Many people in many different industries have been making online courses for a while now. It started around 2010, and has been growing steadily ever since. After the Covid-19 lockdown first started, online courses grew even more popular! And there were actually two reasons for that. First, so many entrepreneurs had to adapt to the circumstances of the lockdown. So to compensate for their lost and cancelled work, they started teaching their craft and expertise to people in the form of paid, online courses. The second reason why online courses were so popular was because people were buying them! What else were they going to do while they were locked up at home?
I bet you’re thinking- should I make an online course? And the answer is yes! Online course culture is growing, and it’s growing fast. With your skill level and expertise, I guarantee that the online course you create will make a positive impact.
So how do you make an online course? It’s totally up to you on how you create it, structure it, and deliver it. It could all be done through emails, audio files, or through a video platform. Undeniably, online courses that are taught via recorded video have the highest perceived value. So here are 5 things you should know before making your next online course!
#1- Plan for More Time Than You Think!
Believe me when I say- EVERYONE thinks their course won’t take long to film. Even I am guilty of this when I made my own online course. For example, even if you script out all of your videos to be under 10 minutes long, each video will take at least 20 minutes to film. The reality of the situation is, we’re human and we mess up! But it’s not just about reading your script well or not. It has to do with your mojo. Yes, your mojo! It’s probably the most important asset on filming day(s).
Picture this- you’ve been on camera talking for the past 4 hours, you’re hungry, tired, and you have to read each word from the script with pep in your voice… oh and you have 5 more hours to go of filming.
How do you think you’d perform on camera?? Exactly. Pretty terribly. So instead of drudging through your content to fit it all in 1 day, why not split it into 2 easier days? That way you can take your time, recharge, and be mentally there when filming.
It makes a better end product, and you feel good making it. Seems like a win-win!
Here’s a tip on how to logistically plan for more time- When planning with your videography team, tell them that you want to schedule an extra shoot day as backup. If you are shooting your course on a Tuesday and Wednesday, just make sure everyone can pencil in Thursday as backup. You may have to pay a holding fee for the potential extra day, but it’s well worth it for your peace of mind (and the quality of the course).
#2- Don’t Overcomplicate Your Course
Again, speaking from my own past experiences with my online course, over complicating your curriculum is never a good idea.
“But, but, but… people are paying me money to teach them my expertise! I have to give them every bit of my knowledge!!”
Wrong. You will actually hurt them more than help them if you jam pack your course with every single detail.
What’s easier- drinking from a hallway water fountain or drinking from a firehose at full blast? Exactly. When people pay for an online course, they are paying for results. And if the course is so dense with information, the students can easily feel overwhelmed, resulting in not actually learning anything (or worse, asking for a refund).
Always treat your first course as an introductory 101 course for your students. That way they will retain the information you teach, and are much more likely to put it into practice (aka the results they are paying for).
So to avoid teaching by firehose, just focus on the basics. Ask yourself “what can my students do right now with my course?” and go from there. This will help your students create a strong foundation in the topic that you’re teaching, so that down the road they can advance their skills much easier… maybe even with a 201 course upsell from you 😉
#3- Use a Visual Medium
This is probably the most underrated tool used in online courses. We as course creators are going to communicate our knowledge through spoken and written words. That’s how we obviously communicate! But it’s one thing for students to just hear your words, and another for them to hear your words while also getting visual confirmation of what you’re teaching.
Again, people are buying your course for results, so why not make it as easy as possible for them?
So what visual medium can you use in your online course? This is where making video courses are so important, because you can use any visual you want in video. With video you have the ability to either overlay pictures, slides, screen captures or even other videos, all within your course video. You also have the ability to physically interact with a visual, like writing on a whiteboard, or showing the details of a product or tool that you’re teaching about.
Don’t use this as a cop out though! Don’t assume that you can just make a slide deck, and overlay them during the entire course. That’s like a college gen-ed lecture all over again. We don’t want to lecture, we want to educate and empower our students!
Now if the topic that you’re teaching is all thought based (no visuals to show), then slides can be helpful. But try to mix it up with using a white board to physically write down words or phrases that you want to emphasize. Not only does that help your students understand your lesson, but it also adds in visual interest to keep them entertained.
#4- Ask Your Videographer for Recommendations
Not to toot my own horn, but producing online courses is my jam. And that’s because I’ve done enough of them to know what looks good, what works, and what to avoid. And while I, or other videographers, may have never made an online course in your specific subject, we probably have a good starting point to work off of.
So collaborating with a videographer from the beginning, rather than hiring them at the very end of your planning process, can really be beneficial to you.
Chances are, you’re focused on planning out your content for the course (as you should be!). And while the content is the most important, the learning environment (aka the setting that you record in) must connect with your content.
Could you imagine buying an online course on “how to achieve financial freedom,” only to find that the course is taught by some guy in his mom’s basement with drop ceiling and fluorescent lighting? That would be hilariously terrible, and I’d request a refund ASAP.
We’d want to see the guy in a modern, clean home office building. Or maybe even at his backyard patio with an in-ground pool in the background. Those settings make way more sense for the topic that he’s teaching. Here’s a bonus tip- unless you’re making videos on how to storm the capitol building, never film in your mom’s basement.
If you’re not certain where you should film, or it’s something you don’t even want to worry about, then asking your videographer for recommendations is a sure fire way to know that your course is going to look and feel solid.
And your videographer can have more suggestions than just locations to film at! They can recommend how long your videos should be, what visuals you can add in, how you can add in additional content after the shoot day, etc. All of which can help you get a better game plan ahead of time, to make a better end product.
#5- Use Your Modules as Cliffhangers
This tip might sound odd, but trust me, it’s a game changer. I’ll explain what I mean, and how to structure your modules as cliffhangers in a moment. But first let’s breakdown the traditional way of structuring your lessons and modules-
In a traditional class, the teacher breaks a topic down into a few categories, then explains and teaches each category or module. Once you’re finished with one module topic, you move onto the next topic, and so on until the course is finished. As far as getting the info across to the students, it works, but it’s boring and kinda just drags on with no end in sight.
But what if there was a way to spice things up while delivering your content? What if we got our students to be excited for the next video they have in the course? How do we even do that?
Cliffhanger may be a bit of a dramatic word to use, but it does get the idea across. To build up anticipation for the next video in your module, you need to include a little preview of what is to come next. Hint at why your next video is going to HUGE for your students’ success. Connect the current video’s lesson with the next video’s lesson together, so that once your students finish one, they will be dying (dramatic much?) to go to the next lesson.
Like I mentioned before, people purchase online courses for results. If a student doesn’t finish the course, then they are less likely to achieve the result that they paid for. This could lead to dissatisfaction (and a demand for a refund), and much less of a chance that they’d purchase from you again. When someone purchases a course from you, they are trusting that you will help them along the journey. And while that is physically impossible to guarantee, the course creators that do make a difference to the end user, usually get more business as time goes on.
And with that, that wraps up my 5 tips to consider before making your next online course. Of course these are just based off of my experiences from taking and making online courses. Do you use any of these strategies? Or was there a tip that made absolutely no sense? Let me know! Reach out to me on social media @kristiangolick via Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. And if you want to learn more about how to use video to amp up your business, then make sure you check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel!
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