Let's be clear:
Today is the day you are finally starting creating an online course .
Let's say it together: "Today I am starting, I am finally creating my online course!"
Feels good, doesn't it?
You probably have had this idea in your mind for a long time:
- you know the subject
- you know the audience
This is amazing! And yet... you have not done it... 🙁
But this is all going to change... I am not letting you wonder 'what if' any longer! No more overwhelm!
Today you are getting in front of the pack.
Today you start building your future.
Let's see how:
STEPS TO START CREATING AN ONLINE COURSE
So, to help you take the first concrete steps towards the creation of your online course we are going to do the following together:
- STEP 1 - Embrace the Reality - Let's face the stories your might have been told before and commit to the reality of creating online courses (Action A1)
- STEP 2 - Stop Overthinking - We are taking each of those excuses and blockages in your mind, which tell you that you won't be able to make it... and we DESTROY them! (Actions A2 to A6)
- STEP 3 - Free your mind - Let's get unstuck, you might have been thinking about this course for a long time and have so many ideas. Let's free your mind to be able to take a step back and move forward (Action A7 and A8)
- STEP 4 - Collect Inputs - Time to generate the basis for your content and all the inputs that will help you define your course structure (Action A9 and A10)
- STEP 5 - Frame Your Course - Define your course and its boundaries, identify you first major structural items (Action A11 and A12)
- Celebrate - You started, Yeah!!! - What's next?
But let's be clear:
Today, I am now giving you the step-by-step guide to creating your entire online course. This is a fun process but a big one, which a simple blog post cannot explain... but a course can 🙂
However, if you a ready to get started, I am taking you to a state where you have lots of inputs gathered as well as an initial framework... and where you are in in a rolling mode to creating an online course.
How does that sound? Ready to Start?
You can already download the workbook to fill it in as you progress through this guide:
BONUS: Get the FREE associated Workbook to follow along this guide. Download now the Online Course Starter Workbook
STEP 1 - EMBRACE THE REALITY
No, you are not crazy
So you have probably read a lot of blog posts about creating online courses.
Most articles give you the 6, 7 or 10 steps to creating an online course, making it sound SOOOOO simple.
But you probably feel no more advanced than before. Don't worry this is not your fault!
The problem is that they talk about everything around your product but not much about how to create the content of the course itself!
Let me show you 2 examples:
See - for both the business and design experts, the creation part of the product is actually a maximum of 2 steps!
They are not wrong about the other steps, but you are right to want MORE GUIDANCE on how to actually create your online course.
So: YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. You are right to want step-by-step instructions to create a whole course that makes sense and get results to the students.
Yes it takes Time and Work,
but it is Fun and Gratifying!
Let's be clear, if you are looking for a quick guide to create your online course over the weekend. This is not it. You can stop reading now.
But if you want to create a QUALITY online course that will get big results for your students, you have to take the time and make some efforts.
It requires time to step back, have an overall vision, and create the right content with the student results in mind...
... But it is fun!!! 🙂 So don't worry
The only way to create an online course in a weekend would be
- not make a useful course - just throw your ideas on a sheet of paper, shuffle them a little around to look like a process, put your logo on them
- Use a very very narrow objective such as how to lace your shoes
Because it takes work and time, it is important to understand why you are creating your online course. What drives you? How will you feel when it is finally created and launched?
This way, when you feel a little depleted, you can always go back to imagining your feelings when your course is complete and get a boost of energy!
- Excited that I sold a product during my sleep
- Proud to see my students get result
- Proud to have created a complete product
- Overwhelmed by the testimonials of how I impacted my student's life
- Happy to make an impact for a better world
ACTION #A1 - Imagine your course is completed and selling - How are you feeling?
Commit today to make that feeling become a reality!
Complete A1 on the workbook
STEP 2 - STOP OVERTHINKING
When thinking about creating your own online courses, your mind probably goes through so many excuses or 'what if'.
Want to know the good news?
YOUR BRAIN (LIKE MINE) IS WRONG :-)
So let's walk through those excuses one by one to clear your brain before starting the creation activities.
"What if it fails?"
Ohhhh this is a classic!!!!
And we all suffer from it...
The fear of failure is here since the beginning of time.
But failure is a matter of perspective... the same as success 🙂
Our society tends to define success as "earning millions or changing the world big time or being the most amazing artist in the world".
How intimidating! Better not to start, don't you think?
