Launching a digital learning subscription
Reimagining graduate-level theological education with a new digital product
Seminaries need a way to sustainably reach new kinds of students and create additional streams of recurring revenue.
Seminary Now is a subscription-based theological learning platform for those exploring or pursuing theological education.
25,000 students and counting, plus over $5 million dollars in grant money raised.
Seminaries have long provided in-person theological training for people seeking to work in churches and faith-based roles.
Theological educators face many challenges
Graduate-level theological education is under pressure. Total enrollment across theological schools is shrinking based on demographics. Students are now typically older and less likely to relocate for schooling. The cost of theological education is high for students who will go on to earn relatively low wages.
Seminaries need a way to create additional streams of recurring revenue as well as reach new kinds of students in a sustainable and scalable way.
A new kind of student
Seminary Now began as an idea among multiple seminaries--primarily Northern Seminary in Chicago--and other partners like InterVarsity Press. Seminary Now partnered with the Highland team to explore the opportunity and ensure they understood their potential students' needs and behaviors before designing and developing the Seminary Now product.
What became clear quickly is that the "new normal" seminary student is older, more diverse, and less mobile than the historical seminary student. This had important implications for the digital product. The target student needed something they could watch while commuting or doing household chores, not while sitting at a desk for several hours on a weeknight. In order to fit into the lives of these students, Seminary Now should be more like a video service and less like an online classroom.
Designing with students
We designed Seminary Now using co-creative methods with seminary administrators, students, and--most importantly--prospective students and users. This approach shaped not only the messaging and features of the platform, but also what course topics were featured, what scholars were approached to join the platform, and what certifications Seminary Now offered.
We iterated rapidly on the value proposition, messaging, product features, pricing, and revenue models over a period of 90 days, leading to the initial launch of the product. The Seminary Now platform is a combination of an existing video streaming platform wrapped in custom software to deliver a bespoke digital product with an incredibly fast time-to-market.
Gaining recognition and funding
Seminary Now received a $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in late 2022. Lilly said Seminary Now was the gold standard for an innovative collaboration in theological education, and gave the grant to develop and scale a for-credit offering on Seminary Now launched in 2023. Seminary Now was also recognized as a Chicago Innovation Award nominee in 2023.
Positioned for growth and impact
Seminary Now has already reached over 25,000 students. It continues to expand with new students, new partnerships, and new for-credit programs, creating a vibrant new way for students to connect with theological education and for educational institutions to reach more students.