Case Study

Passport to Education Revenue: How the American Planning Association is Offering a Subscription Product to Online Learners



Organization: American Planning Association


The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational association organized to advance the art and science of urban and regional planning. APA and its members provide leadership by advocating excellence in community planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.

The Challenges

During the height of the pandemic the American Planning Association was faced with the challenge to increase education revenue, reduce expenses, and move further towards self-sufficiency. Since its member base during this time was facing potential layoffs and budget cuts, the American Planning Association wanted to achieve its goals while also continuing to offer affordable products to members.

Due to the specialization of the planning industry and the need to cover many different areas of learning, the American Planning Associations’ online catalog offered over 300 courses for individual purchase. Resources were stretched as they tried to maintain and develop new content to keep the catalog fresh. During that time APA had 45,000 members but only 16,000 were maintaining certification. Branding and messaging were heavily based on certification maintenance, which led to members only taking courses because they needed to maintain their certification. Courses that were repeatedly in the top 10 were mandatory which led to high spikes in revenue when users had to demonstrate certification maintenance, and in alternate years APA struggled to meet their goals.

The American Planning Association looked for solutions to engage purchasers beyond the initial purchase and see benefits in their continued education beyond certification maintenance.

Percentage of members maintaining certification

“We learned that our market was much broader than the people already in our LMS. We were missing a huge education opportunity that would help us stay current and navigate change.”

Kimberley Jacques

Education Director, American Planning Association

passport subscription product

The Solution

Passport Subscription Product

APA tackled a majority of their goals by developing a Passport Subscription product offering. For one low fee, users received access to unlimited learning which included APA’s 300+ course offerings, live webinars, recorded conference sessions, and more.

The American Planning Association developed a newsletter to engage subscribers by providing helpful tips to get the most out of their subscriptions and pushing related content.

To make the subscription product more favorable, APA also began launching larger connected courses that covered more in-depth content at a slightly higher price, which made the subscription purchase more valuable to the user.

Personalized Recommendations

APA made the decision to work with Web Courseworks to add a user-friendly, personalized experience to their new LMS, CourseStage. Web Courseworks worked closely with APA to design their course catalog, group content, and add digital badges to courses.

Recommendation engines were then added to APA’s learning management system which showed users courses based on their personal search and previous courses selected/purchased.

implementation results

Surplus of Subscriptions

APA regeared their marketing strategy and messaging to target renewing members to add-on the Passport subscription to their membership. After launch, APA had reached 600 subscribers over their goal, and continuously grew with 200 new subscribers each month.

Continuous Revenue Flow

New members and subscribers meant a continuous revenue stream for APA. Financial gain also came from a partnership with Web Courseworks that enabled the addition of new features and created a positive user experience within the learning management system.

Engaged Members & Subscribers

After launching Passport, these new subscribers became the first to register for webinars, first to access recorded conference sessions, and first to engage with content overall. APA engaged members by shifting branding and messaging towards the value of continuous learning and navigating change. These changes and positive user experiences retained members and increased education value beyond just maintaining their credentials.

65% of subscription purchases are from certified planners

Web Courseworks has been a strong partner, supported our goals, and talked through all our ideas about new features and how to make a positive user experience. Our partnership helped create a subscription base that has our members feel positive about their experience.

Kimberley Jacques

American Planning Association

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