We Discuss The Future of Online Education & Courses in 2020!

More about Chris and LifterLMS

We help education entrepreneurs to help their learners achieve desired outcomes, to truly change lives, and make a great living in the process.

We help them by creating the software, strategies, communiity, and training to grow high value online courses or training based membership websites from nothing.

The change we want to make is to democratize learning in the digital classroom, to put power in the hands of education entrepreneurs, and help as many people as we can to reach their dreams.

We’ll know we are successful when we are seen as the organization that can help any education entrepreneur that is on a mission to help their learners overcome problems, capture opportunity, and make a huge impact in their community.

We’ll know we are successful when our education entrepreneurs consistently achieve financial, location, and creative freedom.

We’ll know we are successful in the WordPress community when we are seen as the model for how to do freemium in WordPress.

We will create our legacy by changing lives for WordPress LMS site building professionals, our customers, their learners, our families, our communities, and the world in every way we can.

Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP Tonic show. It is episode 490. We got a real friend of the show. He is a regular guest panelist on my round table show. We’ve got Chris Badgett, the joint founder of Lifter LMS joining us. So Chris would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Chris: Sure thing. I’m Chris Badgett, the CEO and cofounder of a WordPress plugin called lifter LMS. It’s a free plugin and then we have various paid ad-on’s that bring additional functionality. And essentially what lifter LMS does is it helps people building courses or training based membership sites create launch and scale high value online training programs.

Jonathon: That’s great. And I’ve got my great cohost Adrian with me. Adrian, would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners of viewers?

Adrian: Hi everyone. My name is Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhogg, another WordPress plugin company. We build and sell marketing automation plugins that help small businesses simplify their marketing and launch their marketing strategies.

Jonathon: So before we go into the main part of the interview, I like to talk about our sponsors. First of all Kinsta, Kinsta hosting. We’ve been with Kinsta hosting for over three years. They’ve been one of my major sponsors for that period. And I’ve just been delighted with their hosting. Basically they use Google cloud to host all their websites on, which is one of the best platforms on the market at the present moment. But what you also get is a fantastic interface with all the bells and whistles, not only for yourself, but if you are hosting websites for clients or supervising them for clients. Plus you get some of the best 24/7 support on the market at the present moment, in my opinion. So it’s a great combination big enough to have all the technology, but it’s still small enough to care.

That’s what I say about Kinsta. So if that sounds interesting, go over to Kinsta and have a look at their packages, not only for yourself but for your clients. And the most important thing is tell them that you heard about them on the WP Tonic Show. Our second sponsor is Launch Flows. Launch Flows allows you to customize your WooCommerce checkout experience with Elementor. It liberates the function and design layout of your individual checkout components into powerful selling tools. So you can turn your vision into reality with no coding required. Basically it just enables you with Elementor and WooCommerce, the build modern funnels. Not only for yourself, but for your clients. It is a powerful tool. You’d be amazed what you can do with it. And the kind of functionality that you can build for your clients and this is the type of stuff that your clients are really looking for in 2020.

They are offering also a 25% discount. If you go to the launch flows website and use the coupon code WP tonic rocks. I repeat that WP Tonic rocks. So on with the interview. Well you know, it’s been interesting times Chris. So you know, to say that you’ve got the right product at the right moment, it would be a slight understatement. But also you recently I thought as part of your add on quiver. I thought a sizeable element that you just recently released. And that was the ability to have groups and have them administrated by sub administrators. And I know it’s a big undertaking. How has that gone and what’s been the response to the group add on?

Chris: Well, it’s going great. Lifter LMS is over five and a half years old. And since the very beginning, our customers have been asking for group functionality. The ability to sell bulk seats in a training program to another company, a family, some kind of social group of some kind. And we really, we take like a, I don’t know if I would call it a first principles approach, but a really slow ground up approach. Like let’s perfect the course. Then let’s as we move out, now that we’ve got this foundation and the one-on-one learning system in place, let’s add group functionality. So that we scale something that’s working well instead of just adding it right at the very beginning when the product was newer. The rollout has been exceptional. It’s a big feature because we had to break it into phases.

So phase one is all about the group experience. That’s what’s out now. That’s what’s being innovated on right now. That’s what’s being, you know, new releases are coming out as we’re evolving the group experience. Next up is the automated e-commerce component of group checkout. Where there’s a group buyer that buys through our product. Like the Lifter LMS Stripe add on, and PayPal add on for a group and it’s completely automated. You can still like get going with it right now. There’s still workarounds you can do to like do the group automated group selling. But our focus is to optimize that part next. But the initial groups roll out, the feedback has been great. We’re big into listening to the customer. So we always listen, but people who are using the early version of groups, what do you like?

