How to Organize Online Course Production

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In today’s LMScast Joshua Millage and Chris Badgett discuss Joshua’s new course development classes where he will teach you how to organize online course production using his simple framework to design and create your online course curriculum.

Joshua has created a series of 4 courses to help you organize your thinking and structure your course production by making an outline before you start building your courses. Most people don’t use them, but an outline is a powerful tool that will save you time, energy, and frustration going forward.

You can use a tool like WorkFlowy to help you create your outline, type it as a Word document, or write it out on paper. Whichever way you choose, just sit down and do it. An outline helps you collect, visualize, and organize all the parts of your project. Having a plan makes the process much simpler and keeps you moving forward without having to stop, rethink, and rework.

Think about what your prospective students need more than what you want to teach. Go through your curriculum step by step for course creation, research, lesson building, and content, then group those steps into sections. Build your outline in multiple passes as your mind works in a compartmentalized manner, so each time you review the outline in progress your mind will refine it in more detail.

It’s important to maintain high energy as that will show in the final product. Working from an outline lets you conserve energy by breaking up tasks into defined workable steps. If you tap yourself out trying to do an entire course in one marathon run you’ll end up with a weak presentation. Online courses offer you a unique opportunity to present at your best in every lesson. Capitalize on that, because your energy directly affects your students’ engagement and interest, and that determines course retention and completion rates.

Working from a structured outline makes the development process easier for you and everyone else involved in your course production. This involves batching and coordinating text, graphics, and audio/video production. Having an organized agenda and clear concept for the creative people working for you makes their job easier, and your courses will be much more polished.

There are so many elements to building an online course, from determining the curriculum to creating content, setting up the LMS, and publishing and marketing, that outlining it all just makes sense. Check out Joshua’s framework on how to organize online course production by texting the word “production” to 33444. You can also try a demo of LifterLMS and see how it can make your great courses even better.

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And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

Episode Transcript

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage. I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett, and today we are talking about how to organize online course production. A little backstory here. In September, there were basically 20 straight days where I just buckled down and created 4 courses end-to-end pretty much, and we are going to be launching those courses next year, and you’ll have to wait a little bit to figure out more about that whole project. But I learned a lot about how to organize your thoughts and really create curriculum in a organized fashion. I’ve created a framework on how to do that, and you can actually get that framework just by texting the word “production” to 33444, and we’ll send you a link to that post I put together on the course production framework.

We’re just going to give you the quick hits in this episode, and I think the first one for me is the power of an outline. I use outlines extensively for all sorts of our business. I use a tool called WorkFlowy, and it allows me to kind of break things down. It’s just a hierarchical tool but I think that whatever you’re doing when it comes to course building, you need to start with an outline and bulk the outline out, put a lot of effort into it. I think a lot of people breeze over the outline phase, but you’re really creating the skeleton for the muscles and the meat to kind of go onto, and so it’s really important. Chris, I know that you like outlines too and building them out. I’ve seen them in Asana and that sort of thing. What’s your thoughts on outlining? Is there any tips that you can give?

