23 tips are a lot, yes, I know!!!
But I’ve sorted them all under five topics to make them more digestible. These come from four months of Facebook posts over at the eCourse Coach Facebook page.
[What’s up with these numbers? 23? 5? 4?! I know someone out there must be into numerology ;-)]
Anyway, here’s what they cover:
- Nurturing your course idea
- Getting the teaching mindset thing down
- Jumping into e-course creation
- Getting really productive
- Anticipating falling into the dreaded pit of despair
Let’s let ‘em fly!!!! —->
Nurture Your Course Idea
Tip 1: Give it some time
There’s no such thing as an overnight success just like there’s no such thing as an overnight course.
Take the time to nurture your course idea before you dive in. Coach clients through it. Teach it in a workshop or two… or ten. See what pieces of it flop, what pieces work, what pieces need rejiggering. Fail so that you will succeed.
Focus on the areas that aren’t entirely clear to you.
- Work through the kinks.
- Note the comments and buzz. What is your audience saying about the content? What are their questions, and what just doesn’t make sense to them?
Tip 2: Teach your course 1:1 with a client
Find a client who has the problem your ecourse will address and who will agree to let you record the session. This will allow you to truly study what you said, how you said it, and in what order.
Take note of your client’s points of confusion – and their questions. If you create some quick-and-dirty worksheets and have them fill out, be sure to ask them to send the completed versions back to you so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Refine your approach and then go through the whole rigamarole on someone else. Again, record the session and take copious notes. Then make further adjustments. Rinse and repeat if you are driven to do so. This tip and more was in the webinar I gave today and will do again tomorrow. If you want to hope on, scroll down for the link to the registration. Ciao!
Tip 3: Test the market
I’m a big fan of letting your clients lead you. So let’s say you write a Facebook status that gets a lot of traction. Then you turn that into a blog post that, yes, gets a lot of traction. Obviously, you’re onto something.
When you’re assessing your course idea it’s, of course, one thing for people in your tribe to say they would buy your course and it’s another to see if people will actually open their wallets and buy it.
What if next you create a short, free or low-cost course on that topic? And THEN, if that course gets momentum (as in people are talking, your students are asking for more, you’ve gained some clients), you’ve absolutely justified the time and the cost to create an all-out, AMAZING signature ecourse that will join the ranks of your best, highest cost product.
Another way to test the marketability of your course is to create a segment or two of it and put it out in an open marketplace to see if it can attract a paying audience. Here’s one way you might do that using MindBites.
Get the Teaching Mindset Thing Down
Tip 4: Become a teacher
Yes, your course is a product. Yes, it’s a way to make money for your business. But ultimately, once you decide to teach others something, you become a teacher, not a business person. And your customers become learners.
This is a huge leap that I don’t see a lot of entrepreneurs making despite how many online courses they begin pumping out.
BEING a teacher – really taking on that identity – is what will keep you from creating e-course content that ends up being one endless worksheet.
Thinking of your customers as LEARNERS will keep you from creating e-course content that ends up telling or directing.
Tip 5: Keep both the “why” and the “how” in mind
So are you more of a trainer or an educator? Hmm, “What’s the difference?” you ask? Let’s see if we can tease these apart:
If you’re more of an educator, you’re very intrigued by the “why” of a topic. You like to understand the history, the context, the background. You’re interested in knowing.
If you’re more of a trainer, you’re likely fascinated by the “how” of a topic. How can I apply that? What will happen if…? How can I make this work in real life? You’re interested in doing.
Both of these perspectives are useful, but the real gold is in your ability to be bi-perspectived, so to speak. Yes, I’m making that up, but if this were, indeed, the case you’d be driven by “why” AND obsessed with “how”. Then you can see more clearly what your learners need, what your topic needs, and what ultimately, your ecourse needs. And you win.:-)
Tip 6: Use WII-FM
This sounds goofy but it’s actually really important: remember that every learner in your course or in your workshop is dialed into WII-FM. That’s “What’s In It For Me.” They just don’t care that much about you. So the moment you’ve established your credibility, focus on WII-FM. :-).
