How to Start Creating Your First Online Course

Teaching

E-learning is a universally recognized trend. How to make your own unique online course – read lifehacks by EDUGET.

How to Start Creating Your First Online Course

Lately, lifelong learning has become a real buzzword. We talk about it at work, with friends, online. However, only a few are willing to devote time and effort to learning, especially if it takes place online and it costs money. For e-learning instructors, it means that a good idea is not enough to create an effective online course. We have to consider a whole host of factors in order to sell our ideas and leave students satisfied.

STEP 1. “What to teach?”

Just because you had a revelation and decided that your idea would easily transform into a best-selling online course, it does not mean that people are interested in it and are ready to pay. A successful online course is built around your students’ needs rather than your desires. If your course caters for adult learners, you have to make sure they understand from the outset how your course aligns with their goals and how knowledge acquired will help them grow personally and develop professionally. Your course should solve real-world problems they face up to at work and give them a set of skills or insights into how to deal with these problems.

To get a better understanding of what these problems are go to Google first. By googling your topic, you will see if people are talking about it online and what particular aspects of the topic interest them. For instance, you would like to teach about time management, but the topic is too general and vague. It is unlikely that you can fit everything worth knowing about time management in a short online course. You need to narrow it down to the so-called pain points of your potential students. To pinpoint these pain points you should:

  • search for articles and books on the topic and look through user comments;
  • go to forums or social media groups related to the topic;
  • do SEO search to identify the keywords people are using when researching the topic;
  • make a list of user comments, quotes, etc. that reflect their daily problems related to your topic;
  • paraphrase user comments into potential course ideas.

Users’ complaints

Core problem

Ideas for your online course

“I often have to stay late at the office to finish off my current tasks”

low productivity

Time management skills to boost productivity at work

“I struggle to set priorities and end up wasting time on unimportant things

poor prioritization

Prioritization and goal setting as a key skill of effective time management

I always put things off. I understand it’s a bad habit, but really can’t help it

procrastination

Effective strategies to fight procrastination and master the skill of time management

STEP 2. “Who do you teach for?”

Now when you have identified specific problems your potential students face, proceed to create detailed personal profiles of users you would like to target, otherwise called personas. This will give you a better understanding of what kind of people your learners are, how much free time they have, how they approach learning, how tech-savvy they might be and other characteristics to help you create content that will engage them. Here’s a list of questions to create your personas:

  • Are your learners men, women or a mix of both?
  • How old are your learners?
  • What education have they received?
  • What is your learners’ availability? How does your online course fit into their work-life balance?
  • What is their lifestyle and how it affects the way they learn?
  • What is their motivation to learn your topic?
  • How tech-savvy are they?
  • How will they access your content? (computer, laptop, mobile phone)
  • How much do they already know about the topic?
  • What areas do they need to improve?
  • Do they have access to any additional learning resources?
  • What are their expectations from the course?

Apart from writing down all the information about your learners, it is a good idea to either find a photo online or, if you have in-house designers or know a fair bit about designing yourself, draw pictures of your learners and put them up near your working space. Visualization will make it easier to think of personas as real people who will interact with your content. Thus, you will keep them in mind whenever you work at your online course. 

STEP 3. “Why do learners need your online course?”

When you have your learners’ profiles clearly mapped out and you have identified their needs and pain points, you can proceed to set your course goals. It is important to have a clear understanding of skills to master or ideas and concepts to grasp by the end of the course before you start creating the content. Otherwise, you might end up with sketchy fragments of information that lead nowhere. Deciding on learning objectives might be one of the most challenging steps in creating a course. One of the ways to help you with this daunting task is the SMART formula. According to the SMART formula, learning objectives should be …

S – specific, define certain skills tailored for person’s needs, location and current conditions.
M – measurable; think of the ways how you can measure the progress of students and check if they have successfully acquired the skills taught.
A – achievable; make sure that learners can achieve the goals you set with the resources provided and within the timeframe of the course. If not, course objectives are not realistic.
R – relevant; make it crystal clear why it is important for learners to achieve these goals and persuade them that these goals are worth investing time and effort.
T – time-sensitive; make sure learning objectives can be accomplished by the end of the course.

Lifehack from EDUGET

When writing down course objectives use action verbs, e.g. explain, demonstrate, analyze, differentiate, design, evaluate and so on. According to numerous psychological studies, human brain responds better to verbs rather than corresponding nouns.   

STEP 4. “How to teach?”

Now you are ready to start thinking about the content of your online course. It sounds like a daunting prospect to sit down and start staring at a blank page. So, the first thing you can do to get the whole process going is to try to synthesize key bits of information you already have. Use the following table to help you: 

What practical skills will my students acquire by the end of the course?

Make your list

These are your learning objectives

In what fields are these skills useful?

Write down top 5 professions that need these skills:

These are your personas

What are the ways to check if learners have mastered these skills?

Write down possible ways to check it:

These are your assessments and potential quizzes/ tasks

To accomplish course goals what specific knowledge do learners need?

Make a list of topics

This is your course programme

STEP 5. “What’s next?”

In four easy steps you are equipped with a potentially successful course topic, completely understand who your target audience is and how they will benefit from your online course, as well as have learning objectives, possible types of assessment and course programme. Now you can proceed with writing effective content by creating your first storyboard. 

Liza Kokorina
Author of an article