In the world of online business you see articles about 'how I created a 6 figure business in 6 months' or 'how to make 100000 dollars with your first online course'...
How can you feel confident when you see such articles all day long?
The reality is that those cases are either exaggerating (playing with their numbers), using shady practices or are the exception (and most probably cannot repeat their "success"). ByRegina has a great article about the 6-figure blogger suck-in.
But try forgetting the norms of society, what does success mean to you?
For me it is:
- Receiving messages from people who tell me how much my organisation of information helped them understand and get results
- Helping people get their message out and change lives
- Feeling that I inspired people to move forward with their projects
- Earning enough to feel safe, comfortable and travel
And remember that:
Even if your course fails, you will have:
- Learned to do more idea validation before starting
- Created a lot of content you could re-use
- Learned how to do something technical
- Learned how to structure your knowledge to better apply it to your current activity
Brian Lang wrote on Problogger's article about the 5 fears preventing you from being successful that: "Successful people often reframe failure as a stepping stone towards success. Failure is only temporary and if we keep trying and adapting our approach, eventually we will succeed."
ACTION #A2 - Imagine the Absolute Worst Case Scenario:
You don't sell one single course...
But you will still have grown so much!
- all the benefits from creating your course even if it fails
- all the new skills and how you can reapply them
- all the content you created and how you can reuse it
Complete A2 on the workbook
"I am not expert enough"
That is a classic. It is also called the Imposter syndrome. Even the most experts of us all feel that way (see this article by Van Schneider)
Our society created this vision that only EXPERTS with years and years of experience are worthy of transmitting knowledge.
But Remember that
- Even experts are not experts
There is no perfect expertise! No one knows everything there is to know about a subject
- You know more than other people
Can someone who has knitted 20 scarves do an advance class about knitting? NO
But can that person create an online course about the basics of knitting a scarf? - Of course! And other people, who don't want to feel overwhelmed by a full knitting course, would love a simple course about starting with scarves.
And someone who has coded 10 apps can teach how to create a basic app, whereas someone with more experience would be teaching the first teacher how to code advanced apps...
There is always an audience who knows less than you do, you just have to be honest and define clearly the objective of your course.
- In the end most people don't want experts
The expert, as we imagine him/her, is often too intimidating and makes people think you won't be able to do the same.
They want a normal person that shows them how to get from Point A to Point B.
What result can you help people, with less knowledge and experience than you, achieve?
ACTION #A3 - Describe the students you want to help before the course: what is their skill level? Their state of mind? Their knowledge?
Complete A3 on the workbook
Great! Another one down, let's go to the next.
"I won't get the result of 1o1 coaching" or "I have too much knowledge"
Yes - So you have to accept that the objective of an online course is to get a very precise result on a narrow subject.
Even more, you have to limit the knowledge you transfer to what is really necessary to achieve the result expected. Otherwise the student is overwhelmed and gets lost in the process.
Let's take the example of the coach:
I can understand your worry here, especially if you have been a coach for a long time.
What you have to understand is that an online course has a different objective than 1o1 coaching.
An online course has a narrow specific objective: to get the person from a know state A to a predetermined State B.
However in coaching, the State A would have to be determined during the session and State B can evolve as you progress with the coachee.
This is not an issue.
You course audience knows it. There are not expecting to get the same results as with personalized coaching.
For example a dating coach will take a coachee through the whole process until he/she meets someone and develops a relationship.
But online courses would narrow down the objectives e.g.
- Getting dates
- or From First date to a second one for male
- or Moving from dates to a relationship...
So what you have to do is accept that you cannot share all your knowledge with your students, it would be counterproductive. What is important is to create an effective process based on all your experience.
ACTION #A4 - Let's narrow down the scope of your course
- What specific results can you get someone without meeting him/her
- What is out of boundaries
Complete A4 on the workbook
And let's tackle our next excuse:
"It is technically too complicated"
Teachable, WordPress, Camtasia, video making, Indesign, Worksheet design, Canva, microphone, Green screen....
Wow the options to create online courses are making everyone dizzy!
When googling 'creating online courses' or similar, many of the first page articles will tell you that you must choose your platform right now.
You know why?
Because those articles are written by the platforms' blog... or those looking for affiliate commissions for the use of those platforms. Don't get me wrong, I think those platforms are so practical... BUT
This is absolutely NOT where you should start!
