A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Online Course
Wondering how to create an online course with staying power? With these three steps, you’ll be well on your way.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or two, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about what it would take for you to create awesome online courses. But maybe you’re stumped about where to start.
Here’s the thing: Creating engaging online courses comes down to understanding why you’re building your course and who would get the most out of it. It’s finding the connection between a compelling topic, your ideal course member and your own story, and working smarter, not harder, to bring those three facets together.
Interested? Ahead, we’re diving into how to develop an online course, from ideation to execution. Let’s get started.
Why am I going to create online courses?
There are plenty of reasons to create an online course. But typically, we see three reasons more often than not:
- To share your expertise, experience, or passion with the world. Whether you’re starting with an email list or social media following or not, creating an online course can be a great way to share your expertise, experience, or passions. It’s a great way to bring people together to master something interesting.
- To launch a new revenue stream. Whether you’re creating engaging online courses for your existing audience or hoping to reach new people, you can create course content that’s so valuable, you can charge for it.
- To repackage and/or monetize content you’ve already produced. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to create an online course by dusting off older content you’ve created in the past. Chances are, people will be willing to pay a premium for online access.
What isn’t so obvious when thinking about developing online courses today are a few additional, awesome benefits:
- To meet and bring fascinating people together in a community mastering something interesting. In a course community, your members can learn from each other in a community that essentially runs itself. (Talk about a win/win).
- To generate more energy, joy, creativity, and passionate interactions in your own life and on your own entrepreneurial journey. Launching any kind of online business can be a grind, but when you create awesome online courses surrounded by a thriving community, something magical happens: Your members quickly build meaningful relationships and quickly get closer to achieving their goals.
Now that you understand why you would build an online course, let’s touch on how to create your own online course.
How do I create an online course?
To create online training courses, it’s actually not so much about what you’re teaching. It’s about what your students or participants are learning when they join or purchase your online course.
While this may not feel like much of a difference—aren’t teaching and learning opposite sides of the same coin?—people don’t actually learn by just watching your beautifully produced videos or reading your articles or posts. That might be what you teach, but it’s not necessarily how someone learns.
The best way to create an online course is to create a journey for your course members to master something interesting, together. What does that mean? It means combining a concept with actions and results—think class topics or homework assignments—then, offering all of it in a community of fellow students or members.
To take this approach to creating engaging online courses, start with three things:
- A compelling topic.
- Your ideal member.
- Your story or the reason why you are the right person to create this online course.
When you bring these three pieces together, you’re not just paying attention to your course content. You’re also focusing on how you’re going to attract the right people and bring to life something that most online courses miss out on: a quality community component.
Below, we’ll talk more about these points, and go through how to create an online course step by step.
How to create an online course, step #1: Start with a compelling topic
Choosing a compelling topic is the first, essential step to creating engaging online courses. But figuring out what the heck you’re going to teach is often the first place creators like yourself get stuck, too.
If you have your topic picked out—perhaps because you already have a niche or an interest that people know you for—then you can jump straight to step #2, clearly defining what we call your “ideal member.”
If you’re looking to create an online learning course but you don’t yet have a topic, here are three not-so-obvious questions that can help you pick a compelling one:
If you look at your life experiences, how have they prepared you to help others going through a similar thing?
One of the very best ways to create an online course is to start with your own personal experience. You read us right: You don’t have to just build an online course around a business or entrepreneurial topic. People are experimenting with how to develop online courses for a full range of life topics, too.
To spark your own imagination, consider your circumstances, identity, cultural background, where you’ve been and why, what you’ve achieved and how, who and what you’ve taken a stand for, and who you’ve helped along the way. You might be surprised, but there’s always something in our personal backgrounds that we can share with others.
What’s an area you’re curious about or studying today?
When you shift your thinking about how to create a course from putting together something perfect in advance of offering it to others to a true journey to master something interesting together, you open up the possibility that your online course topic can be something that you’re also learning about right now.
That’s right. You don’t need to be an expert to create online learning courses.
There’s no reason you can’t be a guide, sharing your own learning in real-time as you go. This live coaching model is a powerful and effective method of online course content creation.
Picture an existing community you belong to. What’s the most important thing for you to practice to achieve results?
You don’t need to lead a community or group today to create an online course that’s valuable to people. You simply need to understand as a member, what you and your fellow course members are hoping to master together.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re one year into a new career in finance right out of college. Sure, there are plenty of people with more experience who could create an online training course around succeeding in a finance career. But nobody is as qualified as you are to guide the class behind you interviewing for finance positions in a live, just-been-through-it, peer-to-peer community-powered online course named “Nailing a career in finance right out of college.”
