Transcript: What Is a Digital Course? The How, What, & Why They’re Magic

August 16, 2021

Click here to download the PDF version of the transcript

AMY PORTERFIELD: According to Forbes, the worldwide e-learning market, or digital-course market, is projected to be worth—any guesses? Ready for it?—$325 billion by 2025. That's just a few years away! 

INTRO: I'm Amy Porterfield, and this is Online Marketing Made Easy. 

AMY: When I'm out in the world and people ask me what I do, I say that I help people take their knowledge and skill set and turn that into a profitable digital course. And the looks I get are very entertaining, a lot of confusion. Sometimes people just change the topic, or they'll say something like, “Oh, that's cool.” But all in all, I usually have to explain what I mean. And I thought, you know, I bet other digital-course creators deal with the same thing. So why not create a podcast episode to help all of us in this online space better explain what we do, because it goes beyond creating modules and video trainings to help people. It's more advanced than that, it's more detailed than that, and it's part of a bigger picture, and I want to talk about that. So in today's episode, I talk in detail about what exactly a digital course is, other names for it, and how it works within and as a business. And I'm going to give examples of digital courses as well and so much more.  

Now, you may be thinking, “Amy, we listen to your podcast weekly. We know what a digital course is. Thank you very much.” However, I think this episode is important because it's for those of you who have ever gotten looks of confusion when you try to explain to people not in the online space what you do, as well as for those who maybe just stumbled upon my podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy. They’re curious about this online-marketing world, they’re curious about digital courses, but not really sure what's involved. So my hope is that this episode expands beyond just my listeners to pull people into the magic of a digital course and show them what's possible. 

Now, if you're listening and you think, “Wait a second. My friend so-and-so would find this episode really helpful because I know they're thinking about quitting their job and starting an online business, and I think they've got a digital course in them. They just don't know it yet,” if you had those thoughts, then send this episode to them. Link them directly to this episode, because I really do think it could be a game changer. Heck, it could be a life changer for some.  

So with that, let's talk about what the heck a digital course is.  

First things first, I'm going to share some wildly fun stats about digital courses. But before we go there, I want to make it clear that there's a few different names for a digital course. Some people say e-learning or online course. It's all the same thing, so I just wanted to make that clear.  

All right. About those stats. According to Forbes, the worldwide e-learning market, or digital-course market, is projected to be worth—any guesses? Ready for it?—$325 billion by 2025. That's just a few years away! Now, the stats keep getting better. According to GlobeNewswire, the U.S. e-learning, or digital-course market, could increase and grow by $12.81 billion between 2020 and 2024. So huge jump in just the next few years.  

Oh, and I love the next one. This one is from Shift. Digital-course learning increases retention rates from 25 percent to 60 percent. Whoa. And in 2020, 90 percent of companies use e-learning as a training tool, according to EdgePoint Learning.  

And you're welcome to go check out the other impressive stats out there. I just wanted to give you a handful. Now, since the pandemic started, digital courses have definitely skyrocketed. You see them everywhere, and, really, these stats back them up.  

So what I've seen as a digital-course creator and an expert in this field is that once the pandemic hit, the way people were learning and the fact that they open their minds to learning in different ways, of course, online, that changed the game. So we were already seeing this huge rise in e-learning, and then with the pandemic and with people's habits changing, we saw it even skyrocket more. So that's pretty promising, right?  

So what exactly is a digital course? Well, put simply, a digital course is essentially an online educational program that you work through on a digital platform. Just as a college student has the option to take a college course online, adults, children, and, really, people of all ages can do the same thing through a digital course.  

So to best explain what a digital course is, let's dive into a few examples from my students. And this is the part that I really enjoy, because when I'm, let's say, stuck in an elevator with someone, which is very rare that it's an elevator, but it kind of sets the scene, right? so I'm in an elevator with someone, we start a little small talk, and someone says, “Well, what do you do?” and when I say that I help people turn their knowledge and skill set into profitable digital courses, I definitely get a little bit of a confused or, like, what? kind of look. But when I start to give examples, which now I do, so in just everyday life, like, if someone comes over to my house, and let’s say the window cleaner comes over, and he comes into my video studio, and he sees all the equipment, instantly—this actually happened—he'll say, “What do you do?” And I tell him that line that I just told you, and I get kind of like a blank look. Maybe not confused, but like, all right. I'm not really sure what that all looks like. And then I say, “Well, let me tell you about a few of my students.” And the second I get into examples, their face lights up. They get it. They see the possibility, and they're interested. Maybe not for themselves; they’re just interested in the topic. And so that's why I wanted to give you examples today. Are you ready? Let's do this. 

