Job: Online course producer
The Role: Digital technologies are enabling everyday people to learn new skills online, and the market for these services is booming. In fact, the global eLearning industry surpassed $165-billion (U.S.) in 2015 and is predicted to reach over $275-billion by the year 2022.
Countless users are taking to their desktop, tablet or smartphone screens to gain knowledge in fields ranging from marketing to nutrition to entrepreneurship, and it is up to course producers to plan, shoot and market all of this content.
"As a course producer, I create educational experiences and content online to teach people new skills," says Gwen Elliot, who holds the position for Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify.
Ms. Elliot explains that the job can involve relationship building with instructors and experts, shooting and production, talent coaching, copywriting, lesson plan development as well as marketing and branding. As a relatively new profession with constantly changing expectations, Ms. Elliot adds that staying up to date on trends and innovations in the industry is also an important element of the job.
"A course producer, a really good one, wants to create an online course that is engaging and helpful and teaches a student a skill that they can apply in their life," she says. "I have had to become a jack-of-all-trades."
Salary: The salary of a course producer ranges widely because compensation can be structured in a number of different ways. Ms. Elliot says that, while she now has a consistent salary with an employer, course producers often work as contractors first and can be paid in a lump sum, by the hour or with a percentage of sales.
"From an industry perspective, course producers can make anywhere from $55,000 to six figures," she says. "This depends on their experience in content creation and content marketing, though there is no limit to what course creators can earn, especially as an independent creator."
Ms. Elloit explains that since anyone can post an instructional video and charge any amount, there really is no limit to what someone stands to earn. Los Angeles-based course producer Melyssa Griffin, for example, self-reported e-course sales of more than $258,000 last year, earning a net profit of more than $190,000.
"It's an industry that's growing so fast, there's really no ceiling to this industry to how much money you can make and how much impact you can make," Ms. Elliot says. "It really is a limitless kind of job."
Education: With no oversight or regulating body, there is no mandatory educational background, licence or qualifications required to be employed as a course producer.
"If anybody reading this article has a skill, and they want to market it and create their own course, they can do that. No one will stop them," Ms. Elliot says.
While there are no official requirements, however, Ms. Elliot explains that a post-secondary education in media, content development or online marketing is a great foundation for a career as an online course producer.
"My education also involved investing thousands of dollars in online courses myself to learn skills like how to run a webinar, SEO [search engine optimization], learning about Facebook and Instagram advertising, affiliate marketing, branding and copywriting," she says. "It's really a self-directed education at this point."
In other words, Ms. Elliot believes the best way to learn how to produce online courses is by watching relevant online courses.
Job prospects: Though the industry is young, it is growing quickly, and opportunities for both independent and in-house course producers are expected to skyrocket over the coming years. Ms. Elliot says that today many of the big technology companies, including her employer, are investing in course producers to help teach customers how to get the most out of their products, but she expects the field to become even more mainstream moving forward.
"This industry is booming," she said. "Companies like Twitter and Facebook and Hootsuite are all creating their own online academies to teach customers how to have success with their product, so this is definitely a growing industry."
Challenges: The industry continues to face the growing pains typical of any new and quickly growing field, which results in a number of challenges for today's practitioners. For one thing, Ms. Elliot says it's often difficult to articulate the role, even to co-workers. Working in a quickly evolving field also requires today's course producers to be constantly updating their own knowledge and expertise to stay up to date.
"There's no go-to place to learn everything," she said. "Because there is no holy grail of resources, there's no one place to go, it does require some hustle and being scrappy and figuring out who are the north stars that are leading this industry and learning from them."
Furthermore, without the oversight of a regulatory body, Ms. Elliot says she comes across many "flashy" ads that seem to present the field as a get-rich-quick scheme. These ads typically offer expensive courses that claim to teach students how to make a lot of money producing their own expensive courses.
"People who are new to creating a course and want to create one themselves, they might see marketing saying they can create a six-figure course or make a million dollars really fast, and that is really painful for people to learn the hard way when they try to do it themselves and don't make the money back they spent on the course," she said.
Why they do it: Ms. Elliot says that course producers enjoy working in a fast-moving and growing field where they have the opportunity to take on a wide variety of tasks and roles each day.
"If you're a person that thrives in an environment that's changing and you enjoy the challenge of one day being on set and one day just writing and being in a quiet space, if you enjoy that, you'll thrive as a course producer," she says.
Misconceptions: Though the role is too young to have many established conceptions, let alone misconceptions, one that Ms. Elliot hears often from those with some understanding of the position is that it's as simple as speaking into a camera and uploading it to YouTube.
"It takes a bit longer than people think to create an online course," she said. "There's a lot to learn about the technology, there's a lot to learn about online marketing and actually taking time to do the work to understand who your customer is and what's the best online marketing to use for your courses, so it's not as easy as it appears to be."