I made a mistake.
But before I get into that, I wanted to share a story with you …
First I invite you to listen to Sir Ken Robinson tell the story of how every country in the world is currently reforming education in this video:
I believe there are exciting, new, effective, and engaging ways to learn, thrive, teach, and facilitate learning in today’s world.
Working on this problem and opportunity surrounding effective learning along with unlocking human potential is my life’s work. I’m not just thinking about next year or about the standard five year plan. I’m thinking generationally, focusing this work 50 – 100 years out.
A personal journey with learning
I love to learn.
I’m a parent with daughters who also love to learn.
I’m a very private person, but sharing a little bit of my personal story will help you see my root motivation and vision for the future of online education and LifterLMS.
My children do not go to school, even though they are of school age. I’m not a big fan of labels, but you could label us as practicing “unschooling.” Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. If a parent, teacher, or anyone for that matter, wants to support an unschooling learner, it is done by helping expose the learner to a variety of experiences allowing them to discover interests and communities on their own. Supporting unschoolers is all about facilitating and allowing the learner to lead.
It is important to recognize that unschooling is not anti-school. Rather it is about seeking out the most effective resources, at the right time, and in the right way for each individual learner. My approach isn’t as dogmatic as it may sound (which is why I don’t like labels). For example, my children enroll in specific classes in our community that interest them, like art and music. I am simply sharing my personal story, beliefs, and choices.
Of course as a parent, mentor, or leader, we have a duty to protect unschoolers from unrecoverable mistakes. However most mistakes and failures are recoverable. We want lots of those kinds of mistakes, and we want reality to provide feedback on what’s working or not. “Real world” or reality-based feedback is a powerful teacher.
Keep reading. In a little bit, I will show you an example of reality-based feedback related to the mistake that I made.
Now if you think about it, we all have done some unschooling in our lives even if we didn’t realize it.
As a kid I was bored and unengaged for much of my classroom time. I had a “good” education, but I could have gotten a lot more out of those years.
It wasn’t until college that I was allowed to start making conscious decisions to lead my own education. I persued classes that actually sounded interesting to me like anthropology, sociology, philosophy, sustainable development, appropriate technology, travel, and outdoor leadership. This was really the beginning of an unschooling approach for me.
The secret sauce to unschooling that works for me includes:
- Taking leadership of my own path
- Continuously improving my craft and experimenting constantly (which I find easy when passion or interest is there)
- Surrounding myself with others who have chosen a similar path (no matter where they are on their journey)
Many great things in my life have come from embodying these three personal truths. It is through this unschooling approach to life that I have found success in an outdoor leadership career in Alaska, a work-from-anywhere, semi-nomadic, married-with-kids lifestyle, and as the passionate online education software entrepreneur standing in front of you today.
Again this is my personal journey and what’s evolved for me. Your journey and path is your own. You get to define what success means to you. There are many paths. Choose yours.
So how does online course, membership site, and learning management system (LMS) software fit into all this?
Please allow me to ask you a few questions that I have asked myself over the years.
Read each question, pause, and really think about what the answer might look like.
What would a world look like where we had technology that supports effective and engaging learning?
What would a world look like where all teachers had access to the tools necessary to reach experts around the world and integrate them into the classroom?
What would a world look like where people with valuable knowledge and life experience could easily launch online training platforms to create income and impact?
What would a world look like where people and businesses could curate learning materials from diversified sources in order to create the most effective and engaging learning journey?
What would a world look like where people anywhere could follow their interests, take control of their learning, and connect with mentors and peers while helping others grow as well?
What would a world look like where learning content and learning method creators were rewarded based on the effectiveness of their content and craft?
These are the questions that consume my curiosity.
I’m motivated for myself, my family, you, and all of the world’s people.
Learning is what makes us human.
But I don’t just explore this learning utopia in my mind.
I also think realistically about the tools and specific cultural transitions that need to transpire to get us there.
So what would a software look like that facilitates a learner’s personal leadership, rapid learning, and connection to others?
The answer to that question is what drives the roadmap and evolution of LifterLMS.
I invite you to come with us on this journey to the next evolution of learning. Our mission is to democratize education in the digital classroom.
What does democratization actually mean?
