Your online course is going to be the next best thing since sliced bread was invented.
When you can get around to finishing it, anyway.
Or, for that matter, starting it.
Inspiration isn’t the problem: planning is. All of your favorite creators say it took months (or years) to produce their courses, and you don’t have that kind of time.
Heck, even if you do have that kind of time, you don’t want to wait that long to get your online course rolling.
Take a breath. You don’t have to.
Here’s how long it really takes to plan, produce, and publish an online course.
Planning your course content by getting to know your audience
At a minimum, you can anticipate spending a week or two on getting to know your audience and planning the rough structure of your online course.
You may need to spend more time than that on it, so your mileage will definitely vary, but in either case, it’s worth the extra hours. Not only is creating an online course exciting -- it’s quite profitable, too.
Of bloggers who earned $25,000 or more per month from their blogs, around 80% of that income came from selling online courses.
To sell and profit from an online course at that level, you need to approach your curriculum strategically, especially if you’re selling online courses in a competitive subject area.
To that end, you’ll probably need to dedicate at least a few days to customer research.
First, go to the communities where your target audience spends time -- online and offline if you can swing it -- to learn more about what your customers want in a product.
This is an integral part of conducting customer research, and something you absolutely can’t bypass if you want a course your customers will be eager to buy.
You should also take a look at your primary and secondary competitors.
What topics do they cover in their courses? Where are the holes in their curriculum? Could you explain the course content more clearly or comprehensively?
And lastly -- this something many brands overlook -- is there a way you can offer your audience a better overall customer experience with your brand?
Once you have those questions answered, then you’re ready to start narrowing (or, as needed, widening) the scope of your course.
Identify the scope of your course
Courses are best for teaching one primary skill or knowledge that could be learned in one month. Fortunately, identifying the scope of your course doesn’t take even a fraction as long.
You just need to play the process of elimination. What do you want to teach, and out of that, what can students reasonably learn in a month or less?
Chad Troftgruben’s “Designing Animatable PSD Characters in Procreate” is a perfect example of a focused course topic that teaches a core skill that could be learned within a month.
If you feel like there’s still so much you need to teach your students, consider breaking your course idea into multiple smaller courses or selling a membership site instead.
Regardless, once you’ve got your primary skill for your online course nailed down, use your expertise and findings from your customer and competitor research to design your course curriculum.
You should also, at this stage, figure out how you plan on presenting your course. Video-based courses are quite common, as are courses that mix video with digital downloads, private coaching, community support, and/or peer-to-peer support.
Of course, there’s nothing saying your course must have your video content.
Nattie Golf’s “Single Swing Analysis” course, for example, offers a personalized analysis of a golf swing video that her students submit.
After settling on your online course format, your final step is to figure out what tools you’ll need to bring it to life.
Especially if this is your first course, don’t worry too much about getting all of the latest-and-great tools -- you can easily shoot professional-quality videos on your smartphone and with a simple lighting set-up at home.
You probably have content to use already, too, if you already have some popular blog posts under your belt. Repurposed content isn’t just a great way to save time, it’s a smart way to create content.
After all, your best-performing blog posts resonate with your audience for a reason. Plus, you’ve already put the hours into validating, researching, and tweaking the core content -- on average, blog posts take around 3 hours and 28 minutes to write.
So why reinvent the wheel? If you know the content works, use it.
The same logic applies to your popular videos, too. Monetizing your videos is a cinch when you turn them (in whole or in part) into lessons for your online course.
OK, after defining the scope of your course and figuring out what, if any, content you’re going to repurpose, get ready for the weekend.
Your first weekend course
Once your research is completed, you’re ready to create an online course prototype. Yes, you really are, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
You need to test your findings and assumptions about what your customers are willing to pay for in an online course.
You can create your first course prototype within a week, or even a weekend if you hustle
After that, you’ll probably need about another week -- maybe two -- to continue gathering and analyzing feedback.
As for how to create your prototype in such a short time span, it’s easier than you think. Here’s how.
Outline the structure of your online course
With a rough course curriculum in hand, your next step is to organize it into a logical series of modules.
It’s helpful to work backwards from the end skill you want to students to learn after completing all of your course modules and then create lessons to provide the knowledge they need to acquire that skill.
However, your course prototype shouldn’t address all of these modules all at once -- it’s much better to release a few modules at a time as you gauge your students’ reaction to the existing content and where they want the curriculum to go.
Let’s say you’re creating an online course about writing better character dialogue. One of your end goals for students is to create compelling but natural-sounding dialogue in their novels.
You’re planning multiple modules for this course -- why so much character dialogue is lackluster, why what we don’t say speaks volumes, and how to understand how people really talk, among other things.
While these topics encompass many smaller subskills, they all tie back to one primary skill -- writing dialogue -- for the course.
A skill that you can break into small bites over each lesson, so it’s neither overwhelming nor resource-intensive for you to produce.
It’s simpler than it sounds. You just need the right tools and some free time.
Producing your course modules
Once you know what you’re going to create, you’ve gotten over most of the time sink in this stage of an online course. Producing your course modules with an outline in hand can be accomplished in a matter of days.
(Or, if you’re really ambitious, just one day -- though we’d recommend giving yourself more wriggle room than that.)
There are just a few core tools for creating online courses you’ll need.
A video camera, microphone, video editing software, and video hosting should more than suffice for most creators.
To shave down on equipment costs, you could use a smartphone instead of a video camera, or a camera or smartphone that comes with a built-in microphone.
Video hosting costs can add up pretty quickly, but YouTube can be a free place to host videos if you’re just starting out.
For creators who want the perks of video hosting -- ease of use, organization, and a more professional look -- but don’t want to pay exorbitant fees, Podia may be just the ticket.
You can find out about all of the features that make Podia so creator-friendly, like unlimited video hosting and the ability to sell an unlimited number of products, by joining our weekly demo.