I always like to share this story of one of my favorite students, Dinara. Those of you who follow my podcast or those of you who have actually been in my Digital Course Academy program, you know of Dinara. But a lot of people that are listening are new here, and they've never heard this story, and I feel like it's an incredibly inspiring one. So Dinara started a baking business in 2012 and held in-person classes that did really well. So she taught baking to other hobbyists or other bakers as well. So she actually baked, and then she taught baking. And her most popular in-person training was how to make caramel apples. Her students started begging her for an online version that they could watch over and over again. But when she saw that online baking courses only sold for, like, ten or fifteen dollars each, she had no interest in creating one. Her students kept pushing her and told her that they didn't care if she charged more than anyone else. They'd pay $200 for her online course, which is what she was charging for her in-person classes.  

So Dinara finally created a digital course. She gave the people what they were asking for. And in her very first online launch, she made over $62,000 with a list of 2,600 email subscribers, teaching them how to make caramel apples.  

This is what Dinara said. “My mind has exploded. I believe in myself in ways that I never have before. And now I'm seeing and believing all that's possible for my life and my kids’ lives. Sixty-two thousand dollars is more money than I've ever made in one year in my entire life. And now I'm going to launch that same course again to the same list and make even more sales with a lot less work.” And for the record, she did. She went on to launch and made another $62,000, like almost identical to what she made in the very first launch. I always tell my students, “You can launch your same course over and over again.” 

Okay. So this is the magic of digital courses that I'm talking about, the fact that people like Dinara start believing in themselves more so than they ever did. They can't believe what is possible. So let’s talk about a few more. 

Next stop, Amanda Ferguson. Amanda grew up poor, but she recalls that when she was eight years old, her mom gave her an etiquette book and told her that if she learned these skills, she could go anywhere and do anything. So that's what she did.  

Fast forward. She was getting certified as a corporate etiquette consultant, hoping to launch a business, but at the time, nobody was doing this kind of training online, which left her thinking that there wasn't much of an audience for it. However, around this time, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were dating, and because of this, there was a huge boom of interest in etiquette and manners. Despite her fears and how many times people told her that an online course around etiquette wouldn’t work, she went for it anyway, and she launched her digital course, which ended up converting ninety-one students for a grand total of over $101,000. Amanda says, “I'm ready to keep rocking my business and pushing toward the seven-figure launch that's coming my way.” 

Next, I'd like to introduce you to Mark Tew, who was an accountant for over ten years. He started doing tax returns as a side hustle, started a personal-finance blog, and eventually wrote a successful e-book. He and his wife wanted to live abroad, so he explored ways of making this more realistic. That's when he decided to explore the world of digital courses. He ended up creating a digital course, helping resellers, like people that sell on Amazon and Etsy, to figure out their different tax situations based on what they're selling and how they're selling online. So very, very specific to one area of tax management and accounting.  

Now, it's funny because when I asked him about his success—and I'll tell you about it in a second—he said, “Amy, I didn't think anyone would buy a digital course about a topic as boring as taxes, but they did.” And oh, how they did, because, fast forward, after going through Digital Course Academy, Mark did a ten-day launch, and he made $108,000 with his very first digital course. 

Now, Mark shared with me that the success of this course has alleviated the stress of having to rely on one-on-one client interactions to make an income. It's given his family the option to pursue their dreams of living a lifestyle where they can travel for extended periods of time and show their kids the world.  

These are real-life stories, and they aren't unicorns. These are real people with real challenges, using a digital course to create a life that aligns with what they know they are capable of. The bottom line is that I believe to my core that everyone has a digital course in them, and you can truly, truly, truly create a digital course just about anything and everything. Digital courses are magic. I'll say it again and again and again. I really do believe they are. 

Now, let's talk about the two kinds of ways that you can use a digital course within your business. So this is more from an entrepreneurial perspective. One is that you can use it as a standalone revenue generator for your business. So that means you don't offer any other products or one-on-one coaching, or if you do, it's very minimal. Instead, you really focus on digital courses. And if someone were to ask you, you'd say, “Yeah, I have a digital-course business,” which is very similar to mine.  

Now, another way is that you can offer it as an up sell or a down sell to your one-on-one coaching or service-based business. Or if you have a service-based business, you can just have it as something else you offer that doesn't have to be tied to your one-on-one or service-based business. It could be totally different.  

So, for example, let's say you're a social-media business coach and consultant, and you work one on one with entrepreneurs and businesses to revamp their social media and use it to grow their business. Well, maybe you also have YouTube expertise that ties into your social-media coaching. You could put your YouTube know-how and knowledge into a digital course and use it as an up sell or down sell or just as a standalone offer that you sell to people that might not be your client.  

And then, finally, you can also offer your digital course complementary to a product if you're a product-based business. So, for example, let's say you have a natural skincare line. You could actually create a digital course around using your products properly or something that complements your product in such a way.  

