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Create Online Courses in 8 Common Sense Steps

In this article we are exploring the foundations of creating an online course, from identifying and building your subject matter through to selecting an online course platform and creating a community. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or a passionate hobbyist, this blog post is your first step towards creating a future in the world of online education.

Introduction to the Online Learning Industry

It’s no secret that selling courses online is seriously big business. Projections indicate that the global eLearning market is valued at anywhere from $200 billion to over $250 billion, and it’s expected to grow to between $300 billion to $400 billion by 2026. In my time as a HR and Learning practitioner, I saw the rise and coming of age of the online learning industry. Once apon a time an online course meant creating and publishing a video. Today, instructors, consultants, and large scale learning providers like LinkedIn Learning and Franklin Covey offer a range of supporting features to increase training engagement and reinforce learning objectives.

Venturing into the world of online education can seem like an insurmountable challenge. If you’ve tentatively tapped a few terms into Google, you’ve probably been bombarded with a seemingly endless list of considerations. From selecting the right technology partner and mastering video production, to deciphering the elusive formula for viral success, the array of topics demanding your attention can appear overwhelming. However, remember that not every element is a first-day necessity. One of the best aspects of creating and distributing—or indeed, marketing—your online courses is the flexibility it affords. You have the opportunity to refine and evolve your content progressively, gaining confidence and incorporating insights gained through the feedback of your network as you go.

Finding your Niche to Build Online Courses

If you are serious about starting to create and sell online learning content, it’s likely you have already built some level of expertise on a topic. The problem we often see is people struggling to find exactly what to talk about. Take me, for example. Almost 20 years in Human Resources business partnering and organisational development. Of course I learned plenty in my time, but I found myself trying to create eLearning content which included as much information as possible, and then building it all into a finate course. The end result wasn’t pretty. Content overload, unclear messaging, and a lack of course structure, which meant that I didn’t offer value to learners.

The solution for me was actually quite simple, and it meant taking a step back from the detail to work this out. My learnings were twofold; firstly, find a niche within your subject matter expertise to help to target specific audiences and cater to particular interests or needs. Secondly, break down your niche into individual topics that are typically pain points or interesting value added concepts. Your job is not to boil the ocean. It’s your job to discover what would be valuable within your knowledge area.

To identify your niche, start with your knowledge areas, then narrow that down to a particular passion, or where you can add unique insights that can differentiate your course from others. Research the market to determine what subjects are oversaturated and which have unmet demands. Look for gaps in existing offerings where learners express frustration or seek additional resources.

Playing to your Strengths to Sell Courses Online

Leveraging your strengths effectively can make the difference when it comes to selling courses online that truly resonate with your audience. Take a moment to reflect on what you do best. Whether it’s your way of explaining complex concepts or your ability to engage and inspire, these are the assets that will help your course stand out in a crowded digital landscape.

A former boss often praised a certain skill of mine: As I facilitated live courses, they said I am particularly good at reinforcing key concepts by consistently linking them back to the overarching aims of the training. This methodology not only ensures that the learning material remains focused but also helps to solidify the learner’s comprehension throughout the educational experience. If I were to continue to build online learning content, this skill affords me a distinct point of difference to market my courses in an otherwise crowded space. I can assure potential customers that after engaging with my course, they’ll leave with a crystal-clear comprehension of the subject matter. Every aspect of the course is designed to ensure the learning goals are transparent, and we’ll focus on breaking down complex concepts into digestible parts to ensure the training truly resonates.

Remember, it’s not just about the knowledge you provide, but how you deliver it. A distinctive voice, a personalised approach, or interactive content are all ways to play to your strengths and give your students an experience they won’t find elsewhere. By doing so, you’ll not only enhance the learning journey, but you’ll also cement your reputation as a go-to expert in your field. As you embark on selling your courses online, keep in mind that authenticity is key. Authenticity breeds trust, and trust leads to engagement and loyalty from your students.

Choosing an Online Course Platform?

A range of online course features

Learning Engagement Features

When selecting an online course platform to create your digital products and sell online courses, it’s essential to consider various factors that will not only enhance your teaching experience but also provide optimal learning outcomes for your students.

  • Ease of use should top your priority list; both instructors and learners benefit from an intuitive interface that simplifies the process of creating, managing, and consuming course content.
  • Llook for platforms offering robust customisation options, enabling you to tailor the look and feel of your courses to reflect your brand identity.
  • Understand the features provided, such as integrated payment gateways for secure transactions, interactive tools for engagement, achievement opportunities like certificates, and analytic functions to track progress and performance.
  • Beyond features, calling out specifically the ability to create and distribute different types of learning content will separate you from other providers. This means looking for a provider that not only supports online course creation, however also guide you step-by-step to host online classroom discussions, book supplimentary coaching or mentoring meetings, and create events for possible networking or seminars.