Christopher: Yeah, I would say there’s two approaches just like with LifterLMS, with our course builder, you can actually build out the whole outline on one screen of a course before you do anything. It’s a way of getting organized. There’s another learning style where you just like to dive right in and just get started. What I’ve seen is people who dive right in and just get started and don’t take a step back to look at the outline can tend to veer off course or lose momentum so that outline stage is just super important, whether it’s on a whiteboard application like WorkFlowy or a simple word document or whatever, it’s just really key.
Also, just when you make your outline, think more about what your people or what your student needs to learn than what you want to teach. At the beginning and the end of the outline, they’re starting somewhere and they’re ending with some kind of result. Then you just got to fill in one step at a time, divide some of those steps into like sections or groups if you will, if it makes sense. If you don’t need sections that’s fine but … There’s kind of like the three layer, there’s the core sections and the lessons, outlines are perfect for that.
Joshua: I think the other thing too, you’re creating a map in a way. You want to plot the journey in that outline and I think that that to me is … I kind of do, and I go into this into the post but I go through the outline phasing in different passes so there’s like one pass where it’s just very structural. The other path is an objective. The other path is bulking out, just tacit knowledge, the knowledge I have in my brain. Another pass is the research pass … I layer it on where I think everyone tries to go into the outline phase just getting it done in one shot but you can’t because your mind works in compartmentalized ways so if you focus on going through the outline with one mindset, boom, you get it done. Then you go through another mindset, boom, you added more to it.
This is really important because when you get in front of a camera like I did and you shoot all this stuff you really need to have it as a quick hit reference tool to bring back the research that’s in your brain and usually once sentence doesn’t do that. You need the one sentence and the points or whatever, however you teach, but you need to have it kind of all encompassing. I think it’s really important to go through in multiple layers and multiple passes.
The next thing I talk about is really diving into the … We’ve talked about archetypes and that’s also in the outlining phase but I’m not going to go into that in this episode but it’s understanding your own energy. I don’t want to get too woo woo here but I do think it’s important because I grew up as a son of two teachers, I saw what would happen if my dad and my mom taught 8 hours a day. I remember in school when I was in a 4 hour class how the energy of the class felt because of the teacher’s energy. In an online classroom we have the opportunity to teach in our best energy window and so I think when it comes to organization, even if it costs a little bit more money because you have to book multiple half days, figure out what you can do. What I mean by this is if I were to record for a full day, what I record at the end of the day is going to be sub-par compared to what I record in the first three hours and that’s for me personally, I have about a three hour window. Any more than that is no good. It’s probably okay but I’m really critical and hard on myself, I’m kind of a perfectionist but I really need to not push that window because the education suffers, the course suffers, when I do that.
Christopher: Absolutely.
Joshua: Letting my ego take control and what I need to do is structure it so I’m really working at my highest energy level, when do I project the best, all of that is so much more important when you’re doing digital content. It’s true of writing, it’s true of audio recording, it’s true to video recording, it doesn’t really matter the medium but they will all be effected by your energy levels. You don’t have to rush things. If you’re very proactive and you can go into the future and say I’m going to record in two months, you can schedule yourself to have 4 days of 3 hour video shoots or whatever. Again, you have to apply this to your own situation but don’t go, “Well, I’m going to book a day and I’m going to get 4 courses done in a day.” Not going to work and you’re courses aren’t going to be … You’ll have maybe a portion of one course that’s good but the other courses aren’t.
Christopher: I think that energy component is just so important, like if you look at the course marketplace, like Udemy, that has a lot of courses, some of the most popular courses when you click on the intro video or one of the free lessons, you get a sense for the person who’s teaching and you’re not just buying the what, the course, or the why, you’re also buying the person. If you’re just there, just monotone on autopilot, it’s not very compelling.
Joshua: Right.
Christopher: When you do that outlining work you’re freeing up so much energy to not think as much while you’re teaching so that you can really have a presence on stage. I think it’s such a great point. People, they don’t necessarily buy what you do, they buy who you are. Of course they’re buying for how you’re going to help them, but they do care, even if it’s at a subconscious level, of how you present your energy.