Plus, to be honest, in the end it won't even make such a difference. You could even send your course by emails, if you wanted. As long as the content is well thought through, actionable and well communicated, the rest is the cherry on top.
- Let's start by listing all the tools that you already know how to use - this is already great! (Word, emails, PowerPoint...)
- List all the tools you would love to learn how to use (iMovie, Canva, wordpress...)
- Pick one tool you would love to learn and block a couple of hours in the next few weeks to learn about it by typing 'xxx beginners' ou 'xxx course' 'how to xxx' or 'xxx tutorial' - The goal is not to become a master but to understand the basics and demystify the tool
Complete A5 on the workbook
"There is already an online course on it"
I am Serious 🙂
Want to know why?
Because competition means that there is a market, a need for your course. Isn't it great news?
I know, I know, it is hard! When you see someone else already doing it, you are thinking "what is the point?". It is a great excuse.
I am guilty of that too. Other courses about online course creation exist. And I was thinking 'they are already established'... 'how can I find my audience?'...'with their experience it must be better'... But the important fact to remember is that:
YOU ARE UNIQUE - you bring a different way of presenting things, a different personality and a variety of experiences!
Did you have a favorite teacher while growing up? What did the other kids think of him or her?
I remember loving one of my maths teacher who was very structured in her teaching while most of the class did not because they felt she was too rigid...
I understand your worry about existing competition, I am one of you:
There is a big name in online course creation who says that: you should not learn online course creation from people you have not studied instructional design and all... Well I disagree (obviously), I think a lot of people with her type of background are stuck in the rules they learn and don't always know how to create a good process.
I have a very different opinion than hers about how to make good online courses.
And yet I still feel confused having her as "competition" and wondering if it was worth creating mine.
One day, I purchased her course on sale and oh my god did it help. It helped me realize that her course is totally different. Her course has a very different approach and level of details.
It made me very confident (as I still think my approach is more helpful LOL).
The reality is that even though I don't like her course style, maybe other people will respond to it. And not the same people will respond to mine.
ACTION #A6 - Find more courses, ebooks, blogs or products in competition with yours! List all the courses that are on a similar subject. We will use this list later.
Complete A6 on the workbook
STEP 3 - FREE YOUR MIND
So right now, you know you can do it. You are ready to start creating your online course. Yeah!
How are you feeling? Probably many ideas are floating in your head and it is difficult to focus and find out where to start.
Most articles will have you start with writing down the outline of the course and it is tempting,
I get it!
But to create the best process for your student to get results, you cannot start by what you think it should be but you need to extract from data what it needs to be.
So let's start:
Get your initial thoughts out
With everything floating in your head you do not know where to start and it feels overwhelming. The result being: No action.
So the first step, it to write down all those ideas you are afraid to loose if you start with something else.
All you think so far about your course: which lessons you should have, the names that are floating in your head, the ideas for exercises, specific sentences you want to say.... everything that is looping your head.
ACTION #A7 - Write down your pre-ideas about your course: course subject, general information about your student, your lesson and exercise ideas
Complete A7 on the workbook
Exfiltrate your expertise
The next phase is to get all the knowledge out of your brain somewhere so that it stops moving around and generates your concrete building material.
To be able to structure and create your online course, you have to gather a lot of data on the subject to be able to extract the process and the right information to share through it.
Without everything on paper, it is difficult take a step back and see the big picture.
On my online course Course Creation: Mission Possible, the first phase is to Brainstorm the Mission. It has 3 components with tools to complete them:
- Exfiltrate your expertise
- Investigate the competition
- Profile your Ideal Student
The activities to be completed during that phase help generate the information and content nuggets required to both:
- Define the Course Structure
- Create the lessons
First step is to get all your expertise out of your brain and on the paper.
You just have to write it down. It can be daunting because we want to build and write them already in a structured way. But I assure you this is not the best plan of action.
Write down everything your can think of: themes, examples, exercises, quotes, steps, tools... any bits of information.
Depending on your style you can write all that down:
- On a notebook
- On colored post-its to move around on a wall
- In an excel workbook
- On a voice recording device
Once you have a first go at writing down everything your first think of (themes, examples, exercises, quotes, steps, tools...):
- Take one of the ideas that inspires you
- Ask the questions: how, why, when, with whom, how often...
- And write down everything else that comes to mind
Everywhere you go, bring with you a way to record (notebook or writing app on phone) so that you can always write down what comes to mind.
