Episode 123

How to Think Outside the Blueprint and Build a Work of Art Great eCourse Adventure Style

Welcome to this week’s LMScast! This week we discuss how to think outside the blueprint and build a work of art Great eCourse Adventure style. Brad and Andy from The Great eCourse Adventure share their journey out of ‘the blueprint’ and into the realm of passion and innovation. This episode is full of tips and tricks about developing your own uniqueness and independence in the online course industry.

Brad and Andy talk about the current online education industry and outline their unique approach. They have a creative brand and style that they developed form their own interests. Brad and Andy focus on putting themselves in their students’ mindset and asking what kind of course they would want to buy.

Many online courses have a major flaw, and that is they are boring. Most online courses are 100% filled with information. While that can seem beneficial on the surface, it ends up giving the student information overload, which causes them to tune out of what is being said. Brad and Andy believe that a course needs to provide interesting experiences to students so the material will be more memorable. Brad talks about creating an experience that people actually want to show up to and creating user excitement. Their course style utilizes an entertaining storyline and a journey on an adventure through the course.

Their quest has been to create engaging content that goes outside the traditional course blueprint. They are working to develop a culture and community that love to do this type of course building work. Part of developing a community is providing experiences and emotion, and that is something The Great eCourse Adventure has done in a creative way. They also talk about bringing online courses to life with themes.

Andy believes that people should looking at course development as an art form or craft instead of as a get rich quick scheme. They talk about the importance of adding value to the industry as well as to people’s lives. Chris mentions that making money is a byproduct of creating value. One of the ways Brad and Andy add value to their business is by thinking of their students’ interests rather than thinking of them simply as customers.

Brad and Andy noticed that a lot of people in the online course business today are not using a creative approach to teaching. This is because they are focused on linear tactics, or getting the customer from Point A to Point B. Brad and Andy found that using their personalities in the course would make it a better experience for them, as well as for their students.

They talk about their journey from owning a course company that was ‘within the blueprint’ to turning it into the unique adventure it is today. When you live the lifestyle you love, you never need to take a vacation, because you love what you do.

Experience their teaching methods firsthand at their interactive CoursesWorthSharing.com website. To find out more about how to think outside the blueprint and build a work of art Great eCourse Adventure style, visit TheGreateCourseAdventure.com.

Thank you for joining us on this week’s LMScast! You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today I’ve got two very special guests. We’ve got Brad and Andy from The Great eCourse Adventure. We’re going to be getting into some more unconventional or just different ways of looking at things when it comes to online education and crafting digital experiences and transformation online, and we’re going to kind of critique what’s going on out there in our industry, and really push into some interesting ways in which these two guys and their company and their community are transforming the way things are done, and just taking a different approach. I think you’re going to get a lot out of this episode, but first, Brad, Andy, thanks for coming on the show.

Brad: It’s awesome to be here. Thanks for having us, Chris. Thanks for everybody who’s listening.

Andy: Yeah, thank you.

Brad: Absolutely, and just so everybody knows, to get it right, this is Brad’s voice speaking here.

Andy: And this is Andy.

Chris Badgett: If you want to see these two lovely gentlemen, LMScast is also on YouTube, if you happen to be listening on the podcast. These guys have a beautiful website. It’s called The Great eCourse Adventure, which is at TheGreateCourseAdventure.com. Is that right?

Brad: That’s correct. Yeah.