Tip 7: Match your instructional approach(es) to your learners
Sometimes people assume that a particular instructional approach a favorite faculty member took in college or the one a massively popular business guru takes in their e-courses is THE BEST way to approach their own course. It sounds kind of silly when I say, “It doesn’t” but believe me, people fall into this trap all the time.
Think deeply about your learner (where they are in their learning journey, what they expect, what they need), about your course topic (how fundamental or advanced, how best to convey that content), and what you can deliver (how much interaction, guidance, and coaching).
THEN and only then decide what your instructional approach will be. Lots of lecture showcasing your expertise and imparting your knowledge? Lots of worksheets and step-by-step processes? How-to videos? Job aids (these are handouts people use while tackling a real task)?
All these decisions and more are driven by your learner, the content, and what you can or what to deliver.
Tip 8: Equip yourself with some sound adult learning theory
There are some people who walk boldly into an ecourse design project – even if they have absolutely no teaching background or instructional design experience. But far more people (at least the ones I talk to!) are sheepish about it. They know their content up and down but are very wary of how to convey that content in a way will really help their students *learn* it.
If that’s you and if you’re a DIY’er, there’s a terrific book that just came out in the second edition I highly recommend for non-instructional designers.
It’s spendy but worth it! Heck, borrow it from your public library and don’t spend a cent! (Library tip: Ask for Interlibrary Loan if it’s not in the regular collection.)
Jump into Course Creation
Tip 9: Have a Clear Message
All the U.S. politics around me keeps driving home this point -> Have a clear message.
This is one of the hardest things for me to do but that doesn’t stop me from encouraging others (!). The clearer your message is in each module the more powerfully your learners will get that message.
Think of Donald Trump’s clear, direct message, “Let’s make America great again.” Think of Bernie Sanders anti-corporate, anti-money, anti-establishment message (no slogan but still powerful).
Both have distilled their message down to the key elements.
Can you do that with each of your e-course modules?
Not so easy, but give it a go. It’ll make a difference to your learners.
Tip 10: Use the 90/20/4 rule
Chunk your content! There’s a rule of thumb in the training world that will give you a kind of guideline about how you’ll likely want to chunk up your content. It’s the 90/20/4 rule for online training.
What that means is that adults can listen with understanding for about 90 minutes. But they can only listen with retention for 20 minutes. So that’s easy – keep your videos to 20 minutes and less.
Okay, but what’s the “4” mean? That’s the frequency we want to involve people. Now when you’re not live, that’s darn near impossible. But do pose a rhetorical question. Give people a question to ponder. Have them fill out a line in your worksheet.
And if not every 4 minutes, try 8. That’s the amount of time you’d use in a face-to-face situation (when you’re not sitting there with Facebook and Twitter and email a click away).
Give it a go!
Tip 11: Feel free to use text on your slides – a lot of text!
How much text should you use verses pictures in your ecourse slides?
I just had a conversation with someone about this that I thought I’d share. Heather had created a beautiful slide deck full of gorgeous stock photos and very few words for the first module she was designing. This is the way she designs her slides for sales presentations and keynotes so it seemed like a no-brainer to her to do it the same way for her ecourse.
After a long conversation with me, however, she inserted more text. Here’s what I said: In an online course situation your learners are typically sitting at their computer looking at a screen. You can only look at a picture of a penguin so long. But, if you are also able to read some text about the key points, you’re engaging more of yourself in the experience (and more engagement means less email and Facebooking on the side – and more learning). For most learners, seeing AND hearing is more impactful than just hearing.
Equally as important is reaching your non-native speakers who may not be able to fully understand or process your language auditorily. The ability to pause and read the key points on the screen will greatly improve their ability to learn your content.
