a Course Merchant store: nationwide safety training company Responsible Training. The entire course catalog and purchase flows are powered by Course Merchant and design-matched to the rest of the site for a seamless user experience. Learners are enrolled instantly into Responsible Training’s Moodle upon successful purchase.

Do you still think Course Merchant is just an eCommerce plugin?

Moodle has a huge global community working to keep it relevant and develop new features. Latest developments have focused on GDPR compliance, enhanced usability and accessibility, more efficient user management and enhanced sound and video features. Another cool new feature is simple global search.

For the latest features and developments in the moodleverse, read

Moodle not for you? We also work with Totara, Brightspace by D2L, Kallidus, and other LMSs. Contact us for more information about our eCommerce integrations with learning platforms.

Building a strong eLearning business

July 2018

Building a strong eLearning business offer a free downloadable eBook guide called 7 Steps to Build a Strong eLearning Business. It is full of solid advice about market research, differentiating your product, choosing a price point for your courses, building the marketing funnel and staying in touch with your learners (customers) via CRM and email.

Yet, like the majority of such advice out there, it does not dwell on a vital step in selling courses online: how you actually take payments. With PayPal and so many other cheap or free payment processing options out there, taking payments is seen as an afterthought that is hardly worthy of discussion.

That might be true for eLearning startups early on in their life cycles. With the overwhelming need to keep costs low, why would you pay for professional eCommerce software when a free option deposits your customers’ money in your bank account just as well?

Crunch time comes later. As course sales volumes grow, it becomes hard to ignore the time spent manually enrolling learners on courses after taking their payments. Time pressure mounts up when a buyer has a hundred learners they want enrolling on your course, all at once. That is time that could be spent growing the eLearning business rather than doing admin work. And wouldn’t it be great if your students had instant enrollment into your LMS wherever they are in the world, rather than having to wait for you to enroll them when you wake up?

How do you run a seasonal promotion on PayPal? What about offering discounted course packages or ‘bundles’? How do you capture learner data? What if a customer wants to pay by invoice instead of eCommerce? More manual enrollments...

Shopping cart abandonment seems to be high. Wouldn’t it be great if your online store had a seamless user eCommerce experience all the way to completion, rather than redirecting customers away from your site to a generic payment environment?

It’s usually about that time in an eLearning company’s life cycle when we get a phone call at Course Merchant.

Some software products have been around for a while and have accumulated features and improvements that make them the best in the business. Microsoft’s Office suite, for example. At the beginning it was a set of tools for some pretty mundane jobs, and that’s all they did. You could edit documents, add up columns and show slides. As time went on features were added after listening to customer feedback. Now Excel, Word and PowerPoint can do far more than anybody could have imagined originally.

With Course Merchant as standard, you get a fully-featured eCommerce application designed specifically for selling courses, with a powerful bunch of built-in features based on the real-world needs of those selling courses online. If requirements and budget allow, you also get a team of developers who build bespoke Course Merchant solutions tailored to your current and future business needs.

If you are ready and need to move to the next level of selling courses online, call Course Merchant today.

The eBook on building a strong eLearning business

Course Merchant to host more free workshops

June 2018

Course Merchant to host more free workshops

Following the success of our workshops in Atlanta, Nashville and London, Course Merchant are now planning further free events.

The aim of these workshops is to introduce educators and trainers to the latest educational technologies now coming on stream. Attendees are shown how these technologies can be used in their organisations to sell courses online, recruit and manage learners, and deliver engaging and successful learning outcomes. Simply put, we demonstrate how to harness learning technology to grow the bottom line.

In a free, half-day face-to-face workshop, attendees will be walked through some of these technologies and given hands-on time with them. Topics include:

  1. Elearning Content Authoring.
  2. LMS Primer - Build Your First Course.
  3. Easy Content Distribution – SCORM, xAPI and the LMS.
  4. Augmented Reality (for Real!).
  5. Assessment, Accreditation & Certification - Whaddaya know?
  6. Ecommerce & Pay-to-Register - Show me the money!

At the time of writing we are taking reservations for:

  • Leeds, England, September 18th, 2018
  • New York City, October 3rd, 2018

Follow the link below for more about these FREE workshops.

Registration links and further information

May 2018

Course Merchant attends D2L Connection

Course Merchant’s relationship with D2L goes from strength to strength as we do our part to help them fulfil their corporate motto ‘Reach Every Learner’. Course Merchant integrates with D2L’s Brightspace Learning Environment to provide eCommerce features that facilitate the sale of courses in Universities, colleges and businesses around the world.

Two things of note have happened this week: the launch of D2L Emerald Edition and Course Merchant’s attendance at D2L Connection in London. Brightspace’s Emerald Release offers a raft of new enhancements to facilitate learning, administration, learner engagement and data management. A significant proportion of these were suggested by the Brightspace community via D2L’s Product Ideas Exchange, showing that Brightspace’s development is substantially driven by listening to its users. A walkthrough webinar showcasing the enhancements included in the Emerald Release will be given on May 31 at 1:30pm ET – register for the Higher Education version here or the K-12 version here.

Course Merchant attends D2L Connection
Course Merchant attends D2L Connection

Course Merchant Group Sales Manager
Martin Broughton presents to delegates at D2L Connection.

Course Merchant attended the D2L Connection event on May 23 at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London. Connection is a networking event where delegates can share effective ideas, catch up with the latest developments and engage in product feedback along with other Learning Professionals.

D2L President and CEO John Baker gave the keynote and was followed by two senior Product Managers who laid out the roadmap and themes of current strategy. We engaged in a product management feedback session before breaking out into two sessions: Advanced HE: Working collaboratively with D2L’s

Creative Services, and a Partner Showcase involving Planet eStream and Course Merchant.

The day continued with more breakout sessions on Change Management, ePortfolio Implementation, Managing Professional Development and of course GDPR, with the GDPR deadline looming in two days’ time.

Course Merchant chosen as finalist in 2018 Edtech Awards

April 2018

Course Merchant chosen as finalist in 2018 Edtech Awards

Course Merchant has been selected as a finalist in the 2018 EdTech Awards. Finalists have been selected from thousands of entries.

Featuring edtech’s best and brightest, the annual program shines a spotlight on cool tools, inspiring leaders and innovative trendsetters across the K-12, Higher Education, and Skills and Workforce sectors.

The finalists were announced on April 6th to a global online audience of millions of educators, technologists, students, parents, and policymakers interested in creating a better future for education.

"We celebrate who’s who and what’s next in edtech,” said Victor Rivero, who as Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest, oversees the awards program. Richard Standen, Managing Director of Course Merchant, said “For years we have been building online stores for education and training companies and institutions. Course Merchant has proven itself to be a useful product that more and more online course sellers have come to rely on due to its robustness and flexibility. We’re extremely pleased that this has been reflected in the EdTech Awards."


Course Merchant is a full-featured e-commerce platform built specifically for selling courses online. In a nutshell, it bridges the gap between e-learning and e-commerce. It integrates with Moodle, Totara, Brightspace by D2L and Kallidus, allowing training and education companies to register learners onto paid online and face-to-face training workshops and classes. The system consists of a catalogue of courses that is designed to match the look and feel of a customer’s website, and an e-Commerce system that allows learners to purchase the courses and start studying immediately rather than having to wait to be enrolled.

Course Merchant’s customers include Universities, Museums, Government Agencies, Training Companies and e-learning Entrepreneurs in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and across Europe.

The EdTech Awards recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere. Now in its 8th year, the US-based program is the largest and most competitive recognition program in all of education technology, recognizing the biggest names in edtech.

The Rise and Rise of Online Learning Workshops - Topic 2: Gamification

March 2018

'The Rise and Rise of Online Learning' Workshops

Topic 2: Gamification

Course Merchant is providing a series of free face-to-face workshops that talk attendees through the latest technology being used by training organizations, show them hands-on what it can do, and teach them ways of evaluating its use for their businesses. You will find the workshop signup link at the end of this article.

This post offers a taste of one of the topics from the workshop: gamification.

Gamification is the application of game mechanics to eLearning to incentivise learning. In the same way that games require their players to attain a series of goals to finish the game, eLearning courses can lead learners on a ‘treasure hunt’ to collect badges and other items that represent their progress through the course. Gamification plays upon the brain’s reward system to encourage people to learn.

The concept is pretty straightforward. Learners can turn off when faced with lengthy training programs in which information comes at them in a featureless stream. Turning it into a ‘game’ with ‘rewards’ that make them feel good is a proven way to increase engagement and completion rates. People are hard wired to respond to the opportunity of obtaining rewards by solving problems, and tend to be more motivated when a desirable shiny thing is dangled in front of them. Gamification also plays on people’s natural desire for socializing, mastery, competition, status and self-expression.

Gamification uses points, badges, achievements, progress bars, status and ranking systems to incentivise learning. These are techniques lifted directly from games developers, who want players to keep playing the game. In the same way, you want your learners to finish the course, succeed, and tell others about their success with your course. It has been found that the same kinds of award structures as those found in games work almost as well in non-gaming environments where the overall objective is learning rather than purely fun and enjoyment. One element often cited for gamification’s effectiveness is the instant feedback: learners can see immediately a result for their efforts, which is thought to facilitate engagement, recall and retention.

The possibilities of gamification are endless and go far beyond badges and leader boards. It can involve Wheel of Fortune-style learning games, avatars, quests, team-based ‘capture the flag’ missions, strategy games, virtual currencies that learners can ‘spend’, and much more.

It’s not that hard to gamify your eLearning. If you can make it to one of the workshops, you’ll get hands-on experience of some of the tools that can make your eLearning more engaging and fun.

One example is Kahoot: find out about it here.

Dates, times and signup links for the latest Course Merchant workshops.

March 2018

'The Rise and Rise of Online Learning' Workshops

Topic 1: Rapid Content Authoring

Course Merchant is providing a series of free face-to-face workshops that talk attendees through the latest technology being used by training organizations, show them hands-on what it can do, and teach them ways of evaluating its use for their businesses. The topics covered in each free workshop are:

  • Rapid Content Authoring.
  • Easy Content Distribution – SCORM, xAPI and the LMS.
  • Engaging the Learner - Collaboration, Activity and Feedback.
  • Game On! Gamification Basics.
  • Augmented Reality (for Real!).
  • Assessment, Accreditation & Certification - Whaddaya know?
  • Web Conferencing in an Educational Setting.
  • Ecommerce & Registrations - Show me the money!
  • Instructional Design for eLearning.

This post offers a taste of the first topic: Rapid Content Authoring.

Building online courses from scratch can be a long and expensive process. This has led to the idea of recycling existing resources into online lessons. Creating eLearning content does not have to be an overwhelming task and it can be done quickly with modern tools. It is now possible to create lessons from ‘legacy’ resources, for example PowerPoint slides and PDF or Word documents that have been used previously in face-to-face classroom training. Rapidly created online lessons can be standalone or used as part of a blended learning program (part classroom, part eLearning).

One of the simplest rapid content authoring tools to use is iSpring. It can take PowerPoint presentations, documents, spreadsheets, images, video, audio and PDF files and convert them into interactive lessons in a format that Learning Management Systems can understand (SCORM). The lessons can include audio narration , videos, quizzes and interactive activities between slides.

Some care is needed to ensure that the interactivity of the classroom setting translates well to the self-paced eLearning setting. Things like online collaboration activities, tests, quizzes and the ability to review learning content are helpful in ensuring good knowledge retention and student satisfaction.

One of the things you will do hands-on in Course Merchant’s workshops is use iSpring to create a lesson from a PowerPoint presentation, upload it to iSpring Cloud it into a Learning Management System and take the lesson yourself! The whole process takes just minutes and is intended as a demonstration of the power of modern rapid eLearning authoring tools.

In Course Merchant’s free workshops you will learn about iSpring and other rapid content authoring tools, new web standards such as HTML5 and what they can do for your eLearning projects, eLearning interactivity standards like SCORM, AICC, LTI and others, designing eLearning for mobile devices, and much more, including web conferencing, certification and accreditation, Augmented Reality, learner engagement and gamification.

Dates, times and signup links for the latest Course Merchant workshops.

Feedback from Course Merchant’s Atlanta workshop

February 2018

Feedback from Course Merchant’s Atlanta workshop

Course Merchant’s live event ‘The Rise and Rise of Online Learning’ in Atlanta last week was a great success. Presented by our CEO Richard Standen, it was a face-to-face workshop following on from the Training 2018 conference. The levels of interest and the positive feedback we have received have led to us planning three more in April and May this year. The workshop presents a broad overview of learning technologies to those seeking to take their training operations to the next level.

Here is a selection of feedback from attendees in Atlanta:

"Great session and well worth the time to learn about some free e-learning tools and LMS sites available for rapid course development and hosting courses for learners.

Always love and need the hands-on practice and there was a considerable amount in this 3-hour session."

Kelli C. Buchanan
Performance Consultant | Training Manager | Instructional Designer

I recommend The Rise & Rise of Online Learning workshop for a high level review of EdTech that includes hands on experience with some of the latest tools in Online Learning. It was definitely worth my time and the free or low cost options presented will raise the bar with my clients.

Really liked: hands on and a small setting. It was a true discussion and not a lecture.

James Squires
Senior Managing Consultant nPlace solutions

I really enjoyed the workshop presented by Richard and came away with several actionable ideas to use with my education industry clients.

The hands-on segments were splendid! Tools were introduced that are accessible: both affordable and intuitive to use. I appreciated the time to play with the technology. It really is the best way to learn it.

Julie Gjertsen
eSolutions In Education

Future dates for this Course Merchant workshop are:
London, 12 April 2018
Nashville, 17 April 2018
San Diego, 10 May 2018

Course Merchant to give workshop after Training Conference 2018, Atlanta

January 2018

Course Merchant to give workshop after Training Conference 2018, Atlanta

We’ve got something special to offer following Training 2018 this year. After the conference (come and meet us on stand 914!), Course Merchant are giving a workshop titled ‘The Rise & Rise of Online Learning: The Instructional Revolution’. The free, half-day face to face workshop provides an essential primer to the latest technology being adopted by training organizations, what it can do, and how to go about evaluating its use for your business.

  • Edtech – Who are the new kids in class?
  • Rapid Content Authoring - Tools and methodologies.
  • Easy Content Distribution - to LMS or not to LMS?
  • Engaging the Learner - Collaboration, Activity and Feedback.
  • Assignments, Assessments & Accreditation - Whaddaya know?
  • Synchronicity - How important is real-time?
  • E-commerce & Registrations - Show me the money!

The workshop is presented by our CEO Richard Standen, who has run a series of successful eLearning companies and is now returning to his first love: the nuts and bolts of applying technology to learning in the real world.

There will be something of interest to anyone in the training business at this workshop, it’s free, and we encourage you to attend. There are only a few places left, so we recommend signing up now.

Sign up to the free workshop on EventBrite

The best online platforms for selling courses in 2018

January 2018

The best online platforms for selling courses in 2018

Online learning business blogger Baidhurya Mani recently published a list of 21 of the Best Online Course Platforms (and counting). His list is a useful rundown of popular platforms for solopreneurs and startups to get and running with selling courses online. It includes all-in-one platforms for the less tech-savvy such as Thinkific and Kajabi, Wordpress plugins for those able to devote time to site maintenance and security, and online course marketplaces like Udemy and Coggno.

We’re pleased to see he has included Course Merchant as an enterprise eCommerce solution for organisations with their own LMS. He has given Course Merchant its own section, which makes sense because Course Merchant is indeed unique in providing seamless website integration, full-featured eCommerce and instant enrollments along with powerful sales capabilities. Hundreds of training companies worldwide benefit from Course Merchant’s power and flexibility as a professional course sales platform.

One omission from his Online Course Marketplaces section that we hope he might rectify is Built by Course Merchant, offers a full range of course marketing services including:

  • Course search engine listings
  • Course Catalog listings with unlimited products from one domain
  • Microsite design & build
  • Course creation from offline materials
  • A revenue sharing marketing model (no fees)
  • PPC consulting
  • Keywords analysis
  • Affiliate marketing set-up
  • Social Media consulting. is a large and growing one-stop shop for getting learning materials online and in front of customers. Find out what we can do for your course sales at

Dull course descriptions don’t sell: here’s how to get it right

December 2017

Dull course descriptions don’t sell: here’s how to get it right

Food manufacturers don’t use dull, grey packaging for their products. They use irresistible images on the packaging that leap out at shoppers and make them fill up their carts, looking forward to a tasty meal. So why should you wrap your courses in dull packaging? The same principles apply. Your product is greatly helped if you package it in a way that promises to fulfil a need or desire. In sales copy for courses, that is achieved with words and images, but the words are especially crucial.

The marketing copy on your course description page is your packaging. Don’t fill it with dry, factual information when you can fill it with the tantalizing benefits that will be attained upon competing the course! That’s what gets buyers’ juices flowing and gets them much further towards hitting the ‘Buy’ button.

We can offer two articles on how to write irresistible course description copy. One was on this page a while back, and it walks you through the stages of building up a picture in the buyer’s mind of how much better their life will be when they have taken the course. Here it is – have a read. We’ll wait.

The second article is a blog post from that covers similar territory with a different approach, and also chucks in some advice on traffic strategy and link structure. It’s a textual summary of a video posted on called 5 Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Creating, Launching and Selling Online Courses. That video is linked to in the post. (Top tip: too many people try to create an online course for themselves, rather than for the market).

Why have we used an image of tomatoes? Read the blog post from to find out.

What is an LMS?

December 2017

Continuing Education (CE) is a highly lucrative market. Demand is higher than ever for skills ‘top-ups’ at various times after leaving secondary or higher education as more people opt for just-in-time learning to build their careers. But in an open market, CE providers need to stay competitive with their technological delivery systems as user experience draws level with content quality in influencing buying decisions. A CE LMS must manage credits and certificates and integrate closely with CRM, AMS, analytics, email marketing and other systems.

LMS consultant John Leh of Talented Learning has posted his recipe for success in building CE technology infrastructure. Leh gives an enlightening rundown of the must-have technology features for today’s CE providers, covering User Interface, eCommerce, Social Learning, Gamification, CE Management, Integrations, License Models, Mobile, Globalization, Content Creation, Testing, and Video.

On the subject of eCommerce, Leh writes “Discounts, coupons, and promotional pricing can dramatically improve your sales – especially when those capabilities are tightly integrated with shopping cart and checkout capabilities.”

As market leader in eCommerce for training and learning, Course Merchant has the fullest range of the above features, each one developed specifically to make it more profitable to sell courses online.

Read John Leh’s full article here

What is an LMS?

December 2017

What is an LMS?

Those who are thinking of taking their traditional face-to-face classroom training online will probably have heard the term ‘LMS’. So what exactly is an LMS, and what does it do?

An LMS is an online repository of learning information that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, who is equipped with a username and password, or who has purchased a course through Course Merchant, which provides single sign-on with instant access. The LMS presents learning materials to learners in various formats like video, audio, text, images and animations. It allows them to progress through online courses and take tests and exams, and issues certificates upon successful completion.

