What Makes A Great Online Course Bundle?

Next Mountain's All Access Career Bundle
Next Mountain’s All Access Career Bundle at pre-launch

Bundling Online Courses

As you might already know from our last post, Making Online Courses Is Hard Work!, Next Mountain Academy‘s courses are bundled into an All Access Career Bundle.

The courses aren’t for sale individually — subscriptions let us offer the courses on more convenient and attractive terms, and with more flexibility for evolving the offerings in the future.

But the decision to bundle these courses begs several questions:

  • What goes into the bundle?
  • How many bundles should you have?
  • What is the release schedule?
  • How do you stay on track?
  • How can you keep the content relevant?
  • How should you price bundles?

This post explores each of those questions and explains Next Mountain‘s goals over the rest of the year, from an e-learning perspective.

Hopefully, this post will be helpful to online course creators, as well as potential online course students. Or at least interesting to someone waiting for the dentist.

After reading, you can decide whether the bundle might be great or not.

What Goes Into The Bundle?

At a high level, you can bundle things together in many ways.

For example, bundling is fundamental to pricing decisions in businesses.

A burger with fries. Soup with a salad. Hummus with a pita. And so on. These things just seem to make sense together.

(Yes, I’m writing this an hour before lunch, so the examples are from what’s top of mind…)

The alternative is to construct a grab bag. Some bundles have a little of this, a little of that. And that can be great, like a combo appetizer, or chicken and waffles, or it can be annoying.

But for the All Access Career Bundle, the goal is to show a clean and clear progression from resume to career. With that goal in mind, the currently planned courses are

Each course prominently displays its planned release date and current progress level, if any. I’ll explain why below.

Of course, there may be more courses added to this bundle — we have plans for several more, but we’ll see how these go, first.

Should there be more bundles? It’s possible. I’ll explore this below, as well.

But first, let’s consider each component of the bundle.

Resume

The reason for starting the progression of courses with a course on resumes and cover letters is that, first, having a clear resume and cover letter are fundamental to the job search and interview process. It’s never too early to start working on a good resume, since it’s important to review your resume over time.

Would you really want to interview without a resume? It’s certainly possible, and I have done it.

But are you going to hope that the interviewer printed out your social media or job search site profile?

(begin sarcasm) I’m sure that those will be nicely formatted… (end sarcasm)

Would you like your interviewer to scroll through your social media profile during the interview? I’ve interviewed this way, and it worked out well enough, but my social media profile was in good enough shape for the task.

Realistically, a good resume can take time to evolve, and it helps drive the interview.

Naturally, a good resume should evolve as you gain skills and clarify your goals. Your resume today should look different from your resume from a few years ago, as well as your resume in a few years’ time.

Job Search

The next course in the bundle focuses on the job search, and its content is based on many of the experiences that I’ve had and observed over the years.

Searching for jobs is not easy for everyone.

For example, after a two-year on-campus business school experience, some people will return to their summer internship employers. Others will return to the employers who paid for their schooling. And the third major group will go somewhere else entirely.

That third group may need to learn job seeking skills as they go, especially if their desired companies don’t come on campus to interview.

Alternatively, layoffs happen. Having worked in the tech industry for many years, I’ve seen many people laid off. Business priorities change, and sometimes, regardless of how good the person is, they can get laid off.

In each of these cases, and more, it can be frustrating to wade through the sea of online content, questionable advice, and sound bites to figure out what you should do. Going without a job for a while can be stressful.

Can you hold out for what you want? Are you doing what you need to do to get the job? Can you pass on job offers that aren’t quite right?

Having searched for jobs in the past two major downturns (I usually graduate into a recession, for whatever reason…), while changing careers and geographies, I have some pretty clear thoughts on these questions and more.

Interviewing

If you’re offered a job without an interview, then that’s the exception that proves the rule.

Of course, most job searches will include interviews. Having interviewed countless times, on both sides of the table, it’s clear that interviews vary widely in quality. Preparation is key.

Candidate preparation varies wildly. I’ve seen extreme preparation from my MBA classmates, as well as from other top MBA graduates. I’ve seen a similarly wide spectrum of preparation in candidates for technical interviews.

As anyone who has been a scout can tell you, it’s important to be prepared. Always.

Furthermore, having a plan for your interview can help it proceed more smoothly. The interviewer is unlikely to let you guide the interview, but having a plan can help keep the interview on track.

Career

There are different takes on what a course on careers should be about.

From one perspective, this course could be aimed toward how to claw your way to the top, with no regard for means or collateral damage.

But that’s not this course — there’s enough of that available, if you want to look for it. This course is about planning a meaningful and rewarding career, and it’s about aligning your actions to get there.

What does it even mean to have a meaningful career?

How do you plan your career?

Once you’re on the track, what do you do if you have doubts?

My thoughts on career have some foundations in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, in his essay “Life Without Principle” (The Atlantic Monthly, 1863):

  • Most men would feel insulted, if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages.  But many are no more worthily employed now.