ACTION #A8 - Write down everything, dig deep on each subject and get all your bits and pieces of knowledge together
Complete A8 on the workbook
STEP 4 - Collect Inputs
Now we continue with the Brainstorming phase, to collect more inputs that will help you find the big picture for the structure as well as help create content.
Profile your ideal student
For your course to make an impact, it needs to speak to your customers: it must address their needs and hopes, fit with their level and use their language!
There are many activities you can do to collect the profile of your ideal student. Here is one of the most effective ones:
- Find today 3 potential customers for your course
- Ask for a little chat
- Start with easy questions about them and what they do today
- Then continue with positive questions about their hopes and dreams
- Always ask open questions
Listen, take notes, and pay particular attention to:
- their why - why they do what they do, why they want what they want
- what they are feeling
- the vocabulary they use
Those interviews are a good way to validate your idea for a course or refine it before you get any further. Are potential customers actually interested in buying such a course?
Ramit Sethi is adamant about validating your business idea before doing anything. And he is right. Even though sometimes, I think you need to get your idea out of your system anyway because you will learn from it, whatever the result.
ACTION #A9 - Meet with potential students and collect valuable inputs for your course to make an impact
Complete A9 on the workbook
Investigate the competition
we said that the fact that a course already exists is a great thing.
Well time to dig into that!
Investigating the other players in your field is a way to open your mind to complementary ideas.
Don't worry, you are not copying their work.
Having a look and writing down ideas are triggers to think about the process and build it with your knowledge and experiences.
1. From the list you created in A6 - Take notes of content: Chapter titles, Vocabulary - develop into what ideas does that trigger for you
2. Learn from their mistakes - if you can read reviews, have a look if customers are missing something or expecting something extra that you could include.
ACTION #A10 - Write down all the ideas from the search on competitors
Complete A10 on the workbook
STEP 5 - FRAME YOUR COURSE
Define your course
Now, let’s take a moment to review all the information you collected
1. What is your course ultimate objective?
- Is it an action, a transformation
- Is it precise with at least 1 limit?
- Is it addressing a deep pain expressed by potential students?
Not "The basics of Starting a blog"
But "Set up your minimum viable blog in 2 hours using WordPress"
2. Who are you transforming and What is the transformation?
Don’t try to address everyone, and then the message gets lost. Based on what you learned interviewing customers, your experience and the comments on your competitors' products, what are the key characteristics of your student before the transformation?
Describe as precisely as possible the state of your student before (Persona, knowledge, competence, experience, feeling…)
Describe as precisely as possible the state of your student after the course (knowledge, competence, experience, feeling…)
ACTION #A11 - Document you Objective and the states of transformation
Complete A11 on the workbook
Now you can finally start defining the modules or phases or major steps of your course.
An online course is a PROCESS – it takes the student from the State Before to the State After through a series of actions
We are not yet defining the lessons you will be creating, we are creating the big Actions required to move from one state to the other.
Go through all the content you have written before
- If you used post-its you can try organizing them by theme
- If you use a notebook you can use highlighters
- If you used excel you can add a column with categories to sort
DO NOT THINK ABOUT THE KNOWLEDGE you want to transmit (it will come later in the lesson feeding the modules)
Think in terms of ACTIONS
What are the 4 to 6 main actions required for someone to get from State Before to State After?
Objective = "Set up your minimum viable blog in 2 hours using WordPress"
In that case you can go with a timeline structure (this is only one example of how it could go):
- Get hosting and domain name
- Get the right theme for your purpose
- Set up WordPress and theme
- Personalize your blog
- Add the minimum plugins to manage your blog
ACTION #A11 - Define your 4 to 6 modules - Fill in the Structure Diagram
Complete A12 on the workbook
You Started - yeah!!
Do not skip this 🙂
Pat yourself of the back
Do your happy dance
High 5 yourself
You will see, creating an online course is such a fun process! And what a feeling when it is done and you are impacting people's lives...
Wondering what comes next? Have a look at the Anatomy of an effective online course to get some ideas of critical elements to consider while creating your online course.
Fun, isnt' it?
I would love to hear what you have to say: What do you think of the guide? Do you have a question?
Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
And if you wanted to read first before acting, I understand!
But now it is time for action! Get the FREE associated Workbook to follow along this guide. Download now the Online Course Starter Workbook