The knowledge economy has changed forever. 
And we have the data to prove it.

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What separates the most successful creators and companies from the rest? Learn how you can close the gap to bring in more business and better engage students in 2022.

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In the last few years, there has been a seismic shift in the knowledge economy.

We took a closer look at the top 20% of Thinkific creators and businesses (based on number of enrolments per month) to see what exactly it is they’re doing differently to make them so successful.

Jump to:

State of industry

Online learning is officially the “new normal”

Online learning is now a necessity, not just an alternate way to learn. Over 66% of U.S. adults have been more motivated to seek out online learning since the pandemic began.

Top creators and businesses have invested heavily in improving the quality of online learning to match this increasing demand. Now, the experience of online learning matches (and in some cases surpasses) the in-person learning experience.

Why do people prefer online learning?
In a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, here’s what portion of people listed these as top benefits.

Since 2019, student demand for online learning has increased dramatically across all industries — from health and fitness to software and technology. For nearly every niche, there is a growing number of students looking to learn online.

But the format of that learning (and the way it's being packaged) is starting to change. To find out exactly how, dive into the trends below.

2022 Online learning trends

Learning gets personal

Online courses are shifting away from the one-way communication that has traditionally dominated this industry. Students today are finding more value in interaction and connection—from their teachers, peers, and communities.

Learning online can be lonely. Unlike in a classroom, students online are expected to spend their time staring at the screen and absorbing information alone and without much interaction.

But human brains aren’t wired to learn solo — and top creators have caught onto this idea in a big way. 

Now, top creators and businesses are moving away from treating their courses like static, never-changing pieces of content (like a book in a library). Instead, they’re creating lively “town squares” with discussions and debates. Not only does this create a more engaging learning experience — it also creates more long-term value for students and gives them a reason to stick around after graduation.

Nina Zadeh
Co-Founder, Sidewalker Daily 

I don't want someone to buy my course because they got pumped when they found it and then just let it collect digital dust. The live and community elements actually help people get through the material, implement what they learn, and make moves. There’s accountability.

The rise of multi-product learning

Online learning is becoming so much more than just online courses. Top creators are expanding their businesses to offer memberships, ebooks, physical products, one-on-one coaching, and more.

In 2022, more top creators and businesses are scaling up to sell more than one product or service. It’s no longer about putting all your eggs in one basket (because what if a potential customer doesn’t like that particular basket?).

85% of top creators  and businesses sell more than one product or service.

Number of products & services sold by the top 20% of course creators

Students want to choose how they engage with you. Imagine you built a brand all around “how to train your ferret.” Someone who is at a low level of engagement may only want to download your free ebook (“10 Tips for Training Ferrets”). While a true fan might want to not only sign up for your paid course (“The Ferret Training Supercourse”), but also book a one-on-one coaching session with you (“Fix My Ferret!”).

Top creators and businesses aren’t creating wildly different products and services for the sole sake of diversification, either—they’re creating complementary pieces of learning that students can purchase together.

Latasha James
Founder, Online Business Launch Lab 

With just the evergreen course, it was a small revenue stream. That's when I started to strategize a little more about different formats I could start offering. Now, we have consistent five-figure months, with sometimes double or quadruple what we made before. It has completely revolutionized the business.

Creators take control of their data 

Top creators have known for years how important audience data can be, but in 2022 they’re making it a priority. Rather than relying on social platforms with “followers” or “fans,” creators are building a direct track to each member of their community.

What is the value of a follower on social media? In 2022, the answer unfortunately is not very much. Organic reach has declined steadily on social over the past decade, making it a challenge for anyone outside of the top influencers to make money on these platforms. Instead, top creators are using social media as a jumping off point.

To get the most out of your audience, you need to migrate them onto a platform where you can own the relationship.

How do top creators attract students to their courses?

Top creators and businesses are 4x more likely to import users from another platform or email list to their online course platform. This shows they have control over these relationships and can more easily monetize and tap into feedback. More control over relationships = more control over income.

Kat Norton
Founder, Miss Excel

I'll create free webinars. And that's where I'm really able to get people from my social media to take the next step. Having those lead gen opportunities in your funnels that will grow your mailing list for you is definitely key… It has been hands down the best way to monetize my particular audience.

The end of the hard sell 

Creators in the knowledge economy have traditionally used “hard sales” tactics to bring in business. This year, top creators are exploring more savvy ways to pull in potential customers.

You know the drill: something about a course topic catches your eye, you scroll down a long text heavy landing page, read through student testimonials, and start to get excited. Maybe this course really will change your life!

But then you hit the pricing. And it’s more expensive than you hoped. (Womp, womp.)

Average course price per industry

Top creators and businesses have found a better way to bring in customers. Instead of locking everything away behind a single paid checkout, they’re using tools like free lessons, live events, and lower-cost monthly subscriptions to get more leads in the door. This gives students the chance to see the quality of your learning experience before having to pay a steep upfront fee.

USD

Chef Amanda Schonberg
Founder, Baking for Business

Predictability to me is one of the safest features of all. You're not always having to worry about launching. You know how sales are gonna be because you know, on average, how many members you have. So for me, that's why the membership model is just always a little easier.

Want more online learning insights from top creators and businesses?

Get the full scoop on these trends and more juicy data 

Tired of reading? Watch the webinar to see how you can put these trends into action.

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Methodology
To collect data for this report, the team at Thinkific conducted expert interviews and developed a series of hypotheses around what makes the best performers different. We then put those ideas to the test and analyzed three different datasets:

A - Thinkific customer survey on product needs (Oct 2021 | n = 350, 90% confidence)
B - Thinkific user data, >50,000 users (data analysis conducted February 2022)
C - An online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults was commissioned by Thinkific and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between December 14, 2021 and December 17, 2021. All participants are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team, who are members of the MRS and have corporate membership to ESOMAR and AAPOR.

Copyright Thinkific 2022

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This report helps to uncover:

How do the top creators and companies keep students engaged?

Where do they focus their time?

What’s their secret to growing their business?

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Forward-Looking Statements
This report includes forward-looking statements and forward–looking information within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws (“forward-looking statements”). Often, but not always, forward–looking information can be identified by the use of words such as “plans”, “is expected”, “expects”, “scheduled”, “intends”, “contemplates”, “anticipates”, “adoption rates”, “believes”, “proposes” or variations (including negative and grammatical variations) of such words and phrases, or state that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, “might” or “will” be taken, occur or be achieved. Forward-looking statements in this report include statements regarding industry trends; growing demand for online learning, growth in our industry; addressable markets for our solutions; capturing market share; advances in and expansion of our offered platform service and the anticipated benefits of Thinkific Payments and Thinkific Communities and their features for the Company’s customers. Such statements and information are based on the current expectations of Thinkific’s management, and are based on assumptions and subject to risks and uncertainties. Although Thinkific’s management believes that the assumptions underlying these statements and information are reasonable, they may prove to be incorrect. A number of risks, uncertainties and other factors may cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements contained in this report, including, among other factors, the risk factors described in additional detail under “Risk Factors” in our most recent Annual Information Form, and in our other filings with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities, all of which are available under our profile on SEDAR at 
www.sedar.com. Except as required by applicable securities laws, forward–looking statements and information speak only as of the date on which they are made and Thinkific undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward–looking statement or information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.