Most first-time course creators, when they sit down to build their course content, take the “brain dump” approach: put every lesson you can think of on a list, and then use that as an outline to create your course.
This approach is ineffective because it focuses on information rather than results. You don’t need to teach your student everything you know about a topic. You just need to teach them exactly what they need to know to achieve the result you promised.
There’s no limit to how complex you can get with your instructional design, but to get started, just use the simple framework below; it will be more than enough to deliver the results your students crave.
At Amazon, one of — if not the — most successful product companies in the world, they write a press release announcing a product launch before they even start working on the product.
They don’t publish the release, of course. But the internal process of writing the press release makes them focus on what’s most important: the elements of the product that are exciting and useful for their customers.
Amazon starts with the end result, and builds backwards from there.
And that’s how we’re going to approach your course, too.
“The best way to dive into building a course is to work backwards from the job you're helping them accomplish all the way to the value the end result will bring to their lives. For instance, Your Signature Experience helps small business owners create a system and order for their customer experience.
That seems valuable on the surface, sure.
But the actual value that brings to the student is freedom: less time spent wondering if they did step X, Y, or Z, better referrals from wildly happy customers, an easy handoff of tasks to a new team member. That's all a sense of freedom. Your very first module needs to start with that actual value and build from there. Start with Why and then dive into teaching the How.”
So think about it: what is the end result you want your student to achieve?
When you begin to build your outline, the answer to the question above goes at the top.
Then, your first module* will help get your student bought in to why they’ll be doing everything they’re doing for the rest of the course.
*Course sections are typically referred to as “modules”. So when you see the term, think of it like a chapter in a book.
After that, break the end result down into the various steps that need to be taken to achieve it.
For example, for our How to use knives like an expert course, we’ll need to cover:
Remember that your goal is not to teach everything you know. It’s to teach everything your student needs to achieve a result.
When Gia and I were mapping out our course content for SaaS Marketer Essentials, here are the 3 things that helped us most:
Once you have the end result broken down into its component parts and dropped into an outline, you’re ready to plan your course content.
At this point, you know what each course module will teach. Now it’s time to decide how you’ll teach each lesson.
Will you create a video course? An audio course? A text or PDF course? Or some combination of all of these?
In the next chapter, we’ll show you how to create each of these types of content, even if you’ve never done it before. But first, let’s choose your media format(s).
Grab our free course content planning template here (just click “File>Make a Copy” to start your own).
The “gold standard” for online course content is video, and there are good reasons for this.
Video course content is multi-sensory (students see and hear the content), and thus can be more engaging, more interesting and more “sticky” than other types of content. It also has the highest perceived value of the four primary formats.
One report by Forrester Research suggests that when it comes to information delivery, 1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.
For that reason, we recommend including some video content in your course.
(And don’t worry…that doesn’t mean that you have to appear on camera if you don’t want to. More on that in the next chapter.)
In our knife skills course example, video is an obvious choice for showing off how to do specific techniques, while buying a knife might be better delivered as a PDF that the student can easily reference while they shop.
In your course outline, indicate the content format for each lesson you’d like to create.
A note on accessibility: when publishing video and audio content, consider that you may have students who are hearing-impaired or who don’t natively speak your language. Make sure that everyone can benefit from your content by including transcripts of any video/audio files. Transcriptions can be done cheaply through a service like Fiverr.
Now that your course is outlined, you’re ready to build your content!
Roll your sleeves up, it’s time to create some content. We’ll show you how to build amazing content in any format.
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