How to create an online course
In this week's blog post, I introduce the subject of how to create an online course.
This is the fourth in the series of blog posts on the topic. In the first in the series, I looked at the benefits of creating a course to someone who runs a consultancy or who is a coach or freelancer who exchanges “time for money”.
In the second, I looked at the reasons for teaching online for i) increasing revenue, ii) as a side project and iii) the benefits of creating a free course.
In the third blog post in the series, I turned the topic on its head and looked at the subject of online courses from the student's point of view. I listed 12 benefits of online learning. you can find all the previous posts in the series under the category online learning and via the links below.
In this article, I'm going to take the topic one step further and look at the main tasks involved in creating a course.
How to create an online course step by step
Step 1 Why do you want to create a course?
The first decision that you have to make is the reason you want to start the course in the first place. Is it going to be a replacement for your existing service or an additional product you offer to your current or new clients? Is the course going to be a single module or a number of modules divided into one or more lessons? The overall framework for your online course is probably the most time-consuming decision you'll have to make, so take your time in making your mind up on the topic and the structure.
Step 2 Select your audience
Related to Step 1 is deciding on your audience? Who will buy your course? The more specific you can be the better. If your course is for everyone then it's most likely for no-one. You will hear marketers talk about customer avatars, profiles or persona. It's crucial that you determine exactly who your course is going to benefit and that you know the pain points that you are solving. For example, you may be a sleep consultant helping parents with babies under 5 – a very specific target market. The other important factor in selecting your audience is to ensure that you know where you can find these people online if they're not your existing client base. This will make marketing your course to significant numbers of relevant people much easier in the long run.
Step 3 Choose a specific topic
The best courses (unless they are an ongoing subscription program) are very specific. For instance: the Homepreneur Productivity Course teaches coaches, consultants and freelancers who work from home how to save 10 hours a week for better work-life balance and increased revenue.
Step 4 Test your idea
Before investing a lot of time in developing your training modules, it's a good idea to survey your target audience to determine if the topic of your course provides a solution to a real problem they face. It's no good developing a course which nobody buys. Before I developed the productivity course I had the results of a survey completed by 550 homepreneurs.
You can use SurveyMonkey to create a free survey which you can send out to your email database and also you can share it on social media. Facebook groups dedicated to your audience may be a good place to find people willing to complete a survey.
Keep the number of questions to a minimum; the longer the questionnaire the less likely people are to fill it in. If you can keep the responses to simple ‘yes' or ‘no' or a simple scale rating say 1 to 5 then it's quick to complete and you'll get a much greater completion rate
Step 5 Outline your Modules and Lessons
When I created the productivity course I used a simple browser app called Workflowy which is just like a long bullet points list 2 brainstorm my modules and lessons. you could also use Trello and create a board for the course, lists for each module and cards for each lesson.
If you like pen and paper then a simple pile of post-it notes is a good place to start brainstorming your material.
Once you have arranged your ideas into a logical sequence the next step is to decide exactly how you are going to deliver the information to your students. My preferred method is to use voice-over slides. I'm not a great fan of appearing face to camera. So this method works well for me. You might want to simply record your voice or make your course PDF downloads the choice is up to you. The important thing is to appeal to students with different learning styles. The productivity course has videos, audios, downloads, checklists and spreadsheets to support different learning styles
Step 6 Create your Content
This is probably the most time-consuming part of creating an online course but also the most fun because you're turning your knowledge into a physical product. Ok, it's going to be delivered online but it's actually a product and not a service – very different from being a consultant, coach or freelancer.
If you've chosen to create slides then PowerPoint is a good place to start. I use Camtasia for recording my voice over the PowerPoint slides and for editing the video. There are different pieces of software for different preferences and we'll go into these in more detail in another post. Your written content is best turned into a PDF.
Step 7 Store your content
Once you are happy with all your content, you now need to find a safe place to store the videos and downloads. They shouldn't be stored on your website as a large course will slow down your website. I use Amazon S3 for storing the content of my courses.
Step 8 Upload your course
Your course contents will be posted on your website. It is advisable to have a dedicated website for your courses. For example a subdomain with the prefix: courses. or learn. and then your URL. Ensure that you have an SSL certificate attached to your course website because you want to give your buyer's confidence that your site is secure.
Step 9 Pricing
You'll probably have investigated the market for your competitors' courses in the subject area that you are going to teach. Prices vary widely and so does the content. Pricing too low may be a mistake as the perception may be that the course doesn't provide enough value. Priced too high and you might have difficulty in finding enough purchasers.
Step 10 Marketing
This is when the fun really starts to happen.
You've now got to find buyers for your course. If your course is applicable to your existing client base then you will have a ready-made market. If you've moved into a completely different field then marketing your course will take more time. I'll cover the different ways of marketing your course in an upcoming post.
Once you have sold your course then it's important to keep in touch with your buyers and to ask for testimonials and feedback on the content.
If you're interested in creating a course then download the course creation checklist which has a which has a list of useful resources and tips. (to come)