What do you not, where’s the friction? What do you need it to do? How are your users? When people are getting invited into these groups, are they getting on boarded? Okay as well. How’s all that going? This is the most important feedback we’re receiving right now. And we’re just optimizing around that. But essentially the big opportunity of groups. There are so many different types of groups. You know, there’s like military units, governments, institutions, families, couples, and employees at a company. Some membership like people that are in some kind of membership thing. So there are lots of different types of groups. But the way I like to present the opportunity of it is if you’re trying to go for the fastest path to cash, then just as an example, I’m just doing what we call SAS math here. But if I had a hundred dollar forklifts safety training course and I sell that into a company that has a thousand employees, that’s a hundred thousand dollars in one sale.

If you’re selling a hundred courses, a hundred dollar course to a thousand people individually. There’s more that’s going to be take longer and harder and all that. Not that that’s bad. And not everybody has a course or a membership opportunity that is set up to be a B2B or, or, or two group of an unkind sale. But that’s what’s cool about it and that’s why people are so excited and has been so interested in a long time. Because we do have a lot of people that do sell into companies and they wanted the ability to have their cake and eat it too. What I mean by that is sells one off, but then also sells in bulk. And when that group buyer sets up the group, it’s all in the front end of the website. There’s no WP admin there. They’re not in the back.

All the analytics, all the group administration, all the inviting team members in everything, all front ends. We’re super excited about that.

Jonathon: That’s great. Over to you Adrian.

Adrian: I’d love to hear if you have any sort of any sort of success stories yet? Or just people who’ve come to you and shared their experiences that have so far been able to use this successfully. Has that happened yet?

Chris: I see, so funny enough like timing wise selling group training into a company right now is the ideal. It is ideal, isn’t it? Well, no, it’s not. What I’m saying is it’s not actually because a lot of companies are cutting marketing spending. Like anything that’s not essential. Like if training is an essential thing, then yes. If it’s more of an optimization thing that cost money cut. So yeah, it’s still a little early. We see people using it. I’ve been doing some customer interviews and all that and it’s cool. Well, I think it’s too early. If I don’t have like this shining example, some famous company that everybody knows to share with you today.

Adrian: Actually it’s just a personal anecdote from recently is a Canadian, a large game development company in Canada come to me, not me personally. But my parent’s digital marketing agency looking for to set up some sort of like mass training facility. Because they all of a sudden had 900 employees that they had to send home and they didn’t, none of them had workstations at home. So like, well, if we’re going to employ all of these people, we need to give them something to do. So there’s definitely an opportunity for, there’s definitely organizations out there that need this kind of training opportunity or this kind of product to keep their employees busy. Because you know, the worst thing is like having an employee and paying them to do absolutely nothing if you’re not going to let them go. So there is certainly an opportunity right now. Businesses are looking for at least larger businesses, are looking for ways to keep their workforce entertained.

Chris: Totally.

Adrian: Jonathan.

Jonathon: Yes. And also obviously the present situation, hopefully it will improve in the coming months. But on the other hand, I think because of the situation, I think something has drastically changed and more people are going to be working from home after the sub agency. And also getting training at home than ever before. Would you agree with that Chris?

Chris: Yeah. The way I like to think about this strategically is I divide it into three parts. There’s the before, the during and the after. We’re in the during of the challenging times of the pandemic. And then there’s going to be after. But is after going to go right back to exactly the way it was before? Is the world going to be a little bit different specifically in how they approach in this conversation online education and remote learning? I believe that the world is forever changed. It doesn’t mean that WordPress and LMS system built on top of WordPress is the solution to solve every single education problem in the world. But we are going to see more and more of it and we are going to see more and more of what I’ve called and I’m working on a piece about this, the new education, the new open source education operating system of the future. And what’s inside that.

Adrian: What’s the acronym for that?

Chris: I don’t know. But what’s inside of that, what we’re seeing is we’re seeing the vestiges of three big industries, the last that we’ve held onto in America as an example. Government, healthcare and education are all in extreme pressure right now. And there’s going to be, and there already is a need for efficiency in all these sectors. And some cost controls. Cause there’s only so much we can stimulate the economy. And what’s going to happen is in the education sector. You know, when I see things like in the news of like Stanford University, 20% pay cuts to college professors. We see a basically what, and I’ll have more info about this later in this piece I’m working on, but it’s going to start at the edges.

