by Bob Walters | November 01, 2005

Organizations that conduct training programs, certification or accreditation for attendees can greatly expand their reach and revenue by putting their classes online. While at first this might seem a daunting task, it can be quite simple. In fact, a number of companies specialize in this arena.
    Over the past few years, Internet-based learning has become a natural extension of face-to-face meetings. The rapidly falling costs of Internet services and the proliferation of higher-speed connections make it possible for associations to deliver content, education and testing worldwide.
    Several companies offer complete online course services covering everything from the initial production to systems that track online attendees, manage tests and evaluation, and even print certificates online.

Key players
Following is a sampling of firms specializing in online solutions. (In most cases, pricing varies widely, based on specific needs.)
    BlackBoard ( Based in Phoenix, this firm’s AcademicSuite offers modules such as the BlackBoard Learning System, with which organizations can develop learning content and direct students to various courses and tests. ( This Sunrise, Fla.-based firm’s LearnCenter is targeted to business and corporate training. The company’s eAgents module utilizes the Agent technology built into Microsoft operating systems to create “talking heads,” or on-screen narrators who help maintain participants’ attention.
    CertiLearn ( Based in McLean, Va. CertiLearn uses technology from software development firm IntraLearn ( and repackages it for the association and education market. It wraps a number of modules around the core learning application and is used by many associations, including the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Association Executives.
    CourseWebs (www.course This Louisville, Ky.-based firm has a Learning Management System offered as a hosted solution for a $129 setup fee and $99 per month for unlimited courses.

Factors to Weigh
A few items to keep in mind when considering taking your courses online:
    " What presentation methods will be used, i.e., PowerPoint slides, streaming video and/or audio, or an indexed study guide?
    " What kind of testing capabilities are required? Will tests be graded online? Does the format allow weighting (giving different point values) for different questions? Is there a question bank so the organization can alter the questions as it sees fit?
    " Will your organization charge a fee to those taking the course and/or the test? If so, make sure the provider can create a shopping cart with a secure online credit card processing system.
    An alternative solution is to have participants pay via the organization’s main website, which will give them an access key or login to obtain materials.
    " Will speakers or authors whose works are used in online courses require royalties and/or additional payment? Be sure to get a signed release from them in advance. Also, find out what fees the suppliers of online learning collect from every transaction.
    " Lastly, remember the most important factor in a successful online education program is marketing. Be sure to promote these programs and make it easy for your audience to find the site and the materials they are interested in. Provide links to download necessary video or indexing software, and make sure participants’ privacy is protected at all times.