Tip 12: Design into your course plenty of application and feedback
Are you wondering how much to lecture, how much to have your learners apply and how much feedback they need? Here’s a great model I’ve used for years:
P – A – F
P= Presentation, A=Application, F=Feedback
This model says that about 1/3rd of the learning experience should be Presentation, and the rest should be a mix of Application and Feedback.
Remember, feedback doesn’t have to come from you. You can set it up so that learners are buddied up with others, or in triads, or even small groups and are asked to give each other feedback on your assignments. You could hire someone (like a good ‘ole fashion Teaching Assistant!) to review assignments. You could even review them yourself and provide written feedback. There’s lots of options here!
Tip 13: Layer your teaching approach
Ask your learners to reflect on a question. You might match them in small groups and ask them to share their reflections and work on challenges with the group. Provide case studies and then ask your learners to reflect and maybe write their response to some reflection questions you posed to them.
Also, provide assignments that allow your learners to apply what they’re learning in small bites at a time. Then, at the end, ask them to weave it all together into a final product that they will use in their real lives, work or businesses.
Tip 14: Don’t overload your learner with too much content
When you’re in the middle of creating your ecourse and are overflowing with content, print this handout out and stick it up in your office to remind you not to overload your learners with so much information your course becomes unactionable.
Tip 15: Review, review, review
Keep revisiting key content throughout your course. Remember, just because you’ve said it doesn’t mean they’ve learned it! The more you can revisit previous content, the more it’s gonna sink in. So review the previous module’s content in the next module. Review earlier content in a module later in the course. And don’t forget to recap at the end of each module!
One way to do this is to ask review questions using quiz software. There are several inexpensive websites that not only will do that but also give you opportunities to do list segmentation and more.
Check out http://viralquizbuilder.com/ to start. It’s a one-time cost of $39.
Get Really Productive
Tip 16: Get into a mastermind or form an accountability partnership
I can’t tell you how many people I end up working with because they are part way into creating their course and then completely lost their steam. Nothing worse having a partially created course sitting around collecting dust.
Yes, you can hire someone to get you back on track (nothing like a financial investment to get you going!) but an alternative is to go find a mastermind or accountability buddy to keep you moving forward. Go into your favorite Facebook group and ask around. Try to get someone close to your own time zone and promise each other that you’ll hold each other accountable throughout the process.
Tip 17: Pick some productivity tools for your e-course and stick to them!
You probably have some project management or task management tools already. Set them up for two new projects – 1) e-course creation and 2) e-course launch. Make a project plan with a timeline and plug the dates into your calendar or other system. (I work with people on project plans so do keep that in mind if you need help with this piece).
Here are some tools I use and recommend to keep focused and stay on task:
- Toodledo for to-do lists. You can create a folder just for your ecourse project.
- Trello for brainstorming and organizing ideas for ecourse content. You can attach documents or notes, and move things around.
- If you use the add-on in your browser, Evernote is a great tool for saving related webpages directly into your e-course folder.
- If you can’t stay focused enough, use the Pomodoro app on your phone to keep you on task.
- And finally, the Momentum app in Chrome, will have you identify the most important thing you need to do plus add 2 or 3 of your other key tasks for the day.
Tip 18: Focus on what’s under your control
It’s just too easy to get caught in all out, uncontrollable PANIC about sales targets: “I’ve got to make at least $5,000 on this ecourse or else it’ll have been a colossal waste of my time.” OR “If I don’t get at least 25 people to buy this course this quarter, I’m not going to be able to afford summer camps and will have to be home with the kids all summer.” OR “I’m at the end of my rope. If I can’t get the people on my list to buy this course I’m really thinking about calling this whole business thing quits.” You likely know the drill.