It already is and it’s going to keep working its way in this new operating system for education. I’ll give you a specific example too. If we look at gym owners right now, personal trainers, fitness professionals, these people had been disrupted. And a lot of people, we have a blog post coming out this week about this, about how to do what you do, but do it from home with three things.

Zoom, a Vimeo pro account and a WordPress LMS website powered by lifter LMS. And some other tools and stuff to make the website slick and awesome. But that’s the basic stack. And do you know when those gym owners can go back to work? But if those are the ones that have figured out how to do train people doing workouts from home or consultations or whatever, private or group format. And they’re going to see and experience the efficiency of delivery and they you know, the lack of overhead there, I think a lot of them are going to keep doing it. You know, some may just go back to exactly how it was before, but the worlds, the world’s forever changed when it comes to our approach to education. And especially just if you look at the economics of what’s going on with the need for government, healthcare and education and to really get a lot more efficient.

I mean, it’s a perfect storm in the education industry when you look at things like the highest ever cost of a higher education, student loan debt. The need for people to get to money quickly, like to earn revenue in the new economy. All these things are kind of driving towards a need for more efficiency. I’m a huge fan of traditional education and liberal arts education and I love it. But there’s just a lot of pressure right now, especially on the young adult. The need is there. The world needs some new options and it doesn’t mean the old one goes away, but there are some new ones. There’s some new ways to approach this problem. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas around this are where my, you know, kind of product visionary brain guy kicks in.

But the new open source education operating system of the future is, I am so excited I can jump out of my skin with what I’m seeing as these variables come into play. And how we can work together in the world as technologists, as educators, as community leaders to provide more options to people in need all over the world at all socioeconomic class.

Adrian: At what point? So you mentioned that for example, Stanford is cutting salaries to their staffers by 20%. Which would I guess be indicative of a significant decrease in enrollment as the only really kind of thing that I can attribute to that. So at what point does the enrollment becomes so bad for these kind of like legacy institutions where large organizations are dependent on for their resource pool, their hiring pool. So at what point do you think are large corporations going to have to say, well, we’re going to be, the applicant pool is no longer large enough. Or the legacy equity legacy education employment pool is no longer large enough that we’re actually going to have to start investing in our own education platform to train our own employment pool.

Is that, do you see that as a future possibility?

Chris: Yes, and I also see more consolidation. And if I specifically steer this conversation towards public higher ED, so governments. This is where government and education overlap like a state university system, public education funded by tax dollars. When we look at the resources there, there’s going to, it’s going to put pressure to like, all right, we’ve got to figure out how to do more with less. That’s really what it’s all about. If you look at the individual, we’re all experiencing this right now in that efficiency we were talking about earlier. Like what’s essential and what’s a nice to have cause nice to have.

There’s not a lot of room for that right now. So it is resources become limited. I mean in the past, I have to get the exact statistics, so don’t quote me on this one, but something like in the past month we’ve spent something like five years or of like tax dollars or something. This cannot go on forever. And it’s basically like an economic reset is, it’s like a quantum leap is happening right now in those three sectors. And especially in North America in terms of government, healthcare, education. Any kind of inefficiency is like maybe you can look it up because I can never remember the quote.

I need to memorize it. What’s that thing about pain and change and staying the same? We’ll come back to it. It’s like when the pain of staying the same is greater than change. That’s where we’re at right now in education.

Jonathon: That’s great. We are going to go for our break. I’ve got a question afterwards. And I think Chris has got some new add on to give us a little hint what’s coming up and it will peak. We will back in a few moments’ folks.

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Jonathon: We are coming back. We’ve had a friend of the show. We’ve had already a great discussion, Chris from Lifter LMS. Now Chris you know, we’ve had learning management systems, we’ve had quizzes, gamification. But two things that I think and are going to kind of dominate in my opinion in the next 18 months or two years is small group live interactivity which we’re doing now using the zoom platform. Now zoom compared to Google hangout and some of the other players, has dominate the sector. But I think because of what’s happened recently, a lot of money’s going to be invested in similar products to zoom and moving.

The kind of tools and the way you can interact in small groups. The other thing is 5 G coming up in an exciting month. Not doubling but you know, bias by a factor of 10, the bandwidth that is assessable to large groups of people in North America. Do you think I’m right? Those two factors are really going to be some of the driving factors behind new functionality in learning management systems?

