One of the biggest challenges for e-learning companies today is establishing perceived value for the products they supply. When the customer buys e-learning from an e-learning provider license agreements can be so restrictive and content so dry that the client is left wondering did I get bang for my buck. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is plenty of free e-learning resources on the web, some of extremely high standard, so why pay for it? The web has forwarded the freemium model to such an extent that there is really no turning back and industry really needs to acknowledge this and look at other avenues for revenue. This leaves companies supplying e-learning with a dilemma. How do we establish a revenue stream when clients don't expect to pay for it?
So how do we get paid?
The main way of getting paid in this market I believe is two-fold - look for non-direct revenue channels and differentiation. Non-direct revenue channels would include just charging for support. Differentiating would be to find a niche (personalisation, educational data mining, learner modelling) in the e-learning market and charge for it as a service, perhaps to some of the main stream e-learning providers.
In terms of the freemium model I think that this could be a great fit for e-learning. The freemium model could be used to give a sampler to learners and use the data build up through the sampler to provide for a learning experience that the learner is willing to pay for. The price point is key here and I suppose would depend on the number of users and the anticipated number that would choose to pay for the premium version.
I would be very interested in hearing other points of view on this.