Online Courses Help Bridge Gaps in Skills Proficiency

by Dru Riley

91% of US businesses expanded their plans for digitization in 2020. But there are not enough trained workers to support this transformation, particularly in certain regions. Online courses can help bridge that gap.

Why it matters for employees

Coursera’s latest Global Skills Report shows that the digital skills gap has widened during the pandemic 2020-2021. There are 77M students on the platform, and Coursera believes that this access will help stimulate recovery:

Access to a variety of job-relevant credentials, including a path to entry-level digital jobs, will be key to reskilling at scale and accelerating economic recovery.

This report helps governments and employers assess skill gaps in their workforce, identify roles that can be filled with diverse, non-traditional candidates, and details the specific skills that are needed for these roles.

Creators can stop trading time for money by helping students land their first software development jobs, get raises, launch businesses and more.


There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be.


Online courses are bridges that help you fill these gaps. You can find your way via trial and error, or learn from someone who’s done it before.


A. Course platforms:

  • Coursera: Courses, certificates, and degrees from universities and companies.
  • Egghead: Tutorials for intermediate and advanced developers.
  • Udemy: Marketplace for self-paced courses.
  • Lynda: Self-paced courses on software development, design, photography, and more.
  • General Assembly: Coding, data, and design training programs.

B. Tools:

  • Podia: Sell courses, webinars, memberships, and other digital products.
  • Teachable: Offer online courses and coaching services.
  • Kajabi: Host courses, communities, coaching services, and more.
  • Thinkific: Create online courses and membership sites.
  • Gumroad: Sell digital products.

C. Courses:


  • More platforms will sponsor influential educators. Pat Flynn did a webinar for Notion pays Ali Abdaal. Influencers give platforms documentation and distribution.
  • We’ll see more “edutainers.” Famous teachers have always understood the power of storytelling. See Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and Neil Degrasse Tyson. Barriers are falling and the best are rising to the top. There are new form factors like TikTok tutorials.
  • There will be more interactive, adaptive platforms like Duolingo. They scale personalized, gamified, self-paced education with low marginal costs.


  • Do it live the first time. Build fast feedback loops by consulting before making courses. Build the curriculum from questions, real-world struggles, and feedback. Tyler Gillespie built a few productized services and mentored founders. Now he’s building a course.
  • Use presales to reduce market risk. Marie Poulin used presales to get early feedback on the beta version of her course. Trust wallets over words.
  • Base your course on an outcome. Use capstone projects. This is a forcing function to make sure your content is actionable. Launch MBA is based on the 12 startups in 12 months concept. Each project serves as social proof.
  • Combine courses and communities. Get benefits of cohorts (accountability, peer-to-peer learning) at scale without high marginal costs. See all-in-one platforms like Kajabi.
  • Build a value ladder. Help people at different stages and diversify revenue. Flavio does this with his blog (free), books ($), courses ($$), and bootcamps ($$$).
  • Version your course. Paula Pant earned over $1M from a “beta” course. She’s done multiple versions. Use new versions as launch events.

Key lessons

These are fragmented, micro-monopolies. There are many options and many winners. Course creators have pricing power. Feature parity applies to SaaS not pros.

Markets are taking over. Colleges can’t keep up with talent needs. Companies like Salesforce and Google take it upon themselves to train employees.

Consider tradeoffs:

  • Cohort-based courses are high-fidelity, boost accountability, and have higher completion rates than self-paced courses. But students are kept at the same pace. Like classrooms.
  • Self-paced courses let you move fast or slow. They are more financially accessible than cohort-based courses, but completion rates are lower. Communities can ebb some of these downsides.
  • Interactive platforms adapt to you. They have high engagement and low marginal costs. You may need one-on-one support to fill in gaps.

Haters of Online Courses

“I don’t know enough to teach a course.”

What do you wish you knew three years ago? Teach that. You may be better than an expert because you don’t suffer from the expert’s curse. Or, teach as you learn. This is what Tim Ferriss and Shane Parrish are doing, along with yours truly.

“Most people don’t finish courses.”

The same goes for books and other form factors. Cohorts and interactive, adaptive platforms can help with this.

“Education should be free.”

It is. Quality and cost aren’t always correlated. You’ll still have to pay attention.

“Course revenue is spiky.”

This applies to most digital products. There are ways around it, like memberships, value ladders, and evergreen funnels. Or you can embrace the spikiness through open and closed enrollment.

“Courses are just money grabs.”

You can find bad intentions in any market. Time is smarter than we are. Be a late adopter and let the chicken come home to roost. Ask how the person’s reputation performs over time, or look for reviews in unmoderated environments.

Other Links

  1. Who has a course? The tweet behind this report.
  2. Create Your Online Course Template: A step-by-step process for creating courses.
  3. Interactive Course Platforms: A tweetstorm on new platforms.

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