Successful Lifelong Learning Products OP-ED EDUKWEST Europe

Tips for Building Successful LifeLong Learning Products

I am not surprised when a discussion with an entrepreneur begins with a pitch, “Our idea has a billion-dollar potential in a multi-trillion dollar education industry”. The recent disruption in education is largely driven by the entrepreneurs who are ambitious enough to think that they can make an impact – both to society and to its shareholders.

A reality check: Who is really learning?

I know for a fact that people are actively signing up for courses on a variety of online platforms – in fact I myself, have signed up for about 3 in the last month. But, I’ve realized that enthusiasm fades extremely quickly and I remain unconvinced that the learner is to be blamed entirely. Most online courses are delivered via a rather traditional path; the way teaching was done (and is still done) in the classroom over the last century. Videos may have replaced a physical lecture, but the content hasn’t changed in the slightest. Moreover, there is a lack of a social factor or a sense of belonging with an online course – especially when both the teacher and student are nothing more than email addresses, Facebook or Twitter handles. Hence, the retention rates and ratios are all out of the window. This is far from what MOOCs are looking for, considering that customer acquisition costs are so high.

So what should the entrepreneur do?

1. Understand your customer

In lifelong learning, your target individual is an adult (18+). The motivation of such a persona is driven by one of the two factors: (a) The need to excel and progress in their respective careers (the professional) (b) The desire to learn something that could improve their lifestyle (the hobbyist). I would say that a course in technology or accounting is better suited for the former, while someone learning to play the guitar would be considered the latter (Although this is interchangeable depending on if the individual is looking to become the next Eddie Van Halen). The end goal of individuals in each category varies from obtaining a certificate or accreditation for the course to the concept of instant gratification and the resounding belief that, “I can do it!” Therefore, understanding the audience and their end-goals is essential to your planning.

2. Understand the best way to address the learning need

What I mean by “best”, is deciding how you will keep the student/learner motivated, deliver the most optimal path to completion and ensuring that their end-goals are achieved. If you can do it through video – great. But, if you need to teach them something face-to-face, then it needs to be incorporated into the program to increase engagement. If the project based approach works best, then create a learning project that they can submit at the end of the day.
Your course needs to have the two key drivers for its success:
(a) Motivation: The learner returns to the course at regular intervals – means he is motivated enough to complete
(b) Time Spend: The learner spends the minimum time you expect them to spend on the course – online or offline

3. Test it out

When you create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), look towards selected members of your targeted audience and offer them the course for free. Track their motivation and time spend. Collect information on their actions so you can improve your program.

Then, here’s an idea. Although this may be extremely risky, midway through the course, take that free option away and ask them to pay for access to the course – even if it is only a minimal amount. You will immediately understand the overall stickiness of your course. Plus, you will know the revenue potential based on your user group. As a bonus, it will be a compelling story to tell any angel investor or venture capitalist when raising money as your numbers will seem trustworthy and the business will have a chance of reaching the level of success it deserves.
At Sandbox, we support businesses that are changing the way world plays and learn. Sandbox is an active investment firm that invests in companies and supports them through market development, operational expertise, business and strategic planning, networking, distribution, creative and technology support. 

We are focused on creating value at the heart of lifelong learning. Do contact me if you think I or Sandbox can help you. You can reach me at

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Abhi Arya

Co-Founder & Partner at Sandbox & Co.
Abhi Arya is a partner and co-founder at Sandbox where he heads the learning and education (inc ed-tech) vertical leading investment portfolio, investment support network and roadmaps. Before co-founding Sandbox, Abhi was global head of digital consumer business at Pearson’s Language Learning division. His other experience includes P&G, Cadbury and couple of entrepreneurial exits in Digital & Tech space. Abhi is very much an entrepreneur at heart and seeks to support companies that combine learning, digital & technology solutions to change the way education is delivered and consumed.

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