While a lot of people would feel insulted by this proposition for earning wages, there’s a step before this.

Many people have never thought deeply about their careers, or the societal effects of their careers, regardless of their background.

It’s easy to float down the stream, ending up somewhere.

This course aims to help the student make informed choices about their career and construct a plan to get there.

This course is a little different from many courses — thinking isn’t optional. Here, it’s not important that the student agrees with everything in the course, but it is important that the student carefully considers their career.

How Many Bundles Should You Have?

Yet again, there are a few schools of thought on this question.

From one perspective,  you can set up new bundles as your course list grows, but this can result in a combinatorial explosion, if you aren’t careful.

In other words, you can create so many bundles that you’re confused, your students are confused, and it’s a hassle to manage.

What happens if two bundles overlap? Is the student paying for the same course twice? What if a student signed up for the beginner through intermediate bundle, and there isn’t a separate advanced bundle? What if there’s just an intermediate through advanced bundle? How do they then upgrade?

I find those sorts of considerations rather tiresome, so bundles will be few and far between. There may only ever be one bundle, unless there is such a different set of courses that Next Mountain Academy offers that it makes sense to have a second one.

But I’ve seen cases where this makes sense, for example in music courses. The student may want a specific set of skills, and a well-constructed bundle can help them achieve this goal.

What Is The Release Schedule?

That’s an interesting question, and it will vary for different content publishers. Some people like to spring new courses on their students. “Surprise!”

Some people like to poll their students for requests. “Let’s take a poll.”

As I explained in our last post, Making Online Courses Is Hard Work!, these courses aren’t trivial to make. Especially, if you want to have reasonably good quality, from sound to video to closed captioning.

So, my intent is to release the initial courses in the progression mentioned above, since it makes sense to me and is consistent with my experience. I also think that this is the most useful release schedule for the student.

As described below, I also like to clearly indicate the release schedule. People don’t want to sign up for a subscription without having a reasonably good idea of what they’re getting.

Some people want the information as soon as possible, and others want everything finished; so, a clear release schedule is helpful to everyone.

How Do You Stay On Track?

For me, public commitment works pretty well.

Just by pushing the All Access Career Bundle live, or any of the courses, I have increased my own motivation to finish them.

Adding target dates further increases my motivation to finish these courses. I will see those target dates there daily. Being a competitive person, I will want to beat them. I will want to get the progress description out of the title, as soon as possible.

Blogging about these bundles and courses further increases said motivation.

I almost didn’t publish anything until the first course was complete. But that would have been a mistake. I’ve already gotten some helpful feedback, that has made the courses better. Also, anyone signing up for the bundle has a good idea of what they’re in for, as well as the likely release schedule.

Some people will want to get a deal on the bundle, since pre-launch pricing is deeply discounted, while others will want to wait. This way, it’s clear to everyone what’s going on.

The next step is to have clear methods for breaking the course production work into chunks. Finishing an entire course looks like a pain, but finishing a few scripts, or recording a few lessons, can easily be accomplished.

Those steps add up, and soon the course is finished.

Finally, I consider the desired outcome. If this bundle helps people get better jobs and improve the world, then I’ve just multiplied my efforts substantially.

How Can You Keep Content Relevant?

There are two main ways to keep content relevant — updating content and adding new content.

For some courses, it’s hard to keep up with the changes in the field. A good example is JavaScript frameworks. New ones appear, old ones say goodbye, and life moves on. If you’re not willing to keep updating or adding content over time, then your bundles and courses will grow stale.

There are a lot of ways to add new content in a way that is relevant to the bundle and the students of said bundle. Perhaps that will be the topic of another post, since we’ll see what our students prefer before rolling it out.

The intent for these courses is to provide as timeless content as possible, while staying up to date where it’s important. Then, additional content will be added where needed.

We will gather feedback from students along the way, since educating them is the ultimate goal in producing these courses.

How Should You Price Bundles?

Pricing bundles may be the toughest part of the whole process, and I touched on this in our last post, Making Online Courses Is Hard Work!

As you know, the only way to get the courses is to subscribe to the All Access Career Bundle.

While the courses are targeted at people who care about their careers, the initial goal is to price attractively enough for students to afford on a monthly or annual basis, while helping to fund Next Mountain‘s other endeavors, which means web and mobile apps.

If sold in any other fashion, the price would be much, much higher, to justify the investment of time, funds, and resources, and since the value can be reasonably correlated with a good student’s future earnings and career satisfaction.

But, as I explained in Making Online Courses Is Hard Work!, every publisher has to think through their pricing options and make the choices that are right for them.

Ways To Stay In Touch And Learn More

Check out the Next Mountain website for details on how to stay in touch, as well as for information about our SaaS and mobile applications and products.

About The Author

Jason is CEO of Next Mountain. Connect with him on MediumLinkedIn, QuoraAngelList, and Twitter.