Your Company University

The success of a complex product depends on customers knowing how to use it well enough to succeed. Whether you’re selling devices, technology, or services, a knowledgeable user is a better prospect. Sometimes selling is teaching.

Manuals, white papers, and other content may help, but they seldom get the naïve customer from zero to sixty. Workshops or classroom teaching are expensive, inefficient, and inconvenient.

There is another way. Recent progress in on-demand training (ODT) is a promising way to get your team, your customers and yourself up to speed on a wide range of topics. ODT is typically a step or more up from the simple How-To demos common on YouTube.

Unlike a traditional classroom, ODT leaves you in control. Learn at your own pace and schedule. If you didn’t understand all of a particular lesson, you can pause and repeat it. If you have a question, you may be able to post it to a forum, email it, or use online chat. Like conventional courses, graded assignments are often included.

Business models of on-demand learning vary. Some charge by the course, others charge a fixed fee per month, during which you may take as many courses as you wish. Some include textbooks, and some offer tiered pricing for extra services.

Prices tend to be a small fraction of tuition at colleges. At the ODT sites I visited, they ranged from free to $250. A typical price is about $30. These exclude on-line degree programs, which can be expensive. What you pay for with ODT is knowledge – not credentials. Despite the low prices, many on-demand portals offer money back satisfaction guarantees. How many universities do that?

I’ve been testing a number of ODT providers studying everything from Graphic Design to Online Marketing to Electronics to Database Programming. Here are some favorites:

Khan Academy

This popular site states it has delivered millions of lessons through over a thousand short (generally less than 10 minutes) lectures on math, science, engineering, economics, finance, business, and even on unexpected subjects such as art history. Most sessions are given in clear informal style by founder Salaman Khan, which gives them a consistency of style. All courses are free.


Hundreds of courses focused on how to use popular software and programming languages but also on subjects such as photography and design. A typical course is four to eight hours divided into lessons of ten minutes of less. The service costs $25 a month or $37.50 a month with downloadable example files. There are discounts for annual subscriptions. Quality of the instructors ranged from excellent to uninspiring.


This library of online books and courses is primarily for web developers and designers. Courses include lectures, downloadable content, and access to a Q&A forum. Far fewer courses than, but only $17/month and includes unlimited access to an online library.


As in “You Academy,” has wide indeed eclectic variety of subjects. In addition to instruction in technologies, it offers hundreds of courses on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, marketing, psychology, languages and music. Quite a number of the courses are free including live recordings of university courses.

If none of these servicesdirectors chair offers just what your customers need, consider imitating them by creating your own miniseries. There are a number of free or inexpensive utilities for drawing (MS Paint), narrating slide shows (,) and making web cam videos (jing.)

Get yourself a directors chair and enlighten your customers.