I personally use digital courses in my business as my main bread and butter. I have a signature digital course called Digital Course Academy, and this is really my main focus and the one course that we put at the forefront of all our business. And then I offer two other digital courses that are evergreen, meaning that you can buy any day of the week, and they complement my bigger program, Digital Course Academy. So List Builders Society is how to grow an email list so that you have people to sell to, and then Systems That Scale, my newer digital course, is a program to help you get the back end of your online business dialed in, put together systems and processes so that you're working with the team, you're efficient, you're productive, and you're making more money. It's basically how I run my business, and I put that into a course. And then on top of that, I have a membership experience called Momentum, which directly ties to Digital Course Academy, because you have to go through Digital Course Academy first in order to get a personal invite into Momentum. So Momentum follows Digital Course Academy, and it's a membership to help people execute and launch over and over again while I troubleshoot with them and support them along the way and teach them ways to make their business stronger. 

So, at the end of the day, there are so many different ways to add a digital course to your business or build a business around a digital course. Don't think that it has to be one way or the other. There's so many cool ways to add a digital course into your business so that you have more consistent revenue, so that you can serve your audience in bigger ways, and so that you can teach the stuff you want to teach, because sometimes when you're a one-on-one coach or consultant, you feel like there's so many other things I would love to teach and to share. Well, maybe that's your next digital course.  

So I wanted to share that all with you because I want to expand your mind and really invite you into thinking about how might a digital course work in your existing business or the business you want to create. 

Okay. Let's talk a little bit about the different types of digital-course platforms that you may or may not be familiar with. So let's say you're a consumer, and you want to take a digital course. Well, you might have heard of Udemy or Skillshare or MasterClass or Coursera. And you can actually take different digital courses from these different sites.  

Now, as a consumer, that means that you likely won't get access to extra bonuses if you go through a platform like one of the ones I just mentioned. So you don't get different bonuses from ordering the course, which we'll talk about in a minute. And then some courses do offer access, like email access or messaging to the course creator, and some of them don’t. So it's a little bit of a crapshoot in terms of if you're going to be able to ask questions or not. 

Now let's look at that from a course creator. With sites like the ones I just mentioned, they will take a cut of your profits, actually a very big cut, for most of those. Or like something like MasterClass, those typically are big names or celebrities that are doing that, so that's not even a platform as a course creator you would use. But the different sites that you can upload your course to and they'll sell them for you on their website, they take a cut. And the promoting and the bonuses you can add and the way you engage with your students, totally limited, so I do not recommend any of those.  

Instead, if you are a course creator, I'd rather see you use platforms that you have more control over. So one of my favorites is Kajabi, k-a-j-a-b-i, and Kajabi allows you to upload your course and then also allows you to put together an order form so that people can buy your course from you. You can offer extra bonuses to incentivize them to buy from you, and you control the names and the emails and the transactions that are happening. And then, of course, you can give a password to the new student that you just attracted into your program. You give them a password to protect all your content.  

And I think one of my favorite parts about enrolling in a course offered by a course creator, the entrepreneur itself, so, like, you creating a course and offering it to your students directly versus one of those sites I mentioned earlier, is that you get to be a part of a very tight-knit community, because you as the course creator, you're going to create that community. You're going to build a community of like-minded students who can help each other as you're helping them. And so I think the beautiful thing about you using a platform like Kajabi, uploading your course into Kajabi, and controlling who buys and what that transaction looks like and what the flow of communication looks like, you're building this beautiful community of people that will be your students for life. They're loyal to you. They feel taken care of by you. So that's just something else to think about. 

Now, I'm getting a little bit more advanced in this conversation. In another podcast, we can talk about creating your courses and promoting your courses, selling your courses, all that good stuff. But I just wanted to kind of share the platform experience with you because I often get asked, like, “Should I use one of those digital-course sites that they’ll sell my course for me, or should I do it myself?” I'm always going to recommend you can do it yourself, and you should do it yourself. You are very capable, my friend. So stick around, and I'll share even more on how to do that.  

All right. I hope you found this extremely insightful and helpful, whether you're looking for a better way to explain what you do now or you're new to the digital-course world. So hopefully things just got a whole lot clearer.  

Now, remember, this is a great episode to share with those around you, maybe family members who just don't understand what you do; or maybe that friend of yours or family member who also wants to start an online business and maybe even has a digital course in them in the future, this will give them so much clarity. So share this episode. It’s going to be one of my most shareable episodes to date. I just know it. 

All right, my friend, whether you have a digital course or you're thinking about creating one or maybe you've never thought about one until now, I encourage you to lean into that and see what's possible. And because I don't want to leave you stranded with all of this valuable information, I have an action I want you to take right this minute. I want you to head to,  so, and take the quiz that I have there for you, to help you know exactly where to start with creating your digital course. Once you're done taking the quiz, you'll know exactly what your first, second, third, and even fourth step should be for creating a digital course, and not just any digital course, but a successful and profitable one. This quiz is extremely action oriented and was created based on the results I've helped thousands of students to get. You're going to love it. So head on over to and set just two minutes aside to take the quiz and get ready for your valuable results. I'll link to it in the show notes as well.  

Thanks for joining me today. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

Follow Me On The Gram