Gone are the days when you could just ‘promise’ your prospects that you are worth investing in – now you have to PROVE it. And there is no better way of demonstrating your expertise than by creating an online course.
By teaching your topic, you are leaving no shadow of a doubt that you know what you’re talking about, you’re good at what you do, and that you are an expert in your field.
The online course is now as essential to any entrepreneur, expert or thought leader’s toolbox, as a website and business card.
One of the fastest and most impactful ways to get your knowledge out to a global marketplace, making a bigger impact and making more money, is to download that knowledge lying dormant in your brain and turn it into a lead-generating, money-making, impact-creating online course.
In this article, you’ll find an overview of the 10 major stages of online course creation
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things that need to be planned, prepared for and executed to create a successful online course, it provides you with the ‘stratospheric overview’ of the major milestones so that you know what to expect and what the journey will look like before you get started.10 Steps To Creating A Wildly Successful Online Course Click To Tweet
1. Pick the Perfect Course Topic
Your course topic must be something that you LOVE. If you are not passionate about your topic, it will be obvious if you don’t love your topic and will make your training about as engaging as a cardboard sandwich.
Don’t feel like you have to teach a university-level profession. Think about your skills, talents and life experiences that you have been through. Cooking your favorite dishes, interior design, writing non-fiction, overcoming the death of a loved one… the list of possible course topics is endless.
In short, if you love your topic, you are good at your topic and you have experience (formal or life) in it, then you have a topic that will work for you.
2. Ensure Your Course Idea has High Market Demand
Hands up who wants to spend weeks of their life creating an online course, for absolutely nobody to buy it? Nope. Didn’t think so.
Once you have picked your online course topic, the next step is to conduct a number of market research tests to see if it has a market demand or not. Many course creators make the mistake of thinking that if there is a lot of competition in their topic area, then their course idea won’t fly. But actually, this shows that there is a high chance of there being a strong market demand for that course idea and is therefore well worth investigating further.
The main three things you want to be checking for are:
- Are people talking about it?
- Are people asking questions about it?
- Is there a gap in what the competition is offering?
If your answer to the above three questions is ‘yes’ and your idea is similar but different to what is already out there, then you have a course idea that has a chance of being a best-seller.
3. Create Magnetic and Compelling Learning Outcomes
Don’t underestimate the importance of learning outcomes. If you don’t do this for your online courses you could severely risk your reputation and your bottom line – let alone make the course creation process a frustrating one.
Would you hand over your money to someone for a product you don’t understand and you have no idea what it will do for you? Of course not.
Just because you know what your course will give your students, it does not mean that they will know.
If your students don’t know HOW your course is going to help them, they are unlikely to enroll in it.
Learning outcomes clearly explain, with measurable verbs, what the learner will be able to do, know and feel by the end of your course.
What skills will they be able to demonstrate?
What new knowledge will they have obtained?
What feelings will they have moved away from or to?
Having clear learning outcomes also ensures that only the RIGHT students are joining your course – which means higher completion and satisfaction rates and lower refund requests.
4. Select and Gather your Course Content
This is the stage where many course creators start to risk falling into ‘The Hole of Eternal Procrastination’.
The main reason we get stuck here is often because of the sheer volume of information we have in our heads or all around us in books, on our hard drives, in our notepads and so on. The art at this stage is not just about what we should include in our course, but what stuff we need to leave out.
This is where the research you will have conducted in the market testing phase and your learning outcomes, now come to serve you again. As you are sorting through your piles of content, throw out anything that does not directly relate to achieving a learning outcome.
Secondly, make sure that every learning outcome does have content aligned to it.
Only include content that answers your audiences burning questions, or fills gaps not met by your competitors.10 Steps To Creating A Wildly Successful Online Course Click To Tweet
5. Structure Your Modules and Course Plan
This is the stage where you now take a look at all of your content and start grouping together your similar themes, tips, and ideas into modules and then ordering the lectures within those modules into the most progressive and logical manner so that they form a flowing sequence of lessons.