Chris: I do. And I would add one more of that societal, which is that this is where the before, during and after the after is not going to go back to the before. And what I mean by that is, because we’re in this during period. Like we talk about it in terms of words like adoption or words like power user power user or total addressable market. It has a lot of flavors and names. But when you have essentially the world on zoom and most everybody had to figure this out. Like with exponential adoption. And when you look at the life cycle of a, you know, a product or, okay, like virtual learning has been around for a very, very long time. So I think that the factor of time is what we need to look at here, not just the innovation itself.

And if we’re in a time, and I’m overgeneralizing here where everybody now has some baseline understanding of like zoom of remote learning, of remote working, of getting comfortable with like, you know, video cameras online and stuff. Like us internet, techie, WordPress people are very comfortable with this for the most part because we’ve been building online businesses, doing remote agency work for a long time. But there’s a saying, which is that here comes everybody and you know what, they’re here now. So as this mass adoption of all this technology happens the world’s not going to go right back when everybody’s a user frozen. No, I’m here.

Jonathon: So that was pretty broad. But first of all, do you think, you know, zoom. I was listening to another podcast where yesterday it was outside the WordPress, but they were describing a teacher in a state like area, they had put all the classes on Google hangout. And there was saying that a lot of the staff has found it extremely difficult to use Google hang out. And I understand it because I’ve been there and I gave up on it. When I went to zoom. I still think there’s an enormous amount of even, you know, the zoom platform is pretty good, but there’s nothing like competition, that effective competition to stir the improvement process a bit.

And I see a lot, I see that happening quite rapidly. Because a lot, I think a lot of money is going to be aimed at their sector. But also what, how do you see five G really affected us? Because when you got that amount of new bandwidth available, the possibilities. I know you got a new product, a new add-on. It’s in the, you know, maybe you can tell us, cause I think it’s probably linked to improve bandwidth and that bandwidth being available everywhere.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there are three things in that which I’m going to answer for you.

Jonathon: That’s just typically one of my questions.

Chris: The first thing is I found that quote while you were speaking, which, and this is the world we’re in. This is an old quote we’ve all heard, but it’s never been more relevant, which is change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. So this is where we’re at and this is why there’s so much movement and activity happening in terms of five G and bandwidth. Under the lifter LMS website, if you go to the examples link or the case studies link, there’s a, one of our examples sites is a great company called cause labs that does WordPress sites for nonprofits. Cheryl, Mike Gillian over there, they use lifter LMS for a client in Africa that helps train women on trade skills that are gives them more mobility and society, more options, income potential and is a great thing.

They had to make all the course content, at least in the first version, text-based because of the internet connectivity. And I think it’s really easy for us to see, like if we have like great high speed internet, a lot of the world is not like that way. Even in the United States and Canada. There are lots of people that have very slow internet.

Adrian: We have a lot of dead zones here. It’s a big country and a small population.

Chris: Yeah. And but that access thing, make no mistake about it. Like I remember I was having a conversation with Jason Cohen from WP engine and he said once that always had a big impact on me. Is that the internet is a really big place and it’s really hard for the human mind or to really understand how big it is. And I think we’re about to experience, this is another one of those perfect storm variables of five G that’s going to compound on the opportunity of online education.

Jonathon: I didn’t realize you got, you got, you think, Oh, it’s going to double. It’s not even going to triple. You’re talking about 10 plug by the power. It’s, it’s going to speed everything up to such a dramatic level that you, you just can’t comprehend it really.

Chris: Yeah, and there’s something that I learned that helped me with this kind of thinking, which is there’s linear growth, there’s exponential growth, and then there’s spiritual growth. And there those are totally different. It’s hard enough for us to really wrap our heads around exponential as we’ve been looking at things like flattening the curve and all this stuff. Like exponential growth is, is not an easy thing for the mind to wrap the head around. It’s also spherical growth is all like is really misunderstood, like the kind of growth potential. And I’m not sure if five G is looking at exponential or spherical, but I agree with you Jonathan. There’s way more than linear. And to answer your, your third part of your question about learning and these meetings and zoom and Google Hangouts and all these things. We innovate with our customers and users that lifter LMS.

Our customers are the heartbeat of our organization. We put them at the center of our business, not our product. And we look at what they need to be successful, what they think they need, what they’re asking for, what they really need, all that stuff. We see what the pain point is. They may not know what they need. But if you look at something like masterclass, which if you haven’t heard of it, it’s like $15 a month.

