There are many ways to connect books to online courses. Maybe you have a book and want to create a course to serve your students in more detail? Or maybe you have a course, and are thinking of turning student insights into a book?
Knowing which strategy is right for you depends on many factors. To help you navigate your decision-making, we sat down with Paul Angone to learn from his experience as an author who leverages online courses.
As the author of three books including the popular, 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties, Paul used an online course to grow his platform and revenue as an author. In our interview, he shared the steps he took to create his first course and build a thriving community around it.
Watch the video below to learn how Paul built his course, and leveraged student insights from the course community to write his next book!
Why An Online Course?
Paul Angone is a full-time author, speaker, and consultant. He’s the best-selling author of three books, including 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties: (and let’s be honest, your thirties too), 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, and All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!. He regularly speaks for corporations and universities around the world, and created AllGroanUp.com, an online community visited daily by millions of people around the world.
But Paul hasn’t always been an author. In fact, five years ago was just the start of his journey into publishing and growing his community.
After completing his Masters in organizational leadership, Paul came up with a framework for finding your signature sauce in life. Designed for millennials, Paul’s framework helps people uncover their unique strengths and purpose. He initially published these ideas in his first book, 101 Secrets For Your Twenties.
The book resonated with his audience, and not just millennials. Soon Paul was inundated with questions and emails from people saying how meaningful the book was, but many ran into a challenge – they saw the importance of finding their Signature Sauce, but didn’t know what to do about it. How could they apply the principles in the book to their own lives and create lasting impact?
Paul recognized there was an opportunity to help his readers take action through practical lessons and exercises. Creating an online course seemed like a natural next step.
“I wanted to break the concepts down for people and coach them through the process. I didn’t have the time to do this with everyone with all the questions I was getting, so online courses seemed like a great fit. I knew I could go even deeper than the book and affect real transformation in people’s lives through a course.”
– Paul Angone
Paul created the course Signature Sauce, acting as a follow-on resource to help put his book into practice. Not only has the course created an additional revenue stream for Paul’s business, the course has also successfully helped students all over the world create transformation in their lives.Learn how @paulangone used online courses to help move readers from insight into action #onlinecourses Click To Tweet
Lessons For Creating Your First Online Course
In creating his first online course, Paul began by defining the outcome he wanted to see in his students. For him, that meant making life decisions according to their values and unique strengths, and being transformed to lead more purposeful lives.
Since he had already validated his course topic through repeated feedback and conversation his audience, Paul created his course content in line with his existing framework. Through prior research, Paul had developed ten steps to finding your secret sauce. He created 10 modules in his online course to build on his book and enrich the learning experience. Here are a few key principles Paul applied to achieve success with his first online course:
Refining the course topic
If you’re considering the option of creating a course from a book, make sure you have both excitement and expertise around your topic. If you’re just creating a companion course to make extra money, your course won’t last.
“I pictured millennials fully living their calling and purpose, and that really excited me to create the course. Pay attention to what gets you fired up. Creating and launching a course for the first time can be challenging, so you need to have a larger purpose behind what you’re doing to help yourself stick with it.”
– Paul Angone
If you’re wondering how much overlap there should be between your book and your online course, Paul suggests a good rule of thumb is 50:50. Paul shared, “most publishers want to see about 50% new content. Don’t shy away from including content you’ve already published into the world. The content that your audience has seen and responded to is likely the material that’s the strongest, and warrants reiterating in your course.”
Like many successful course creators, Paul used a variety of content formats to create a rich learning experience and increase student success. Here are some examples of the different format styles Paul used in his online course:
- Videos. For each of the 10 modules, Paul recorded a training video around 15 minutes in length.
- Workbooks. Paul developed a set of questions for each module, inviting the students to apply and discuss what they learned.
- Expert interviews. Each module also included an interview with an influencer or expert to speak to the content from their unique perspective.
Pro tip: explore how you could embed different types of learning content into your course to make it a rich learning experience. Having a mixture of video, written content, workbook exercises, and interactive dialogue are good elements to start with.
Related Article: For more tips on how to design great course content, check out our guide to Outlining an Online Course Curriculum.
Using A Cohort Model
In addition to diversifying lesson formats, Paul built a community element into his course. Students walked through the modules together with a partner to help put the material into practice.
If you’re considering using a cohort model in your own course, here are a few tips on how to make your community gel and increase the chances of them completing your course.
Keep the size manageable
Paul accepted a maximum of 50 people in a cohort at any given time. When starting out, you want to find a balance between having enough people in the cohort to create a sense of community, but not too many that causes people to lose touch with the group and disengage.
Use a questionnaire
Paul sent out a questionnaire as part of the course onboarding to get to know participants asking, what did they want to get out of the course? What were their challenges? What was their current job? He also asked if they wanted to be partnered with someone for accountability throughout the course.
Set up accountability partners
Paul went through each submission from the questionnaire and paired each student with a partner. Partners would complete the weekly workbook questions together and lean on each other for support as they went through the material.
Choose a platform to connect the cohort
This could look like starting conversations in a Facebook group, or in the discussion section of the online course itself. Paul used both platforms as well as a weekly conference call to conduct check-ins with the sub-groups.
Consider hosting a live webinar or video chat for your own check-ins if you want even more face time with your students.
“Years later, people who were paired as partners in the course still hang out in person and are lifelong friends. I doubt that this would happen with just the book, or having coached them 1-1. The cohort model has been transformational for my students, and has higher completion rates individuals going through the course on their own.”
– Paul Angone
To hear more about how Paul launched his course successfully, watch the video above!
Benefits of Having Online Courses
Since launching his online course, Paul went on to create related books on the topic. In fact, he used his online course Signature Sauce as research grounds for his next book, 101 Things to Ask In Your 20’s.
“The conversations I was having in the online course became research for my next book. Hearing feedback from students helped me refine the concepts to make my next book even better.”
– Paul Angone
Launching his online course also provided a ton of unexpected benefits, from growing his platform, opening up speaking opportunities, and providing a shorter feedback loop for his book launches.
With the highly engaged community Paul fostered, many of his students voluntarily became part of the launch team for his next book. His students were the first to promote Paul’s new books and extol the benefits of working with him. “My students have become my strongest advocates,” he shared.
Paul has also been able to repurpose the content from his course into keynote presentations for a number of speaking engagements. “Building a course forces you to flesh out the content in a level of detail that you may not get to even when writing your book. Having a course has helped me create some of my best presentation content to date.”
As an author, the feedback loop between developing your content and hearing feedback from your audience can be long. Even if your book sales are great, it can be hard to know if your book is making an impact. Courses allow you to see the impact in real time, create richer, deeper, and more meaningful conversations, and provide instant feedback on your work.
“I love how online courses have provided me with a connection to my audience that I otherwise would not have. A really amazing part of having a course is gaining a deep connection with your audience, and seeing transformation happen in real time.”
– Paul Angone
If you’re just getting started on your course journey, download this helpful guide to creating and selling online courses!