An LMS can also record data on learning activities which are useful for business optimisation, such as percentage of learners who complete a course, time taken to complete a course, number of test attempts, quiz scores and much more. This data can be used to fine-tune the training offer to improve its effectiveness, or to sell more courses in the case of an online training academy.

LMS’s can be cloud-based or self-hosted, desktop, mobile or both. There are over 650 LMS’s in existence! So which type is right for your organisation?

This article by is a good introduction to the types of LMS you will encounter and the top features to look out for.

If you are not sure what an LMS (Learning Management System) is and need to find out more, read Christopher Pappas’s article here.

What managers really think about learning technology

November 2017

What managers really think about learning technology

There’s an interesting interview coming up on November 30th on Learning Now TV, a live-streaming internet L&D TV channel. When it has aired it will be available 3 days later at

The program will feature Owen Ferguson, MD of GoodPractice, discussing his company’s research into learning tech at work and the extent to which managers have a negative view of it. He will be revealing some of the results from the review, which is titled ‘Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think’.

It's a promising teaser, and we are looking forward to watching the show.

"In recent years, there’s been a lot of discussion about learning technology in organisations, and a school of thought that employees have a negative perception of technology that’s provided at work. This report considers the extent to which this narrative is true in the real world," says Ferguson.

So we're on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what happens when real, boots-on-the-ground employees who are often sold the benefits of L&D tech by their superiors tell us what they REALLY think of it all. How useful do they actually find it? How accessible is it to them? Which options do they use when faced with specific workplace challenges?

Catch the show live at 10 am and then 8pm GMT here or watch it 3 days later here.

Where will the LMS be in 5 years time

November 2017

Where will the LMS be in 5 years’ time?

This week we have read online articles with diametrically opposed predictions of where the LMS is heading. One proclaimed the demise of the LMS as it makes way for something else not too clearly defined, and another stated that the LMS is becoming increasingly central to enterprises and education, and isn’t going anywhere.

With so much crystal ball-gazing going on as new standards like xAPI start to work their way into the market and learner expectations change at the speed of light, we came across one balanced view from Virtual College. While stopping short of making outright predictions, this article does suggest that the LMS will need to evolve, and gives a couple of ways in which it might.

Stressing the need for dynamic recording of learning experiences via xAPI and CMi5, it points to an evolution into the ‘Intelligent LMS’ 5 years down the line. It will, the article suggests, keep an organisation’s skill base up to date at all times by using big data.

Check out the article here.

Dougiamas and EThink interview

November 2017

Video: Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas and eThink’s Brian Carlson discuss Moodle’s success

What is it that has driven Moodle to its success as the most used learning management system in the world? Its globetrotting founder Martin Dougiamas gives us his take on it in this interview, alongside Brian Carlson, co-founder of Moodle Partner eThink Education. It was recorded at EDUCAUSE in Philadelphia at the beginning of November.

The positive effect of open source in education is the main thing to come out of the chat, with Dougiamas taking us back to Moodle’s origins and marvelling at how these days it is used by the United Nations, Shell, Google (!) and many nonprofits and charities globally for the betterment of mankind.

The main benefit of open source is its agility, says Dougiamas, which enables changes to be made in minutes rather than months. And Carlson adds that open source is also key to great customer service from his point of view as a Moodle partner.

Course Merchant work with eThink and other Moodle partners to provide award-winning ecommerce that enables their customers to sell their eLearning via a professional, robust shopping cart system with many premium features, Find out more about Course Merchant here.

Check out the 7-minute interview here on YouTube.

When Should EdTech Startups use Moodle

November 2017

When Should EdTech Startups use Moodle

Moodle seems an obvious option for EdTech startups. It’s a mature system, early cost of ownership can be less than that of proprietary closed-source platforms, it has zillions of plugins coming out of a vibrant developer community, it works well. But is it always the best choice?

According to Moodle plugin developer Justin Hunt, writing recently on, Moodle is a good if-it-ain’t-broke platform that there is no reason to reject if it already does what you want. Perhaps surprisingly, he recommends using vanilla Moodle, which he says can do an ‘astonishing’ amount without any plugins at all. His mantra is not to throw money and resources into development efforts before fully exploring what core Moodle can do.

Hunt then gives a number of cases in which using an alternative LMS is a better choice, such as when it’s overkill for your needs or it open-source nature does not match your business logic. It depends on each individual set-up – what skillsets are available, business priorities, and levels of finance available.

Find out how to decide if Moodle is right for you by Reading the full article here.

Course Merchant earns ISO 27001 recertification

Richard Standen, CEO of Connected Shopping Ltd. and Brian Lambert of QMS Consultants

October 2017

Course Merchant earns ISO 27001 recertification

Course Merchant has been awarded a recertification for information security standard ISO 27001 after being audited by Quality Management Consultants QMS International.

The award is renewed recognition of Connected Shopping Ltd.'s systematic approach to managing sensitive company and customer information so that it remains secure. This assures the data security of people, processes and IT systems by applying a rigorous risk management process.

All staff have undergone Information Security Management Systems awareness training and the company has developed an ISMS manual of data security procedures and responsibilities.

The certificate is tangible proof that people can trust Course Merchant with their data. ISO 27001 is an internationally recognised standard, and it helps to smooth the way with new contracts with institutions and companies who will see it as an assurance that their data is safe with Course Merchant.

Josh Bersin on the future of digital learning: here’s what he says is going to happen

September 2017

Josh Bersin on the future of digital learning: here’s what he says is going to happen

We’d like to share a very forward-looking article by a veteran of the eLearning industry, Josh Bersin. On his blog, he has laid down his thoughts on the future directions of digital learning, which include the possible demise of the LMS and the emergence of a new learning architecture.

In this thoughtful post, whose main mantra is ‘Deliver learning where the people are’, Bersin covers crucial issues including:

  • The traditional concept of a ‘course catalog’ no longer feels relevant
  • Tackling the issue of ‘Employees simply do not use the LMS unless they have to’
  • The need to shift from ‘instructional design’ to ‘experience design’
  • Micro-learning vs macro-learning
  • How the emergence of XAPI aka Tin Can API and associated learning record stores (LRS) will take learning beyond the confines of the LMS
  • The forgetting curve and ‘spaced learning’
  • And more.

This is a good, thought-provoking read for HR managers and L&D professionals. It covers some of the pain points in the current L&D landscape, and how new technologies are going to address them.

Read the full article at

For your daily commute, here’s the MoodleNews podcast

September 2017

For your daily commute, here’s the MoodleNews podcast

If you use Moodle, you’ll know of the need to keep up to date with this constantly-evolving learning platform. For years MoodleNews has been a leading source of updates and info. Now they have started a weekly podcast presented by Stephen Ladek which brings us everything we need to know this week about the moodleverse in 12 minutes or less.

Called the Last Week in MoodleNews Podcast, it digests what has happened, been announced, planned or mooted on planet Moodle over the last seven days.

Topics covered in the 6 episodes thus far include:

  • Moodle Project Inspire
  • Moodle’s fifteenth birthday
  • Small and public colleges vs commercial EdTech
  • The Moodle UI and UX
  • LTI developments
  • The Moodle Hub
  • Latest themes
  • The Moodle gradebook
  • MoodleMoot US
  • MOOCs
  • And a whole lot more.

Subscribe or listen to the MoodleNews podcast here.

What can higher education learn from eCommerce?

August 2017

What can higher education learn from eCommerce?

Universities and colleges need to up their game when it comes to attracting enrollments for their postgraduate and short courses, which sit apart from the traditional undergraduate enrollments process. Information about these courses is often buried in a maze of links and departments, and can be hard to find. Such sites have a ‘legacy’ feel that can discourage modern students who are eCommerce natives.

In a LinkedIn Pulse article, we suggest HE institutions should take a leaf from eCommerce’s book and make their offer much more accessible, intuitive and user-friendly, with calls to action, simple navigation and a straightforward eCommerce flow.

Today’s users demand easy and accurate search functionality, consistent site branding, clear navigation and a shopping cart-type interface that makes purchasing simple. In today’s HE market, users will shop around until they find such an interface, and abandon sites that don’t make the process as straightforward as possible.

Read the full article here.

Boost course sales by creating urgency – ethically!

August 2017

Boost course sales by creating urgency – ethically!

Advertisers everywhere play on our innate desire not to ‘lose out’ by bombarding us with messages of urgency. But as we all know, some of these are fake, misleading or transparently ridiculous. Like the countdown timers that reset themselves magically when the deadline is reached, or the dubious claim that there are ‘only 5 seats left’’ on an eLearning course where actual physical seats are non-existent and the only limit to course delivery is server bandwidth.

So how do you create a sense of urgency in a way that is effective at generating more course sales, but is ethical? How do you legitimately boost sales by being honest with people and not sounding like a slimeball? Here are a few suggestions.

Offer a time-limited discount which genuinely does expire, e.g. $100 off if you enroll in the next 48 hours. Do this from time to time, not consecutively, otherwise buyers will quickly see through the ruse. Be specific with time limitations. Say ‘Offer expires September 1’ rather than ‘limited time only!’.

Like hotel booking sites, a date stamp on a ‘lowest price’ deal creates buying urgency on an online course site and has been shown to convert lazy, procrastinating users into card-wielding buying machines.

Don’t just slap messages of urgency onto course description pages – weave urgency into all your sales and marketing copy by aligning the offer with what the user needs. Talk to their pain points and show how you are going to solve them. That’s the meat in the sandwich. You just need to create hunger to make people buy the sandwich quickly.

Add an extra incentive to your time-limited offer, such as a supplementary module, PDF download, or reduced price on another course. Send out email reminders with direct links to the purchase page as the deadline approaches.

On tutor-supported courses, you can of course state that places are limited to x seats, because tutors are human and have to eat and sleep. Yet according to iacquire’s blog, research has shown that mentioning the quantity of a product available, even without mentioning that further stock would not be available, increased conversions by 508 per cent. So maybe this tactic is not such a lame duck after all – just use with caution and good taste.

How to write a compelling course description that sells

July 2017

How to write a compelling course description that sells

Your course description page is the main shop window for your course. When your carefully planned SEO has done its job and driven buyers to this crucial landing page, it needs to close the loop and convince them to act. To convince people to buy in one visit, it needs to tell a story in a series of steps that lead the buyer down the path to purchase.

Step 1 - Focus on a single vision.

Craft a line of copy that places an image in the learner’s mind of a tangible benefit they will gain from taking your course. Instead of writing dry copy like ‘In this course, you will learn how to play the trumpet’, put up an image of Winton Marsalis and write ‘learn the secrets of the great players!’. This projects the learner’s mind forward to a time when they have achieved a great benefit by taking your course.

Step 2 – Connect the vision to a benefit.

‘Learn the secrets of the great players and blow your friends away!’

Step 3 – Build up the detail.

‘Learn the secrets of the great players and blow your friends away! You just need a trumpet, a pair of lips and this course.’

Step 4 – Make the benefit clearer.

‘Learn the secrets of the great players and blow your friends away! You just need a trumpet, a pair of lips and this course. You can sound like Winton Marsalis by learning this simple tune in one day.’ (Obviously be careful not to over-promise – this is just an example! Find the right balance for your course)

Step 5 – Speak to their curiosity, needs, fears and desires.

‘Learn the secrets of the great players and blow your friends away! You just need a trumpet, a pair of lips and this course. You can sound like Winton Marsalis by learning this simple tune in one day.

The trumpet is one of the great instruments, spanning classical, jazz, rock and beyond. Winton Marsalis started out playing with these very same simple steps. Learn a lifelong skill that will make you new friends.’

Step 6 – Add a call to action.

‘Learn the secrets of the great players and blow your friends away! You just need a trumpet, a pair of lips and this course. You can sound like Winton Marsalis by learning this simple tune in one day.

The trumpet is one of the great instruments, spanning classical, jazz, rock and beyond. Winton Marsalis started out playing with these very same simple steps, and so can you. Learn a lifelong skill that will make you new friends.

You can sit there wishing or you can grab a trumpet and get playing today – guaranteed.’

Try these steps for your course, to build up a compelling picture in the customer’s mind of how it will benefit them.

You can build on this further by including a short video that either walks them through these steps, or adds a final encouragement to buy by reinforcing the vision of benefits and success. Video is proven to increase sales from course landing pages.

Polish your course description page until it shines. It has a single purpose: to sell your course, so make every word and image count!

D2L Fusion 2017 19-20 July, Las Vegas

July 2017

D2L Fusion 2017 19-20 July, Las Vegas

Course Merchant are attending and presenting at D2L Fusion 2017 at the Bellagio, Las Vegas on July 19-20. Fusion is D2L’s annual conference that brings together forward-thinking decision makers focused on improving teaching and learning through innovation. This year’s keynote speaker is noted inventor, computer scientist, author and futurist Ray Kurtzweil.

Course Merchant is a D2L partner and will be presenting on the topic of eCommerce in Higher Education. The location is Tower Ballroom 7 and the time is 11:30 am on Wednesday 19th July.

We will also be at Booth 308 for the duration of Fusion, so if you are there, drop by for a chat with Martin and Mike about selling your courses online. Follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #D2Lfusion, and you can also follow the adventures of D2L’s moose mascot via #D2Lmoose.

Learning Campaigns: learning programs on steroids

June 2017

Learning Campaigns: learning programs on steroids

Corporate training programs are too often hidden away on an LMS, with only the occasional deadline reminder email to help them see the light of day. One way of bringing a learning program to life is to visit the marketing department for a while and see the techniques they use to promote the company’s brand and products. Many of these can be applied to an internal training program to turn it into a learning campaign that increases awareness, engagement, participation and retention.

Marketing folks talk about Points of Contact: the digital and physical channels by which they can reach people with messages about a product, service or brand. Which of the following are available to use in a learning campaign?

Business social channels
Face to face
Leadership meetings
Company Intranet
Promotional collateral

How can they be used to embed learning behaviours? The more Points of Contact used, the more times the learning messages will be repeated and kept fresh in the workforce’s mind. A full-blown, consistent and sustained marketing campaign to push your product (learning) creates a learning funnel similar to the marketeers’ sales funnel, taking employees on a journey through awareness, interest, decision and action and fostering a community of loyal learners. Messaging should be punchy and well planned so as not to be too repetitive. Make the learning program a brand, and market it just as your marketing department do your company’s brand. Be funny, be creative, be impactful. Liberate the learning from the confines of the LMS by sending round bite-sized quizzes and memory-joggers to keep the learning juices flowing.

Getting familiar with what your marketing team does will give you plenty of ideas to put your learning program front and centre of company life and culture.

4 Tips For Success in Selling Online Courses

June 2017

4 Tips For Success in Selling Online Courses

This article is intended to help the small subject matter expert entrepreneur take a set of slides or a collection of notes and turn them into a marketable eLearning product. Subject matter experts who sell their knowledge as online courses aren’t all trained instructional designers. If you are one, great! But for the rest of you, here are some tips for turning your raw enthusiasm for your subject into engaging, memorable online courses.

1. Research

“Research consists of seeing what everyone else sees but thinking what no one else has thought.” - Albert Szent-Györgyi.

Research is the first step in building a successful business plan for your course. From learning what the market value of your course is to its actual substance.

  • Search the web for courses similar to what you want to offer. Read reviews of them, to try to learn from any mistakes that have been made in design or content that have turned learners off. If they are not too expensive, buy one and work through it, just to see how much better you can do it. If your course is unique, congratulations. You are an e-learning pioneer and have your market cornered by default!
  • Consider your target market’s skill level and decide at what level to pitch your content. Is it going to be in-depth and detailed with challenging quizzes, or more general and lighter (but always memorable)? Keep this level constant throughout the course. Try to visualise a typical learner as a real live person in as much detail as you can: what their reading habits and educational level are likely to be, how much time they are likely to have for study, etc. Then imagine them actually taking your course. Do you see any snags?
  • Think about how to break up your content into modules. How long should it take an average person to study each module? Shorter is better here because, like it or not, people’s attention spans are shortening in our digital world. Don’t dump in great swathes of text. That’s just putting a book online and calling it a course.
  • Write down what is in it for the learner. What exactly are the desired learning outcomes? Make a list of these and make sure you include it in your course description as well as at the beginning of your course. This helps to grab their attention and give them a clear focus.
  • Learners only read 28% of a typical course text. They skim. So when planning and writing your content, keep it as crisp and punchy as you can. Try not to waste words.

2. Landing Page

There are a few unique elements that you will need to make your landing page memorable.

  • Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • The main headline
  • A supporting headline
  • A reinforcement statement
  • A closing argument
  • The hero shot (images/video showing context of use)
  • The benefits of your offering
  • A bullet point list summary of benefits
  • Benefit and features in detail
  • Course creditability.
  • A single conversion goal – your Call-To-Action (CTA) (with or without a form)

Your page should look good no matter which device loads it. Consumers don’t think of surfing the net on their mobile as being any different than surfing on their tablet, desktop or laptop. Make sure you’re providing the right customer experience across every platform. The best approach is to use responsive design, so that half the work is already done here as the page will automatically adapt when viewed on smartphones and tablets.

3. Cost

Your course must not be so expensive as to scare people off. Look at the prices and try to get a feel for the market value of what you plan to sell. Think carefully about your pricing. The golden question is ‘Would I happily pay this price for this course?’

Most sites that sell courses say the sweet spot for sales is $29. If you have a course that you value at $600, try and break it up into modules such as I,II, III, etc. and incrementally increase the price so that the total price of all modules will net you more than if you sold it at one high price. 6 modules sold at $125 will net you more than one module at $600.

4. Advertising

It doesn't matter if you have the best product in the world, if nobody knows about it then it is worthless to your customers. Studies have shown that even spending just $1 a day on a previously unadvertised product can result in a 1000% increase in brand awareness and interest.

A basic guideline to budgeting advertising is to spend 5% of your annual protected sales on advertisements per month. This may not seem like a lot but if you sell a product that is $250 and you want to sell 20 units then your 5% investment per month would be $250, netting you an unadjusted profit of $2000 per year, and this is not counting the increased gains you will make from the additional sales you will get from the advertising.

Another guide to use is to determine how many units you will have to sell to break even with your investment. Again if your product is retailed at $50 and you invest $200 in advertising then you will have to sell 4 to break even. If you have a projection of selling 50 courses a month then this cost of advertising is very low.

4 Lessons Higher Education Can Learn from eCommerce

June 2017

4 Lessons Higher Education Can Learn from eCommerce

As a D2L partner, Course Merchant were asked to contribute to a post on D2L’s blog that explored how Higher Education can benefit from eCommerce. Course Merchant’s managing director Richard Standen was interviewed by D2L and outlined his vision of the future of eCommerce in Higher Ed.

Pointing out that institutions will have to become 21st century ‘retailers’, Mr Standen says he believes they will have to invest in online brand-building through digital marketing, just as other businesses do. But the benefits could well outweigh the costs as the Higher Education sector finds a whole host of new markets for their courses and services. He suggests institutions look to successful courseware sites like Udemy and Coursera for inspiration – because they will increasingly be competing with them.

