Last week we talked about the first 5 steps for building your online course. This is the preliminary work that helps you clarify what you want to accomplish with your course, and just how you’re going to go about it:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Identify your audience
  3. Understand your audience
  4. Research the landscape
  5. Position your course

Now you’re ready to build the course itself and get it out into the world. Today we’ll go through the remaining three steps in the process:

  1. Compile your content
  2. Launch your course
  3. Improve your skills

Let’s jump right in.

6. Compile your content.

This is a BIG step.

Maybe you already have some PDFs, blog posts, articles, or PowerPoint presentations containing the material you want to include in your course.

Maybe you have years of knowledge rattling around in your brain, with nothing written down yet.

Either way, the key to compiling your course content is…


What does that mean? You should compile and organize your information in a way your audience can learn it, enjoy it, and want to come back for more.

Course Content Tip: Start Small

Assume your target audience has very little information on the topic you’re presenting. Start your course with the absolute basics. Then work your way up to more complex information. A good instructor makes sure everyone has the same foundation of knowledge.

An advantage of starting small? It opens you up to more potential participants.

Think of the wide audience you could reach if your digital photography course started with ”Photography 101” instead of jumping right to “Advanced Blur Effects.”

Course Content Tip: Outline It

Architects don’t freehand a loose design and hand it off to the construction foreman. That would be crazy! Instead, they create blueprints that show in great detail exactly what goes where.

Blueprints aren’t just for architects. Organize your course material into an outline so you know exactly what goes where.

An easy way to outline your course:

  1. Establish 4-10 major points about your topic
  2. Under each major point, outline 3-5 relevant minor points
  3. Put them in order from basic to complex.

Here’s an example.

Imagine you’re teaching someone to bake an apple pie. There are four major points:

  1. Preparation
  2. Making the crust
  3. Making the filling
  4. Baking the pie

Better to start small and help your audience grow with you!

Under each main point, there are some minor points:

  1. Preparation
    • Gathering ingredients and tools
    • Pre-heating the oven
  2. Making the crust
    • Combining the dry ingredients
    • Cutting in the butter
    • Rolling out the dough
  3. Making the filling
    • Peeling and slicing the apples
    • Mixing in the spices
  4. Baking the pie
    • Adding the filling to the crust
    • Baking the pie
    • Cooling the pie

Your course information should progress as clearly and logically as a recipe.

Course Content Tip: Break It Up

People learn best in small chunks and with repetition. Each segment of your course should max out around 15-20 minutes – no longer.

After that, people stop paying attention, start getting distracted, and lose interest.

So keep it brief, and end on a high note! Give your students a piece of memorable content or way to take action at the end of each segment.

When you begin the next segment, recap the previous segment, provide an introduction to what will be learned today, then provide material that takes no more than 15 minutes to read or watch.

Shorter content is always more engaging.

(Let’s see if we can make that phrase even better by shortening it…)

The shorter the better!

Course Content Tip: Add Multimedia

Which is a more effective way of learning how to play the piano – giving someone an instruction book, or showing them a how-to video? Adding multimedia to your course will help your students learn better – and it will increase your product’s value.

It’s all about video.

According to digital analytics leader comScore, 89 million people in the U.S. will consume over 1 billion online videos today. There’s incredibly high demand for video content, especially in the instructional realm.

Video will also help your SEO. It’s 50 times easier for your website to end up on the front page of web search results if there’s video on your page, according to the video hosting experts at Wistia.

Share a text transcript along with your video to give your students the flexibility to watch, read, or watch and read at the same time.

Audio tracks are another effective tool, especially for courses that teach music or language.

Don’t forget about high impact imagery! Photographs, charts, and infographics provide visual interest and can convey key points stronger than text alone.

7. Launch Your Course

Step #6 was a big one. Now you have a stunning, well-organized course full of stimulating multimedia.

So let’s push your course live and get some people to take it!

We’ll go into greater detail on this topic in a future article, but here are the basics you need to know and some questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

Is your course the best it can be? Now’s the time to proofread and edit your content. If you have a friend or colleague who can act as a fresh pair of eyes, ask them to take the course and point out any errors or inconsistencies.

Just make sure you don’t get so hung up on perfection that you’re too scared to launch. As Steve Jobs famously said: “Real artists ship.” Best-selling marketing guru Seth Godin agrees: “Don’t worry if you don’t think what you ship is good enough. It is.”

How are you going to price your product? Will you use tiered pricing?

There are dozens of ways to offer basic, standard, and premium levels for your course.

Read our article “Why tiered pricing is the only way to price your product” for more information about how to do it. And listen to Patrick McKenzie’s unmissable podcast on the same subject to get you inspired – yes, inspired! – about pricing your product.

Do you have a shopping cart/checkout process in place? Is it easy and seamless for people to sign up for your course?

Are you ready to put your publicity machine in motion? You’ll want to promote your course to your target audience through every means possible:

  • Email
  • Paid advertising
  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Outreach to groups and individuals who might be interested

(There’s so much more we want to share with you about publicizing your course. Stay tuned for a future article about just this topic.)

How are you going to entice new users?

Create “carrot content” – tasty free samples of your course that you can use to hook new participants. Carrots can be PDFs, checklists, worksheets, short videos, or anything else you can dream up. You provide carrots to potential customers in exchange for their email address, allowing them to try out your content and allowing you to continue to market to them.

Congrats! You launched your course!

But you’re not done yet…

8. Improve Your Skills

Building a course is a skill in itself. It may take you a few tries before you feel like a course-creating expert. That’s perfectly normal – just keep at it, and you’ll see your confidence and level of quality increase.

It’s like learning to swim. You can’t cross the English Channel until you dip your toe in the water first. And you’ve got to keep jumping back in the pool if you want to keep getting better!

With each new course you build, you’ll increase your students’ knowledge and your own.

So are you ready to jump in? We hope you’re excited to create your first course.

Check out Part 1 of this series to get yourself ready. Happy course building!

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