By carefully analysing these elements, you will be well-equipped to choose the most suitable online course platform that aligns with your educational goals and business strategy, ultimately maximising your potential to reach a vast audience and generate substantial revenue from your digital courses.When it comes to selling courses online, pre-established learning platforms provide a solid foundation for experts looking to monetize their knowledge. These digital arenas are more than just platforms; they are enablers which allow you to present, facilitate and monetise your subject expertise.

Online Platform Tools

Online course platforms and marketplaces streamline the complex process of selling courses, offering a mix of tools for course creation and student engagement. The success of an online course depends significantly on choosing a marketplace that aligns with the creator’s goals, considering audience type, pricing control, and the level and quality of support provided.

Here’s what you should consider:

  • Control Over Content and Pricing: Ascertain the level of independence you’ll have over your course’s structure and price tag.
  • Support for Instructors and Students: Evaluate the platform’s commitment to backing its educators with ample resources and assistance.
  • Understanding Platform Fees: It’s important to know if the service is provided free of charge with premium features available for purchase, operates on a subscription basis, or takes a percentage of your sales as commission.
  • Teaching Resources: In an ideal scenario, the development and delivery of online courses would be supplemented by interactive learning instruments that boost learner engagement and provide additional avenues for generating revenue.

It is essential to weigh these factors to find a marketplace that not only showcases your course effectively but also ensures a smooth sailing venture into e-learning.

Build your Community

Social Media Platforms

Leveraging existing social media platforms is a proven strategy for expanding your audience and fostering a dedicated community around your online courses. By utilising the reach and tools of networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, you’re not only promoting your offering to potential learners but also creating spaces for engagement and discussion. Consider launching a Facebook group or a Twitter chat hashtag to encourage interaction and provide support to your students. Sharing behind-the-scenes content on Instagram stories or running LinkedIn articles can showcase your expertise and build trust.

It’s imperative, however, to tailor your approach to each platform for maximum impact. Use catchy, search-optimized headlines and ensure you’re incorporating relevant keywords that your potential students might use when looking for courses like yours. Quality content that adds value will likely be shared, enhancing your visibility and organic reach. Remember, social proof is powerful – encourage your learners to share their experiences and testimonials, which acts as word-of-mouth marketing, boosting credibility and attracting more course sales.

Pre-Selling with a Free Webinar

Utilise webinars as an effective precursor to your online course, stimulating interest and cultivating your potential student base. Leverage complimentary live webinar services, like Zoom, LinkedIn and Microsoft Teams to provide a glimpse into your knowledge and skills. Utilise this medium to illustrate the worth of your comprehensive course, presenting enticements for participants to commit to the full learning experience. Consider these strategies for your webinar:

Illustrate the Worth of Your Comprehensive Course

More than just a precursor, your webinar should serve as a captivating trailer to the full course. The aim is to provide enough value to whet the appetites of participants while leaving them eager for the more substantial and exhaustive learning journey ahead. Highlight crucial insights, offer useful tips, and demonstrate applied techniques that showcase the depth and breadth of the course content. This taste of value is pivotal in illustrating the transformative possibilities of committing to the full experience.

Presenting Enticements for Participants

To maximise conversions from webinar to course enrolment, consider exclusive offers or bonuses for live webinar participants. This could include special early-bird pricing, additional resources, one-on-one coaching sessions, or access to a private community. These exclusive incentives not only reward early interest but also create a sense of urgency and exclusivity which can encourage participants to take the next step.

Consider These Strategies for Your Webinar:

  • Engage with Storytelling: Wrap your teaching in stories that resonate with the audience. Everyone loves a good narrative, and it will make your content more relatable and memorable.
  • Interactive Q&A Sessions: Allocate time for live questions and answers. This direct engagement builds trust and rapport, and allows for immediate clarification of any uncertainties.
  • Live Demonstrations and Case Studies: Show, don’t just tell. Use real-life applications and success stories to illustrate the practical application of your course content.
  • Polls and Surveys: Integrate interactive polls and surveys to gather live data from participants. This not only increases engagement but provides you with insights to tailor your full course to the audience’s needs.
  • Captivating Material: Craft your talk to engage and inform your audience effectively.

Building a Structure for your Online Course

Identifying the Core Learning Objectives

Before you begin constructing the actual content of your course, start with identifying your core learning objectives. These objectives are the foundation of your course’s structure and should clearly state what the learners will be able to do upon completing your course. Make sure these objectives are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. With these in place, you can then map out the modules and sections that will form your course.