He also stressed the importance of a quality user experience in online teaching and a slick and efficient eCommerce flow, so as to minimise the loss of students at the virtual checkout.

Read the full post here.

Course Merchant will be attending Fusion 2017, the annual D2L conference, in Las Vegas this July, and will be presenting about eCommerce in Higher Education.

You Need a Good Content Portfolio

June 2017

You Need a Good Content Portfolio

We all know that content marketing is essential for any business to succeed today, and that includes the online training business. You need to have a lot of content if you hope to stand a chance against your competitors. This includes all of your content – on your site, social media, video, audio, and more. The more quality content you have, the better your SEO will be and the better your search results. This can help you to increase the number of people who come to your site and buy your training course.

Keep in mind that having a good content portfolio does not merely mean that you need to have a large amount of content. You actually need to have high quality content that people are interested in consuming and sharing. Without quality in your content, your SEO work will not do you much good at all.

The content you push out must appeal to the needs and desires of your target customers. It does NOT have to be all about your product. The classic example of good content marketing is John Deere Tractors, who as long ago as 1895 produced a magazine for farmers, aimed at all aspects of farming life, not just tractors. That content helped greatly to make John Deere a household name in the farming community, and ultimately led to the company dominating the tractor market. So, appeal to your target market’s core interests, even where they are not directly associated with your course. This sets you up as a source of quality knowledge and makes them more likely to buy from you.

Quality comes first, but you do also need to think about the quantity. It is very important that you continue to put out new content regularly if you want to keep climbing the rankings, or to stay at the top - if you are already there. This means that you need to keep putting out blog posts, videos, and you need to continue to be active on social media.

All of this will help you to increase your Internet footprint, and it can help you to build a solid foundation of high quality backlinks that go to your site. If you do not keep up with content creation, you will find that your rankings start to slip. Without having fresh content, there is really no reason for people to keep coming to your site. Eventually, they will forget about you and move on. There are certainly plenty of other options on the Internet to get their attention.

When it comes to creating your content, you have to be aware that it actually needs to be fresh. You can’t keep rehashing the same material unless you have something different to say or some new insight or tip to add.

Why Should You Invest in SEO

May 2017

Why Should You Invest in SEO?

It broadens your reach

SEO still works very well, but it is not only about adding as many keywords as possible in an effort to trick the search engines into giving you a high ranking. It’s about providing the people who come to your site with actual valuable content. You need to focus on your site users – the people you want to take your training course – when you are implementing SEO strategies.

When you do this, you will see that you have a higher position on the search engine rankings, and that means that you will be getting more organic traffic. Naturally, this has the potential to translate into more sales.

SEO is likely to become even more prevalent in the future. It is already part of video and audio searches, in addition to text. Investing in quality SEO today can help you to continue to improve your organic traffic now and for the foreseeable future.

It Is Cost Effective

Another one of the good reasons to invest in SEO is that it is a very cost effective branding and marketing strategy. When you compare SEO to other types of marketing, it is easy to see the value and the price difference.

While pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can work and can help to provide you with more revenue faster, they are more expensive to implement. One of the beautiful things about SEO is that the content that you create can work for you around the clock today and many years from now. It provides you with organic traffic that comes to your site because visitors are genuinely interested in what you have to offer, and will continue doing this for as long as the content exists.

Does it take longer? Yes, but you can still see a good return on your investment. SEO is not the only type of marketing and branding techniques that you should implement, but it is something that needs to be a part of your overall strategy.

You Can Target Your Audience

One of the other nice things about SEO is the fact that you are able to target your ideal audience when you use the right content and keywords. When you understand your ideal audience and create SEO content for them, it will be easier for them to find you when they go through search engines.

In addition, you are able to localize your SEO, which can help in some instances. If you are trying to see to a specific geographic area or city, for example, you can use local search terms, such as the name of the city, in your content. This will help to increase your page ranking when people use your search terms and city.

Since so many people use their phones when they are out, having local search engine optimization can be a huge boon for many businesses today.

Next week: some top SEO best practices

Bridge over troubled water: Course Merchant

May 2017

Bridge over troubled water: Course Merchant

Selling online courses is a booming business. Training companies and subject matter experts are profiting from the e-learning delivery channel as users go mobile and expect to be able to study anywhere, any time. But the gap between the LMS (Learning Management System) and the e-commerce side for taking payments is fraught with difficulty. Basic e-commerce plugins for LMS’s are inflexible and rarely cover a merchant’s needs in the real world, so most end up looking for an e-commerce solution that has a more practical range of features.

Course Merchant is a full-featured e-commerce platform built specifically for selling courses online. Its customers include Universities, Museums, Government Agencies, Training Companies and e-learning Entrepreneurs in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and across Europe. In a nutshell, it bridges the gap between e-learning and e-commerce.

Course Merchant links your site directly to the LMS, so you don't need a WordPress site and extra plugins to get them talking to each other. CM handles the connection between your store - which can be on your existing website - and the LMS, giving seamless payments, enrollments, sales reports, and (with Moodle) student attendance and gradebook data. An optional CRM reporting module can process Moodle data into a fully-searchable database from which any number of management reports can be generated.

The Course Merchant store is design-matched to your existing website by professional web designers. Users are unaware that they have been redirected to Course Merchant, because it sits on your site under a URL like This means users have an intuitive shopping experience that all appears to take place on your own website. This reduces the shopping cart abandonment that can happen when users suddenly find themselves in a separate and different-looking ecommerce environment.

As for the payment options available, Course Merchant works with any hosted payment gateway. New payment gateway integrations are being built all the time as the landscape changes. No credit card details are handled by Course Merchant itself. Full Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is assured by handing off the payment processing to the gateways themselves.

Choosing an LMS

May 2017

Choosing an LMS: Hosted, proprietary or open source?

Learning Management Systems are either hosted by you or hosted by a company. A self-hosted system is software that you download and install on your own server. This can work if you operate within an organisation with its own dedicated IT staff to maintain the system and keep it running. For most purposes, however, an externally hosted LMS is more practical.

A hosted LMS is cloud-based and is hosted by the vendor on their own servers and accessible by learners any time, from anywhere, by logging in with their username and password. The vendor company usually provides 24/7, 365 support and creates backups every 24 hours. You should also have your own administration area where you can upload and edit courses, interact with students and send out announcements. You will pay a recurring hosting fee for a hosted LMS, but they take care of all the IT maintenance and support.

Which LMS?

There are over 600 different Learning Management Systems out there! Some are specialised for a particular purpose and others are for more general use. Some are open-source, some are proprietary (closed-source), depending on the business model of the company or organisation that created them. For your purposes, all that matters is that you get the features and functionality you need and that it is within your budget. Many LMSs offer a free trial. But trying out even a fraction of the 600-plus systems out there would take a lot of time. Below are brief descriptions of three of the most proven and popular systems.

A popular proprietary LMS is Brightspace by Desire2Learn (now called D2L). It focuses on usability, collaborative tools, personalised learning paths for students and social platforms like instant messaging and videoconferencing, and has impressive analytics and reporting capabilities.

One very popular LMS is Moodle. It is open-source and free. Unless you are an expert you will need to pay a Moodle hosting provider to take care of the technical side to keep it up and running. That is true for any Learning Management System that you don’t host yourself. An advantage of Moodle is that the software itself is open-source and free so it reduces startup costs. It has a very active community of users and developers around the world who keep adding new features, updates and plugins to keep it user-friendly and up to date. It has a corporate-oriented paid version called Totara, with extra features for larger teams. Another Moodle variant is Joule, which is paid and has added functionality, full support and its own authoring tools.

Kallidus is a proprietary LMS which, like Brightspace, offers personalised learning paths, collaborative tools, intelligent analytics and multi-device support. It has an app that students can use to download content and view it offline.

Video and audio

May 2017

Video and audio

People who buy your course like to feel they have spent their money on a professional product. High quality, consistent video and audio will go a long way towards this, and word of mouth about your course should be better. Here are a few tips towards achieving this.

Learn about the media you plan to use. If using video, set up as professional a recording area as you can. Fortunately digital video cameras are now pretty cheap – you can even get good results with a stills camera in video mode as long as you invest in a tripod. Smartphones shoot HD video of good quality if the lighting is adequate.

Whichever type of camera you use, get lighting, sound levels and image quality just right to project a professional image, and keep them consistent from video to video. With repetition, your video ‘set’ becomes part of your brand. It also demonstrates professionalism. Of course you can vary the type of video you do – some can be the ‘roving reporter’ type where the presenter follows people around doing quick ad hoc interviews, some can be of a static figure talking, others can be multi-person discussions, slideshow presentations, or almost anything. But for each type of video, keep the format familiar so that viewers are instantly oriented and have an idea what to expect.

The same goes with audio. A decent microphone is essential because people are likely to give up listening to audio that is muffled or scratchy or echoing. USB microphones give better sound quality than ones that connect via the jack socket. Good quality ones include the Samson Meteor and Blue Yeti. They give professional sound quality for a relatively small outlay. For editing audio, there are excellent free tools such as Audacity, and if you use a Mac it will have audio editing tools installed as standard. Make sure you have a quiet, non-reverberating place to record, and keep the environment the same for all recordings to keep the audio quality and tone the same.

If you are showing your learners things that happen on a computer screen, you’ll need a screen recorder or screencast tool. Two examples are Screencast-O-Matic and Camtasia. Camtasia has more features, but costs more and for most purposes Screencast-o-Matic is fine: you can edit recordings, add callouts and text bubbles, highlight areas of the screen and zoom in and out. You can record a scripted audio presentation to avoid the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that happen in spontaneous speech, and then add the screen activity over it. With a little practice this is a good way to keep your videos tidy and avoid long pauses and too much improvised speech.

Formatting your courses

April 2017

Formatting your courses

We’ve been looking mostly at how to market your courses recently. Let’s take a break from that and look at actual course creation and formatting. The look and feel of your courses is almost as important as the learning content itself. Learners like to feel they are engaging with a quality product. Here are some tips on achieving that and generating customer loyalty. But first, make sure you’re in control of the whole process.

Make sure you’re in control

It’s important to maintain editorial control over your content. If you need to make changes to your materials, you don’t want to be reaching out to a third party to do it for you. You need to be agile and responsive and stay in charge of the whole user experience. So make sure you have access to all your web content and are able to edit and modify it when you need to. Make sure you know how to upload new audio, video, text and images and that the changes happen straight away.


When supplying documents to your learners, present as professional an image as possible. Brand all your documents with a consistent template. You can use sites like Upwork or Fiverr to find somebody to produce an attractive document template for you. You can usually get good quality work for a small outlay. Convert Word docs into PDF for sending out. This preserves your formatting and branding across the different platforms the documents are likely to be viewed on.

Use a clear, easy to read font. Using a fancy font may seem like a nice touch, but it’s likely to be harder to read. Go for a standard font – they’re popular precisely because they’re easy to read and don’t draw attention to themselves. Don’t be tempted to use different colours for headings, etc. Black and white is what people expect when presented with text, and there’s no good reason to give them anything else. Headings can be a single colour like blue, but keep it consistent. Details like that become part of your brand.

Visual content

ELearning is a very visual medium. Learners are attracted to content that looks good and makes them feel good about using it. So even if your courses are not all-singing-all-dancing multimedia extravaganzas and are based on simple PDFs and slides, a little effort to make them look good, consistent and professional will go a long way to reassure your learners that they have invested in a well-thought-out learning product.

For images, unless you create your own, you may wish to subscribe to iStockPhoto or similar, or use a service like Freepik or Pixabay. The latter are free but require an image credit wherever they are used, unless you pay a small subscription fee to enable you to use the images without having to credit them. Terms can vary from image to image – be careful to use images according to the terms under which you acquired them. Some stock photo companies scan the web for their images and will write to you with a takedown order and demand payment if their terms have been violated.

Don’t get yourself in that situation. Free images are not necessarily free to use any way you wish. Get to know what terms like Public Domain and Creative Commons Licence mean so you can keep yourself safe when using images in your content. The safest way of all, of course, is to create your own images.

Break it up

Avoid long, unbroken pieces of content. Remember from your own learning experiences that sometimes learners can suffer from information overload and switch off. So chunk your content into bite-sized pieces. Break up long paragraphs into bullet points. Use bold subheadings that clearly categorise the information. The course itself should also be a digestible chunk. A good rule of thumb is: if a course cannot be completed in one sitting (30 minutes or so), split it into a series of courses.

Next week: video and audio.

Sell more courses by getting creative with your pricing

April 2017

Sell more courses by getting creative with your pricing

Sure, everyone likes to save money. However, you shouldn’t lead with saying that you have the lowest-priced course of its kind or that buyers are going to get a discount – even if it might be true. You can save those things for later, after you have the customer in the mood to buy. Even if you have a low-priced course, the customers aren’t going to buy if it isn’t right for them. Therefore, you need to work hard to show them the benefits of the course. Make them want it … make them need it, before they ever see the price. Then, when they see that they are getting a good deal on the course, it is easier than ever to hit the button to buy. When it does come to talking business with the customer, you can entice more people to buy if you get creative with your pricing in a few ways. Your ability to do this will depend on the ecommerce gateway you are using. With straightforward PayPal, for example, you can manually alter the prices and manually reset them, but a more sophisticated ecommerce system will allow more flexibility and help generate more sales. Here are some ways to manipulate your pricing to drive sales growth. See which ones you can do with what you’ve got.

  • Offer course bundles. Bundle a related course in with the purchase to sweeten the deal. It can be free or half price, but make it a quality course, not an afterthought. It’s important to deliver the value you have promised, as this can drive good word-of-mouth and customer loyalty.
  • Give limited offers. This can be applied to the above as well to create urgency. Limited offers could include early bird discounts for a new course, a Summer Special, or any time period that is appropriate for your course or courses. Stage your own ‘Black Friday’ at a suitable time and generate more income.
  • Put a timer on it. A fun way of creating urgency is to have a countdown timer on your website course page showing the price going up as the hours tick down. This can be repeated every week or month. It’s interesting how people will bookmark your course page and return when they know the price will be lowest. There are even sites with ‘yo-yo’ timers that go up and down, which are a way of gamifying the buying experience: buyers watch and wait for the optimum time to buy. This style will not suit every type of learning content, but it’s memorable and has been shown to work in internet retail.
  • Offer group discounts. Sometimes a company will want to buy multiple seats for its employees, or a group of learners might club together to take your course. Offer tiered discounting to encourage large purchases, such as 15% for 5 places, 25% for 10 places, 35% for 20 places and so on. If your ecommerce system can handle this automatically it makes it easier. Otherwise it may be possible manually, or by billing the customer by invoice and doing the enrollments yourself.
  • Coupons and special offers. If your checkout system can be set to accept coupon codes for discounts, set up a coupon code and send it out in your newsletter (here’s an article on how to create effective newsletters). Or place the code on your website. Offer a fairly generous discount – 5% isn’t that tempting really, so go for 15% or more.
  • Offer membership discounts. This can be achieved by giving a discount to members of particular organizations likely to use your course, or by building your own membership database. The latter can be as simple as offering a reduced course price to those who sign up to your newsletter.
Tell a Story Using Power Words

April 2017

Tell a Story Using Power Words

You should consider the benefits of telling stories rather than overusing adjectives with your copywriting. Describing the course as amazing, excellent, great, high-level and the like is not going to win you many customers. They know that they are essentially reading ad copy so when you use words such as this, they have no effect. Instead, you need to tell stories that help to keep people interested.

Let’s imagine you are selling a course where people can learn to lose weight. You could talk about how you were out of shape and how frustrated you were. Talk about your triumph as you started to shed the pounds and to get stronger. This ties in nicely with making it personal and it’s just one type of story you could tell. You could talk about founding the company, and you could use testimonials from people who have actually used the course and succeeded.

There are countless stories that can help you to sell the course. You need to find the ones that will work the best for your product and the type of customers that you are trying to attract.

In your copy, you will also want to make sure that you are using the right types of words, commonly referred to as ‘power words’ that you may want to sprinkle into your copywriting include:

  • You – Remember that you are trying to make it personal, so talking to the reader by using “You” is helpful. It gets their attention.
  • Because – Since people were young, the answer to why they should do something usually started with the word “because”. When they asked why they couldn’t have candy before dinner, their parents said, “Because it will spoil your appetite.” When you use because in your writing, it can have a similar effect.
  • Instantly – We live in the age of the Internet and fast food restaurants. We want things right now. Using the word instantly, such as, “You will instantly notice a difference in your (insert the subject of your course here) when you start” will make buyers believe that they’ve found a fast solution to their issues.
  • New – People like things that are new, including new courses and new ways of approaching old problems. When you have a new course or new methods of teaching something, it excites people and they want to try it.
  • Everything included – Helps to establish that your course is all the customer needs to buy to reach their goal.

There are many other power words. Google around and find ones that will work with your course and customers.

Next week: it’s not about price

Copywriting Be Brief and Personalise it

April 2017

Copywriting: Be Brief and Personalise it

Last week’s article was about selling more courses by making your online copy pop, and getting rid of stagnant online copywriting. Here’s the next bit: Keep it brief, and personalise your online copy to really make it shine.

Be Brief, but Still Make It Enjoyable to Read
When you are writing online marketing copy, you also need to be as concise and as simple as possible since you have limited space and a limited amount of time to catch and keep the interest of the reader. You are not trying to impress someone with flowery prose. You are trying to sell something, and the best way to do that is to get to the point. Why do they need what your course is teaching? What does your course offer? Pose such questions as bullet points, and do not forget adding one for just why should they buy from you.

This does not mean that you can’t be entertaining in your copy. In fact, you should be as entertaining as possible depending on the subject matter. If you can keep people interested and give them compelling reasons as to why they should buy from you, you will be in a good position.

While we mentioned the fact that brevity in copy is usually a good thing, keep in mind that it truly depends on what you are selling. Some courses, for example, do need to have more copy written about them. That’s fine, as long as you are sure to cut out the extra that you don’t really need. The copy should always be as long as it needs to be, no more and no less.

Make It Personal
You should also do your best to make the copy relate to readers on a personal level. If you are selling a course on how to lose weight, for example, you will want to connect with the reader on an emotional and empathetic level. You’ve been there, you know the struggle, and your product will help them to achieve the results they so desperately want.

When you can back up this emotional connection with the actual value points of the course you are providing, it will resonate with the reader. By making them understand what your course can do to better their life or make things easier in some way, you grab their interest. They are far more willing to see what you have to offer.

When you are making the copy personal, it is important that you aren’t writing to a wide audience in general. A good habit to get into when you are creating the text is to think of one person, the perfect potential buyer, and write specifically for him or her. Writing with this imaginary person in mind helps you to make the text come across as more personal and more genuine. Pretend that you are talking with a friend or a family member and you are trying to let them know everything that the course has to offer.

