All online course creators know:
What they are delivering will add real value to their course participants
That the Internet offers the best way to connect with their course participants
Unfortunately far too many online course creators are unsure of how to structure their course:
To engage their course participants
So that it sells itself to their course participants
It keep course participants engaged with their course till they complete it
In this Blog post, I’d like to share with you a simple, effective workflow I use. This workflow has helped me define the structure of all my successful online courses.
1. Start With The Problem
Since I am a domain expert (as you are) I know the problem I’m trying to solve via my course. In my early days of course creation, I assumed everyone else already knew the problem as well.
Hence, I did not want to waste anyone’s time defining the problem that I was trying to solve in module 1 of my course.
What a mistake that was.
In reality, I discovered how wrong I was. NOT everyone already knew what the problem really was. Surprisingly most prospective course participants did not. I was losing money because even those who would benefit greatly from my course were not signing on.
When I clearly spelled out the problem that my course was solved. Both in my sales material and in module 1 of the course. The number of course participants signing on multiplied.
It was a Oh My Lord! kind of moment, for me.
When I clearly described the problem my course addressed, I discovered that everyone signing up for my course was on the same page as me.
So if you want more students to take your course.
Start with clearly spelling out the problem that your course solves, permanently.
2. Then – Context, Efforts & Mistakes
The problem your course tackles has most likely been around for some time. It’s your job to help people connect with the problem your course solves by giving them context.
Ensure that you share all the different ways people tried to solve this problem in the past.
I also clearly define the common mistakes people make when trying to solve the problem themselves.
Doing this, helps build my authority, in the mind of prospective course participants.
More importantly however, is that it helps my prospective course participant realize that they may have made one (or more) of these mistakes themselves.
This goes a very long way in helping people make sense of my course. They see the mistakes they’ve made in the context of something bigger.
As a prospective course participant reads such material, especially the part where I explain why the solution failed, they are helped in understanding their own past.
This prepares them for the real solution I’m promising. In the near future.
3. Keep The Problem Solution Simple.
Keep the problem solution you deliver via your course – As simple as possible.
Course creators often create problem solutions a tad more complex than absolutely necessary. There is the perception (apparently) that complex solutions indicate domain authority.
While it’s true that a course creator can deal with complex solutions (after all, they are domain experts) I strongly recommend that your course delivers a problem solution which is as simple as possible.
Remember, your course is NOT meant for course participants who are domain experts, it’s meant for ordinary folk who are struggling with the problem your course solves.
Which is why you should ensure your course solves the problem in the simplest way possible. That’s what ordinary folk are looking for.
As a course creator, your perspective of the problem and those of your course participants differ wildly.
You’re likely to have rich and complete problem solutions because you are a domain expert.
Many of your course participants do not have that sort of depth.
Hence, offering a simple, workable solution, which does not require an IQ of 300+ to understand and apply helps your course participants get results quickly.
This helps hugely in building trust & authority among your course participants.
Never underestimate the power of a simple, easily applied, solution.
4. Present Alternatives – Give Them A Map.
At this point, your course participants have begun to trust your expertise and authority. They know you know your stuff.
They’ve seen your solution. It’s simple and effective.
They want more.
Your course participants need you to lay out the exact, next steps. (i.e. Your perfect solution to their situation). BUT each course participant’s situation is slightly different from the others.
Another way of looking at this is, every course participant, currently studying your course content, desires a slightly different outcome from what they are studying.
NOTE: Never forget that course participants are a diverse lot. They have diverse goals as well.
As course creator, YOU must ensure your course content flow gives them a map.
It helps them see where they are now
How to get from where they are to where they want to be
If your course is created as a map, it will meet multiple course participant needs in a single solution.
That’s because you’ve created a map. Not a list of specific directions.
This is where most course creators go wrong. They create their course as a list of specific directions.
They create their course as though every course participant is identical to each other.
Give course participants alternatives. Plus a way to make the right decisions using those alternatives. This is the key to creating a wildly successful, online course.
Maps are always better than a list of specific directions.
5. Deep Dives.
Once you’ve created your map. Once you’ve got your alternatives laid out. There’s nothing left to handle except a handful of difficult issues, which your course participants must understand. These are specific details they need to succeed at what they – plan on doing.
To deliver that to your course participants, do a deep dive into that specific, difficult, issue.
If there are one, two, three (or more) such difficult issues, create specific course modules for each. In each module deal with a specific difficult issue, in-depth. That’s what I call a deep dive.
Difficult issues need their own course modules. This helps your course participants grasp and resolve whatever issue you are highlighting, in that module.
Do this and your course participants will be prepared to step out and accomplish exactly what your course set out to deliver.
6. Keep Course Module Length Short.
Very rarely do course creators keep their module lengths short. It’s a ton more common for course creators to create training modules that are – too long.
Remember, each course participant expects that a course module is a shortcut to a successful outcome.
Most course participants take your course hoping to learn solutions, quickly. Solutions which they can apply immediately to their problem, and resolve it totally and successfully.
There are no benefits for a participant when a course creator makes their course modules longer than they should be. Quite frankly, as course creator, you’re wasting your participant’s time.
I accept that there are variations on the perfect module time length. That said, in general, keep training video lengths under 15 minutes.
The very best trainers keep their training videos between 5 to 8 minutes. This is usually enough time to talk about a specific topic concept without losing your participant’s attention.
I’ve often heard course creators say ‘My training video just has to be longer’. Pause a moment here and seriously think about your course participants. They are probably learning late at night or on weekends. They hit your next lecture and realize its 55 minutes.
Now they are asking themselves whether they can really put in another 55 minutes to study or push studying off to another day?
On the other hand, what if they hit your next training module and discover it is 8 minutes long. They’ll be happy to invest the time and energy to complete the module. The next thing you know they have completed the next 4 modules. Especially, if each module was under 10 minutes in length. For your course participant these are easily digestible modules.
Let each course module deal with only 1 (or max 2) key concepts. Break up long video recordings into shorter ones. Strive not to overwhelm a course participant. They’ll love your course and sing your praises when you do.
9. Title Your Modules So Participants Complete Them.
Yes! Your module title matters.
Module titles help sell your online course. When a course participant lands on your course sales page, they want to know exactly what they’ll be learning.
They quickly scan your module names and create mental images of what value your course modules will add to them. Module names, which clearly describe the value the module adds to a course participant, becomes a huge course selling point.
Clear module titles enhance the idea that the course is providing value. They push participants to complete the module to gain the maximum they can from it.
10. The Last Part – Additional Resources To Grow Skill.
When ending each topic in a course, (and/or when ending the course itself), course creators should provide a participant a way forward.
This approach offers a course participant a way for digging deeper into the topic or a way to take their currently grown skills to the next level.
This could be delivered as a list of:
Additional reading material
Extra homework that needs the participant to do additional studies
Recommended book to read, which expands a specific topic beautifully
An invitation to sign on to a more advanced course
As course creator, it’s important to end a course with specific instructions on what a course participant is expected to do next.
Participants who are ready (and willing) to go forward have their next steps chartered for them.
This approach informs current participants that there is a way to grow beyond what they’ve just learned – should they want to. It’s also a terrific way to multiply your course sales.
Your course participants should be clear about a way forward, after they’ve completed your course.
Are You Ready?
As an online course creator, it’s time now to sit down and start working on your course outline.
After that’s done, it’s time to start your course content creation. We all want to learn what you are going to teach.
When you do, I know you will be surprised at the inner strength and clarity you have. I know you’ll create a wildly successful online course.
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