6. Determine the Most Engaging and Effective Delivery Methods for Each Lesson
Now it’s time to decide on the best way to deliver your content.
You need to be aware of the different principles of adult learning, learning preferences and all of the different ways that you can deliver your training to really make sure that your training is as engaging as possible.
Will you have videos, reading content, activities, audio content?
What type of visuals will you have?
Will you have community learning areas?
You need to make sure that you have a balance of visual, audio and practical methodologies so that everyone is engaged and provided with the optimum learning experience.
7. Filming, Recording and Editing your Online Course
This is the production phase.
By now you should have a thorough course plan, all of your content together and know exactly how you are going to deliver each element of your online course.
Now it’s time for the fun part – getting on camera.
Of course how you deliver your training is entirely dependant on what your audience will prefer to engage with and what method delivers your learning outcomes most effectively.
However, at present the most effective method of delivery is video.
This could be ‘talking head’ video which is when you are in the shot on camera.
You could also have ‘green screen’ talking head videos.
This means that you are recording with a green background behind you – where you have a green screen, you can have anything behind you during the editing process. It could be a video behind you, animations, or just a still image. I use the green screen so that I can have my PowerPoint slides up behind me in the post editing phase this is great for my more classroom type training
Another method is called screencasting which is when you are recording your computer screen – you can choose to include a webcam type video of yourself on top of this.
This allows you to quickly cut edit replace your green screen, fix your sound, add logos, text and pop-ups to your videos; save them as an mp4 and then upload them to your online learning system.
8. Setting up your online school
The first thing here is to recognize that there are three major ways to sell your online courses.
- online course marketplaces
- learning management systems
- plugins or software on your website.
There is a very big difference between online course marketplaces and learning management systems.
A learning management system is your own Academy that you can link to your website and fully brand as your own platform. It makes online course creation simple and easy to sell your learning products. My recommendation is Thinkific (I host all of my courses on this platform), but if you’re still early in the platform selection process, here is a list of all of the things you should look for in an LMS (Learning Management System).
9. Getting the perfect pricing models and feeding into a bigger education based business model
Make sure you have strategized how and where your online course will fit into your overall business model.
- Is it going to just be a free lead magnet into your primary product and service?
- Is it going to be an income stream in its own right?
- Or, is it going to be your primary income stream?
Each of these will mean that your course needs to be designed slightly differently, provide a different volume of value, have different marketing methodologies and put your followers and students into very different types of funnels.
This also will considerably affect the pricing that you need to apply to your online course so that it appropriately matches the position it’s given within your business.
There is no right or wrong or even guideline price for an online course as it depends very much on what it is that you are delivering. But as a starting point, my recommendation is to analyze and benchmark your idea against competing products within the marketplace – have a look at what your competitors are charging and what for, then find out how yours can be different and better. When you’ve made yours better, then price yours slightly higher.
Never price yours lower because that will just make yours looks like it has less value than your competitors.
10. Launch and Ongoing Marketing
If you think the work is over now that you’ve completed on your online course think again now the real work begins!
Too many course creators make the mistake of thinking that once their course is created, they now have an income stream. You need a launch and ongoing marketing strategy to promote your course and enroll students.
- Will you run early bird discount promotions?
- Do you have a content marketing plan that will sell your online courses?
- Will you run ads?
- Do you have a list to market to?
- Can you partner up with influencers?
- Will you run an affiliate program?
- How will you use social media?
The list is endless.
Make sure that you have at least an 18-month marketing plan for your online course and remember that the second you stop marketing is the second you stop selling.
So there you have it – a ‘birds-eye-view’ of the major milestones in online course creation!
Hopefully, these steps give you a good idea of what to expect from the journey of creating and marketing online courses. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below!
Sarah Cordiner is an education expert, author, speaker, trainer, award-winning online course creator and CEO of Main Training. With 11 years in business in the education industry and over 5,000 students in 121 countries – Sarah encapsulates a mesmerizing marriage of education and entrepreneurship as the EDUpreneur’s internationally acclaimed leader in ‘profitably educating your marketplace’.