10 steps to creating a successful online course

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In the already overcrowded online business space it’s no longer good enough to just tell people that you are an expert in any given field, you are going to have to put your money where your mouth is and prove it. What better way to do this than by teaching others what you know. 

Creating an online course is the way to go, it’s going to give you the opportunity to prove that you are an expert, reach people on a much larger scale and make money while doing the thing that you love! 

My goal with this article is to give anyone thinking about creating a course a broad overview of the 10 steps required to get you from concept to launch. While this is not a comprehensive step by step guide, it will give you a general idea and act as a checklist to help keep you ontrack.

Step 1 – Choosing your topic

This may sound really obvious but you absolutely must choose a topic that you are passionate about. You may have expertise in more than one area but if you want to teach something, you absolutely have to be passionate about it. Your students will feed off of your passion and get maximum value which is definitely what you want if you want them to sing your praises.

Now many of you may be suffering from what they call “Imposter syndrome” that feeling that you don’t know enough on the topic, you’re not qualified to teach etc, this is a very common phenomena and believe it or not it affects people at all levels. You do not need to be teaching at a University level or anything close. The aim here is that you are able to impart what you know, be it from formal education or skills acquired through life experience, to an audience who have yet to acquire this knowledge.  Some examples are: how to fix things, how to make things, art, design etc.

As long as you love your topic, actually know something about the topic and have a desire to teach it then you are good to go!

Step 2 – Making sure there is a demand for your skill

The last thing that anyone wants is to commit all their time and energy into creating an amazing course only to discover that nobody is interested in “ how to train your pet rock”.

In this step you want to be doing some market research on your topic of choice, scan the online course communities to see if there are other people creating courses around the same topic, don’t be put off if there are already tons of courses on your topic. The upside of this is that there is definitely a demand for this type of course, all that you would need to do is ensure that you approach the topic from a unique perspective so basically “ the same but different “ and you could have a winner on your hands.

If you discover that there are no other courses on your topic out there, then either you are about to hit the jackpot or your topic is just not of interest to people.  In this case you would want to do some more in depth market research one of the ways that we at Virtual Duo recommend is by doing a beta course, look for groups where your potential students may hang out and look for people who would be willing to test your course module by module and give you feedback, this way you will be able to craft your content to better suit your audience and at the same time you’re growing a base of people who you know are interested in your content and may possibly purchase the final version of your course once it’s ready for launch.

In a nutshell you want to gauge if people are talking about the topic, are they asking questions and if we’re dealing with a saturated market, is there a gap in the market for you to fit your course into.

Step 3 – Create a clear framework with compelling learning outcomes

Let’s ask ourselves the question, would we give someone our hard earned money for a course if we had no idea of what the course was about or it wasn’t clear if the course would benefit us in any way? I can just hear everybody saying HELL NO!! And we would be absolutely correct not to.  If we don’t make it very clear what our potential students will get out of our course it is very unlikely that they are going to sign up.

It is vitally important to the success of our course that we layout the framework in a clear, concise and logical way, the learning outcomes need to be made clear in a sequence of actionable steps so that the student can clearly see what skills the will be able to demonstrate, what knowledge the would have acquired and how the course is going to elevate their status.

Having clear outcomes will help ensure that you attract the correct students which will lead to much higher completion and satisfaction rates and a reduced number of students requesting a refund.

Step 4 – Deciding on and collecting your content

If you have done your research properly you should now have a fairly good idea of the main questions people are wanting answered and also if any of these questions have not yet been answered by your competitors.

With that in mind you now want to start thinking about what content you want to include in your course and equally as important, about what content you need to leave out.  The easiest way to figure out what stays and what goes is to look at the learning outcomes you’ve decided on, keep everything that relates to these outcomes and leave out the rest, making sure that each outcome has relevant content assigned to it.

Step 5 – Structuring your course plan and modules

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.

Step 6 – deciding on which delivery method works best for each module

For this step you need to try and put yourself into the mind of your student and figure out which delivery methods will keep them most engaged and at the same time effectively get all the relevant content across. Try to keep a good balance between the various mediums, a few of the main delivery methods are video, audio and reading content as well as things like activity lessons and group discussions.

You want each learner to have an optimal learning experience, keeping a good balance will help to ensure this.

Step 7 – Production phase

Ok! So now that all the leg work is done it’s time to get on to the FUN STUFF!!! Or not so fun depending on how much you enjoy being in front of a camera and recording video. There are other delivery methods but video is by far the most engaging medium. If you are like me and do not like being on camera I suggest you sign up for a paid loom account ( there is an option for a free account but this comes with a 5 min recording limit ) using the loom software you can screencast – basically you are recording your screen while showing your students how to do something.

If you are going to be recording multiple lessons at once and going back in to edit the video later, before you start recording take some time to think about where you are going to be making cuts like at the end of a lesson for example and be sure that you leave small gaps in the recording at these points. This will allow for much cleaner cuts in the final editing process if you are doing your own editing, if you are outsourcing it should reduce your cost as the editing process won’t take as long.

Step 8 – Deciding on a where and how to sell your course

There are 2 ways you could approach this.

  1. online course marketplaces
  2. learning management systems

Online marketplaces are great in the sense that you don’t really have to do that much of your own marketing and you benefit from all the traffic that the marketplace attracts. The downside is that you give away some control over your product to the market place as they dictate things like how much you can sell the course for.

Our preferred option is a learning management system simply because we don’t like anyone to dictate what our efforts are worth. Our platform of choice is MemberVault but there are others out there like Kajabi , Teachable and Learndash. I encourage you to check them out and decide which best suits your needs.

Step 9 – Pricing your course

There is no right or wrong or when it comes to course pricing 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 look like it has less value than your competitors.

Step 10 – Launching and further marketing for your course

So all the hard work is done, time for the money to start rolling in right? No so fast….. This is where the hard work begins.

You need a launch and ongoing marketing strategy to promote and enroll students. Below are a few things you need to consider.

  • 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?

Remember, the marketing is ongoing, don’t think you can just run a few Ads and the course will keep selling. You have to keep marketing to keep it fresh constantly monitoring and adjusting your marketing to avoid things like Ad fatigue.

And there you have it folks the 10 step guide to online course creation. I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below.

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