Remember, you should be writing to a feeling that is already in your customer. They found your information because they are interested in losing weight, for example. This means that they are already primed to listen to what you have to say in your copy. You then need to write your copy to reflect the customer’s feelings and to show them how your course, whatever it might be, can make things better.

Next week: how to tell a story using Power Words.

Get Rid of Stagnant Online Copywriting

March 2017

Get Rid of Stagnant Online Copywriting

Have you been having difficulty getting the courses you are promoting to actually get any traction? The copywriting you are using to advertise and promote the course might be the problem. Even when you might have a great course available that you truly believe in, if you don’t have copy that sizzles and really makes someone want to learn more, they are never going to take the plunge.

What you need to do right now is commit to removing all of that old and stagnant copy that is not doing you any favours and to replace it with copy that hits all of the right notes. Doing this will come from your knowledge of the course and the ideal customers you want to reach.

Whether you are selling a course on fitness, how to play the ukulele, or anything else, you have to know what you are talking about and how you can make it interesting and compelling enough to your readers that they will want to learn more about the course and ultimately choose to buy.

Let’s look at some of the most important things that you can (and should) be doing to increase the effectiveness of the copy that you are writing.

How People Read Online

One of the most important things to do when you are writing or rewriting your copy is to think about how people read material online. Few people want to read massive walls of text, especially when it is on their computer screen, their tablet, or their smartphone.

They want things to be broken up into smaller bite-sized chunks that they can skim easily. They want to have the most important things – the benefits that your course offers – outlined for them. Consider what you would want to see when you are looking up information on your course and focus on those important elements when you are creating our online copy.

Make the Reader Need to Choose Your Course

What is it that will make the course you are selling different and better than others that are on the market? What is it about the course that will help the prospective student to improve his or her situation in some way? Knowing what your “ideal customer” is looking for when it comes to the type of course you are offering is the key to getting your talking points for the copy.

Make a list of what your product offers and compare that with a list of the things that your ideal customers want or need the most. Focus your writing on where those points intercede.

Show the reader what they will be taking away from the course. Let them know what type of knowledge they will gain, and as mentioned, you want to do so in smaller blocks of text – even bullet points to highlight the most important information – so they can digest it easily.

It is very important that you are as clear as possible when you are creating your copy. Do not use obscure language when something simpler will suffice. This ties in closely with the next element we’ll discuss – being brief.

Next week: Being brief and concise, and personalisation of copy to your target market.

How Course Merchant helps you market your courses

March 2017

How Course Merchant helps you market your courses

Talented Learning CEO and Lead Analyst John Leh is a leading consultant and blogger on LMS purchase and deployment, with over 18 years of LMS consulting experience. A noteworthy recent blog post of his is Want to Sell More Content? Put More Lines in the Water.

It’s worth going through five of this respected professional’s points on boosting course sales and relating them to the eCommerce provided by Course Merchant, because there is plenty of synergy there. Without an eCommerce component, you can’t sell courses online. And it seems Course Merchant covers most of the bases John Leh mentions in his blog post.

  1. Sell more content directly to individual learners. Leh recommends promoting courses via email links, blog post links and social media. Course Merchant goes a step further by creating Buy Now links that can be pasted anywhere and take the learner straight to checkout, bypassing your store for an instant purchase. Links to course descriptions can be included alongside a Buy Now link or button so that learners who are not yet close to buying can find out more about the course before they commit.
  2. Provide personalised subject matter expertise as a premium add-on. It’s simple to create bundled products within Course Merchant, in which a premium version of a course comes bundled with a premium add-on course or other supplementary materials you can supply by other means, such as email, face to face, webinar or telephone consulting.
  3. Provide ability to purchase ‘multiple seats’. Course Merchant allows corporate purchasers to buy multiple seats, with discount bands set if required, and then allocate those seats to a cohort of learners automatically via .csv upload of a file containing first name, last name, and email address, or manually. Learners then receive a direct email link to access the LMS and start learning immediately, or at a set date in the future.
  4. Provide private, branded content options. This is principally LMS-side work. If branded content exists within the LMS, Course Merchant can provide any number of branded category pages containing products connected to specific branded areas within the LMS.
  5. Provide a private, branded learning site. For large organisations with diverse audiences who need to experience a unified corporate learning environment, Course Merchant builds stores that are design-matched to the corporate learning portal for a seamless user experience. The rest of the experience is LMS-side, where eLearning content creators can continue the branded design work.

In addition to these course marketing ideas, we would include CourseIndex, our dedicated course marketing site where you can boost your course sales by adding them to its course search engine, have content written about them, place ads, or enter into a revenue partnership.

Talented Learning are a Learning Management Systems consultancy with over 18 years of experience in helping companies plan, buy and deploy LMS and eLearning programs. They provide unbiased consulting on contract negotiation, qualified vendor identification, RFP creation and management, and a suite of further consulting services covering LMS for extended enterprise and internal employees. Course Merchant are in no way affiliated to Talented learning.

How to write compelling course content

March 2017

How to write compelling course content

Have you ever attended a lecture or class in which the professor, though an expert in his or her field, fails to engage the audience? Probably half of them fell asleep and the other half couldn’t remember much about the experience. It’s the same with e-Learning. Think about how learners will apply what they learn in your course to their real-world lives. That will guide you to create compelling and useful content.

There’s a common problem with experts. Things that occupy the mind of the expert might be of only passing interest to the newcomer. Experts are so entrenched in their subject matter that they can struggle to identify and highlight the value it represents to non-experts.

Try to bear this in mind when creating content and remember that you know so much about your field that fully opening the floodgates of your knowledge might drown your learners. You’ll need to drip-feed them by delivering your expertise in easily-digestible, bite-sized chunks. Good educators have been doing this for millennia, and e-Learning is a medium that helps rather than hinders you in designing measured, well-paced learning. The insights you gained into your target market when researching your learners is invaluable in achieving the right pacing and depth.

Here are some points to help you create engaging content:

  • Make it clear why they need to learn this. List learning objectives and outcomes.
  • Make it as interactive as possible. Get learners to do active tasks frequently, like checklists and worksheets.
  • Prune your materials to get rid of any content that is not essential. This gives it more impact and makes it more memorable.
  • Split it into chunks that are easily absorbed and roughly equal in length.
  • Use short paragraphs and bullet points.
  • Stimulate more than one sense. Use video, audio and images to convey knowledge as well as text.
  • Make sure key learning points are repeated often. Set quizzes to test their knowledge along the way.
Differentiate your offer

March 2017

Differentiate your offer

Following on from last week’s article Identify Your Audience, we’d like to present some tips on carving out your niche in the eLearning marketplace by making your courses stand out. You can achieve this by giving them a unique angle, organising them logically, and ‘productising’ them with tempting packaging.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. The most successful businesses often have a limited range of features and offerings, but do them very well. Do a small number of things in a niche, find a unique angle for presenting them, and aim to become the best course provider in that niche.

Let’s take an example at random: Excel training. That might sound dry if you are an artist or a dog trainer, but the principles are the same. Let’s for a moment say you’re an Excel ninja. This is quite a crowded market so you’ll need to differentiate yourself somehow. There are plenty of free Excel tutorials out there already, so you need to offer a special hook. How about little-known Excel shortcuts and time savers? Real-life case studies? Excel for silver surfers? Common Excel mistakes and how to avoid them? Something that piques people’s interest and gets them reading your course’s description. If your first few courses have a unique angle that engages people, you can expand later into more general topics once you have gained some followers.

If you have multiple courses, try to package them in some kind of order. This can be a simple progression, e.g. pastry making 1, pastry making 2 etc. This type of structure suggests that each course builds upon the last one and presents slightly more advanced content. In your field, the course titles might speak for themselves and not need to be numbered. The idea is to tell a story that is logical and leads learners onwards with a sense of progression. Give your courses a clear narrative and the whole package will be more appealing. Present learners with a path to follow and this will add value. Do it really well and this path differentiates you and becomes your brand.

Identify your audience

February 2017

Identify your audience

Selling courses online can be much more than just a financial transaction. It’s good when someone buys your course, but building a relationship with them so they will come back for more is even better and will be more profitable in the long term. If you research your potential learners and listen to their needs, over time you can build a brand with a loyal following. They will spread the word about your courses and attract others.

To succeed at selling courses online, you need a vision of who your target customers are, what they need and how they think. That way you have a much greater chance of cultivating a group of fans rather than just one-time customers. You might already have a course or set of courses that have sold well. In that case, the following information is also helpful in planning how to move your project forward and grow your business further.

Rather than thinking about whom you can sell to, it is more productive to think of how your course will give a genuinely valuable and positive result to learners. What is their starting point, what are their problems, issues and needs, how does your course address them, and what is the end result that will open doors for them or change their lives for the better? In other words, make your courses useful.

So who are the people in your target audience, and how do you find and nurture them by giving them a useful learning experience?

You need to home in on a group of people who will gain a direct benefit from what you have to offer. What are their demographics likely to be? Were they born into a digital world or is e-Learning a bit of a stretch for them? Here are four key points to think about:

  • What are the main challenges and issues they face, and what do I know that can help address them?
  • What is their likely level of prior knowledge in the subject? This impacts how likely they are to engage with new material. Finding out their level of knowledge in the field will guide you in creating content that is neither too advanced nor too basic.
  • What is their general level of education likely to be? Try to pitch your offer accordingly.
  • Perhaps most importantly, what are their key motivations and desires? If you can target these, you will have learners who are motivated from within. If it helps them get ahead and get closer to their dreams and goals, you have found the ideal audience for your learning offer.

Brainstorm everything you can about your target audience. How old do you think they are likely to be? What is their income level? Where do they live? Are they all native speakers or are they a mixed international audience?

Don’t make assumptions or rely on stereotypes. Try to find real evidence for your generalisations by browsing relevant forums and getting familiar with how your target group communicates. Read some publications they read. Put yourself in their shoes. Join their communities and interact. You can even engage them by setting up a survey to gauge their needs, desires, learning goals and pain points. SurveyMonkey is one good free survey tool you can use. If you word them carefully, the data from such surveys should be highly valuable to you as it gives insight about your target audience’s innermost motivations. This information will help you to mould your offer so that it has the best chance of selling.

Google some keywords and phrases that people are likely to use when searching for the kind of content you have to offer. Explore the search results they bring up. This is how people are likely to find your courses, so get a feel for the key words and phrases. Start with broad terms and refine your search gradually. Spend time learning about your market. Any Google ads that pop up in your search results are likely to be from your potential competitors. Check them out, see what they have to offer and plan how to do it better!

It’s crucial to gain a good knowledge of the other courses in your field that are on the market. Think of the price/value ratio. If you can afford it, buy one and work through it. Think like a member of your target audience and ask how well it meets your needs and whether you would be happy having paid the asking price for it. This will help you to find the sweet spot when setting prices for your own material.

As an eLearning content provider, you are also a marketer. Take a leaf out of top marketing companies’ book and get to know your customers inside out. When you know what they want (what they really, really want) , and offer it to them, they will buy.

Beyond the blog: pushing the course marketing envelope

February 2017

Beyond the blog: pushing the course marketing envelope

Blogging and writing content are important parts of a marketing strategy, but you can expand your reach further by offering content that appeals to people’s visual and auditory senses as well. Here are three ways of capturing attention in addition to blogging and writing content.

  • Podcasting. This is like having your own radio show. Recording a regular podcast and putting it on iTunes or having downloadable episodes from your website can further help to establish you as an authority figure in the industry your course is about. Invite guests on the podcast to discuss current issues in your industry or talk about news and products. Keep the tone light and fun, but include useful discussions to keep people tuning in.
  • Infographics. These are eye-catching illustrated ways of presenting data and facts. They are more engaging than lists of facts and, being images, will appear in Google image searches. Sometimes a correctly-tagged image can trump your written content in search results, so infographics are a great way to provide useful information via the visual medium. There is plenty of software available to make them – some of it even automatically creates an infographic out of data you feed into it. You can then post the infographics on Instagram, Pinterest, your site and other authority sites.
  • Video. See this post on 5 types of course marketing videos to sell your courses.
Marketing your online courses using email

February 2017

Marketing your online courses using email

You might think that email marketing is outdated now, but you’d be wrong. It has not been swept away by newer marketing methods, but exists alongside them and remains very effective. Email marketing has a relatively high return on investment, and it’s a great way to directly provide your customers with additional content that supplements the course or convinces them to take it in the first place. You can reach a large number of people in a short period and there are tools for automating your email marketing campaigns. It bypasses the process of placing content on the web and optimising it for search. Your content lands straight in your prospective customers’ inboxes.

Here are some tips for effective email marketing:

Grow your own mailing list. Buying email lists is a complete waste of time because you will just spam people who aren’t interested in buying your course. The right way to grow a mailing lists is to invite people to subscribe to your email newsletter. Then they will have agreed in advance to receive email from you, so they are more likely to actually read your messages and more likely to become a buyer in the future.

Place a newsletter sign-up form on your site (preferably every page) and in your email signature. It should ask for a minimum of information: name, email address and maybe city, but leave it at that. It needs to be quick and easy to sign up. Some of the most effective newsletter sign-up forms simply consist of an email field and a big ‘Sign up’ button next to it. Put the form and button in any other places you can think of online.

Make it easy to unsubscribe and have a privacy policy. Emails must include an ‘unsubscribe’ link which, when clicked, allows users to unsubscribe from your email list in one or two clicks. Making this process any more complicated than that can damage your reputation and get you seen as a spammer. In addition, you should have a privacy policy somewhere on your site and in every email that lets users know how you will treat their personal information, i.e. you will not sell it to third parties or disclose it in any other way.

Create quality messages to keep people subscribed. What does quality mean in this case? Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer of your course and think what sort of messages you would like to receive. What email headlines would make you open the emails? What headlines would make you send it to the trash folder? Subscribe to some email newsletters from other people and companies, and see what you think is right or wrong with their offerings.

Have a conversion goal for each email. A conversion goal is an action that you want people to take after reading the email. This could be to sign up for your course now, or visit your site to read some further content, or some other action that moves them further along in their buying journey. It’s easier to write effective emails when you have a clear goal in mind. Keep the tone conversational rather than salesy, and write as if you were to receive the email yourself. Communicate value in a human, friendly way and aim to build relationships with the recipients.

Listen to feedback. In the comments section of your blog, in replies to emails and on social media, there will be suggestions about the emails and newsletters you offer. If the requests are reasonable, add what is being asked for to the next newsletter or email. This shows that you listen to your community and you care about what they want.

Consider including audio and video in emails as it can get a better response.

You can manage an email list as simply as pasting your list of subscribers into the ‘To’ field of your email client (but always use BCC!), or it can be as sophisticated as using email campaign software such as MailChimp or sending emails from within a CRM (Customer relationship Management) system, with mail merge to personalise each email to the recipient, and much more. Start simply and build your tools as you progress.

The Importance of Your Landing Page

January 2017

The Importance of Your Landing Page

When you bring people to your site, what page will they land on? It might be different based on what you are trying to do with a particular piece of content. In some cases, people might go directly to your blog, and other times, they may go to a landing page where you delve more into your training course and have your buy button.

When you have a pay-per-click campaign or an email campaign, the links will generally send people right to your landing page. The page needs to convert the visitor into a lead, and hopefully make them want to buy your course, or at least get more information.

A good landing page will extol the benefits of the course, why yours is the right course to take, and how it can better the life of the reader in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hard sell, and the reader doesn’t have to buy at the moment. One of the best things to do on a landing page is to offer the reader something without charge. This could be an e-book, for example, or a free module of a course that showcases the quality of your learning content.

You can then request the person’s email and permission to add them to your email list in exchange for the book. Since people will be getting something free on your page, they will be more inclined to give you their email.

They are interested in your course, and you have their email… they are a lead. Now, you simply need to convert them to a buyer. Good content on your site, interaction on social media, and providing something to entice the buyer, such as the aforementioned free e-book or module, can help you to take your leads to the next level. It’s a process, but it can help you to increase the sales of your course.

Why Your Elearning Business Needs Social Media

January 2017

Why Your Elearning Business Needs Social Media

One of the biggest benefits of being on social media is the fact that you can expand your brand. No matter what type of training course you might be offering, you need to establish a strong brand if you want to be known as a trusted expert. Being active on social media will increase the number of people who know about your brand. This makes it easy to promote your brand to people who are interested in the types of courses you offer.

Since everything on social media is easy to share, the people who find your posts and content can simply click on their share button or re-tweet it. This means your content can go out to more people than you currently have, and that can turn into new fans and followers, which can become leads and eventually customers.

One of the best benefits of using social media is the fact that you can form a community online even easier than you can on your own site. The people who are following your page can not only ask you questions, but they can communicate with one another. This helps to create a sense of community and loyalty. The fast communication also means you can improve your customer service since it gives people another avenue to get in touch with you.

If your engagement is low, consider changing the type of content you are posting. Test that content and measure the success. Keep tweaking the type of posts you make to see which ones get the biggest results.

Many people don’t consider the timing of their posts, and this is a problem. You need to think about the time of day when your fans and followers tend to be the most active online, as this will increase their chance of seeing the content you post. Content posted to social media sites comes in fast and furious. Before you can blink, there are other posts trying to garner your attention.

Your fans and followers are going through the same thing. If you don’t post at the right time, and if you don’t have high quality content that grabs their attention, they might simply miss it. You can use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer that can help you get a better idea of when your users are the most active. This can help to increase engagement and activity on your social sites.

In addition, you should look at the click-through rate on the content that you post. If you have posts that lead back to your website or landing page, you want to know how many people are coming to you through social media. Your analytics tools for your blog, such as Google Analytics, can help you learn where you traffic is coming from, and you can factor that in when measuring the success of your social media efforts.

Go for the Big Three to start with: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If your course is rich in images then use Instagram and Pinterest as well. You can have free accounts set up in minutes and start attracting new customers.

Joint webinar with Moodle Partner eThink

January 2017

Join us for a joint webinar with Moodle Partner eThink on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 11am PT / 2pm ET / 7pm UK.

Industry thought leaders eThink, Course Merchant, Intelliboard and Elearning Brothers will cover innovations in Moodle Services and show how these developments are enhancing the Moodle experience.

The right way to build backlinks to your site

December 2016

The right way to build backlinks to your site

Backlinks are still one of the most important aspects of building a site that gets a good page ranking in Google and other search engines. However, many people do not truly understand what a backlink is and how to tell the difference between quality backlinks and those that could actually hurt your site.

What not to do

Don’t use link exchanges or link farms. They do still exist, and Google penalises their use. The issue with link exchanges comes when people abuse the system. In the past, this was rampant. People would join link exchanges and host hundreds of links on their site, and have those hundreds of sites host their links. This was all in an effort to climb to the top of the page rankings. It worked, but the quality of the sites that rose to the top was often very low. Google and other search engines want their users to have the best possible experience and to find the type of content they are looking for.

Now, they look for this type of activity when they are ranking websites, and they can remove your page ranking if this happens. Link exchanges look like they are an easy way to increase your page ranking, but they are only going to harm your site in the long run.