Organising Your Content into Modules and Lessons

Once your learning objectives are in place, you should start organizing your content into modules and lessons. Think of modules as chapters in a book, each covering a specific area of your course topic. Within each module, you will then break down the topic into individual lessons. These lessons are the building blocks that deliver the content in digestible segments, which work together to achieve the module’s objectives.

Module Example:

Module 1: Introduction to Topic

1.1: Background and Fundamentals

1.2: Key Terms and Concepts

1.3: Common Misconceptions

Creating Interactive and Engaging Content

With your modules and lessons outlined, focus on how you will present your content. Adult learners benefit from a variety of teaching methods, so consider including a mix of text, video, and interactive content. Video lectures can be particularly engaging, but be sure to keep them concise and focused. Interactive elements like quizzes and assignments not only make learning more engaging but also help to reinforce the material.

Consider the following interactive elements:

  • Interactive Quizzes: Include quizzes at the end of each major section; this not only reinforces the learning objectives but also provides instant feedback to your students about their understanding.
  • Live or Interactive Q&A Sessions: Organise live question and answer sessions where students can interact directly with you, fostering a more personalised learning experience.
  • Discussion Forums: Set up a platform for peer-to-peer discussion which allows learners to engage with one another, further enriching the learning process through community support.
  • Instructional Videos: Record comprehensive video tutorials to demonstrate processes or concepts visually; this caters to visual learners and can make complex topics more digestible.
  • Assignments with Peer Review: Develop assignments that require learners to submit their work for peer review, encouraging critical thinking and engagement with fellow students.
  • Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios: Incorporate real-life case studies in your content; this bridges the gap between theory and practice, making the learning experience more relevant.
  • Guest Lecturer Sessions: Feature guest lectures by industry experts; their varied viewpoints and deep insights can add value and credibility to your course content.
  • Podcasts or Audio Lectures: Offer audio content such as podcasts or lectures for those learners who might prefer listening on-the-go or who are auditory learners.
  • Infographics and Visual Aids: Utilise infographics and other visual aids to summarise key points or to illustrate data, which are great for quick absorption of information.
  • Software Tutorials and Demonstrations: If your course is tech or software-based, include screen capture tutorials showing software use and techniques, often indispensable for hands-on learning.

Providing Resources and Supplementary Material

Your course should not exist in isolation. Offer resources and supplementary materials for students who wish to explore topics further. This can include:

  • Recommended reading lists: Provide a summary of additional education or reading which can be explored following your course
  • Links to online articles and studies: Create opportunities for students to read case studies supporting the learning topics.
  • Downloadable PDF Guides: Create concise PDF guides that learners can download for future reference, which is perfect for those who prefer reading to watching or listening.

Establishing a Logical Flow and Progression

A well-organized course leads the learner through the material in a logical progression, building on previous lessons. Start with the basics and gradually move towards more complex ideas. Make sure each lesson flows naturally to the next and that there is a clear thread connecting all the parts of your course.

Effective structuring also involves revisiting earlier material, reinforcing core concepts, and integrating them into more advanced topics. This consolidation of learning is essential for deep understanding and long-term retention.

Implementing Feedback and Flexibility

Lastly, the structure of your online course shouldn’t be set in stone. After initial feedback from students or a pilot run, be prepared to adjust and refine the structure. Learner feedback can be instrumental in identifying where additional resources or explanations may be needed or where content can be streamlined for better comprehension.

Build Continued Learner Engagement with Coaching Sessions or Classroom Education

Coaching Sessions for Enriched Conversations

Crafting digital courses presents an enriching opportunity to impart knowledge to a wide audience. As you develop your educational curriculum, it’s important to think about providing continual support to your current clientele. Learning preferences vary from person to person, and you’ll undoubtedly encounter students who benefit from a more individualised approach to solidify their understanding of the material. That’s why we suggest incorporating an additional coaching or mentoring element into your course offerings.

So what can you and your learners gain from coaching?

  • Personalised Learning Experience: Coaching is inherently personal. It allows for a tailored learning experience that addresses the specific needs, strengths, and weaknesses of the learner. Coaches can establish a one-on-one relationship that empowers participants to take ownership of their learning journey, setting personal goals and tracking progress.
  • Real-Time Feedback: One of the most valuable aspects of coaching sessions is the opportunity for immediate, constructive feedback. Learners can apply new skills in a controlled environment and refine these skills through continuous input from their coach. This real-time feedback mechanism helps individuals quickly correct course and improve their performance.
  • Accountability and Support: Coaches serve as both mentors and accountability partners. They motivate learners to stay committed to their learning goals and provide emotional and professional support. This mentorship fosters a sense of responsibility and drives engagement, ensuring that learners are actively participating in their development.
Classroom education and events are a great way to extend the learning opportunities

Classroom Education to Enhance Continuous Learning

Classroom education, whether in a traditional or virtual setting, provides a structured learning environment that can facilitate deep understanding of complex subjects. It offers a unique space for collaborative learning and community building, particularly as a suppimentary offering to an online course.

