Online Course Platform for Experts

Ruzuku – Online Course Platforms for Experts

About my guest:

Abe Crystal is the Co Founder and CEO of Ruzuku, an online course platform that specializes in helping coaches, consultants and experts to publish their course content with ease.

Due to technical difficulties during the recording, the interview is only available as an audio file. 

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Interview Transcript

{Edited for ease of reading}

Petra Mayer 00:03

Hello, and welcome. My name is Petra Mayer and I’m the founder and CEO of Petra Mayer and Associates Consulting. Today I’m super thrilled to have Abe Crystal with us here, the Co-Founder and CEO of Ruzuku, a platform that I have some personal experience with when I had my own program. I was hosting them on Ruzuku. And I’m very thrilled to have you here for our interview today to learn more about the platform, the plans for the platform, who this platform is for, and how it really serves your clients best. Welcome, Abe, and thanks for joining me.

Abe Crystal 00:36

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Petra Mayer 00:38

Abe, you’re the Co-Founder and CEO of Ruzuku. Tell us a little bit more about how you came to create this particular platform?

Abe Crystal 00:50

Well, that goes back a ways. In the early days, we talked with a lot of people who wanted to share their expertise in different ways. Coaches, authors, bloggers, speakers, people who had expertise to share. And what we learned was, they had ways to share their expertise through one-on-one coaching or consulting, through calls or by giving traditional channels like speaking, but they really couldn’t reach people effectively online. They felt like they were giving their information away on their blogs, for example, but had no way to monetize it. And they also weren’t able to really support their customers more deeply. So that’s what led us to the idea of supporting a more structured and engaging online learning for these experts. And it’s just been a journey from there.

Petra Mayer 01:42

I really resonate with the challenge of the monetization, which is such a big challenge for content creators. And I think, a challenge that a lot of content creators aren’t aware of. But they’ll run into this challenge at one stage that they’ve created all this content, but now how do they actually make a living with it? So I appreciate that you were bringing that to the surface right here at the beginning of our conversation.

In my mind, I differentiate between a learning management system and an online course platform in the way that I consider a learning management system being a system for larger organizations, or institutions, like universities and schools, that have a lot of customization, reporting opportunities, tracking, etc. But an online course platform is a great way for consultants and coaches, speakers, and mentors, to publish their content, as you just as described and actually monetize on that content.

In a sentence or two, how would you differentiate between a learning management system and an online course platform?

Abe Crystal 02:46

I mean, I agree with your distinction. Traditionally, most LMSs didn’t actually host your content for you. Whereas platforms like Ruzuku, and others will host your videos and PDFs and all the other content for you and deliver that to your students, which is an important distinction as well. I think it’s just important for people listening to understand where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to accomplish, and make sure they’re kind of looking in the right area. You know, if you’re an independent consultant who’s looking to take your expertise that you deliver through consulting, package it up as a course and sell it, you’re not going to be well served by a large scale LMS that’s designed for corporations or for universities. And conversely, if you’re a corporation with 5000 employees and a lot of compliance requirements, you’re probably not going to have enough control through an online course platform that’s designed for entrepreneurs.

Petra Mayer 03:42

Yeah, and I think that’s really key, what you’re just saying. Who is it designed for? So let’s look at Ruzuku: who is Ruzuku designed for? Who is the ideal content provider or instructor or course creator, who you’ve created Ruzuku for?

Abe Crystal 04:00

Yeah, so it’s primarily those thought leaders, you know, independent experts, so that would be authors, bloggers, speakers, you know, video creators, podcasters, experts of any stripe, consultants and coaches. But then it would also be a kind of niche training company. So we also have many clients that are their business is training, and they may deliver that through in-person workshops and events and going into companies, but they also deliver it online. And so for that, you know, smaller scale training businesses, let’s say, two to 20ish or so employees, Ruzuku is often very good fit as well.

Petra Mayer 04:41

Awesome. So when I used to have my own programs, I hosted them on Ruzuku. And while that is a few years ago, I was always very impressed by the ease of use not only the ease of use for me to build out the programming, but also the ease of use from my students, my participants in my programs to navigate through it, to connect with each other. What would you think are the features where you would say, as a proud Co-Founder here, where does Ruzuku excel? Where does it stand out amongst others?