Avoid most web directories. Adding links to web directories is another old trick that Google is now wise to. You can still use them, but they need to be high quality directories respected by Google. Examples of good ones include Yahoo’s directory, DMOZ and the Best of the Web directory. These are unlikely to hurt your site’s SEO, and are probably worth it.

Article directories
In the early days of web content marketing, it seemed like a good idea to write content for article directories and include links back to your site. But human nature led to low-quality, often even unintelligible, content being posted just for the backlinks. Google wants people to find high-quality, relevant content through search, so its algorithms have devalued links from these sites as spammy, and using them will hurt your site’s SEO.

Low-quality sites in general
If you add a link to a site that you later regret – on someone else’s blog that itself doesn’t rank well, for example, here’s what to do:

  1. Contact the site owner and request that the link be taken down.
  2. If 1 fails, use the disavow command in Google Webmaster Tools to make Google ignore the unwanted link. Here’s how to do it.

What you should be doing

Write only quality content. Never keyword-stuff or write anything but content that is relevant to what you do. Post quality content on your own site and make sure anything you post elsewhere is of similarly high quality and relevance.

Post it on authority sites. Any site you add your content and links to should be highly relevant to the industry or subject area your courses are about. They should also have a high page authority, which predicts how well a page will rank in search results. Some of that authority will transfer to your site if you have a relevant link from it. Here is some information about page authority.

Build backlinks slowly and gradually. Google smells a rat if there is a sudden influx of links to your site, and may believe that you have somehow manipulated the system. Playing the long game will get better results than having a concentrated frenzy of backlink creation. Like growing vegetables, your site’s SEO will grow organically rather than turning into a hormonally-pumped freak with no flavour. Google will like this and rank you better.

Promote every piece of content you write. It should become second nature to post links to your articles on social media after posting them on the web. If you have an email newsletter, include them in there too.

Next week: Social Media Marketing

Marketing your courses: Content Marketing

December 2016

Marketing your courses: Content Marketing

Your courses will not sell themselves. How nice it would be to put them online and just wait for the sales to start coming in! Sadly, you would be waiting a long time. Nobody will find your courses unless you put a marketing plan into action and maintain it. The following is a guide to using content marketing to raise awareness of your courses and build an online presence that sells them.

Nowadays most people look for their news and information on the Web. So that’s where you need to be. But it’s not enough to place ads. Everybody is besieged by ads and it’s getting harder to generate interest from them. So marketing habits are changing. Customers require multiple points of contact with you before they will buy a course from you. Rather than the old way of placing ads and hoping lots of people will buy, marketing now involves nurturing a relationship with the prospective customer and leading them down the sales funnel towards the sale. Content marketing aims to build awareness, interest and trust, leading to action and finally loyalty.

Hardly anyone is taken in by the hard sell any more. What works best these days is regularly providing information that is genuinely helpful to people, with the aim of building your image as an expert and a source of useful information. Then they are more likely to buy from you when you invite them to. If you devote time to it regularly, it works. That’s why marketers these days like to say ‘Content is King’. You can post content to your own site and then link back to it on social media, or write for a website or blog that has a lot of readers in the industry your course covers. It can be surprising how receptive website owners are to people offering new material that is more than just a blatant product pitch. You can get a regular guest post slot if you write well enough, with a link to your website. Here are some ideas for content on your site or on somebody else’s that builds your image as a trusted source of knowledge from whom people are willing to buy courses:

  • Write posts about important events in the industry your course covers.
  • Write a profile of an important person in your field.
  • Answer some of the frequently asked questions you get from customers and potential customers.
  • Make a PowerPoint presentation showcasing your expertise and put it on SlideShare. Or use previous slides you have made for a presentation or lecture and repurpose them for marketing.
  • Make a video of the slide show with a voiceover by yourself and put it on YouTube and Vimeo. That’s just one way to use video. Video is good for marketing because people engage with video more easily than text.
  • Curate other people’s content. If you find something of interest, link to it on your blog or site, saying in your own words why it’s of interest. Always credit the author – never pass off somebody else’s content as your own. Alternatively, use that piece as inspiration to write your own post in your own words and with your own ideas. As always, be careful about copyrighted images. If in doubt, use your own.
  • Find a way to link your course with something that’s happening in popular culture right now and write a post about it.
  • Write about some of the tools you have used to make your job easier. Try to make the information immediately useful to your potential customers. Produce content regularly and post it at the same time on the same day of the week if possible. Make a regular appointment with readers and some will eventually bookmark you and check for your next piece.

Next week: Building Backlinks to your Site

Moodle 3.2 offers new milestones in usability

December 2016

Moodle 3.2 offers new milestones in usability

Moodle 3.2 was released for download on Monday December 5th. The latest release of the world’s most popular learning management system brings several former plugins into the fold of Moodle core, making them available as default and granting them full support by Moodle HQ. Other changes to the core code have been made to bring new possibilities to the table. Here is a rundown of some key new features, with links to fuller information below.

Boost Theme

A fresh new appearance designed to unify the desktop and mobile experience. Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas says of Boost: ‘The changes are not too radical, so long-time Moodle users will learn it quickly, but they give Moodle sites a fresh, new appearance that aligns with many websites and apps that you might be familiar with.

‘With that comes better navigation, configuration and more space on your screen for important course content. We really hope the community enjoys it, and help us refine it further in releases to come.’

Media Player

A much improved, modern media player that offers faster streaming, subtitles and captions, and a wider range of supported file types.

User Tours

Users of Moodle 3.2 can orientate themselves within the LMS more quickly with a suite of user tours, which were previously plugins. Teachers and Administrators can give walkthroughs of their content to make students feel at home.

Shareable competency frameworks

Import and export competency frameworks as .csv files, and share them between Moodle instances.

Interactive report charts

Interactive and responsive charts now show reports dynamically to course participants.

There’s plenty more. Some key new features are summarised in the infographic at and screenshots plus full technical information can be found at

Try the Boost theme

Test drive Moodle 3.2

Learning Analytics White Paper Blackboard

December 2016

Blackboard Supremo unveils Learning Analytics roadmap

Blackboard have been thinking about Learning Analytics lately. Learning Analytics are crucial to streamlining and optimizing eLearning programs over time, yet they are a concept many in the eLearning industry struggle to pin down, or over-simplify, or mis-implement. Blackboard Learning Analytics and Research Director John Whitmer has released a white paper in which he outlines ways in which Analytics, when tightly integrated with the LMS, can produce powerful insights that instructors can act upon to fine-tune their courses for maximum effectiveness.

Whitmer stresses the danger of over-using Analytics as a forecasting tool, and focuses on their usefulness in improving learner engagement and long-term success.

'The problems that appear in learning are statistically unique. Add to it the fact that, despite the many advances in science and technology, the box is still pretty black. In learning, we cannot be content with having a vague idea of what makes most students engaged. Unlike a diversified portfolio of stocks, where it’s OK if some investments fail as long as the average yield is positive, a learning intervention must ensure it is beneficial beyond its cost for each of the assets, i.e. the students.'

Read more about this story here:

November 2016

5 new Moodle add-ons to enhance your courses

1. Moodle Badges

A beautiful library of expertly designed badges for gamification. Make learning more appealing by using these to tempt your learners to achieve more. The badges are all 180x180 and are PNGs with transparent backgrounds so can be integrated into any design. They work with Mozilla Open Badges and are free to download.

2. Essential Theme

This is a good-looking, modern, clean theme that effectively ‘hides’ the standard Moodle interface and really has an up-to-date feel. It can use Google web fonts to add a modern look and features sliders, cool graphics and customizable look & feel.

3. Heatmap

This visual overlay plugin show you where learners are clicking in your course so you can see which activities are most popular and which ones aren’t floating their boats. Used in web design for years, this is heatmaps applied to Moodle in a simple and intuitive way. It shows counts of visits and unique users and can be toggled off when not needed.

4. Link Crawler

This plugin parses your Moodle like a web crawler and flags up any broken links that will break your course. It is basically a robot student that checks the structure of your courses for any mishaps that would bring a learner’s path to a halt or create issues. A good plugin for peace of mind, especially if you have migrated a course from another LMS or are putting up a new course.

5. SocialWall Format

Transforms your Moodle into a social learning platform by allowing learners to post status updates and respond to each other’s posts, Just like on Facebook. The interface is familiar to social media users, featuring a timeline of posts, sticky posts, attachments to posts, comments and filters.

Moodle vs Totara

November 2016

Moodle vs Totara: a comparison 1 year after the fork

In October 2015 we wrote about the announcement that Totara was to fork away from Moodle. For years Moodle and Totara has marched in lockstep as regarded their core code. The last Moodle version to fully merge core code was 2.9 – since then the two open source LMSs have gone their separate ways.

Here’s what Totara CEO Richard Wyles had to say at the time about the announcement: 'The leadership of Moodle Pty Ltd has made it clear to us that it is their intent to clone recent Totara LMS versions to offer the market Moodle for Workplace.' In contrast to the millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that we've developed to create Totara LMS, cloning in itself does not add further value and does not present a sustainable strategy.

'Conversely, if Moodle HQ forks Totara LMS to create an ongoing Moodle variant for workplace learning, and they invest in that branch and support it, then this provides customers with more options from which to select. It is my view that the team at Totara Learning are more closely focused on the needs of corporate users, and that our partnership and support models are more aligned to successful outcomes for partners and customers alike.'

Moodle has always been aligned to the needs of secondary and higher education, whereas Totara is developed to serve the corporate learning market. Totara were unable to implement functionality such as multi-tenancy without changing Moodle’s core code, so they decided to go it alone to allow independent and more rapid development of the features aimed at workplace learning. One year on from the fork, what has changed? How different are Moodle and Totara now?

Moodlenews have published a report from Totara which highlights the main differences: ‘hierarchy, assignment of courses, competencies, program management and reporting.’ The report includes a PDF comparison table between the two LMSs for easy reference.

A September 2016 article gives more details of new Totara features introduced since the fork.

Blackboard Partners with Dropbox

October 2016

Blackboard and Dropbox announce new partnership

It has been announced that Dropbox is now the default sharing and storage option for virtual classroom giant Blackboard’s platform Blackboard Learn. Dropbox is pushing into the education market in its drive for new customers – this announcement comes 6 months on from the launch of Dropbox’s first product aimed specifically at educational institutions, offering 15GB storage per user for educational teams, compliance support, and other special features.

Students will be able to work collaboratively on documents stored in Dropbox and share files with course instructors. Instructors will also be able to use Dropbox as the default sharing space when collating and distributing materials for courses. Other cloud storage services are available, of course, but with over 100 million people using Blackboard Learn, this deal seals a pretty big coup for Dropbox.

"Dropbox is already the collaboration tool of choice for more than 6,000 universities and institutions across the globe," said Jason Katcher, Head of Education for Dropbox. "By enabling existing Dropbox workflows within Blackboard’s LMS, our partnership will make collaboration between the platforms even easier, while providing additional visibility for schools. Dropbox continues to focus on pursuing partnerships and integrations that make it the best place for instructors and students to get work done.”

"At Blackboard, we’re focused on developing technologies and services to help institutions create the most powerful learning environment for their users," said Kathleen Vieira, Vice President of Partnership Solutions at Blackboard. "We are excited to partner with Dropbox to deliver a tailored experience which will enable students and instructors to use our strong learning management technologies alongside their collaboration platform of choice."

3 Useful New Moodle Plugins

October 2016

3 Useful New Moodle Plugins

Custom Certificates

From Mark Nelson at Moodle HQ comes a plugin which enables the creation of dynamically generated PDF certificates with complete customization via the web browser. Certificates can include logos or crests, digitized signature of the authorized issuing officer, a digitized stamp of the organization, and more. It provides a rich canvas for creating good-looking, personalized and unique certificates. It assigns a unique code to each certificate and user to verify its authenticity, and permissions can be set for the download, printing and sharing of certificates.

Read about and get the Custom Certificates plugin here:


Create a collaborative social space in your Moodle with the SocialWiki plugin. To prevent edit wars, each edit creates a new page, and all pages are available all the time and arranged in a visual tree structure. The pages are sorted by social metrics such as number of likes, the popularity of users who liked the page, or the similarity of users based on their likes and follows. It brings together wiki and social, hence the plugin’s name. If anything embodies Martin Dougiamas’s Social Constructivism, it’s this. SocialWiki is particularly useful for collaborative assignments where each student is allowed to build on other students’ work, without destroying it.

Read about and get the SocialWiki plugin here:


Stash is a gamification plugin that sends learners on a treasure hunt around your Moodle and incentivizes their attention and engagement. Stash allows you to create code snippets for images that you can place anywhere in your course. The snippet includes an image and a collection button for students to add the discovered item to their ‘stash’. The number of times an item is supplied can be controlled to reward fast navigation, and items can be hidden for a certain interval after being discovered to give them rarity. The seek-and-catch dynamic is similar to Pokémon.

Read about and download the Stash plugin here:

LinkedIn has eaten, but can it digest it?

October 2016

LinkedIn has eaten, but can it digest it?

In 2015 we wrote the following about LinkedIn's acquisition of for $1.5 billion:

'LinkedIn acquired Lynda in April, and there has been much speculation about whether and how they are going to integrate it. Could LinkedIn users shortly be receiving Lynda course suggestions based on their education profiles? Might they begin to see analytics linking job success in their sectors with content studied on Lynda? For the moment the 'integration' remains a static link to on everyone’s LinkedIn home page under Interests > Online learning.'

Has this integration come to pass?

Well, firstly it's pretty exciting that a major social media platform has acknowledged that there is a good fit between social media and online education. Some observers are raving about it as a long-awaited validation of SM as an educational platform.

The static link to mentioned above has now morphed into a full-blown tab called ‘Learning’. The brand has disappeared and been assimilated into LinkedIn, but the learning offer still consists of content. Users are invited to a 1-month free trial.

So it's still, really. We haven't yet seen the level of integration we predicted back in 2015, but we’ll be watching LinkedIn closely to see how they capitalise on their acquisition and what it means for their hopefully long-lived foray into the online education market.

LinkedIn state: 'Our goal is to help members and customers discover and develop the skills they need through a highly personalized, data-driven and engaging learning experience.' But how are they going to leverage the huge power of their professional social network to achieve this? What happens to existing subscribers? ( is still up and running) What level of integration are we going to see with our LinkedIn accounts?

At this point there are more questions than answers, with users asking forum questions like ‘How is this different from Lynda?’ But we still may see our predictions come true. These things don’t happen overnight.

September 2016

More about Competencies in Moodle 3.1

When a student submits evidence towards achieving a competency, they can request a review of the competency to alert their tutor. After clicking ‘request review’, the student will see ‘waiting for review’ next to the competency in question.

Learning Plan Competencies

A tutor who has permission to review competencies will see the request in the learning plans block on their dashboard.

Competencies to review

When the tutor starts the review, the student will see ‘waiting for review’ change to ‘in review’. The tutor then goes through the steps in the image below in order, finishing with giving a rating for the competency.

Policies and Procedures

The tutor can give a rating from a custom list, typically showing a range of proficiency, e.g. Not competent, Just competent, Competent and Highly competent.

A note on backups

When you back up a course that includes competencies, they will be included in the backup. However, if you restore such a backup to a new site, the competencies will only be restored if they exist with the same ID numbers on the new site.

Here’s a video from MoodleMoot US 2015 in which Gavin Henrick, Moodle Community Projects Manager, looks at how competencies can be used in courses.

More information on competencies in Moodle 3.1 can be found at

Competency-Based Learning in Moodle 3.1

September 2016

Competency-Based Learning in Moodle 3.1

The latest Moodle update (3.1) includes features for implementing learning plans, modules and activities geared towards Competency-Based Learning (CBL). In addition to manually awarding course competencies, it is possible to link activities to a competency such that their completion certifiably demonstrates the competency, and have the competency awarded automatically upon successful completion of a pre-defined series of activities.

CBL works well with independent study, with the instructor as facilitator. Its main ethos is to allow a student to learn the individual skills they find challenging at their own pace, going over them as many times as they need to refine their competency in that area, and proceeding more quickly through other skills they find more straightforward. As such, it is learner-focused and offers certain efficiency gains over simple linear module completion.

Here’s an example of how Activity completion can be linked to a Competency from a teacher or admin’s point of view:

A student must demonstrate a skill four times in order to achieve a Competency.

  1. Create four activities. Set activity completion to receiving a grade.
  2. From the assignment setting screen, set a pass grade.
  3. Restrict access to activities 2,3 and 4 until the previous activity has been completed.
  4. In the assignment settings for the fourth activity, select ‘Course Competencies’, choose the required competency and set ‘Upon activity completion’ to ‘Complete the competency’.
  5. The student submits work as normal and the teacher grades it as normal. If the student passes all four activities, the competency is awarded automatically.

The full list of new features in Moodle 3.1 can be found at

USA & Canada: 1-866-879-1285
UK: 01284 277001

Market your courses on

August 2016

Market your courses on is a unique and effective place to market your courses. Whether you are a university, college, training company, government department or solo edupreneur, offers a level playing field for building interest in your courses.

How do we achieve this? Content! is a magazine website where we write quality content about new and interesting courses. Our team of professional in-house content writers take the best courses from the web and write engaging, well-written content about them. This makes the site a genuinely interesting place to be on the web.’s Alexa rankings as of late August 2016 are:

Global Rank: 71,912
U.S. Rank: 43,924
UK Rank: 12,657

These rankings reflect the depth and breadth of content on the site about courses and mean high audience engagement. Check out the site here.

We work with course providers to promote, advertise and even build courses. Three course promotion packages are available:

We write articles about your courses, with appropriate backlinks to your sales pages. The articles follow a strict editorial policy that ensures genuinely newsworthy content that is relevant to the learning offer you provide, while highlighting your own offerings in an appropriate manner. We only publish with your approval of the content. You can choose to have one, two or three articles written per month.

This content is also distributed via our social media channels for extra exposure.

Course advertisements on get thousands of impressions. We offer two sizes of ad currently: 300x250 and 300x600. The ads are displayed across the full range of the site, including article pages and search results pages.

We have built our own educational technology for delivering courses online. We are able to offer a full in-house content conversion, LMS hosting, website marketing and ecommerce platform designed specifically for those wanting to sell courses as effectively as possible.

You supply the basic course materials and we build it into a fully-fledged online course with its own marketing and sales channels.

For more information please visit or email

USA & Canada: 1-866-879-1285
UK: 01284 277001

What is a Training Management System?

August 2016

What is a Training Management System?

A Training Management System (TMS) is an enterprise software platform that manages the entire training process from initial customer enquiry through to training delivery and invoicing. It unifies in a single system what has traditionally been handled by separate software: spreadsheets, logistics and scheduling platforms, and a CRM for sales management and customer retention. A TMS can also handle training catalog management, training center activity monitoring, and compliance and certification management.

This TMS offers budget forecasts and analysis, real-time tracking and rescheduling of classrooms and trainers, live profitability alerts for every training stream you are running, and data sharing across teams. It can all be controlled from a single dashboard.