So what can you and your learners gain from classroom education?

  • Interactive Learning: Structured classroom environments encourage interaction among participants. Through group discussions, case studies, and role-playing activities, learners can engage with the material in a dynamic way, thereby enhancing their understanding and retention of the information.
  • Diversity of Perspectives: Classroom settings often bring together individuals from various backgrounds with differing viewpoints. This diversity can spark innovative ideas and broaden each learner’s perspective, moving beyond echo chambers that might exist within their typical work environment.
  • Engagement through Gamification: To make learning more engaging, gamification strategies can be applied within the classroom. Gamified elements such as leaderboards, digital badges, and rewards add an element of competition and fun, encouraging learners to participate actively and consistently.

In summary, the integration of effective coaching sessions and classroom education can greatly enhance learner engagement. By offering personalised mentoring, real-time feedback, structured learning paths, and interactive experiences, organisations can foster a culture of continuous development that will ultimately lead to greater innovation and success.

Set Course Pricing and Sales Goals

Establishing a competitive and compelling price point is paramount for the success of your online course. To ensure you attract a robust student base without undervaluing your content, consider the perceived value of your course and align it with the prices of similar offerings. This doesn’t simply mean matching the competition; rather, leverage the distinctive benefits and exclusive insights that your course brings to the table to justify any potential premium.

Moreover, don’t overlook the power of promotional pricing strategies such as early bird discounts, seasonal offers, or exclusive deals for email subscribers. These tactics not only incentivize quick decisions but also create a sense of urgency. Importantly, keep monitoring your sales data and student feedback – this information is vital for tweaking your pricing to maintain an edge in the dynamic e-learning market. Remember, a well-balanced pricing strategy will pave the way to achieving your sales targets and ensuring your digital education venture thrives.

Understanding the Perceived Value

When considering how to price your online course, you must delve deeper into the perceived value it holds for potential students. Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. In the context of digital education, this is influenced by various factors, including the depth and uniqueness of the content, the credibility and expertise of the instructor, and the problem-solving potential of the course material.

For example, a course that promises to teach advanced skills that could lead to higher earning potential, or one that provides unique insights from a reputable industry leader, could justifiably command a higher price point. To gauge the perceived value of your course, conduct market research and obtain feedback from your target demographic. Surveys, focus groups, and beta testing with a segment of your audience can illuminate the value they associate with your content, guiding you to an appropriate pricing strategy.

Dynamic Pricing Strategies

Dynamic pricing strategies, such as early bird discounts or time-sensitive deals, can be an excellent way to initially draw in learners. These discounts not only serve as a reward for early commitment, but they also foster excitement and encourage students to spread the word, amplifying your course’s visibility. But be strategic; ensure that any discounts still align with the perceived value and do not erode your profitability or brand integrity.

Seasonal offers tied to events like New Year resolutions or back-to-school can tap into periods when potential students are more motivated to invest in themselves. Moreover, exclusive deals for email subscribers could help in building a loyal customer base, giving them a sense of being part of an elite club, while simultaneously growing your mailing list—a vital marketing asset.

The Role of Analytics in Pricing

Keeping an eye on sales data and student feedback is not a one-time task but a continuous commitment. Use analytics to understand purchasing patterns, engagement levels, and dropout rates. This data can inform you if and when to adjust your prices. Perhaps certain modules or features are perceived as more valuable and may warrant a separate pricing tier or a bundle option.

Pricing adjustments may also be needed to reflect additional content that enhances the course’s value proposition over time or changes in production costs. Regularly reviewing student feedback, meanwhile, offers direct insight into how they perceive the course value and areas where adjustments could be made to enhance their experience.

Final Thoughts

Selling courses online has unlocked a plethora of opportunities for educators, experts, and entrepreneurs alike. By creating compelling, informative, and targeted content, individuals can reach a global audience eager to learn and grow. The digital marketplace is ripe with potential students, but the challenge lies in cutting through the noise to showcase your unique offerings.

Remember, it’s not just about the content you create but the way you market it. Leverage social media platforms, partner with well rounded online course platforms and engage with your audience to build trust and authority. Consider offering free snippets or trials to entice learners and showcase the value of your full courses. Whether you’re a seasoned online course creator or just starting out, remember that persistence, quality content, and a partner to facilitate your course-building endeavours are your allies. Keep analysing, refining, and updating your approach to stay ahead, and ensure your digital classroom is always bustling with keen minds.