Joshua: Well, it’s easier on you, as the teacher, when you break things up that way. We also here, “No one finishes my course.” There’s things you can do to make that completion … Using technology you can increase completion. Part of it though is the fact that instructor recorded it one day and the videos at the end of the day just suck so the students drop off simply because the instructor’s energy isn’t there, the clarity isn’t there, the focus isn’t there. It’s no wonder. It’s not the student’s fault, it’s the instructors fault because they wanted to cram. I think it’s really interesting and I always called my dad out on this in school. He’d always say, “My students are always cramming. Cram, cram, cram, cram, cram,” but then I was like, “You do the same thing.” Now over the course of 30 years he got really natural and didn’t have to do that but I thought it was really, really fascinating so that’s the other thing.
The other thing is preparing your production crew. Making sure you have your outline and everything organized, all content organized, before you get into that production phase. You really got to split it. The course creation, outline and research, lesson building and producing the visuals, the graphics, it’s two different mindsets. If you try to blend it you’re going to fail. The biggest reason for poor course quality is someone succumbing to the resistance in their mind that they know everything, which is actually … I think it’s dealing with fear because they don’t want to prepare so they don’t prepare and they get in front of the camera, they try and wing it and everything falls apart. It falls apart because one, they don’t have everything internalized well but their production crew doesn’t have anything internalized because you’re winging it. It’s really important if you can provide an outline to your production crew to help them because they’re going to take their own creativity into it if you have a good crew. They’re going to think about shots, they’re going to think about sound quality, lighting, you’re painting a picture for them. If you charge them up too, like, “Hey! This is what we’re doing. This is what we’re teaching. This is the outcome!” They’re going to get fired up.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s an artist who doesn’t think education’s a good idea. Most of the people you work with in the video world are artists in their own right, video is a way of them teaching something too. They get it, they’ll partner with you in that process but you need to prepare your team. There’s also post-production. Post-production is kind of tying it all together and the way that I like to teach personally is I like to intermix high quality video production with screen casts and like talk over power-points. The reason is that it changes the delivery. People are used to seeing my face, then they’re used to seeing maybe a diagram and then I’ll actually with main points and I learned this from the internet marketing world, is I’ll actually have words that I read. It’s a visual reinforcement of what I’m saying.
From a course production standpoint, I break out, again, it goes back to the outline, to doing all the passes, but then I say, “These are going to be live video,” and I’ll say, “LV.” I’ll put them in brackets next to all the points that I’m doing live video. Then I’ll go through with diagrams, “D”, brackets D for all that, boom, boom, boom. Then I do “SV”, screen video, for all the screen videos and then “SSV”, spoken screen video. SSV is like when you do the, “Here’s my first point,” and it says that on the screen. I break all that up and then I can actually have batching sessions where I’m creating visuals with graphic designers, plugging that in, and then I’m doing screen cast text voice over and I batch that because you don’t want to switch back and forth. Eben Pagan says it really good in the Wake Up Productive, “You got to have these clean cuts. You got to have the focus on the screen cast video. You got to have the focus on the audio.” You have all these focus things, so that’s another thing, it comes back to having good organization and then when you get in the production mode you’re really batching those.
Those are the high level, the posts and the framework that I’ve written up. Again, you can check that out, just text us the word “production” to 33444 and you can get some more in-depth insights into how I in 20 days produced 4 courses, which is pretty … I didn’t think I could do it, personally. I will say there was some caffeine abuse involved but it was a very productive 20 days and I’m really proud of what I produced for our team and for the upcoming course clinic which you can find out very soon what I’m talking about.
Chris, do you have any final thoughts for everyone?
Christopher: I would just encourage people to do that outlining time upfront. It’s going to save you so much headache and efficiency cost down the road and also to just duck tail on one of your points, is that we have to wear many hats as online course creators, especially if we’re doing it all by ourselves. You have to think big picture, you got to think media types, you got to get into how you’re going to teach and start building the flesh around the bones of the outline and wearing different hats then you got to come back through as an editor, make sure there’s no spelling errors or anything. You got to get it all ready and then you got to record your videos, you got to edit your videos, now you got to set up your LMS, those are all very different hats so you just need to get very comfortable and I love your concept of clean cuts. “All right, today I’m teaching,” or, “Today I’m editing,” or, “Today I’m just publishing,” or, “Today I’m marketing.” When you go a good outline, just think about all those hats you got to wear and it all starts to come together in a cohesive plan and becomes a lot less overwhelming.
Joshua: Absolutely. Again, everyone, we’d love for you to check out our post and you can get a link to that by texting us the word “production” to 33444. Thank you so much for joining us today and we’ll see you next week.

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