Course Merchant are experts at providing Education & Training solutions to companies of all sizes. We are now offering a proven Training Management System to enterprise training providers who seek to unify their training processes into a single, purpose-built platform. If your company wants to hear more about increasing customer retention, improving administrative productivity, managing compliance training and certifications, and unifying sales and logistics for classroom training into a streamlined, efficient and highly flexible system, ask for a demo at or call +44 1284 277001 (UK), 1-866-879-1285 (USA).

Course Merchant earns Information Security award

July 2016

Course Merchant earns Information Security award

UK-based training services company Connected Shopping Ltd, the firm behind ecommerce platform Course Merchant, have been awarded an ISO 27001 certificate after being assessed by Quality Management Consultants QMS International.

The award is recognition of Connected Shopping Ltd.’s systematic approach to managing sensitive company and customer information so that it remains secure. This assures the data security of people, processes and IT systems by applying a rigorous risk management process.

Connected Shopping Ltd.’s expertise is in the development and supply of e-commerce software and associated services for education providers. Its flagship product, Course Merchant, is an online payment and enrolment system used by training and education companies, universities, museums and government agencies in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe. With e-learning stores running on servers in the UK and abroad, it is particularly important to have information security procedures in place to ensure that data is safe. The ISO 27001 award is recognition that Connected Shopping Ltd. has implemented and adheres to these procedures, making it a company customers can trust.

Richard Standen, Managing Director of Connected Shopping Ltd, based on Brunel Way, Thetford, said, ‘We take information security seriously and want to be a company people trust with their data. This certificate goes far beyond shredding documents and not leaving sensitive information in wheelie bins. It is tangible proof that we care about our customers’ data and handle it with sensitivity and care. ISO 27001 is an internationally recognised standard, and it helps to smooth the way with new contracts with institutions and companies who will see it as an assurance that their data is safe with us.’

For more information contact or call 01284 277001.

Blackboard to acquire Campus payments firm Higher One

July 2016

Blackboard to acquire Campus payments firm Higher One

Blackboard’s parent company, Providence Equity Partners, is to acquire the higher education financial company Higher One for $260 million. Higher One runs CASHnet, a campus payment technology company serving 5 million students in the United States. CASHnet is a leading campus payment services firm used on over 700 higher education campuses for electronic billing, payment acceptance campus-wide, flexible tuition payment plans and online storefronts. It integrates with existing campus portals to provide single sign-on access for students, and maintains their account and payment histories.

The acquisition expands Blackboard’s ability to handle payments, in addition to its having recently strengthened the capabilities of its own financial services provider, Transact. The deal is a complex one involving Blackboard’s creation of a subsidiary, Winchester Acquisition Corp., to complete the acquisition in the form of a share buyout.

"CASHNet is a natural complement to Blackboard's broad portfolio of campus financial solutions," said David Marr, Senior Vice President of Blackboard Transact. "As part of its mission, Blackboard is focused on supporting institutions in their efforts to enable fundamental access to education. Providing students and parents with a comprehensive set of tools that assist them in managing tuition payments is a critical piece of the access equation."

Full press release here »

June 2016

Next Course Merchant webinar: Sell courses the way YOU want. Flexible eCommerce with Course Merchant - Tuesday 19th July - 8am PT, 10am CT, 11am ET & 4pm UK

Our next public demo webinar is on Tuesday 19th July at 8am PT, 10am CT, 11am ET & 4pm UK. This video offers a preview of what is delivered in the webinar. If it whets your appetite, sign up now here for a live tour of the Course Merchant eCommerce platform and we'll be happy to answer your questions as an attendee in the live Q&A.

The webinar is presented by Martin Broughton, Sales Manager at Course Merchant and David Hill, Marketing Manager. In a live demo of the ecommerce system, Martin takes attendees through account creation, single sign-on into your LMS, multiple-seat licence management, coupon codes, other discounting methods, Buy Now buttons, course bundles, and more. David is on hand to field your questions and either answer them himself via chat or pass them to Martin to answer them in broadcast.

This simple webinar format works well and gives you the opportunity to ask questions as well as seeing a live demo of Course Merchant. Register your place now.

What are the advantages of a dedicated eCommerce system for Training?

June 2016

What are the advantages of a dedicated eCommerce system for Training?

The need for e-commerce in the e-learning space is growing as more institutions:

  • Turn from face-to-face training to e-learning
  • Supplement their traditional classroom training with e-learning (the Blended Learning Model)
  • Have an e-learning component which is separate from the main body of the training
  • Have an e-learning component which is an optional addition
  • Have an e-learning component which has a separate enrollment process
  • Have an e-learning component which each trainee personalizes to their own needs.

Capabilities needed when delivering fee-based training include:

  • Catalog management.
  • Gathering trainee data.
  • Payment processing.
  • Registration and scheduling.
  • Content delivery.
  • Sales reporting.

If managed manually, these procedures are costly in terms of human resources, so some degree of automation is desirable.

An eCommerce system built for eLearning is key to automating the process. A single system can display courses in searchable categories, apply any relevant discounts, allow the purchase of multiple courses at once, capture trainee data, process payments, and enroll trainees immediately into a Learning Management System upon successful purchase. To make things even easier, an eCommerce system may include the following capabilities:

Read the rest of the article on

Course Merchant solves two big pain points

June 2016

Course Merchant solves two big pain points

On top Moodle blogger and edupreneur expert Penny Mondani’s site is a list of the top gripes and pain points of those using Moodle to sell courses online. Among these pain points are the following:

  1. "I don't want students to have to create their own accounts at my Moodle site."
    With Course Merchant, they don't. Course Merchant automatically creates an account in Moodle (and other LMS's) as soon as they sign up. After successful purchase, students are directed to Moodle and do not need to enter any passwords – Course Merchant's single sign on means they arrive at Moodle in a logged-in state, ready to access their courses and begin learning immediately.
  2. "I don’t want students to have to pay for courses at the Moodle site."

With Course Merchant, they don’t. The whole process takes place away from Moodle: browsing the catalog, selecting a course or multiple courses, adding them to the shopping cart, passing through checkout and receiving purchase and enrollment confirmation by email. Course Merchant is a complete ecommerce solution that handles all communications with payment gateways. It presents learners with a proper online store for your courses and takes them through a checkout process everybody is familiar with from using Amazon and other retail sites.

Take the pain out of selling courses online. Request a demo of Course Merchant today, attend our next webinar, or call for a chat with our sales team.

May 2016

Our next public demo webinar is on Wednesday June 15th at 8am PT, 10am CT, 11am ET & 4pm UK. This video offers a preview of what is delivered in the webinar. If it whets your appetite, sign up now here for a live tour of the Course Merchant eCommerce platform and we'll be happy to answer your questions as an attendee in the live Q&A.

See you there!

A 7-step method for writing great course descriptions

May 2016

A 7-step method for writing great course descriptions

A course description is a paragraph or two that sits on your course catalog and tells people about your course. If you write bland course descriptions, people might not click on them to read further. Those few words are all people have to work with when deciding whether to read more about your course or pass it by.

But even quite dry subject matter can be made more appealing by using the 7 step method described in an article on Moodlenews. Naturally this method can be applied to your course descriptions no matter which Learning Management System you are using – this article just happened to appear on a Moodle-related website.

The following 7 steps are expanded upon in the article, which uses an example to walk you through constructing a course description that gets across not only the course content, but its immediate benefits, and works to create a desire to take the course that leads to action.

  1. Focus on a single thought.
  2. Connect that thing to a benefit.
  3. Get a little more specific.
  4. Clarify the benefit.
  5. Polish your description.
  6. Include a clear call to action.
  7. Re-read and test.

Read the full article here.

Selling courses online? Here’s a wonderful source of hands-on ecommerce tips

May 2016

Selling courses online? Here’s a wonderful source of hands-on ecommerce tips. is stuffed with ideas on ecommerce best practices to win, convert and retain customers. Much of the advice can be applied to selling courses online. Here are just three of the hot tips we have found via

  • Consider making customer retention your new acquisition strategy. Focus sales and marketing expenditures on delivering remarkable experiences worth recommending. That is the secret to sustainable growth.
  • Conduct an audit of your ecommerce site at least weekly. Purchase a product via a complete checkout. Visit a wide variety of pages. Double check recent promotions to ensure stale links and landing pages are removed. Make sure seasonal items are still appropriate. Do your own quality check to ensure your customer experience is the way you planned.
  • An incentivized time constraint is when you make an offer that has a time limit on it. There are tools that make this easy, like Time2Buy. It allows you to pop-up an offer based on an action set. So if your user visits three pages or has been on your site for 90 seconds (or whatever criteria you want) you can pop-up a window with a relevant offer that says something like, “Check out within the next 5 minutes and get 10% off.” The window will have a countdown timer. It encourages shoppers to make quick decisions.

There’s advice on conducting audits of your site (buy things and go through the whole checkout flow at least once a week – you will immediately notice any points where your customers are tripped up on their path to making a purchase). Use post-sale videos to increase customer engagement. It’s all there. We recommend bookmarking the site and referring to it often, to check whether your ecommerce store is fulfilling its potential.

Moodle and Blackboard leaders discuss new partnership

April 2016

Moodle and Blackboard leaders discuss new partnership

A video has surfaced of an interview with Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas and Phil Miller, EdTech giant Blackboard’s Vice President of International Open Source Services. Blackboard is now a Moodle Partner, which extends its Moodle services to clients in more than 40 countries, including Spain where the interview was recorded. Spain is revealed to be the country with the second highest number of registered Moodle installations. The two leaders discuss the partnership and its worldwide joint strategy.

Blackboard recently became the largest single revenue provider to Moodle with its acquisitions of Remote-Learner and Nivel Siete. It already owned Moodlerooms, another Moodle partner, and the further acquisitions have consolidated Blackboard’s position in the open-source market. The creation of its Open Source Services Division, headed by Phil Miller, leaves no doubt as to Blackboard’s intention of dominating the open source LMS market.

Martin Dougiamas shares his views on the future roadmap of Moodle, including an emphasis on the mobile experience (a Moodle user should be able to access the whole Moodle experience and functionality without ever leaving the mobile app), improving overall usability and integration with other systems. He also discusses the impact of the Blackboard partnership on the future development of Moodle.

Phil Miller talks about future plans for open source initiatives and the contributions he wants Blackboard to make towards improving Moodle.

You can watch the complete interview below.

UK safety training firm First4Safety have written a case study article on their website about their Course Merchant implementation process and the benefits the new ecommerce site has given them.

April 2016

Online training company: 'Course Merchant lets us get some sleep.'

UK safety training firm First4Safety have written a case study article on their website about their Course Merchant implementation process and the benefits the new ecommerce site has given them.

John Pillinger of First4Safety says that in their search for an ecommerce platform for their courses they had two basic questions:

  1. How can we link Moodle with a shopfront?
  2. How can we grant immediate access to a student upon receiving payment?

'We trialed a few choices but could never quite achieve the level of success that we were after.'

Enter Course Merchant. Here are some of the things John says about the Course Merchant implementation process:

‘Martin over at Course Merchant gave us a high level overview of the product, and walked us through their demo platform so we could see CM in action.

Integration – It was pretty clear straight away that CM would perform the integration we really wanted. The ability for an order to produce a new user with the correct course enrolments on our Moodle instance. This was our key requirement.

Shopfront – We hadn’t banked on taking a completely new shopfront, hosted by CM. This actually turned into great news, whilst we had successfully set up our own shop front it felt great to hand it over to the real experts. We could gain a great deal of peace of mind knowing that orders/payments were successful.'

'We kept an eye on the store for the first couple of nights, but it very quickly became obvious it was very happy handling our orders leaving us to go and get some sleep.'

'We see no downtime from our store, no lost orders, no failed emails, no incorrect user details, quite simply it is performing wonderfully well. Simply put we are able to deliver online Health and Safety courses to those that want to study 24/7.'

Check out the full article here

Want to assess Course Merchant for your own business? Request a CM demo here

A gold mine of tips and tricks for eLearning entrepreneurs

March 2016

A gold mine of tips and tricks for eLearning entrepreneurs

Here's a valuable resource for entrepreneurs seeking to set up an online training business. Moodle News, the web's leading resource for all things Moodle, has a new 'Moodlepreneur' section. Every week there's a new article on a different aspect of setting up and running a business selling courses online. Over time this should grow to cover most things you need to know or wish you did before: pitfalls to avoid, best practices, strategy, starting on a shoestring, etc.

Recent posts include:

And new ones are being added each week. If you're in this business or seeking to enter it, this is a great page to bookmark. It covers all the stages of a Moodlepreneur's business development: accepting the Moodlepreneur challenge, taking the plunge, getting students, and making money. There should be something useful there for Moodlepreneurs whatever their stage of development.

Are you a Moodlepreneur? Check out and bookmark the Moodlepreneur section of Moodlenews.

eCommerce, Moodle, edupreneur, moodlepreneur, sell courses online, online elearning store

March 2016

PCMag: Course Merchant is THE eCommerce integration for Moodle

PCMag have published a balanced and detailed review of Moodle and proclaimed it their Editor's Choice Learning Management System.

'Moodle earns our Editors' Choice designation because it provides an entirely viable education LMS that is free, open source, and rapidly advancing.

The review then gives Course Merchant as THE eCommerce integration for Moodle.

'The LMS lacks an integrated marketplace, but users can distribute paid courses via CourseMerchant or enroll in courses via'

So well done PCMag for saying what we've known all along: Moodle and Course Merchant are the dream team for selling courses like a pro.

Read the review here:

Watch a 1-minute overview video of Course Merchant here:
Course Merchant Overview

Boost sales of your Moodle courses with Content Marketing

March 2016

Boost sales of your Moodle courses with Content Marketing

Are you an edupreneur? Do you want to sell courses online as a business? The article linked below explains an effective and free way to spread the word about your courses. Like it or not, you will need to market your courses to raise awareness of your brand. Customers will only enrol on your courses if they are confident there is someone behind them who knows a lot about the subject matter and is a source of useful information on it. Content Marketing is the way to create that confidence.

You’ve probably heard of Content Marketing, but what is it and how can you do it? This article seeks to answer these questions. It’s on, a Moodle-based site, but the principles of eLearning Content Marketing apply the same whichever Learning Management System you choose as your course platform. Check it out if you want a primer on Content Marketing for your eLearning courses, and there’s a bonus – a series of free eBooks on this and other aspects of building a business selling courses online.

Free eBook 5 Steps to sell your courses online

February 2016

Free eBook: 5 Steps to sell your courses online

At Course Merchant, we've built over 300 web stores for businesses selling courses online, so we've learned a lot about best practices when setting up an online education and training business. We've condensed all this knowledge into a guide which aims to help you set up your own eLearning business. It's a free eBook you can download from this page:

Topics covered include:

  • Creating valuable course content
  • Formatting courses
  • Choosing the right Learning Management System
  • Conforming to SCORM standards
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • And more.

In addition, we've expanded each section of the guide into its own eBook, which we'll send to you for free each week.

Get the guide now and start planning your courses, platforms and marketing strategy.

Download link:

Want To See Just How Easy It Is To Build A Lesson In Moodle?

February 2016

Want To See Just How Easy It Is To Build A Lesson In Moodle?

A new drag and drop feature in Moodle lets you create a lesson from a Word doc in a couple of minutes.

Here's the link:

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How much does an LMS cost

February 2016

How much does an LMS cost?

This question is answered too often with a shrug and something about the length of a piece of string. It can be baffling to try and work out how the costs to your business will pan out over time. There are over 600 Learning Management Systems on the market, each with its own pricing model. Should you go for a perpetual licence and pay more up front but with lower costs later, or a monthly subscription model? What about open source? It’s free, isn’t it? Well, yes - partly.

John Leh of Talented Learning has set out to cut a path through the LMS pricing maze by researching the market to identify current trends in pricing models. He surveyed 74 LMS vendors to tease out some figures on models preferred by LMS vendors and LMS users.

The results are worth reading just to get to know the terms vendors use and see how many different pricing flavors there are. It will help in understanding what LMS vendors are talking about when you inevitably broach the thorny topic of pricing.

Here's the link:

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38 things nobody thinks of when launching an online course

February 2016

38 things nobody thinks of when launching an online course

This article by Nathalie Lussier is a real gold mine of tips and caveats on selling online courses written by an entrepreneur (entrepreneuse?) who has been there at the coal face of this business, made a ton of mistakes, learned from them, and succeeded.

She examines things that aren’t covered in the how-to guides and can trip up even the wariest entrepreneur: how to prioritize, don't model your course launch on someone else's, how to use affiliate marketing wisely, defining your role in the operation, writing copy and email campaigns, branding tips, and a whole lot more.

You can tell she's lived through the highs and lows of selling courses online when she writes things like 'You'll hit refresh on your inbox like a cocaine-addicted rat for hours on end'. It's a well-considered, amusing and valuable series of tips and tricks for anyone entering the business of selling courses online.

Here's the link:

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Moodle Users' Association

February 2016

Have your say in the future development of Moodle
Moodle Users' Association officially opens

In an exciting new initiative for those who use Moodle, registrations are now open to join the Moodle Users' Association. Its mission is to support the growth of the world's most popular open-source Learning Management System by giving a voice to everyday users. Members can even take part on the committee if they stand for election.

The Moodle Users' Association is separate from the Moodle Community at and also from the activities of Moodle Partners. This means that users who are not developers or partners now have more of a say in which features to add to Moodle next. The Association plans a collaborative process of proposing and then voting on new features to be added to core Moodle.

There are 4 levels of membership ranging from individuals to large organisations. Do you have an idea for a proposal? If you join the Association you can put it forward as well as vote on other proposals.

Meet the Association's leadership team at

And find out more at

How to succeed at selling online courses

January 2016

How to succeed at selling online courses: a primer for those who want to build or grow an eLearning business

Read the full article here:

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LMS trends, predictions and observations

January 2016

John Leh at Talented Learning has written an extremely insightful article on 2016 LMS trends, predictions and observations. Read about culture shifts, the 4 types of LMS in 2016, market disruption by free trial cloud LMSs, the revival of the rogue LMS, and more. An excellent read if you're involved in the eLearning business.

Read the full article here:

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Course Merchant serving the Healthcare/medical eLearning sector

January 2016

Course Merchant: serving the Healthcare/medical eLearning sector

Course Merchant now delivers the American Nurses’ Association’s education program to its 3.4 million members. As well as the ANA, health training providers using Course Merchant include Cambridge Cancer Medicine Online, AMS4CME and Medcerts. It has proven to be the ideal eCommerce platform for delivering Medical, nursing and veterinary training because of the flexibility it offers for membership database integration, categories and subcategories of courses, advanced search capabilities, sales tax calculations, ability to sell course bundles and integration with some of the most popular Learning Management Systems. Learners get instant access to their training and can start studying straight away rather than waiting to be enrolled.

