3 steps to build a scalable online course – Passion.io, mobile-first online course platform
10 minute read
Written by Liam Donoghue, Marketing Executive
“You made how much!? $4000 in 30 days?”
Allie nodded “yup, I took my gymnastics coaching online”
Tired of training clients one on one, Allie Cooper joined millions of people around the world and created a scalable online course. She now reaches more clients with less effort, and can spend more time building her business.
Allie’s journey isn’t unique. More and more people are feeling the benefits of building their own online courses. Society is moving to a remote-first lifestyle. And it’s going to make this way earning a living even more popular in the coming years.
So, how do you get started?
Maybe you’re already a coach – helping people with guitar, art, or fitness, but you’re unsure how to take that knowledge online.
Or perhaps you haven’t coached anyone yet but strongly believe you have a talent to share with the world.
If this sounds like you then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll be diving into the nuts and bolts of online course creation. I’ll be sharing with you how to start an online course, my recommended online course creators, and what tools you need to get your online course up and running.
But before we go into all that…
What’s the deal with scale?
Scale. It’s a word that terrifies every startup, small business owner, and entrepreneur.
But you’re not scared of it because it’s bad. It makes you shudder because it’s so difficult to nail down.
When you do get it right, however, it can take your coaching program from $0 to $1 million in no time.
I mean, who doesn’t want to 10x their coaching offering, get 100 new clients at the click of a button, and build a scalable marketing funnel.
Chasing growth is like chasing a ghost (Whoa, a bit poetic there Liam).
And it can be easy to settle into a routine, become content with the clients you have, and forget that scale is something you need to care about.
But you need to watch it, because if you’re not growing your client base it’ll start shrinking before your very eyes.
Scale is the life-blood of any online course, finding new clients, reaching new audiences, and sharing your message. These are the things that should be at the top of your thoughts.
Online courses are the best way to grow your business. It’s not enough to want to share your lessons online, scale needs to be a key consideration if you want to make your course a success.
What platforms are the best to use? Which tools let you grow the quickest? We’ll go into that more in later parts of the article.
Why listen to us?
You might be thinking “What makes Passion.io an authority on this”?
Why should you listen to us?
Well, we’ve built a no-code, drag-and-drop app creation platform for coaches, teachers and knowledge entrepreneurs. We’re helping individuals, like you, scale their coaching businesses online with their own branded mobile app.
To put it simply, it’s what we do.
We’ve helped over 1000 people move their coaching online and there are no signs of us slowing down. Not only do we provide people with the tools they need to make an online coaching app, mindset training, and business coaching are included in our product.
We provide a full, 360, comprehensive package for those wanting to move their coaching online. That’s why we’re experts at it.
So, with all that out the way…
How to build an online course in 3 steps
They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that “those that can’t do teach”.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Teaching and coaching others is a viable and lucrative profession.
Not the mention the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get when you know you’ve helped someone master a new skill, overcome a difficult challenge, or improve their bank balance as well as your own.
For ‘bigger’ businesses an online course or coaching app can be a really powerful branding tool. It can act as a magnet to draw new customers to you products and let you develop relationships with new leads.
When it comes to the benefits of an online course, the sky’s the limit.
There are a hundred and one things you can do to get started building your online course and, if you’re not careful, overwhelm can get the better of you. Especially if this is the first course you’ve made.
Below, I’ve broken down the process into three phases. Tackle them in order and you’ll see your online course materializing before your very eyes.
1. The Planning phase – knowledge and audience
Think of this as the ‘pre-production’ phase of building your course. Before you start recording videos and writing lesson plans you need to decide what you’ll be teaching.
You also need to, and this is arguably the most important thing you’ll do, figure out whether there is a market for the course you want to produce. It’s no good spending ages making an amazing-looking online course, packed full of value, and delivered professionally — if nobody wants it.
Researching your potential audience at this phase will save you a lot of time and money further down the line.
So, first thing first.
Choose your course topic.
How you choose your topic will depend on what you want your course to do and whether you already have an established offline business generating you income.
If you’re a yoga instructor or art tutor teaching out of a rented studio it’s a bit of a no-brainer what your online course will be teaching, right!
