I know I haven’t completed phase two of my GFRF experiment yet (offering workshops on this basis), but I am already working on phase three.
Phase three is going to be online courses offered on a give freely receive freely basis. I think online courses are a great fit for expanding my use of this concept. This is because there are between low and zero incremental costs for additional users of the material.
Problems with using printed materials for GFRF
At the moment I offer home study courses for some of the things that I teach, these courses involve books, printed study guides and DVDs. The problem for me in offering these courses on a give freely receive freely basis is the fixed cost of producing these physical materials. There is a certain amount I need to receive for each course to just cover the cost of production, let alone to compensate me for my work and provide me with money to live on. This would make it difficult for me to give these truly ‘freely’ at the moment as I do not have sufficient resources to lose money on the production of these if people did not give sufficient in return (and people often seem to underestimate the cost of putting things like this together). Online however, there will still be set-up costs, but once established each new user will have close to zero incremental cost. This leaves me in the position of only having to re-coup my initial set-up costs and minimal running costs before I start to receive money for my work – ie money I can pay my living expenses with.
This means that it doesn’t really matter if some people take advantage of the give freely receive freely exchange, as if there are people who pay nothing or not a realistic amount for the courses, then at least it will not really be costing me anything. Then I just have to rely on those people who do ‘get’ the concept to deal fairly with me.
Getting a fair exchange
I believe there are enough fairminded people out there who will voluntarily pay a fair price for the training they receive to make this work. But I also realize that for many people the GFRF concept takes some understanding, and many people will fall into the old ‘pay as little as you can’ mentality which comes from the way our current exchange environment is structured.
I have given this quite a bit of thought as to how I deliver the online content I am preparing, and I see this also as an opportunity to experiment. I think a key to making the GFRF idea work is helping people to understand that there is a real person behind the product they are using that has put a lot of time and effort into it and that they need to be paid in order for them to be able to continue to provide the product to them and other people, and in particular they need strong prompts to actually make the payment. I know that even in a price based exchange people often forget to pay and need strong reminders before they do. (Incidentally I actually think that this would be less of a problem in a well established GFRF community due to some of the underlying psychology, but I think will certainly be a major issue when people are new to the idea).
Different delivery models
So I am planning three initial courses all set up in different ways which offer different opportunities for payment prompts.
1. Open Access on Youtube – No advertising
I will use this for my first course which will be on qigong. This gives people very easy access to the material. Payment prompts will be included in videos at the start and end of the course, in the written video information that shows below the video and in some of the downloadable material at the associated website.
All these prompts are quite passive, in that they can be seen and ignored, or the person can think ‘I’ll do it later’ and then forget about it quite easily. But there will be several of them, so hopefully this will be enough to prompt some people to actually follow through and make payment. It is also easy to set up.
2. Open Access on Youtube – With advertising
Very similar to option one, but with ads enabled. This will mean that even if people do not pay me due to the prompts, I will still receive some payment from advertising shown along with the videos. I am somewhat hesitant to use this (to do with my thoughts on advertising and society – more on this in another post), but figure it is a good opportunity to experiment and see the different results. I don’t expect a high number of people to follow through on the relatively passive payment prompts, so using advertising would ensure that I get at least some money for the people viewing my videos (it is not a lot, but can add up if there are enough people watching). I will be able to compare the money received from my course without advertising to the one with. If enough money comes in without advertising, I can always turn the advertising off later. Alternatively if not enough money comes in, I can always turn the advertising on on the other course.
I will use a self defence course to test this model.
3. Pay what you want ‘Pay Wall’
The final option I am planning to test initially is to create a ‘Pay Wall’ where people cannot access the content unless they go through a payment gateway. In this case it would be a pay what you want gateway, so they can still put in zero as their payment if they want to, but this is a much stronger prompt to make payment as it is right in front of you and you have to click past it to move on. From a theoretical point of view I like this model best, I think it has the best probability of actually prompting payment from the people using the course.
I will probably set it up so that the initial material is open access, so the student can see how they like some of the material before they are faced with making a payment, and I think I’ll put another prompt at the very end of the course for those who paid zero initially, if they have reconsidered after using the whole course they can make a payment then.
The reason I will use this model last is because even though I like this model the most, it will be the most difficult to set up and require the most time and expense. I will have to host the videos somewhere other than on youtube so they will be secure, and purchase software and become familiar with it etc etc. Basically this one is going to take me awhile to figure out technically and I want to move ahead and start offering the courses now, so I will start with the youtube based models first to get me started and hopefully have things figured out by the time I am ready to put my third course online.
I will trial this model with a course on breathing.
It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m kind of excited about it as well. People have always enjoyed these courses and told me that they’ve got a lot out of them when I’ve delivered them live or through my offline homestudy courses. I think that putting them online in an easily accessible format will open these courses up to many more people – maybe even internationally, and provide really useful resources to my current students as well, with the added bonus of it being better for the environment as well due to physical materials not having to be produced. I’ve been working on the first course for a couple of weeks now, and I am hopeful that if I work hard I will be able to get all three courses up by the end of the year. I will announce on this site when the first course is available online.