Recently I was asked in an interview if I reviewed other online courses before creating mine.
My honest answer was: No.
I’ve been around long enough to know when I start looking at the competition it only gets me in trouble. It causes me to doubt my own expertise, experience and quite frankly, my gut.
So it was interesting when I decided to purchase and take someone else’s course, to experience online learning from the other side, as a student.
I suppose if I was blown away by the course I might have taken away a few ideas for my next course. But that was not the case.
Instead, while I did learn something in the course, I also found myself frustrated with the experience.
As online instructors I think we all want our students to love our content and enjoy taking our courses so they’ll leave positive reviews, tell others, and come back and buy more of our courses. That’s how we build a successful and profitable online business.
So here are 7 things I believe every course creator should be aware of when creating online courses.
1. Substance and Style Matter
In my experience the main thing instructors are concerned with before creating an online course is the subject matter. What can I teach? What do people want to learn? What will people pay to learn online?
All good questions.
But when it comes to online courses what you teach isn’t the only thing that matters. How you teach matters, too. If you’re an expert but you’re a boring teacher, you’ll lose student interest. If you forget about “The Curse of Expertise” and the fact you know the content like the back of your hand but your students are starting at ground zero, your students may get lost in your lessons. Neither leads to a good student experience. The last part of style is your personality, and while it affects how well students like your course and you, there’s not much you can do about it. It’s best to be yourself and accept that some students will love your personality and the way you bring it into your online courses, and it won’t be a good fit for others, and that’s OK.
2. Shorter Is Better
Keep your video lessons short and concise. Short video lessons that are focused on a singular topic make it easy for students to absorb your content in chunks. It enables students to pace themselves so they don’t get overwhelmed, and to grasp one concept, or do one exercise, before moving on to the next. It also makes it easy for students to go back and re-watch just the topics they need more help with.
If you make your video lessons too long your students may lose interest. If you pack too many different lessons within one video, you may overwhelm or confuse your students. And you’ll certainly make it difficult for them to go back and re-watch a particular lesson, because they won’t be able to find it if it’s buried in a video with 5 different lessons.
3. Video Names Are Important
Piggybacking on #2 above, be sure to name your video lessons in a descriptive manner.
Let your students know exactly what each video covers, simply by looking at the name of the lesson. Naming your videos, Lesson 1, Lesson 2, etc. doesn’t help students see what they will be learning in each lesson and it can make it difficult to go back and re-watch specific lessons. The same holds true if you include too many lessons in one video and give the lesson a vague, all-encompassing name. Make it easy for students to navigate your course content. They’ll appreciate it!
4. If You’re Going To Invite Q’s You Better Provide A’s
Most online academy platforms have a discussion feature where students can post questions for the instructor to answer. If you’re on a platform where you can choose whether or not to enable discussions, make sure you’re willing to spend time answering questions if you’re going to include a discussion area.
There’s nothing worse than being a student and posting questions and never receiving an answer. It’s simply poor customer service. It also leads to a poor student experience. If your course is on a marketplace you may not have the ability to turn off discussions, however, you can still manage student expectations. If you will not be answering questions, but instead want students to use the discussion area as a place to interact with each other, make a point of saying that in your introductory video. Set expectations for the course and your level of involvement in it, so students will not be disappointed.
5. Make Sure You’re Truly an Expert
There are plenty of people in the online world who believe that in order to teach others, you only need to know a little bit more than those you’re teaching. I disagree, unless you clearly state that on your course sales page.
Nothing undermines your credibility more than having students find errors in what you’re teaching, or not be able to do what you’re teaching because your instruction doesn’t cover all the bases. No one knows everything there is to know on a subject, but make sure you know enough to effectively teach others. And, if students keep asking for clarification, or pointing out errors or missing information, let them know you will fix the errors or find the answers and get back to them, and be sure to follow through. Then, be sure to update your course for future students.
6. Don’t Make It Seem Too Easy
There’s a tendency in online marketing to exaggerate how simple or easy things are to do.
While you don’t want to focus on how hard what you’re teaching is because that may deter students from enrolling, you don’t want to oversimplify either. If you do the latter, students will enroll, and then become frustrated. If something takes time or is a bit challenging, be upfront about that. Be there for your students to help them through it. Your goal as an online instructor is to teach your students how to do something. You want them to be successful. If they are, they’ll give your course rave reviews, they’ll refer others, and they’ll purchase more courses from you. If you oversell and under-deliver, you may sell a lot of courses when you launch, but your success will be short-lived. Take the long-term approach. Aim to really help people. They’ll take notice.
7. List All Course Requirements Clearly
If your course requires students to purchase additional software or have certain skills in order to complete the course, make sure you clearly state that on the course sales page. When a student enrolls in your course they need to know what they’re getting into. If there are going to be additional expenses they should know that before they enroll so they can decide if the total cost is acceptable to them.
Creating online courses is a great way to help more people.
It’s also a great way to add a recurring income stream to your business. While it may be easy to create and publish an online course, it’s not something to be taken lightly. You have responsibilities to the people who are trusting you to teach them. Create the very best courses you can, and keep these 7 tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to creating raving fans and building a successful online business.
If you’re thinking of creating an online course, check out my course: How to Create In-Demand Online Courses. It’s an A to Z guide to creating a course students will love and that can earn you passive income month after month after month.