ELearning in the healthcare industry is growing at its fastest rate ever, perhaps for the reasons outlined in this article:

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30 Questions to ask when choosing an eCommerce platform for eLearning

January 2016

30 Questions to ask when choosing an eCommerce platform for eLearning

Selling courses online involves making choices about delivery channels, ecommerce and marketing. Whichever LMS you choose – Moodle, Totara, Brightspace™ by D2L, Kallidus, Joule or one of the many others – you will need a shopping cart plugin to sell the courses. When it comes to choosing an online store, catalog and shopping cart for your courses, there are a lot of different features out there to get your head around. Do you need the most basic functionality or something more fully-featured? It’s best to think ahead and try to foresee your needs rather than picking one at random and then discovering its limitations.

To help with this decision-making process, I wrote a checklist for choosing an eCommerce platform for eLearning and sent it to the folks over at They have published it here.

It’s a pretty thorough checklist, so pick the features that you think will relate to you. As your online course-selling business grows, you will probably come across all of them sooner or later. So I hope this checklist makes you better prepared when talking to vendors and helps you to make the right choice for your eLearning business.

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Moodle LMS

January 2016

Moodle is top of the Learning Management Systems list in this article on how to start out creating and selling online courses. It’s free, open source, powerful and simply one of the very best Learning Management Systems around.

Originally published on

December 2015

Using CourseCRM To Stay Connected To Learners and Boost Revenue

Use CourseCRM to stay connected to learners and boost revenue

After featuring Course Merchant back in 2012, our other product CourseCRM has now caught the attention of MoodleNews. They have published an article about the CourseCRM learner analytics, reporting and communications software. Check out the article which contains 2 of our videos.

December 2015

Yes We Can: A Tin Can API primer

Online learners
A Tin Can API primer have published my article on the Tin Can API. Read it here if you are confused about what Tin Can API is, how it works, what it can do and what it means for the future of eLearning.

December 2015

Key LMS developments in 2015

Here’s a year-end rundown of some of the events I found significant in the world of Learning Management Systems during 2015:

Moodle developments include:

  • Blackboard became the largest single revenue provider for Moodle with its acquisitions of Moodle partners Remote-Learner and Nivel Siete. Moodle development is funded through partner’s contributions of a percentage of their revenue to Moodle. Blackboard already owns Moodlerooms, another partner, and continues to consolidate its rather monolithic position with more mergers and acquisitions.
  • Partly as a reaction to the increasing takeover of Moodle by Blackboard and to decrease its reliance on partners in general, The Moodle Users’ Association was founded. It is a forum for end users of Moodle, which include many large institutions willing to make financial contributions in exchange for having some input into Moodle’s future development.
  • 2015 was the year that Totara forked from Moodle. Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas played it down, but it does mean potential headaches for developers providing plugins for the two platforms – which until this year always marched in lockstep – as the core code diverges along two separate paths.

LinkedIn acquired Lynda in April, and there has been much speculation about whether and how they are going to integrate it. Could LinkedIn users shortly be receiving Lynda course suggestions based on their education profiles? Might they begin to see analytics linking job success in their sectors with content studied on Lynda? For the moment the ‘integration’ remains a static link to on everyone’s LinkedIn home page under Interests > Online learning.

Instructure went public on the New York Stock Exchange and have continued to grow their LMS, Canvas, with great success. It is now a major open-source player.

There has been continued effort to encourage breaking out of the confines of the LMS by adopting the Experience API (Tin Can API, xAPI). A notable example is the founding of as a meeting hub for developers and educators to explore ‘teaching in the wild’ as opposed to LMS-centric learning.

There are too many Learning Management Systems out there to keep track of. Casual discussions among industry-watchers show estimates ranging between 300 and 600. Last year published a list of 571. As in many other industries, a handful of big players dominate the market by pursuing strategies of acquisition and/or innovation. Yet disruptions do occur, and the LMS market is red hot with vendors hoping to build traction.

The following chart, courtesy of Phil Hill, gives an at-a-glance snapshot of the key players in late 2015 as well as an 18-year overview of how it has all developed. It is focused on higher education rather than the commercial market of training companies and moodlepreneurs, but gives a good impression of the relative oomph of the leading LMSs. It should also be noted that it represents only U.S. institutions’ adoption levels.

Key developments in eLearning

Course Merchant wins coveted Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award

December 2015

Course Merchant wins coveted Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award

Course Merchant has won a prestigious Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Bronze Award for Best Advance in Software For Training Companies. A panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts and Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executives evaluated the entries for breakthrough innovation, unique differentiators, value proposition, measurable results and customer service.

The winners of the 2015 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Awards can be found here:

'Everyone here has worked very, very hard for this,' said Richard Standen, Managing Director of Course Merchant. ‘And the excellent testimonials from our customers definitely contributed to the win. We are constantly listening to our customers and tailoring the solution to their needs to enable them to succeed at selling courses online. This award is a testament to all that hard work.’

"Our award winners are the most visionary and innovative developers of technology solutions that move organizations forward in serving employees, customers and investors," said Brandon Hall Group Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke, who runs the awards program. "I think everyone can learn from the achievements of our award recipients."

"These award-winning solutions were closely evaluated by our judges for not only their innovation, but the real results they brought to the organizations," Brandon Hall Group Chief Executive Office Mike Cooke said. "That is what makes our technology awards program special – connecting creativity and innovation to direct business results."

Read the press release here.

About Brandon Hall Group, Inc.

With more than 10,000 clients globally and 20 years of delivering world class research and advisory services, Brandon Hall Group is the most well-known and established research organization in the performance improvement industry. It conducts research that drives performance, and provides strategic insights for executives and practitioners responsible for growth and business results.

December 2015

A Quick Way To Cut Online Student Drop Out Rates

This article from recommends reducing drop-out rates by allowing your learners to communicate directly with you. Read more...

CourseCRM provides each learner with a dedicated support portal.

Just saying.

CourseCRM - Manage your online learners

CourseCRM can help reduce student drop out rates

Moodle 3.0 released

November 2015

Moodle 3.0 released today! New features and improvements

Moodle has come a long way since its first release in 2002. By 2009 it had already become the number one LMS worldwide with a 30% share of the market. Since then it has faced stiff competition from Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Instructure in the higher education market and SumTotal Systems, SuccessFactors and Saba Software in corporate training. But it remains resolutely popular for general-purpose e-learning and is still the cheapest way to get a quality LMS up and running. It is the most popular choice for those who wish to start a business selling courses online because it’s free, open-source (hence a wide range of free plugins), simple to set up, robust, and scalable.

As all Moodlers know, Moodle is an open-source e-learning platform which is continuously developed by a team of 30 coders at Moodle HQ in Perth, Australia, and financed by a global network of certified service providers who contribute 10% of their revenue to the Moodle project. It was originally written as part of a Ph.D. by computer scientist and social constructivist Martin Dougiamas, who is still overall head of the project.

So can Moodle please everyone with this new version? Well, they’re trying. Here are some of the improvements that stand out:

  • Open University-style quiz plugins are to be baked in: select missing words (cloze), drag and drop images into place, drag and drop into text, drag and drop markers. The OU is the world’s biggest Moodle installation and some of the features most appreciated by their students end up making it into the core code of Moodle. This is one example of that.
  • ‘Number of tries left’ indicator in interactive quizzes with multiple tries
  • Atto text editor: ability to edit tables, math notation now included, new keyboard shortcut to add hyperlinks (ctrl+k)
  • New web services
  • Multiple improvements in the plugin installation and update system
  • Masses of bug fixes

Most commentators agree that although the changes Moodle version 3.0 brings are very welcome, they do not constitute a major new leap but rather an incremental set of improvements. Moodle 2.x had reached 2.9, so the next one had to be 3.0, really. Moodle isn’t like Android, where a jump up to the next number is a major rollout and always brings a revamped user experience. Rather, Moodle 3.0 is a milestone. Its developers are doing what they have always done: quietly improving the LMS, a few steps at a time, towards the ideal.

Proven Tools For Selling, Managing and Marketing Online Courses

Course Merchant - eLearning ecommerce - Online eLearning Marketing CourseCRM - Manage your online learners

Oxford University press use Course Merchant Asset Skills use Course Merchant The NSAFS use Course Merchant

The ANA use Course Merchant University College London use Course Merchant Go Safety use Course Merchant

Vetbloom use Course Merchant The RCPSG use Course Merchant Cornell University use Course Merchant

Win at Selling, Managing and Marketing Online Courses.

Win at Selling, Managing and Marketing Online Courses

November 2015

Three Ways to Sell More Online Courses

It stands to reason that to sell courses successfully you need to be selling useful skills that have a positive impact on learners’ lives. Hopefully you’ve got that part covered. But you also need to build your sales pipeline before you release your courses to the public, so that you can hit the ground running at launch.

Course Merchant - Sell courses online

Course Merchant is an essential part of that pipeline. It hosts your store catalog and allows learners to buy your courses and gain instant access to your LMS. Your students could be on the other side of the world and shouldn’t have to wait for you to wake up and enroll them. With Course Merchant they don’t have to, and they can start studying straight away.

Course Merchant is search engine-friendly. The name of each course appears in its store URL, not just a meaningless product code. Google loves that, and it will bring keyword love from searches by people looking for the courses you provide. So Course Merchant is already doing marketing for you.

The following are all standard features:

  • course bundles
  • voucher codes
  • membership discounts
  • profile-based discounts
  • multi-seat discounts
  • multi-seat licence management (enroll a list of students all at once)
  • waiting lists
  • pay by invoice
  • Buy Now buttons to send in emails or tweets
  • shipping calculations for physical products such as books - Market your online courses

If you really want to start things with a bang – and keep them going that way – use digital marketing service, which can boost sales a hundredfold. is a dedicated search engine for courses linked to an educational marketing network consisting of sites such as (35m available impressions), (26m available impressions), (31m available impressions) and other edu web traffic heavyweights.

We are now capable of delivering course ad impressions running into the hundreds of millions per month.

Course Index and Course Merchant are all you need to build a sales pipeline that keeps the enrollments coming, even while you sleep.

If you want to get started and get selling as quickly as possible, use’s Build & Sell service. We’ll host your courses and set up the e-commerce for free, and you take 80% of the revenue from sales. Use this simple form to give us an idea of your needs and we’ll suggest a suitable package for you.

CourseCRM - Manage your Learners

As your sales grow and your student list swells, how are you going to manage all those learners? Most LMSs have pretty scant features for doing this. How do you check course attendance and grades across all your courses? How do you reach out to them all to let them know about a new course, or track their progress and help out those who are failing? How do you ensure a level of student retention and loyalty?

CourseCRM. A CRM system specially designed for managing online courses and learners. Manage all your LMS data in one place: searches, reports, email campaigns, progress tracking, and a dedicated support portal for each student.

CourseCRM draws all student and course data from your LMS and allows you to manipulate and query it in ways that you cannot in the LMS alone. Stay in touch with your learners. Manage your cohorts. Keep them coming back. See a list of CourseCRM features here.

So where do you fit into the Course Merchant world? There’s only one way to find out. Sign up for a webinar or email or to discover how Course Merchant, CourseIndex and CourseCRM can make your courses fly.

Totara Forks From Moodle - 3 Takeaways From World of Learning Conference and Exhibition 2015

October 2015

3 Takeaways From World of Learning Conference and Exhibition 2015

Totara Forks From Moodle

The most prominent brand name at the WOLCE this year was Totara. The NEC was festooned with Totara sponsorship banners and their logo was on everyone’s badge. This caught my interest since I work at a Moodle-based company. Totara is a distribution of Moodle with lots of added code giving it additional features for corporate and government markets. Totara and Moodle core code have always been the same, though. When Moodle’s core version was updated, so was Totara’s. They were joined at the hip.

Not any more. Totara announced just before WOLCE that it was forking from Moodle, citing the need for deep architectural changes to facilitate innovation and the need for a major UX overhaul. The last version to fully merge core code will be 2.9, due in October. The next Totara release will be 9.0 in 2016, being the 9th release of Totara.

Here’s what Totara CEO Richard Wyles had to say about the announcement: ‘The leadership of Moodle Pty Ltd has made it clear to us that it is their intent to clone recent Totara LMS versions to offer the market ‘Moodle for Workplace.’ In contrast to the millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that we’ve developed to create Totara LMS, cloning in itself does not add further value and does not present a sustainable strategy. Conversely, if Moodle HQ forks Totara LMS to create an ongoing Moodle variant for workplace learning, and they invest in that branch and support it, then this provides customers with more options from which to select. It is my view that the team at Totara Learning are more closely focused on the needs of corporate users, and that our partnership and support models are more aligned to successful outcomes for partners and customers alike.’

Commentators have pounced on the announcement, raising concerns about what it means for the Moodle community. It does, after all, come soon after two other major announcements: Blackboard's acquisition of Nivel Siete, which makes it a majority contributor of Moodle Partner revenue, and Remote Learner leaving the Moodle partner program. The main question is, how is Moodle’s open-source model going to fare in this more aggressively commercial environment? Is Moodle being torn apart by corporate wolves?

Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas is cool about it. Here's what he says in reply to one concerned commentator: ‘This is really not big news. Totara had already practically separated from core Moodle quite some time ago. The way their extensions are written make them impossible to merge back to Moodle core without fully rewriting them. There are a lot of core changes, making it harder for them to track us over time. They always kept their current code private (so it's not really open source in the true sense) - same with their mobile app which also forked from our older one a while back.

The Totara project has never contributed back to Moodle financially, and their code contributions back to Moodle core have been minimal for a long time. So this change in their development policy really has no effect on Moodle at all.’

It will have an effect, though, on those who develop Moodle plugins that have always worked the same with both Moodle and Totara. As the two LMSs gradually diverge, it may become necessary to develop two different versions of a plugin. This will be something of a headache for Moodle integration developers.

Wyver Solutions Reviews CourseCRM

A happy meeting on the Course Merchant stand at WOLCE was with Mark Berthelmy, Managing Director of learning technology specialists Wyver Solutions. He has written a post about our Moodle learner management, reporting and communications software CourseCRM in which he says ‘What CourseCRM does, it does extremely well. So, if you’re looking for a way to efficiently support and track students and their courses, then you should consider CourseCRM.’

Training Orchestra

Course Merchant partner Training Orchestra also exhibited at WOLCE this year. Their high-end Training Management System for Enterprise customers could be described as CourseCRM on steroids. It’s a complete ERP system for running a training department or training company, with graphical scheduling interfaces, logistics planning, automatic paperwork generation, resource planning and much more. Training Orchestra already has 250 major corporate clients, 500,000 users worldwide and handles 1 billion euros in training budgets annually.

Such systems are fairly new and there’s nothing else quite like Training Orchestra on the market at the moment. It bridges the gap between the Student Information Systems used by large academic institutions, like Unit-E and SITS, and the fragmented range of tools often used by training companies: Excel plus a database plus a CRM, a mix which doesn’t tend to scale well within growing organisations. Training Orchestra unifies the whole process into a real-time, collaborative system that can optimise processes and increase profitability.

Training Orchestra’s stand was buzzing with interest from corporate customers and their CEO, Stéphane Pineau, was delighted with the level of interest generated for the software.

October 2015

Is Traditional Education Becoming a Museum Piece?

Ernst & Young and PriceWaterhouseCoopers don't care about their job candidates' university background or A-Levels any more.

In other news, their HR departments are now being run by unicorns.

Just a few years ago these two statements would have been equally believable. Entire institutions – private and state school systems, higher education – have their foundations in the bedrock expectation that top employers expect top A-Level and University grades.

In a similar move to Ernst & Young's, top law firm Clifford Chance have introduced a ‘CV-blind policy' for graduate recruitment. Recruiting staff are given nothing but the candidate's name before final interviews. This is intended to eliminate any bias surrounding school and university background and allow the candidate to shine on their own merits. Both firms have stated that they place greater trust in their own online assessments and interview processes than they do in institutions attended and grades achieved. Recruiters have long complained that a candidate's degree result is not a reliable indicator of their workplace potential.

Perhaps the whole university model is simply obsolete. There's a parallel with how manufacturing has moved forward. If you needed to make a mockup of a widget a few years ago, you had to send it off to a modeller or have it machined by a third party engineering firm, and wait for it to come back. Now with 3D printing, you can CAD it and print it off yourself. To make an employable knowledge worker a few years ago, you had to send them off to university and wait several years until they were deemed fit for purpose. Now candidates can create their own education profiles and career paths at home rather than buying them off the peg – and at great expense – from the traditional purveyors of the keys to the castle.

Cobbling together their own learning path can itself be seen as an indicator of a candidate's initiative and drive. Suddenly taking a three-or four-year university degree seems like a softer option for those lacking the resourcefulness to tailor their own education to fit their career goals.

So how exactly do you build your own education? By grabbing knowledge when you need it, rather than squirrelling it away for future reference. Online academies like Udemy and Lynda offer digestible chunks of learning, on specific topics, delivered by experts, designed with the aim of improving job-related skills. These mini-courses can be taken at times that are optimal for the learner, rather than learning it at some point during a degree course, forgetting it, and having to re-learn it when it is finally needed.

As anyone who has even glanced at Jeff Cobb's book Leading The Learning Revolution will know, the lifelong learning sector is exploding in popularity. This is good news for anyone planning to sell knowledge online. If your education and training offer is carefully designed to attract and catch people at the point in their career paths when they need it, and if your marketing and ecommerce channels are set up properly, build it and they will come.

September 2015

Students or Guinea Pigs? The Learning Analytics Debate

As more and more courses are delivered online it has become apparent that the systems which deliver the courses – Learning Management Systems (LMSs) – are generating a lot of data on learner activities and engagement. Course attendance, grades, forum activity, interaction with tutors, progress through courses, modules accessed, and other data, are all stored in some way in the LMS.

Students or Guinea Pigs? The Learning Analytics Debate

In the last few years a realisation has spread across the eLearning community that rather than just sitting there, this data can be pressed into service for the purposes of improving the student experience, designing better courses, increasing retention and achievement, and maybe other purposes nobody has thought of yet. There is a growing market for Learning Analytics software that generates reports on students’ clicks, page views, time spent logged in, and notes. I have been responsible for bringing one such product – CourseCRM – to market.

The trend has sparked a debate about the ethics of Learning analytics, especially in academic circles. Large educational institutions such as universities are generally bound by their own codes of ethics and data security; they can usually be found somewhere underneath the Mission Statement. Yet how exactly to handle Learning Analytics data is largely a chapter yet to be written. Scholarly articles have appeared in journals. Elizabeth Dalton, an LMS Administrator at a North American college, is basing her PhD on Learning Analytics and has more questions than answers on the ethics aspects – watch her fascinating talk at MoodleMoot US 2015 for her take on the topic.

The big question is, do educators have a responsibility to tell students what they are doing with their learning data? Some industry-watchers are promoting the idea of data transparency to foster trust. Just give students access to all the data. Simples.

This might appear to solve the issue, but really it’s just sidestepping it. How many students will have the time to sit down and analyse their analytics? Will they be given raw data without access to the tools administrators are using to generate graphs, reports and statistical models about them?