Abe Crystal 05:17

Right, that’s interesting. You know, in a way, the two biggest features are not technical features at all. They’re usability. So the ability to quickly get in and create a course without a lot of hassle and complexity, and then have it be a very enjoyable experience for your students. And then the support, something else that we’re very known for is we really provide extensive kind of hand holding and support for our clients to make sure they can be really successful with the platform. Those aren’t really about technology at all. But they are critical things to be thinking about in terms of launching your own course and having it be a successful experience over time.

Then on the product side, two things that we really focus on are engagement. Helping your participants, students, or clients be successful. And we do that through providing engagement tools, like quizzes and assignments that you can use to hold people accountable, keep them on track, keep them participating.

And we do it through community. The other thing that’s unique about Ruzuku is we allow you to build rich discussions directly in your course. A lot of people think that they need to send people outside of the course to have discussions. That you have to go to a Facebook group or a forum or some community site. We’ve tried to bring that community element directly into your courses. People see the content, they watch the video, they review a worksheet, and then the discussion is right there. So it makes for a much more integrated learning experience.

Petra Mayer 06:40

I do recall that we had that quite a bit in my programs. And the other feature that I found was really helpful for me as a course creator was when I have the same program and I have multiple cohorts, to very quickly do a copy of the previous cohort and have my next course ready to go. I think that’s huge because it’s such a time saver for course creators. I know that not everybody is a curriculum designer and an instructional designer and a course creator. A lot of times the experts that you were talking about, consultants or coaches, they don’t necessarily know how to best build out a program.

What do you think they struggle with? What are you doing to help them to create successful programs that are easy to use for their clients?

Abe Crystal 07:30

I mean, this is something we could talk about for a long time, it’s a very deep topic. I’ll just focus on one key point which can lead people into other research, which is I think a lot of course creators, they start with a content-driven perspective, rather than a learning-driven perspective. Meaning that it’s common to believe that to put together a successful online course, you basically need to have some good useful content and package it together, and then you’ll have a valuable course.

And while that would be nice, in a way, because probably a lot of people listening, consultants, speakers, other experts, they have content, you’re a thought leader, you create content all the time. And so it’s nice to think that like, oh, I guess, take some of my content, organize it a bit, and then I’ve got a great course. But the reality is, that’s not how great courses are created.

Great Courses are created by really spending a lot of time and thought, understanding who exactly is going to be participating in the course, what are the goals or outcomes that you’re trying to help them accomplish, and then carefully laying out a path that’s going to take them from point A to point B supporting them along the way. Content is an important piece, but only one piece of that path, and also needs to include ways to coach and support people to get them to take action. And those pieces don’t involve content. And they can get very neglected if you take this content-driven perspective. So that’s the big shift I encourage people to make is to really look at their courses from a learner-centric perspective, rather than a content-driven perspective.

Petra Mayer 09:08

Yeah, that’s really good advice. The last two years have obviously thrown up a lot of things in the air and while an online learning course platform had already, you were way ahead two years ago, when a lot of people started thinking like, oh my god, we can’t be in the same room anymore and we can’t train people in the same room. How am I gonna do this now? Where do you see recent trends in online learning going? And how do systems like yours support those trends?

Abe Crystal 09:43

The trend that’s been developing for several years and just continues to accelerate is that people are looking for meaningful results from the online courses that they invest their time and money in. And again, ties back to the purpose at this point. You don’t get to see results just from content.

From the participants point of view or from the potential customer’s point of view that you’re marketing your course toward, they’ve really raised the bar to where they’re looking for a course that is going to help them get to where they want to be in the aspect of their life, or their work or their business that they’re looking for a course on. And so to ride that trend, you really have to think about both creating courses that are highly engaging.

Using some of the principles we just talked about, of designing them in a learner-centric way and incorporating community and incorporating engagement and incorporating accountability to help guide people to results. But also making sure that your marketing and sales process is aligned with that so that you’re marketing the learning experience, the results you provide, not content.