Whereas larger businesses might want their online course to act as a branding tool or lead magnet. In which case they need to think about what type of content will present their business in a good light, and what will add massive value to your potential customers.
Third, if you don’t have a coaching business or brand, you’re starting from ground zero. So you need to look at what skills you possess, what excites you, and what subjects or skills you’re an authority on. From there you’ll see what you could teach others in an online course.
Whatever you choose to teach, make sure you are irrationally passionate about it. It’s no good just trying to cash in on the online course craze in the hopes of making a quick dollar (Or pound, euro, whatever currency applies to you).
You need to be an expert in the topic you’re teaching. If not, your lack of passion and drive will be evident in the content and your course won’t get far.
Get all your information in order
You’ve decided what you’re going to teach but now you need to ask yourself “How am I going to teach it?”.
This question sounds simple but the more you dig into it the more thoughts and questions it’ll provoke in you.
What is the best way to get all your knowledge into a course, where is the logical place to start? Is this a course for absolute beginners or advanced students?
Ask yourself these questions then think about where your student is mentally before starting this course. What information do they already possess, where are the gaps in their knowledge?
What were your biggest hurdles when learning this skill for the first time?
And remember, what’s easy for you now could be really difficult for your students. Always look at problems through their eyes and speak to them in a language they’ll understand. Drop the jargon and use lots of analogies and metaphors to break down difficult concepts.
Once you’ve thought about all of the above you can do 3 things instantly to start putting your information in order.
Decide where your student is at?
What skill level are they at before they start your course? This will help you begin to plan the start of your course, what information to include and how you’ll present your lessons (Do you go slow, use a lot of diagrams, establish specific acronyms, etc )
Where do you want your student to get to?
Deciding this gives your course an endpoint. It also lets you ask yourself ‘How long did it take me to get there?’. Defining an end goal for your course means you can plan out its length and modules. Remember what took you several years to master on your own will take someone a lot less time when you’re teaching them.
What were your biggest challenges?
During your learning journey, what did you really struggle with? Chances are, your students will find the same things difficult too. These are areas of your course where you should consider spending extra lessons, and time going over.
Mapping the start and end of your course gives you a rough framework you can use. Fill that in with the different learning modules you went through and make sure you spend extra time going over the difficult bits.
Identify your target audience
Now here comes the tough bit. It’s tough because you have to ask yourself “Do I believe anyone will purchase this course?”. Really really think about this question.
You can also do some customer research. If you already run an offline course see how many of your clients would like to sign up for the online version. Look at how many other courses are already out there that teach the same thing. If there are none, that’s bad. If there are millions. That’s bad too.
You want to create an online course that serves a specific niche of people. Find a combination of factors that only you can serve. For example:
- Pregnant women that want to learn self-defense.
- Blind people who want to learn how to paint.
- CEOs that want to learn to code.
By niching down and zoning in on a specific audience you can take all the market share and serve your clients really well.
2. The construction phase – platforms and videos
Once you’ve completed phase one it’s time to start building your online course. You know who your audience is and you know what you’re going to teach. Now it’s time to get in front of a camera and produce your lessons.
In the last phase, we mapped out a rough framework for your online course. The beginning, end, main modules, and any really difficult concepts or skills you’ll need to spend extra resources on.
Now it is time to flesh out that framework with individual lessons.
At Passion.io we’d advise that your lessons are no longer than 10 minutes and don’t cover more than 1 key topic. It’s far better to have a course full of smaller bite-sized lessons. Why?
Shorter lessons let you break down large subjects easily. You can explain in detail how something works and it won’t overwhelm your student. Also, people are more engaged by small lessons. No one wants to sit down to watch a 3-hour seminar but if you break that video up into 18 ten-minute lessons then your users can dive in and out easily.
This keeps them more engaged and makes your teaching more understandable.
So, take your whole course and draw it out like below. Have an introduction and end then add your learning modules and difficult concepts. From there go one step further and break down each module and concept into lessons. You now have a to-do list of lessons to record. Check the image below for a simplified example:
Chances are that your online course will be a lot bigger than the example shown above. You might even break your lessons down into smaller components to make them easier to understand.