The Open University, which runs one of the world’s largest installations of Moodle, has been relatively quick to codify its stance on the issue, but due to its distance-learning nature it has been an early adopter of Moodle and has been gathering LMS data for longer than most universities. Maybe this is why it seems ahead of the curve in perceiving the need for an ethical policy.

One laudable effort to construct a framework for Learning analytics ethics is being developed by Jisc, a registered education research charity. Jisc issues prescriptive statements such as the following:

"Students will normally be asked for their consent for personal interventions to be taken based on the learning analytics. This may take place during the enrolment process or subsequently. There may however be legal, safeguarding or other circumstances where students are not permitted to opt out of such interventions. If so these must be clearly stated and justified." []

The debate is very much a current one, and the extent to which standards such as these are adopted in practice remains to be seen.

Course Merchant will be an exhibitor the 2015 World of Learning Conference and Exhibition at the Birmingham NEC

September 2015

Course Merchant will be an exhibitor the 2015 World of Learning Conference and Exhibition at the Birmingham NEC on the 29th and 30th of September. As well as allowing delegates a chance to experience the market-leading ecommerce platform for education and training, Course Merchant, we will be announcing a new pricing model and new website for CourseCRM, a new reporting and learner management system designed to enhance learner retention and achievement.

CourseCRM is an analytics, communications and learner management system designed specifically for the needs of the e-learning industry. It draws learner data from popular Learning Management Systems such as Moodle and Totara and stores it within SuiteCRM, a leading Customer Relationship Management system. LMS data extracted includes gradebook data, quiz scores, course attendance, certificates, contact details, accounts, courses, modules and categories.

Once in CourseCRM, this LMS data can be used to improve retention, for example querying the database for learners with low test scores and emailing them all to offer assistance. Administrators can keep closer to their learners by finding those who have completed a course and inviting them to further study. Automated marketing campaigns can be set up to run overnight. A complete record of such communications, as well as tutor and support feedback, is kept under each learner's contact record and provides both a quick reference and an audit trail.

CourseCRM can generate a wide variety of reports on the learner data imported from an LMS. The number of enrolments by course, quiz marks for particular courses or categories, learners who are not accessing their courses – all of which should be of great interest to course administrators and business executives – can be set to run as reports and be emailed automatically to key stakeholders on a scheduled basis. Bar charts, pie charts and exportable spreadsheets generated by CourseCRM provide at-a-glance overviews of critical business data.

So we're pretty excited and proud to have developed CourseCRM because it can enable eLearning course administrators to be more productive and efficient by improving learner retention and keeping closer tabs on learner communications.

Come and meet us at the World of Learning Event and Conference and we'll give you a CourseCRM demonstration!

Blackboard Acquires Nivel Siete

August 2015

Blackboard Acquires Nivel Siete

Okay, this news is nearly a couple of weeks old now, but it's well worth a mention because it's the latest in Blackboard's ongoing open-source acquisition rampage. As posted here, Blackboard acquired Remote-Learner UK in April this year, and followed it up in July by munching up X-Ray Analytics so as to add its technology to Moodlerooms, which, in turn, it acquired back in 2012.

Nivel Siete is a leading Moodle provider in the Latin American market. Based in Colombia, it provides LMS hosting, consulting and support services to companies in Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

"The addition of Nivel Siete to the Blackboard family testifies to our commitment to open source," said Matthew Small, senior vice president and managing director, international at Blackboard. "We are seeing strong momentum for our open source solutions and in particular for Moodlerooms, with the addition of more than 80 new customers around the world in the last few months and a significant growth in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Our open source solutions play an integral part in our strategy and we will continue to support their growth. I am thrilled to work together with the team at Nivel Siete and improve the educational experience for learners in Latin America."

"We are excited to join forces with Blackboard and help learners and organizations be successful," said José Diáz, CEO at Nivel Siete. "By working together with Blackboard we will be able to enhance the range of solutions and services we provide to institutions and businesses across Latin America. The local Moodle community will benefit from this acquisition, as it will open up new opportunities to share knowledge and best practices." []

Blackboard has continued to expand its commitment to the entire educational experience by growing its support of open-source since it launched its open source services group, Blackboard Education Open Source Services, in 2012. It operates these services alongside its proprietary flagship platform, Blackboard Learn.

Course Merchant at MoodleMoot 2015

August 2015

MoodleMoot 2015 - A Tale of Two Martins

The spotlessly clean university city of Minneapolis was the venue for MoodleMoot US 2015. Stuffed to the rafters with enthusiastic moodlers, the University of Minnesota buzzed for three days with community spirit and collaboration, with a single aim: to make Moodle the best it can possibly be. To add to the excitement, it was announced that two new Moodle partners are joining the party: Elearning Experts and Moonami.

The first speaker in the Corporate/Govt/Health room was Course Merchant's Martin Broughton with a discussion of Learner Management, Analytics and Communications in CourseCRM, Course Merchant's custom build of SugarCRM / SuiteCRM. Martin's deck was well-received and generated a fair bit of interest among delegates when it became clear that what they were looking at was a happy marriage of two open-source systems – Moodle and SugarCRM – to facilitate gradebook analysis, reporting and learner retention.

A bugbear of Moodle for those at the business end of education and training is the siloed nature of the data: it's hard to gain a bird's-eye view of attendance, grades and learner contact data across all courses and modules in an instance of Moodle, and even more so across multiple instances. Martin's audience heard how CourseCRM provides such an overview by drawing data from Moodle via a web services API integration, allowing the full power of CRM to be unleashed on it for purposes of dropout prediction and prevention, learner support via a dedicated portal, custom report building, account management, advanced search and querying, workflows, and encouragement to further study via email campaigns. The aim is to wring every possible bit of business usefulness out of Moodle data.

Two speakers after Martin, another effort to free Moodle data from its shackles was presented by Rhonda Lundquist of Ashley Furniture Industries. She talked through an implementation of Remote-Learner's Enterprise Learning Intelligence System (ELIS). ELIS is a set of Moodle plugins for data mining, reporting and business intelligence which are really just another way of juggling all that data in Moodle, allowing it to be presented in transformative ways and in new ‘dimensions'. Development in this direction is a hot field. Moodle data needs to be presented in ways that are meaningful to its recipients, be they trainers, tutors, course administrators or executives. Moodle data is slowly acquiring gymnastic abilities in ways as transformative as when Microsoft introduced pivot tables to Excel. CourseCRM is part of that push.

45 minutes before Martin's presentation, Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas was making Moodle disappear. In his keynote speech he asserted that Moodle needs to be invisible, or at least transparent, fading into the background to perform its role as a neutral and efficient piece of infrastructure. Teaching and learning should flow through Moodle unobstructed with a minimum of attention drawn to the delivery system. The main points of the keynote, and major themes of the Moot, were Usability, Templates, Competency-Based Education and improving the Moodle Mobile app. All essential to Moodle's ongoing improvement. But what of Learner Data Management? Well, Elizabeth Dalton's talk on Learner Analytics was a highlight in that field. She delved deeply into Learning Analytics in academic settings, and it was one of the most engaging talks of the whole Moot.

Fast forward to Day Two of MoodleMoot. Already in the past were energetic discussions on gamification, meta-courses, UX and course design. That's what MoodleMoots are all about: scoping out the future of the world's most popular LMS through social collaboration, a core principle of Moodle itself. Martin Dougiamas wandered past the Course Merchant stand and asked Martin Broughton about CourseCRM. Martin B. explained. Martin D. liked it and wanted to know more.

On Day Three Martin D. made time to come back and sit down with Course Merchant to go through a demo of the product.

So, two Martins meet over two open-source systems, and there is some synergy. This bodes well for CourseCRM and for the future of Moodle data business intelligence.

Microsoft Releases Free Authoring Tool

July 2015

Microsoft Releases Free Authoring Tool

Office Mix, Microsoft's free PowerPoint add-in for creating interactive lessons, now has LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integration with Moodle, Brightspace, Blackboard, Canvas and other leading Learning Management Systems.

PowerPoint plugins for content creation, free and paid, have been available for some time. There's Snap by Lectora, Articulate Presenter and iSpring, to name but three current solutions. Perhaps the two main 'selling' points of Office Mix with LTI are that it's free, and it gives tutors an authoring tool which does not require its own learning curve to become proficient at, providing they have some experience using PowerPoint.

It's natural for Microsoft to have knowledge in elearning authoring. The training and certification community built around their own products is a vast breeding ground for content generation, quizzes, games, assessments, animations, demos and other multimedia. They have developed their own internal Learning Content Development System (LCDS) which uses Silverlight to create ‘Learning Snacks'.

Mixes don't have to be bite-sized, though. You can turn an existing PowerPoint presentation of any length into an interactive lesson by adding quizzes and polls at suitable points, drawing on your slides, recording your screen, adding audio and video. Then Mix will export it all as a SCORM package that you can upload to your LMS of choice.

Office Mix was largely aimed at the education market when it launched in 2014. As such it has been widely adopted in blended learning and flipped-classroom settings as a neat interactive tool, with its built-in slide-by-slide analytics providing highly useful feedback to the tutor. Now that it has LTI integration, Mix has effectively become a free, simple-to-use elearning authoring tool for basic LMS content creation.

Full-blown elearning developed by the likes of Sponge UK will always trump anything created using Office Mix. But for starting out, or creating quick interactive lessons, its price tag of zero may make it an attractive option for some.

May 2015

Skillsoft Acquires Vodeclic

Skillsoft, the eLearning and talent management powerhouse, has announced the acquisition of Vodeclic, a French online video training company. Vodeclic specializes in video tutorials on the most commonly used digital productivity applications (Office, Google Apps, Prezi, Evernote, Photoshop, Salesforce, Joomla, etc).

Vodeclic is a cloud-based service with a catalog of 25,000 short videos averaging 5 minutes in length. It publishes in 6 languages (French, English, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese and German if you're counting). It uses a proprietary platform developed in-house.

Skillsoft, itself acquired in 2014 by Charterhouse Capital Partners LLP, has 19 million learners. We can probably expect to see Vodeclic disappear as a brand as Skillsoft absorbs its catalog into its own training offer. This represents a now-familiar instance of the continued consolidation of the enterprise e-learning marketplace. Some commentators have expressed concern over the number of such mergers and acquisitions, but how it will pan out for learners themselves remains to be seen.

Vodeclic founder and CEO Xavier Silion underscored his enthusiasm about joining Skillsoft adding, "We look forward to joining the Skillsoft family. I am excited about what we, together, can offer to our customers when we pair our user-friendly multilingual platform with Skillsoft's proven track record of helping organizations meet their performance objectives."

Skillsoft CEO Chuck Moran said in a press release: "Vodeclic is a natural complement to our existing portfolio of proven learning solutions as organizations look to address the daily needs and questions of learners via a seamless, on-demand platform. We know that no two people learn in the same way, and Vodeclic's purpose-built video solution provides yet another option for organizations large and small looking to accelerate higher levels of digital skills proficiency."

About 81% of employers say it's at least somewhat difficult to fill job vacancies, according to a 2014 Career Builder study. 55% claim they cannot find suitable hires due to lack of relevant skills. That's the skills gap right there. This acquisition/merger will expand Skillsoft's capacity to address that gap via the kind of agile just-in-time learning that is required today to keep careers on track.

About Skillsoft
Skillsoft is a pioneer in the fields of learning and talent management with a long history of innovation. Skillsoft provides cloud-based learning solutions for its customers worldwide, ranging from global enterprises, government, and education to mid-sized and small businesses. Skillsoft's customer support teams draw on a wealth of in-house experience, flexible delivery platforms and a comprehensive learning e-library to develop off-the-shelf and custom learning programs tailored to cost-effectively meet customer needs. Skillsoft's courses, books and videos have been developed by industry leading learning experts to ensure that they maximize business skills, performance, and talent development. Skillsoft currently serves over 6,000 customers and more than 19,000,000 learners around the world.

About Vodeclic
Vodeclic is an enterprise learning solution for desktop and collaborative skills. With over 25,000 how-to videos in six languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese), Vodeclic is a cloud-based solution designed to help users enhance their digital, internet and collaborative skills. The solution features courses and learning tools for all users, as well as business analytics and APIs for enterprise customers, from SMB to Fortune 500.

Course Merchant Announces Partnership With Training Orchestra

May 2015

Press release
Course Merchant Announces Partnership With Training Orchestra

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK and Paris, France, May 12, 2015: Training Management Systems specialist Training Orchestra is extending its global reach by entering a new partnership with Course Merchant, a leading e-commerce platform provider servicing the North American and UK markets.

Course Merchant provides e-commerce solutions to small-to-medium training companies using the hugely popular Moodle and Totara Learning Management Systems (LMS) and is market leader in its sector. The company has also developed CourseCRM, a Learner Management solution sold as an add-on to Course Merchant which offers a full-featured Customer Relationship Management system for managing courses.

Training Orchestra is a separate product that has been developed for the high-end B2B market. Its Enterprise-Level Training Management System gives exceptional data visibility and powerful scheduling and resource management tools to training companies, corporate universities, HR training departments and extended enterprises.

Training Orchestra has over 10 years' experience in the Training Management business and has attracted over 250 major corporate clients including Carrefour, Securitas and Johnson & Johnson.

The new partnership with Training Orchestra allows Course Merchant to extend its Training Management offer to Enterprise-level customers, and helps Training Orchestra increase its penetration into the US and UK markets.

Richard Standen, Managing Director of Course Merchant, said "It was an honour to be selected by Training Orchestra to represent them in their key UK and US markets. This partnership benefits both companies because we can serve the Enterprise Training sector whilst helping Training Orchestra to extend their reach."

Training Orchestra's CEO Stéphane Pineau commented: "We are convinced that Course Merchant's established position as UK brand-leader in the course-sales market will give us the platform we need to make a real impact on the UK and United States."

Course Merchant's knowledge of helping training companies make critical software purchasing decisions comes from its experience in implementing Course Merchant, its e-commerce product for the Moodle and Totara LMS.

Growing training companies tend to use a mixture of systems: Excel, Access, a CRM, and other software products, which do not always scale well within a growing organization. Training Orchestra is squarely aimed at larger training businesses as a proven all-in-one solution for managing these diverse needs.

About Connected Shopping Ltd.
Connected Shopping Ltd is a UK company supplying software and services to support the sale of courses online. With a UK-based development team, the company now has over 300 clients worldwide, including Universities, Museums, Government Agencies and Companies in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and across Europe.

LinkedIn's Acquisition of

May 2015

LinkedIn's Acquisition of Closing The Skills Gap?

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner asserts in a blog post that one of the reasons he went into business was to reform the education system. As well as making business sense, his company's acquisition of, announced on the 9th of April, certainly seems to support that broader political goal. Soon LinkedIn's 350 million members are likely to start seeing prompts to enrol on courses when LindedIn's vast database of professional information matches them up with skills they need to acquire to reach the next level on their career paths. Maybe in time we'll see notifications telling members that others are progressing more quickly than them after getting certification on course X, which you can buy here for only X dollars.

LinkedIn's main value proposition is to connect people with opportunity. Yet until now it has focused on the traditional Alma Mater model of education in which the universities or colleges you went to feature heavily in your profile. What Weiner seems to be envisioning is a democratization of education with the aim of facilitating ongoing professional development that doesn't require people to remortgage their homes. And money aside, as Weiner states, 'The world moves too quickly now to rest on the knowledge we gained earlier in our lives.'

Not that is free – annual subscriptions are around $300 per year – but that's an awful lot less than going back to college. You get access to a substantial library of courses taught by industry experts, which elevates you a long way above the questionable world of YouTube tutorials. The courses are focused on professional skills. Certificates are free; is not based on the free-to-study-but-pay-if-you-want-a-certificate model often encountered online.

The Skills Gap is a real problem in the U.S. Companies are struggling to fill their available posts due to a lack of suitably qualified applicants. With this new marriage of Big Data and educational technology, LinkedIn's stated goal of linking talent with opportunity seems to be a step closer.

Course Merchant Youtube channel

April 2015

We're proud to introduce you to our new YouTube channel, where we've spent a little time putting together a suite of videos which talk you through some of the best and newest features of Course Merchant. Videos include a very quick run-through of the advantages of selling courses online with Course Merchant: One-Minute Overview. Each feature then has its own dedicated introduction video, which we'll quickly outline below.

Corporate customers will appreciate the new Multiseat Licence Management area which gives them their own self-service seat allocation utility. Those using social media in their marketing efforts can use Buy Now buttons to drive sales straight to checkout, bypassing the storefront catalog entirely. If you are interested in discounting you might want to take a look at the suite of options Course Merchant offers in Discount Methods. These are broken down further in three separate videos: Set pricing bands for quantities of products with Multiseat Discounts. Learn how to apply automatic discounts based on a user's profile field in your LMS in Membership Discounts. Take advantage of the flexibility of Course Merchant's Voucher / Coupon Codes. And find out about the Single Sign On feature.

It all adds up to the most specialized, flexible and tightly-integrated e-commerce solution out there for selling courses online. Contact us today to discuss your course selling needs.

We'll be adding more videos soon so please check back regularly.

We hope you like our channel, and do let us know if you feel there's a gap in the coverage - we'll be happy to address it.

Also available on our website:

Blackboard announced its acquisition of Remote-Learner UK

April 2015

Everyone in the open-source e-learning community should be interested to hear that Blackboard recently announced its acquisition of Remote-Learner UK, a leading provider of hosting, support and consulting solutions for Moodle. Remote-Learner UK is a subsidiary of US-based Remote-Learner.Net, Inc., a company with roots in educational technology stretching back to 1982. The move will allow Blackboard to offer more services and solutions to businesses and institutions that use Moodle in the UK and Ireland.

This acquisition adds to Blackboard's open-source offering following its 2012 purchases of U.S. company Moodlerooms and Australian company NetSpot. Those two purchases formed the foundation of Blackboard's Open Source Services Division.

Sean Keogh, founder and managing director of Remote-Learner UK, said, "Blackboard has demonstrated their commitment to open source over the past several years and I am confident the UK Moodle community will benefit from this acquisition. Together, we will be able to better serve our customers and offer new solutions and services that will improve their educational experience."

MoodleMoot 2015

April 2015

Course Merchant will be attending the MoodleMoot conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the 4th-6th August. MoodleMoot brings together the cream of moodlers from across the States and elsewhere to shape Moodle and educational technology for the future. It's organized by Moodle HQ with keynote speakers including Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle, as well as many others giving their visions of the future of e-learning.

Why not come along and meet us? Richard and Martin will be pleased to take you through a demo of Course Merchant and discuss how it can help you reach your e-commerce goals in the course-selling arena. Each Course Merchant build is tailored to the needs of the client and either design-matched to integrate seamlessly with an existing storefront or built from the ground up. Feel free to give us a call before MoodleMoot and arrange to discuss your needs with Richard or Martin over a coffee.

Interested in working with us?

We use our own Course Merchant software and in-house developers to tailor a solution appropriate to your needs.