In fact, your recent experience is MORE valuable to those just about to go through the interview process. After all, you’ve just lived it.
When you take any of these three not-so-obvious approaches to finding your topic, you give yourself the best opportunity possible to get specific and be authentic. And the more specific and authentic your topic is, the easier it will be to check off the next two steps of creating awesome online courses.
How to create an online course, step #2: Find your ideal member
A topic for your online course is only as good as the people it attracts and serves well. The most valuable online courses are those that deliver results and transformation for their students. Think about results or transformation as taking someone from “point A” to “point B” in pursuit of a lifestyle shift, a career move, an interest, a passion, or a goal.
People are motivated by transformation and they are willing to pay for it when it comes in the form of an online course (delivered by the right instructor, as you’ll see in the next point). Therefore, it’s not just the topic or content of your online course that matters. It’s how that topic or content attracts the most motivated people to it.
Your ideal member is the person who most needs your online course topic taught by you. They are motivated by what the topic will help them achieve and the way that your story makes it feel accessible and doable for them to achieve it.
The more specific you are with defining your ideal member when you create an online training course, the better. Be clear about your ideal member’s demographics, cultural background, identity, circumstances, where they’ve been and why, what they want to achieve, and what’s gotten in their way.
We can’t stress this enough. Clarity around your ideal member will mean the difference between creating an engaging online course or one that never gets off the ground.
How to create an online course, step #3: Tell your story
By now, you have a compelling topic. You have a clear picture of your ideal member. The last piece of the puzzle around how to develop an online course is your story. In other words, it’s figuring out why you are the right instructor for this topic and ideal member.
We mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: You don’t need to be an expert to teach an online course. What we mean is that you don’t need to have a fancy degree, a huge following, or online accolades to be the right instructor or mentor for your topic.
You are an expert on your background and lived experiences, and, as such, you have the unique opportunity to not only see compelling topics that others may miss but to make results and transformation accessible to your ideal members.
It’s your journey that makes you the right instructor or mentor for this topic and your ideal member. You are showing people who join that it’s possible to achieve what they want.
That’s more powerful than any highly produced video or snazzy website. It’s the difference between creating an online course that thrives and grows and one that falls flat on its face.
What technology should I use to create online courses?
Now that you know how to create an online course step by step, let’s talk about the best online course creation software. The good news is that there are plenty of platforms to choose from. The bad news is, not many options will allow you to grow your business down the line. In other words, some platforms won’t allow you to start with an online course and branch out into paid memberships, virtual events, and so on.
There are plenty of online course platforms that are dedicated to just delivering online course content alone, from Teachable and Udemy to Kajabi and Thinkific.
They are each solid if you want to use separate software platforms (with separate fees, unfortunately) for your online courses, your course community, and how you sell and take payments for your online courses.
But when you choose these alternative course platforms, you’re ultimately selling yourself short. Why? Because each of those options either lacks a community component or offers one that is severely lacking.
That’s a huge missed opportunity: Establishing a community component alongside your online course gives your course members the opportunity to build relationships with each other, navigate challenges together, and get that much closer to your goals. And in the end, it spurs the growth of your business too, since your course graduates won’t be able to stop raving about their experience to everyone who will listen.
That’s where Mighty Networks comes in.
Mighty Networks is a unique platform that enables creators to bring their community, online courses, and membership subscriptions together in one place under their own brand instantly available everywhere—the web, iOS, and Android.
Let’s spell that out a bit more. When you use a Mighty Network to create an awesome online course, you can:
- Bring together your online courses, course community, and the technology for selling your online courses together in one place
- Offer your online courses and course community on both the web and native mobile apps, which means people are 65% more likely to engage with your online courses, complete your online courses, and buy more online courses from you
When evaluating your alternatives and choosing a software platform for your online courses, consider just how much more successful you can be when you bring your online courses, course community, and payments together in one place – ensuring your students grow quickly and you can charge more money for your online courses, generating more income as people get results from your online courses faster.
The best way to create an online course? A Mighty Network
From the outside, it may look like you need a ton of experience in building online courses to create an online course that works.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, all you need are these three simple things to create an online course: a compelling topic, a clear ideal member, and a story that makes people see how they can achieve results and transformation in their lives just like you’ve done in yours.
And we can’t wait to see what you create.
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