And you get these video courses that are created by celebrities like Steve Martin on comedy. And there’s some other, there’s just by famous people, Sara Blakely from Spanx about entrepreneurship and so on $15 a month. And the reason is so cheap is because, and they’re good. They’re super good. And how cool is it to learn from the best in the world?

But the value is not just in the best training and the best content and the most professionally produced videos. The best training gets people the best results. The best results often require more fidelity or interaction or custom feedback or support. So when we design a course or membership, we need to look beyond the content. It’s important. Don’t get me wrong, but what’s the support? What’s the cue? What’s the social component? What’s the social learning?

What’s the coaching or the mentoring or the feedback system? How’s that going to work? And what we’re looking at which is coming in an add on for lifter LMS is a classrooms option, which can be either virtual or in person. Virtual meaning we’ve got web technology we can integrate with or to facilitate like the live stuff like the live .meeting or webinar or hangout or whatever you want to call it.

And then we’re also looking at the physical location, which is more time, place you know, that kind of thing. Because learning the best, the best training courses. And this is a framework that I got from a great, his name’s Dane Maxwell. I just interviewed him on my podcast LMS cast. He wrote a book called start from zero. The whole basis of this book for any business. But in this case we’re talking about education is it’s all about a clear customer, a clear result and a mechanism if the result is learning that works. We need content, but we also need in a lot of cases, not every case masterclass is fine. Passive self-study video courses, it’s fine. But oftentimes there may be like a mastermind retreat or event somewhere. There may be just like flip classroom stuff going on where we have like regular in school stuff or mixed with online stuff that’s required to facilitate the result.

So if we look at the new open source education operating system of the future. And we look at a need for efficiency. We need, if we want to you know, the rich will always be able to attend and pay for whatever despite the exorbitant costs. But the pressure is mostly on the middle and the bottom. And these are growing like these parts of the population around the world are expanding, especially if we’re heading into a recession time. And you know, education and the opportunity for education, kind of like Cheryl from cause labs example, using lifter LMS education creates upward mobility in society, which is a beautiful thing and it needs to keep happening. And so to put a cap on the add on, it’s working on that problem. So that we can have fidelity, we can have high touch where you can deliver great support. You can incorporate live and not just do a passive video based version of a textbook.

Jonathon: Yeah. Just to wrap it up, just my own comment. There’s the kind of the gold standard is like one to one, but actually that can fail quite considerably. That one to one actually group learning where you have a group with a tutor or whatever times where that individual can be even more effective in some ways in a one to one. Then I feel we’ve got to wrap it up. Hopefully Chris can stay on for a little while and we will have some bonus content. So Chris, how can people find out more about you, your faults, and also about your company?

Chris: You can find me on LinkedIn. You can check lifter LMS out@lifterlms.com. And one of our mission is to democratize education in the digital classroom. And we believe strongly in the kind of the WordPress way of doing things, of giving away as much value as we can for free. So go check out the free lifter LMS plugin where you know, the WordPress plugins are, if you can’t find it, just go to our site.

And or just do a Google search for lifter LMS free. And I have a podcast for people who are education entrepreneurs that want to create, launch and scale high value online training programs for themselves or for their clients. That’s called LMS class. So go check out that. And I want to thank you, Jonathan and Adrian for this great interview. One of the reasons I keep going to the Friday show that you do the round table, as we discussed the WordPress news and groups, it’s cause I learned something, we learn more together. And that is I think a great example of, you know, how that, how learning is not necessarily a solo act.

Jonathon: That’s great. Thanks for saying that. Chris is a bunch of pretty shade age, and where can people find out more about you and what you’re up to at Groundhogg?

Adrian: So you can go to Groundhogg with two gs.io to find out. And like Chris, we believe in giving away a huge amount of value for free. So we have a free version of our platform. So if you’re currently looking to, I mean, everybody’s looking to pare down on their expenditures right now. And we offer a significant amount of value for very, very, very little cost. So if you’re currently spending huge amounts of money on your email marketing platform you can downsize your cost without losing a whole lot in terms of both functionality and usability. And you get to consolidate and simplify your marketing at the same time. So it’s really a red win-win and you can learn about how to do that in a Groundhog with two GS. Dot. IO.

Jonathon: It`s a great product. We just used it yesterday for a client building a nice little funnel. It’s great to have actually Adrian. We’d be back next week with another great guest. We’ve got some great guests finishing off this month in the beginning of May. I can’t believe I’m going to have to rustle up some more guests myself. But we’ve had some great guests. We will be back next week with another great interview. We will see you soon folks. Bye.


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