Chris Badgett: You’ll see right away when you go to that website that these guys have a really unique brand and style, and really it’s a work of art. That’s something we’re going to get into today. First, let’s kind of get oriented and look at kind of what’s going on in our industry, and maybe critique it a little bit and have a conversation around just some trends that are going on that you guys are taking a different approach against. What’s going on out there in how you see our industry these days?
Brad: That’s a great question. It’s one of the questions we talk about a lot. I’ll throw one down, Andy, and then maybe you can offer another, because I know there’s definitely multiple.
One of the things that we see a lot of, and it’s just one of those things that we’ve all been taught over the years. It’s become the status quo for the industry, is that all courses are basically alike. You have a free offering. You have a course. It’s a PowerPoint presentation or talking head video, and you get a PDF. That’s about all there really is to it. We live in an age of distractions and entertainment, and people love to get high on quick digital fixes, and a lot of teachers out there building e-courses are still creating these 45 minute long PowerPoint presentations that kind of pack a ton of information and give a whole bunch of to-dos, but don’t actually give people an experience that helps them to take in the lesson, digest it, and then integrate it into their business immediately.
What happens is people go into information overload. They get overwhelmed by these long PowerPoint presentations, or they get radically bored. The thing with being online rather than in a classroom, the classroom you’re kind of forced to pay attention to what the teacher is saying, whereas online you can easily go over to Facebook and start scrolling the wall. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s people right now who are listening to the podcast that are distracted by something at the moment. It’s just kind of the way of the world.
The question we started asking ourselves is, “How do we create an experience that people actually want to show up to? They’re excited to do the next lesson?” We’re giving them the information or the process in a way that’s exciting for them, that’s engaging, because the dropout rate is pretty insane for the industry. 70% to 97% depending on which expert you ask. Regardless, it’s a big fail. That’s been our quest, and our question that we’ve been asking is, “How do we create highly engaging and different kinds of courses that go outside of that traditional blueprint?”
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. What about you, Andy? How do you see the landscape these days?
Andy: I mean, there’s so many different things, but like one thing that I’ve sort of been getting to a point of, every time I hear this I just roll my eyes is … And we all know this as the whole, like, “six figures in six days.” You know, “Take our course. You’ll be making six figures in six days, like, no questions asked. Money back double guarantee.” Yada yada yada. Every time I hear something like that, it just … I think there’s a few things wrong with that. I mean, first of all, that’s just absolutely unrealistic, period. I think it’s a great sales technique to use to kind of hook people in, but I think that it also, you know, the reality is that creating an online course and creating a sustainable business utilizing online education, it takes time, just like building anything else does. I think if there’s unrealistic expectations going into it as a course creator, that it’s going to be easy to get sort of disenchanted or maybe even just kind of stop believing in the vision as, “Oh, this was only supposed to take … I’m supposed to have $100,000 by two weeks in.”
Chris Badgett: By Tuesday.
Andy: By Tuesday. It can be easy, when you have that perspective or that expectation, then the idea of it maybe taking two years to get to a point where things are sustainable just doesn’t compute. I think people just give up very, very quickly. We’ve learned that there’s no shortcuts. Sometimes there are cases where somebody comes up with an idea and it’s just an immediate success since they’re just out the gate, and that’s usually the stories that we hear, but you know, the slow route is the best route. One thing you kind of touched on earlier was just talking about how you feel like what we’ve done is a work of art, and we feel like that there’s a certain point where, like, you get into your craft, if you’re a course creator. That’s kind of what we’ve identified ourselves as. We’re course creators, and that’s just, like, what we do. That’s our craft.
It’s not a matter of doing something very, very quickly to get to a result. It’s like, we’re just in it, and we’re just crafting the best stuff that we can craft, and it’s just like any sort of skilled craftsperson in any trade. You can make a sustainable business doing that if you’re good at what you do and you just put the time and energy into it. We’re really working to cultivate a culture and a community of people that are just, they have a calling to do this type of work. Maybe they’ve been teachers, and they want to get their work online. It’s not just another “get rich quick” scheme to these people, right? And that’s not what it is for us, either.