Now that you have your lessons and content planned out it’s time to choose where you will host your course. There are a lot of different options out there. Who you choose gives you differing amounts of control over how you present and monetize your course. I’ve listed the most popular online course platforms below with their advantages and disadvantages:
Passion.io – Hey, it’s us. Passion.io is designed solely for online coaches, teachers, and knowledge entrepreneurs. Our drag-and-drop platform lets you upload lessons in minutes and puts your branding front and center for your students to see.
We believe the best way to coach clients is mobile-first. Everyone’s got a phone in their pockets and the best way to form good, lasting, learning habits is through regular engagement with your content.
A mobile phone lets you do this.
Youtube – If you’re not too fussed about monetizing your online course Youtube is a free place to host your videos. It’s playlists feature gives you a simple way to arrange your content and the Youtube brand is so recognizable it’s easy to send new students there.
Hosting on Youtube does mean monetizing your content is off the cards (Unless you’re hitting millions of views of course). Also, like Udemy, you don’t control the platform. So it’s Youtube branding front and center in the students’ eyes, not your own.
If you’re looking to build your brand with a mobile app, Youtube could be a poor choice.
Udemy – the grand-daddy of online course platforms. Everyone knows Udemy, it’s a marketplace for online courses where you can learn everything from cooking to coding. With such fierce competition on the platform, it’s very hard to turn a profit as a course creator unless you’re hitting 1000s of sales.
It has a pretty intuitive user interface but like Youtube, it’s the Udemy Branding front and center.
Creating the course content
That’s it. All the prep is done. The course is planned out. The lessons set. All you need to do now is get down to the nitty-gritty of recording it.
I say ‘nitty gritty’ but it’s really anything but that. Recording your lessons should be a fun and exhilarating experience. It might take a while to get into it, but once you’re in a flow nothing will slow you down.
You’ll improve as you go. You should be constantly reviewing and improving old lessons — re-recording parts when they become out-dated or you learn something new.
The subject you teach will determine the equipment and setup you’ll need to produce your course. A coder, for example, just needs a laptop with a webcam and Zoom to record their screen.
Whereas if you’re a fitness or art expert your setup might be more complex. We can’t cover every scenario in this article, so I’ll just highlight the main things you need to do.
Know your lesson. Confidence is vital to creating an engaging course. Don’t refer to notes or stumble over your words. You know what you’re teaching, so make sure that comes across in the video.
Slow down. Nerves and excitement can cause you to speak fast and rush your delivery. You may be energized and excited by what you’re teaching but don’t go so quickly that your students can’t understand you.
A measured, friendly, and excited tone with a smooth delivery is the best way forward.
Be prepared. Having the right equipment on hand will improve the quality of your lesson tenfold. Don’t be scrambling around for paintbrushes or exercise mats in the middle of filming.
Yes. You can edit that faff time out but it’ll break up your flow and produce a poorer quality lesson.
Even if you’ve got no physical equipment it’s good to be prepared. If you’re teaching programming it helps to have all the relevant resources open on your desktop before starting for easy navigation and flow.
If you’re recording your first course you can do lots with a simple camera phone and a tripod. But as you get more adept at course creation, consider investing in a mic, lights, and camera to supercharge your production and lessons.
3. The review phase – rinse repeat improve
That’s it. Course recorded, uploaded, done.
Time to sit back and watch the money roll in right?
Well, not quite.
Your course might be getting a lot of downloads and purchases but there may be parts in it that need improving.
Now, if you were coaching someone in person you could adapt your teaching based on their needs. With an online course, it’s a bit trickier to do this. The very nature of an online course means it can’t be tailored for individuals.
But, by getting regular feedback from a variety of clients and users, you can tweak and edit your course so it appeals to the maximum number of people.
Just recording your course and leaving it is the best way for it to go out of fashion, fast.
Add a survey to the end of the course or partway through. Ask for feedback and reviews. Not only will these help you market your course to new people in the future but they’ll let you make the best version of your online course possible.
Make a point to review your course once every 6 months. Add new lessons, remove old ones and keep your community of users engaged.
Remote working is set to become the norm in the future. As the world adapts so do we. By creating an online course you provide yourself with an additional revenue stream and another way to engage your community of clients.
If you’re an individual just getting started in the coaching space there has been no better time to dive in and start earning a living teaching what you love.