Petra Mayer 11:05

Yeah, I think that’s really, really good value that you’re giving here. So really thinking about what I’m promising and how I’m going to deliver it. To even think about that already in the very early stages of contacting and connecting with the learner in the sales process. That also would help that people really sign up for courses where it really meets their needs. And they don’t find out in lesson two, oh, I don’t want this and off they go and they don’t stay on the courses, which is a common problem as well.

Now, what do organizations or professionals who are searching for an online learning system, what do they have to keep in mind before they settle on a specific system? What do you think is top of mind for you? I know it’s a million things again. But what’s top of mind from your perspective?

Abe Crystal 11:45

I mean, I think the perspective I would take is learning by doing. And this is easier if you are smaller, right? It’s easier for an individual or for a small company than a large company. But in general, I do see people trying to make decisions about what technology they need, based on kind of general ideas or what they think they should do. And you wind up going down this kind of research rabbit hole and getting stuck in analysis paralysis, I think a much better way to learn is to learn by doing, right.

To actually create a beta or pilot version of your course, run it on, something. Don’t get hung up on the decision of where to run it the first time, you can do it on a platform like Ruzuku, you can just run it with a bunch of zoom calls and sending people some emails, but actually run some early version of your course with real people. You can learn from that experience. And then based on that experience and how you want to improve the course going forward. You can use that to inform you know what technology you need to support you.

Petra Mayer 11:45

So a beta program of some sort, you are suggesting?

Abe Crystal 11:56

Yeah. And not getting hung up on the selection of technology until you have that hands-on experience actually running a course.

Petra Mayer 13:00

Yes, I couldn’t agree more with you. Now, what’s an example of a really successful course on Ruzuku?

Abe Crystal 13:09

What is an example of a really successful course on Ruzuku? I mean, there are lots there. They’re not gonna be courses that people have heard of because they’re all in tiny, little specific niches. You can look at Amy Medling, who’s on our homepage. She runs a business called PCOS Diva. It’s all about this, like very specific niche health concerns. And so she’s been able to build kind of a bootcamp style course on Ruzuku, that’s very effective. And I think it’s successful because she really understands her client, right? She understands this specific health problem, and she’s designed a whole learning experience around how to solve it. So I wouldn’t claim that it’s Ruzuku, per se, that makes her course successful. It’s that she took the right approach on building her course. And then she leveraged Ruzuku’s capabilities to deliver it.

Petra Mayer 14:02

And so if somebody who is listening now to this and says, Oh, I think that that would be a good platform for me, it meets my needs. What’s the pricing model that your company offers to your clients?

Abe Crystal 14:16

In our updated platform that we’re rolling out, right now, we have typical monthly and annual subscriptions. $99 a month for our Core Plan, or $199 a month for the Pro Plan, that would be targeted more at either an advanced solopreneur or with a strong brand or a small company. That allows you to have courses on your own custom domain, like a subdomain if you’re being website as well as have a team of multiple instructors teaching that to your brand.

Petra Mayer 14:49

Okay, all right. So it’s all based on a time subscription. There is no additional fee for learners or for dollars that you’re processing?

Abe Crystal 15:00

Correct. Yes. That is a nice aspect of our pricing model. And it’s something that may be appealing to small companies as compared to an LMS, for example, or a corporate product that has per-user pricing. Because with Ruzuku, you’re getting unlimited courses, unlimited users, whereas the cost per user for these larger-scale systems can be substantial, right? Paying a few dollars per month, per user and you enroll several 100 customers in your courses, that can be cost prohibitive if you’re a solopreneur or smaller company.

Petra Mayer 15:38

Yeah. Okay, great. What is one thing that you wish all your clients knew before they come to you?

Abe Crystal 15:50

I think it’s really what I said before about learning by doing. It’s that you’re not going to figure out all the answers by either reading our website or trying to figure things out in the abstract. You should just actually run a course. And if people came to Ruzuku with that intention to run their beta or run the first version of their course, I think they would learn a lot very quickly, and we’d be able to help them move a lot faster. So that would be the thing I would wish.

Petra Mayer 16:24

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Abe, for being with me here today for this interview. I really appreciate your thoughts and the prompts that you’ve been giving entrepreneurs who are listening to our recording here today. Thank you for your time.

Abe Crystal 16:40

You’re very welcome.

Petra Mayer 16:43

Okay, bye bye.

About the author 

Petra Mayer