I think that that’s one thing that, you know, a lot of people get into it just as another quick way to make cash, and that’s great, but it’s just unrealistic. I think that when more people get into it just for the sake of, you know, that’s what they feel called to do and they really want to sort of dive into it and look at it as more of a craft or an art form, that’s when we’re going to start to see some really incredible stuff spread out of the woodwork. Yeah, and that’s where the opportunity lies, in my opinion.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Just to kind of piggyback on what you’re saying, the “six figures in six days” type of copywriting. I see a lot of people who come through, like, kind of the internet marketing or “make money online” scene a little bit, and then they … There’s this tendency, and sometimes I see this as just an evolution into just getting deeper where you end up more as an artist than just trying to scratch and find some cash on the internet. You know, people, like for example, I think a lot of this started or has some roots in certain key teachings out there from the marketing community. For example, Robert Cialdini has a book called Influence, and there’s like five ways you can influence people. For example, with something called “social proof,” which means, “Okay, I’m going to put a bunch of testimonials on my course page, and because other people see these other people have all this success, that’s going to increase my conversions and allow me to sell more product so I can make money online.”
A lot of this kind of sales training actually I think has a lot of roots in a guy named Dan Kennedy who put together a lot of …
Andy: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: … sales training. None of that stuff, Dan Kennedy or Robert Cialdini, they’re not bad people. They’re not evil people. They’re really talking about just marketing and sales, and you know, you can influence people. That’s what they find, like, in this direct response marketing community. It’s cool to know that stuff, but it’s kind of like Spiderman. With great power comes great responsibility. Like you said, it’s not about making six figures in six days, because in my opinion the money is just byproduct of creating value. Where does the value come from? Art. What is the best art? It’s priceless. You can’t even put a value on it, so there’s no limit.
I think it’s only natural, and sometimes maybe you really do need to make money or you need to leave your job, or you’re trying to find a different way of living, or being in a world where the economy’s changing, that it’s okay to, like, want to make money online and try to do that, and you do need to figure out copywriting and how to, like, write. At the same time, I encourage people to always, like, ultimately also cultivate that artistic side. You guys have done so much work in all this. If we’re looking at this as kind of like the baseline, you guys are kind of having a higher conversation over here, and taking a different route. What do you mean by “thinking outside of the blueprint”? What does that look like?
Brad: Yeah, I love that question. Before we did The Great eCourse Adventure- this is the example- we had an online course on building online courses called The eCourse Creation Blueprint. It was everything we just talked about. It was very blueprint. There was nine modules. Each module was a PowerPoint presentation that was 45 to 60 minutes long with a whole bunch of to-dos, and the success rate wasn’t profoundly awesome, but we were making money. We saw a path that we could make a lot of money.
Andy came here and we were going to … He lives in Hawaii, I live in Canada, and we were going to rerecord. We were going to spend a couple of weeks rerecording the whole product and making it better. Our big idea is instead of doing PowerPoint, we do it on a whiteboard. It was a big idea. That was like the breakthrough. Right before we go into filming, we’re standing on a mountain above my house, and I looked at Andy, and I’m just like, “Would you purchase our course if you found it a few years ago when you were looking for this type of info?” He was like, “No.” I was like, “No.” I’m like, “That’s a really big problem.”
We started asking ourselves, we had … Like, literally we were up until five in the morning that night brainstorming, like, “What would we want to purchase?” That was when the slip of the tongue happened, and we’re like, “Well, it would need to be an adventure. It would have to be fun. Like, people should get an adventure map when they sign up.” I’ve always enjoyed Saturday Night Live, and I was like, “Well what if instead of just a regular talking head video, that we did an entertaining storyline that is a journey of all of our participants going up a mountain? They start a base camp and they end at launch summit where they launch their course. Along the way, they meet interesting characters, and they have experiences that you have on an adventure. There’s mystery. There’s unknown. There’s comedy, and all of this stuff.”
We’re like, “Well, what if we gamified it, and our badges were actually backpack supplies, and we created our own mountain currency that people who are rewarded for participating, they can spend that on products in our shop?” It just kept snowballing. It suddenly went from this dry, boring blueprint that was just like all of the others, and the only thing that separated us from all of the other teachers teaching e-course creation was that our personalities, like who we actually are. The way it was designed, the look of the website, it looked like any of the top five other people out there that are teaching this stuff. That was one of the questions we often got on webinars. Like, “What separates you from David Simon Garland or any of those other guys?” We’re like, “Well, this, that, and the other thing,” but it wasn’t like awesome answers. Now it’s like, “You go to our webpage …”