At it’s core, the democratization I’m talking about concerns empowering individuals and learning communities.
The big shift that’s happening right now in education starts with personal leadership.
The democratization starts within you.
You decide who is leading your learning journey.
Is it you?
Is it someone else or something else?
Do you realize you have a choice?
Sometimes we are unaware of our own belief systems and assumptions which include who and what we allow to lead us.
I guarantee you can remember a time when you were in control of your learning. You chased something of interest. No one forced you. You experimented with it, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. You found a community related to this interest and you got involved. Eventually others came to you looking for guidance on their own free will and you helped them.
What was that for you?
At LifterLMS we are building tools that help education entrepreneurs create learning platforms that matter. These are platforms designed to create high-impact, engaging, learning environments that can also be extremely lucrative if your content and methods are good.
I believe you need the following elements to be successful as an online course creator, membership site owner, or learning management system administrator:
- Wisdom, knowledge, life experience
- Instructional design (an intelligent packaging of the wisdom into an effective class structure, curriculum, method, path, system, program, etc.)
- An online course delivery system, membership site, or learning management system (LifterLMS offers all three of these approaches simultaneously or separately)
Some say that when building an online education program, there is a preferred order in which to do things. Many people do this backwards.
I learned the ideal order from a great friend and mentor…
1) Build community.
Community happens naturally when you allow the natural social connections to form through something like an unschooling approach. Unfortunately today there’s a lot of unnecessary focus on gimicky tactics for “building the list” and “persuasion techniques.” The strongest communities are simply a natural byproduct of pursuing your unique version of meaningful work.
2) Build learning content.
This also happens naturally as your competence grows and you begin helping others who are less experienced. Over time your methods of helping and facilitating get better and better as you see positive trends from what is working in reality. The instructional design improves as time goes on. Your unique methods of helping or facilitating real learning become the learning content and framework.
3) Create the delivery system.
Unfortunately I’ve seen way too many people focus on the tools before they have the community and the content. The tools are a very important part of the puzzle but they are not the starting point. The online course, membership site, or LMS software should support the exchange of knowledge, set the student up for real world application with direct, reality-based feedback, facilitate community, and empower the learner to lead their own journey.
What’s new in LifterLMS 3.0 and what does the future hold?
LifterLMS 3.0 is about to roll out. In last week’s post we wrote about 19 of the top new features, benefits, and changes.
I made a mistake by sharing with you what was happening with LifterLMS 3.0, but not why. That’s an example, by the way, of me making a mistake in the real world and getting reality-based feedback from real people. That’s part of my unschooling journey as a software entrepreneur. That’s a lesson to me that helps me improve as a communicator.
LifterLMS 3.0 is a major upgrade. Moving from 2.7.12 to 3.0 is a major version change in terms of semantic versioning. The point system we use here is often misunderstood or misused. In a major update, there are some things that are backwards incompatible.
Backwards incompatibility is not a bad thing. For example, when you decide to have children, you can not expect to have the same life you had before kids. Life has forever changed, but this is not a bad thing.
There is a fork in the road here. We are exposing a seam. In the words of Seth Godin:
“There is a seam. That was one color, this is a different one. That was yesterday, this is today.”
For LifterLMS 3.o there are a lot of awesome, shiny new features shaped by the voice of our users, but there are also a few backwards incompatible changes. The code and architecture behind the way people purchase and access courses and memberships have been completely rewritten from the ground up. Also the ability to sell courses and membership with PayPal or WooCommerce have been moved out to paid add-ons. These integrations have also been completely rewritten to work with the new payment and access system and have even more functionality than their predecessors.
People who are currently using these payment methods in an older version of LifterLMS that do not want to pay for the new PayPal or WooCommerce add-ons are in complete control and can make the decision to NOT update their version of LifterLMS. There will be a big red alert message next to the usual update available area in WordPress. If someone accidentally updates and changes their mind, they can choose to roll back to the previous version which is freely available here. If they don’t know how to roll back, there is a community of web developers and even WordPress “version roll back” plugins out there.
Some might be wondering why we decided to move the PayPal and WooCommerce functionality from the free core software out to their own premium extensions.