That’s a whole boat load of pressure, isn’t it? Here’s what I recommend – identify the 3 or 4 or 5 actions you can take that will *lead* to sales. Focus on those. These are called process goals. If you can keep your focus on your process goals you’re doing your job. You’re doing your best. In other words, it’s your effort, not the results you need to keep committed to, no matter what.
So the next question is, what are the highest impact actions you can take to impact your sales? Check out this blog post and then choose. Identify exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to work on it. One foot in front of the other…
Tip 19: Create opportunities for your learners to work together and apply what they’re learning
Simply, here’s why you should consider adding forums/Facebook groups, masterminds and coaching to your e-course package:
Tip 20: Focus on just one type of target learner
There can be SO MANY differences among your audience – between Millennials and Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, between those new to your topic and those with some experience, between parents with small children who only have small chunks of time with your course and those who’ll consume your ecourse in one sitting.
Trying to design your course for *all* the different kinds of learners you’ll potentially have can drive you batty! You’d have to be a course designer ninja to pull it off.
So, listen up! Focus on one type of target learner and then promise yourself that someday in the future you’ll rework your ecourse for a second – or a third – kind of target learner.But later. Start with one. Do this one well. Meet your learner’s needs. Then, and only then, move on.
Tip 21: Assess if you have a winning e-course… or not… before you create it.
The more of these that have happened, the higher the likelihood you’ve got a winning ecourse:
- You talked to a client and your most original, spot-on theory emerged from your mouth and it changed everything…. or,
- You’ve work with clients for months – or years – on the same problem and have been refining and refining your approach… or,
- You put out an opt-in guide that got tons of interest and will be the basis for one of your ecourse modules…. or,
- You gave a talk to your networking group and they went ballistic with enthusiasm…. or,
- You wrote a blog post that exploded with comments… or,
- You’ve had a series of open Q&A calls when the challenges your clients were having fell into a pattern that you saw so crystal clearly and your solution was so exactly perfect to them that you knew you were on to something special.
THOSE are the kinds of reasons why you’ll get your course done quickly AND why you’ll have an audience clamoring to buy it.
Tip 22: Take some time to articulate the learning goals you have for your learners
It’s likely you’re pretty clear on your business goals for creating an online course, but have you taken the time to articulate *student learning* goals? Thinking through these ahead of time can influence many of the decisions you’ll have to make during your course creation process. Take a look at this blog post if you’d like some help with this.
Anticipate falling into the dreaded Pit of Despair!
Tip 23: Get support in place before you fall into the pit
The dip. The pit of despair… Whatever you call it, it can grip you right in the middle of creating an ecourse and well… freak you out.
So, you’re all pumped up about creating this ecourse. You feel ready – you’ve vetted the topic, you’ve tested out the content in your 1:1’s or in webinars or workshops. And you’ve immersed yourself in creating your content. And then….
- You fall into the Dip, or even worse, the Pit of Despair.
- You start to doubt yourself. You doubt your tribe. You doubt your course content. You doubt the teaching methods you’ve chosen will work. Doubt, doubt, doubt. That’s the dip.
The Pit of Despair, however, is far worse. You imagine everything that could possibly go wrong, does indeed go wrong. You may even question your whole business or your market or your niche. It can get ugly.
And all this dipping and (especially) the landing in a deep, dark pit leads to delay, delay and more delay.
This is when you need accountability. You need support. You need someone to gently help you up and back on your feet. My advice to you is to plan for it. Put your support structure in place now when you’re revved up and excited to dive it. You’ll thank yourself for it later
And there you have it! 23 tips ripped from Facebook!
If you find these are helpful you might want to “Like” and turn on notifications over here on FB to get these in your FB newsfeed.
And finally, if it would be helpful to see the entire map of the e-course creation process laid out in front of you, download The eCourse Creation Roadmap. It’s free to help you keep on track throughout the process. In it, I lay out exactly what is it you’ll need to consider and what exact action steps I recommend you take as you create your ecourse. Here it is.
Hope these tips help!
Best of luck to you!