Andy: We don’t get that question anymore.
Brad: Never. Never. I was listening to a podcast with Rick Rubin, and he was saying that you either have to give people a “fuck yes” or a “fuck no.” I hope I can say the F-bomb on your show.
Chris Badgett: That’s all good. All good.
Brad: What we were doing before is, it was just kind of like … There wasn’t that type of response, whereas with our webinars we do now with our Great eCourse Adventure, people are like, “Fuck yes. This is the coolest thing ever. Like, where has this been all my life?” Or, like, “You guys are lame asses and I’m gonna go to the blueprint over here, because that’s what I want.” I think, like, the thinking outside the blueprint thing, the benefit was, is, we had already created our blueprint. We knew our content. We knew our process. What we did is we took that skeleton, all those lessons, and we asked ourselves, “How could we give this creative flair? How can we bring this to life by adding personality?”
The way that we add personality is by giving a course a theme. That’s one of the main things we teach our students, is you give your course a theme, you bring it to life. Our theme for The Great eCourse Adventure is going up a mountain. We did a webinar recently where the theme was kind of a Star Wars outer space adventure. We’re traveling to the new world of online learning. This is something that our students are starting to catch on to and applying it to their creative process as well.
Andy: Yeah. The interesting turn of events … Well, I guess I’ll back up. I think this is a really important thing to realize, is, like, when we were doing the eCourse Creation Blueprint, it was purely a business thing. Like, everything about it was business. It wasn’t heart and joy. We fell in love with the process of creating it. There’s no denying that it was an enjoyable process. Creating that and promoting it, we felt good about it all, but when we realized … We were like, “You know what? We wouldn’t actually buy this if we’re honest with ourselves.” We were like, “Well, what would make this awesome?” As Brad said, we went through this whole process and then The Great eCourse Adventure theme sort of came in the picture, and what started happening, and this is the really important thing, is that all of a sudden we started seeing all these ways that we could take our other talents and passions and abilities that are seemingly completely unrelated to what this work is, and all of a sudden it like demanded that we infuse those talents and passions and things into this course.
All of a sudden, it went from like this thing that we were doing to make money, and you know, to be of service and whatever, blah blah blah, to this thing that’s like our dream project. Like, it ticks all the boxes of something we want to work on and offer the world. We originally thought, we were like, “Well, okay, cool. This is just going to be a fun way for other people to learn how to create a basic blueprint type e-course.” We weren’t going into it being like, “We’re going to teach other people how to do this.” It was just like a more fun way to do it the old way. The surprising thing that happened was that our first round of beta students were like, “Oh my god. This is amazing.” And all their courses were, like, mimicking what we were doing. They were, like, creating themes and like doing all this stuff, and we’re like, “Whoa.”
Brad: Going out and buying green screens, too
Andy: “This is what they want to do.” Yeah, everybody’s like going out and buying green screen kits, because yeah, the whole thing we filmed on green screen. Everybody’s wanting to do that. They were so inspired by it that they’re like, “This is what we want. This is how we want our courses to be.” The whole thing kind of started to get shaped into that direction and now that’s what we’re teaching, is not how to do it the old way. We’re teaching them how to do what we do now, which is really what we believe is, in our opinion, is the direction that we see online education going, or at least a direction that’s a very important direction.
We see this a lot, like, in traditional education. It’s kind of a big … I actually don’t know how big the movement is, but in the traditional classrooms, a lot of teachers are realizing that they’re having problems with kids staying engaged. One of the things that they’ve realized that helps really well is gamification. There’s actually a lot of applications out there that are these sort of like apps that help you gamify your in-person classroom. It’s like an RPG, kind of like fantasy kind of Warcraft type game. I think it’s called craft … Classcraft is actually this one specific one. They use it as a way to gamify the classroom time, and get the kids enrolled in this fantasy experience that is just another layer that exists on top of the basic educational information, or whatever it is that they need to learn.
