In the midst of all the loud talk about the latest trends in social media – like the ongoing obsession with location-based services – it’s interesting to notice a quiet business revolution taking place in other corners of the net.
You may already be aware of services in say, marketing coaching or personal growth, often offered as teleclasses linked to highly successful business blogs. So, for example, you can sign up for a marketing teleclass with Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz, or go for the rather wonderfully-named Virtual Retreat offered by Jennifer Louden. I do believe that the teleclass is this year’s successor to the e-book. Indeed, I would be first in line to buy the Escape From Cubicle Nation work package if I hadn’t already, er, escaped.
On a more affordable scale, there are also lots of online craft classes emerging, often built on the bulletin board software that’s very familiar to researchers and online community managers. You can learn photography, get into digital scrapbooking, make over your living-room and get organised. For some time now, you’ve also been able to diet diligently (or not) with the help of Weight Loss Resources and the like.
I’m really fascinated by this second type of class. I’ve sampled a few, purely in the interests of research *cough*, and the best of them are quite brilliant, typically combining the ongoing experience of a community with the personal approach of a coach. Acquiring a new skill suddenly becomes rather like going shopping: drop it in your basket, whip out Paypal, and off you go.
From the business side, I’m intrigued by how many will provide a sustainable living for their owners; from a usability standpoint, I sense that the most successful online workshops are deeply usable and pay a great deal of attention to establishing a trusting, sociable, beautifully designed online space. These types of classes appear to go much further than, say, online higher education environments where the focus tends to be on accessing materials and functional discussion.
Most of the teleclasses and online workshops that I’ve seen so far have been based in the USA. Perhaps the British are a bit more cautious about this sort of thing; perhaps they’re out there, and I just don’t know about them. From my experience of taking part, I sense that many of the other participants are genuine digital natives, comfortable with chatting online and uploading works-in-progress. These are small-scale, often very female businesses. It looks like they’re working well.
I’m intrigued. The online workshop really seems to me like a small-scale example of discontinous innovation, opening up a market that simply wasn’t there before. I’m also quite excited: right now I can think of a couple of coaching workshops that I’d like to write, straight off the bat.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.