It was a tough decision and this is why we chose this direction:
1) Some of our users don’t need eCommerce features. Some sell their training offline or through a different method. It’s important in a product for the main feature set to be desirable to the majority. If selling your online training is important to you, then you may want to go to the store and purchase individual eCommerce add-ons or you might want to get them all through the Universe Bundle that will roll out alongside the LifterLMS 3.0 release. Remember, our top priority is making online education work, not just eCommerce. We are LifterLMS, not Lifter-eCommerce. Of course we want education entrepreneurs to be successful and make a profit. I’m sure you would agree that if your learning content and teaching methods are effective and desirable, you can afford to pay for the tools you choose to sell them with. It’s easy to put skin in the game when you’ve got a valuable and effective training product.
2) As a business we need to be able to grow and pay great people to provide product support and continue product development. We give a lot away for free to the community, and we’re happy to. But any good product needs to have a sustainable business model behind it. The major business expenses in software products are support and continuous improvement. It’s in the learning community’s best interest for LifterLMS to be able to fund and accelerate development resources towards more learning-focused functionalities, like more advanced assessments, assignments, teacher capabilities, and much, much, more.
3) You can still validate your online course, membership site, or learning management system for free with LifterLMS. The free LifterLMS 3.0 includes a new feature (manual gateway) you can choose to use that puts a transaction in pending status after checkout pending arrival of a check, cash, bank transfer, payment through a different system, etc. Once you get payment, you can change the order status and the user is immediately let into the courses and/or memberships that they purchased.
You could also validate your training by selling the course or membership with an easy PayPal invoice, embedded PayPal button, WooCommerce simple digital product, Gumroad digital product, FreshBooks invoice, and a host of other free-to-set-up or low cost services. Upon payment, simply deliver your customer a LifterLMS voucher to activate their purchase, give the user a coupon, approve the order manually in LifterLMS, or enroll them manually. It’s easy to validate your minimum viable training product (MVTP) with LifterLMS.
Once you have proof of concept, we offer a suite of products to help you create an amazing world-class platform. You can buy individual products or save big by investing in the Universe Bundle where you get everything we make. At the end of the day if your course is delivered through our system and good enough to make money, it’s in both our best interests for LifterLMS to be able to afford to support you and continuously improve upon the tools that make your platform possible.
4) We want to run, not walk.
Of course we care and sympathize with people who want a valuable component to remain free. I understand where these people are coming from, but I am also offering an invitation to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
For those of you that you that wish to continue, I know you understand why it’s important for us to be running into the future together, not walking.
Running not walking
I have a vision for transforming how we as humans worldwide can learn and teach.
I have a vision for how we can lead ourselves, build healthy relationships, and experience the joys of rapid learning.
But I’m not just a dreamer.
I’m a builder.
I can connect the dots to get us there.
However this is bigger than me, you, and LifterLMS.
This is my vision, but this isn’t my story.
This is our story.
This is our time.
Let’s run, not walk, forward.
In order to run, LifterLMS needs to have a strong business model behind it. LifterLMS needs to be able to cover support costs, cover development costs, and grow fast.
In order to run, LifterLMS needs a community of users who share this vision and our shared journey. LifterLMS needs a community of users that are making courses that matter.
Your time is limited. So don’t waste it by living with an education operating system that is under-optimized.
You’re time is limited. So don’t waste it by not valuing the tools and the community that is here to support you.
Let’s run, not walk.
Sign up here to get the free version of LifterLMS right now or run faster with the Universe Bundle coming out soon with the release of LifterLMS 3.0. Again, we will prorate existing customers. Contact us here if you have an active license and would like to be prorated and upgraded into the Universe Bundle.
If you want to run faster and join us on this journey but need financial support because of geography based currency issues or exceptional life circumstances, click here to explain your situation and apply for a partial or full software scholarship.
The release of LifterLMS 3.0 is an event. Click here to watch the replay of the LifterLMS 3.0 Launch Party Webinar. There will be some limited-time discounts for everyone to celebrate the launch. There will be deeper discounts for current LifterLMS Pro users as promised.
I will see you at the starting line. Make sure you are on the email list so you’re in the loop.
Get ready to run into the future, not walk.
* If you’d prefer to listen to this post or watch a video version, here you go: