When HeatSpring students purchase a course, they get access to the course materials as soon as they enroll and for one year (365 days) after their class session ends. After the year of access expires, students can optionally extend access to the course materials with a HeatSpring Membership. Membership currently costs $19/month and one membership subscription unlocks access to all the student’s past courses.
We developed HeatSpring Membership because, while we have always stated in our terms that course materials are only available for one year, we have experimented with allowing students to continue to access the materials after the year expired. We found that many students continued to access their course(s), months or even years after taking them. While we loved that students were doing this as it is a testament to the value of the courses, we noticed that this ongoing use was costing us a lot of money over time.
As you might imagine, with tens of thousands of past students since 2007, our operating costs continue to grow for variable costs like bandwith, hosting, video streaming, course material file hosting and downloads. So a student who paid a one time enrollment fee in 2007, may still be incurring variable expenses today by continuing to watch course videos or download materials.
Hence, we developed HeatSpring Membership using cost-based pricing approach. This system has worked quite well as the membership fees help to cover the cost of students who continue to use their course materials long after the instructor-led session has ended. It also helps us to ensure that we are not raising prices across the board and that only the active members are helping to cover the costs they are incurring.
When members no longer need access to the materials, they can cancel their monthly membership and no longer pay the fees. Since they are no longer using the materials, HeatSpring no longer incurs the variable costs of supporting their access.
It is important to note that only students who have paid to enroll in a full instructor-led sesison of a course can then access that material with a HeatSpring membership after their one year of access has expired. HeatSpring will never provide access to these materials unless a student has enrolled in full paid session of that course and their included year of access to the materials has expired.
Since this is a cost-based approach, we do not currently directly share any of the membership fees collected with our instructors. Our long term plan is to scale HeatSpring membership to a point beyond simply covering our costs and when we reach that point we will formalize a revenue sharing structure so the instructor who created the content being accessed can passively get paid a percentage of that recurring monthly membership fee.
This is still an evolving test and we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as we continue to grow HeatSpring membership.