How do you price online training courses?

How do you price online training courses? It’s a difficult question for many online training providers. In this article, we look at three pricing strategies and examine how a number of successful organizations price their training products and get a good ROI.

Price online training courses image

You’ve created an amazing online learning offering and will soon be ready to take it to market. But have you got your commercial strategy in place?

Do you know how you’re going to build demand and what you’re going to charge? Too high and you’ll turn off certain audiences and may not sell enough to cover your costs. Too low and you might not attract the right audience or get good return for your investment. Perhaps you shouldn’t charge at all and instead think about it as a marketing venture for other products and services you have to offer? It’s key you know what are you going to sell, how many will you sell, who will you sell them to, and what the cost of delivery is. Here are four starting points to consider.

Know who you’re targeting

This should happen right upfront before you start your project. Do research and prototyping to profile your target audience and ensure your learning products are right for them.  Get to know where they are likely to use your content, where they might best find it, and tap into how they can help share it with others like them. If you want help with this, our Capture Guide is a great place to start.

Calculate the cost

What does it cost to create your online training? You should have an understanding of how much it costs you to create a course. If you’re going to offer it in two-hour packages,  dig into what this costs to create and you’ll quickly learn what you need to be charging to break even. Any revenue above the break-even line will be your profit margin.

Understand external factors

What are your competitors doing? You must consider what moves your competitors are making. For example, if you set your price too low, you may trigger a price war. If you set your price too high—and can’t communicate the value—you may lose customers to lower-priced courses from competitors.


Estimate the demand for your product

It’s important to understand the demand curve for your online training. As you sell more courses, you’ll be able to better estimate future demand based on current sales.

If you need help thinking through any of these points or want some more tips, download our free Commercialize Guide.

Now let’s look at three pricing strategies used by online training providers: pay per course, membership, and free.

1. Pay per course pricing model

Pay per course pricing involves setting a price for each individual course. Customers buy each course for a set price.

Why we like it:

  • It offers simplicity—customers only pay for what they want. They aren’t locked into month-to-month billing contracts, and they only have to pay once to get unlimited access to the course.
  • Provides online training organizations with immediate revenue—this is great for cash flow!
  • It is easier to measure and forecast. You can clearly see which courses are selling the best, and in turn you can invest resources in creating (or improving) more courses on that topic.

Here are two training providers that use this model:

BSI Group

BSI Group is a global leader in ISO standards. The company equips businesses with the necessary solutions to turn standards of best practice into habits of excellence.

BSI Pay as you go model screenshot

Moody’s Analytics

Moody’s Analytics provide real estate data and analytics. They provide a range of training solutions that help teams build world-class credit analysis and risk mitigation skills. The courses can contribute to qualifications and be part of a wider curriculum.

Moodys Analytics pay as you go model screenshot


2. Membership (unlimited access) pricing model

Membership pricing gives customers all-in-one, unlimited access to the entire library of online training. It’s popular with because it offers them a low-cost entry to get started. It’s popular with online training providers because it offers ongoing, predictable revenue.

Why we like it:

  • Low financial barriers to entry for customers.
  • Provides reliable, ongoing revenue for the training organization.
  • Customers feel like they are getting a great deal—access to lots of training for a simple monthly (or annual) fee.
  • Good point of difference for training organizations (if competitors only offer pay per course).

Here are four online training providers that use this pricing strategy well:

BMJ Learning

BMJ Learning is a subscription-based online learning resource that helps doctors and healthcare professionals enhance their knowledge and progress in their careers. It is one of the world’s largest and most trusted independent online learning providers for medical professionals.

BMJ membership pricing model screenshot

Franklin Covey

Franklin Covey is a provider of leadership and time management training and assessment services for organizations and individuals.

FranklinCovey membership pricing model screenshot is an online education company offering thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills.

Lynda membership pricing model screenshot


Treehouse has a library of lessons that goes far beyond the surface, touching nearly every aspect of how to design and develop for the web and iOS.

treehouse membership pricing model screenshot

3. Free pricing model

The free pricing model is usually reserved for nonprofit organizations. Since there is no profit incentive, these organizations focus on teaching students for free. But it can also be a good model to consider if your learning offering has been created for marketing what else you do. Do this one for free, then come back to do more or take it to the next level.

Why we like it:

  • The free pricing model enables easy viral spreading of your brand and courses over the internet.
  • Openly helping people learn and develop new skills.
  • Most of these organizations help people with a range of skill levels, from beginners to experts.

Here are three online training providers that use this pricing strategy well:


Duolingo provides courses to help people learn languages completely free, without ads or hidden charges. It’s fun, easy, and scientifically proven.

duolingo free pricing model screenshot


Codecademy offers interactive courses on how to program. Courses are created by community users and cover CSS, Java, and HTML.

codeacademy free pricing model screenshot

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers free courses on math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more.

Khan Academy free pricing model screenshot

Final thoughts

Your pricing strategy significantly impacts the profitability of your online training organization. But it also impacts your target audience, audience size and amount of potential repeat business.

Make sure you understand your costs, competitors, and potential demand before you price your training courses. Our 5Cs Framework has been created with commercials in mind from the off.

If you want help getting there, consider our Revenue Generator Service.

Get started with your price planning today with our free downloadable Commercialize Guide.

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