It’s working wonders. Like the teachers that adopt this approach, they’re seeing insanely high increases in engagement, and just kids, especially kids that generally kind of zone out or whatever, they’re like, “Whoa.” Like, “I’m so into this. This is the coolest thing in the world.” You know? It’s like, the key thing is like it’s not replacing the core educational aspect of, “We need to learn what one plus one equals two.” These sort of dry things that we’re here to learn, but it’s all about adding another layer on top of that, and that’s kind of what we’ve done at The Great eCourse Adventure. It’s like almost more or less the same content that we used to have, but it’s just got this whole other layer, and layers and layers on top of it that makes it not feel like work or education, that you’re not like, you know, in this sort of … [barking] Excuse me, my puppy.
Chris Badgett: I have to ask you guys, where did that foresight or vision come from to even have the openness to ask yourself, “Would I buy my course two years ago?” And be honest with yourself? Where did that kind of vision and moment of, like, introspection come from? I mean, being on top of a mountain above your house I think definitely helps, but like why did you even go up the mountain?
Brad: That’s actually one of the ways we came up with The Great eCourse Adventure theme, is the majority of the time when Andy would fly up to Canada and we’d spend our couple week work stints together, is we’d spend most of the time outside. We’d be out golfing. We’d do these epic, day long hikes. We’d take the pack, and the dog, and our journals, and we would just talk about our business, and we would write out our lesson plans and ideas and all that sort of stuff. Adventure was a huge part of how we were building our business. I mean …
Chris Badgett: Just to make a observation, you also were getting offline. It’s not about being online all the time.
Brad: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Go ahead.
Brad: We tell our students that all the time. It’s like, “Don’t build your course sitting on your computer. Go out into the world with a journal and a book and experience life. Live your dream now.” Like, how can you live your dream now and create your course as a part of that experience? That’s what we were doing, and it was just kind of a … It was just a gut feeling that I had before asking the question, that we were standing there, and something didn’t feel fully alight. I couldn’t put my thumb on it, and I just … The question just sort of came out. I asked Andy, and then that, we realized it was a really big problem, because so many entrepreneurs do this. They create something to sell because they think it’s sellable, and they don’t actually believe in it with their whole heart and soul. We’ve put everything into The Great eCourse Adventure, and we believe in it with our heart and soul. We don’t have to sell it. The course sells itself to the people we made it for. I think that’s a big thing. Like if we’re doing the thing that we are most passionate about, that energy is in every single thing, every word of copy, every lesson that we have in it. It’s all just embedded in it.
I think that’s something people need to do, is have an honest reality check with themselves. It doesn’t mean you need to go out and redefine your whole business. You could do what we did. You could take the business you’ve already created and ask, “Well how can I infuse more of my passions and personality into what I’ve already created so that it’s more me?” When we do that, when we own who we are, or we own our unique creative outlook or point of view or whatever it is and we just allow that to express, the right people come. I mean, we have not had a single problem with our tribe who are going up the mountain with us, because these people are just so enamored by the experience we’ve created for them.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s a really interesting point that you made about people. Once you did this, people stopped asking you, like, “How are you different from X?” Instead of being incrementally different or slightly similar, it’s just like a whole other level of magnitude, and it sounds like bringing the art and the passion into it also just made motivation for you guys to keep going, and it became fun. That’s just like a totally different game. Instead of trying to make money online, you’re just doing your art. It creates transformation in other people’s lives, with the kind of people you want to work with, and then that’s where the value comes from, and that’s where the money comes from. It’s not about just making money online, right?
Brad: Exactly. Yeah. It’s such a big shift, and it feels great.
Andy: It’s a relief. It’s a relief. I remember when we came up with the idea for The Great eCourse Adventure, it was just like, “Ah, yes.”
Brad: It was so exciting.
Andy: Just quickly evolved into what it is, almost effortlessly. It was just like, once we found that magic ingredient or that magic set of ingredients, it just was like, baking the cake was just … It was a piece of cake.
Chris Badgett: What do you think is blocking people from getting there? I mean, you guys used to … You had to go through that personal inquiry before you opened the doors, but why is maybe perhaps the majority not doing that, in that space of education courses?
Andy: I think first of all is that people just haven’t thought about doing this type of thing. I think a lot of people, especially in the online marketing space, and just … We’re so techy and analytical that …
Brad: Tactics.
Andy: It’s very much about, like, linear tactics. Just getting from A to B. Like, “I don’t have time to mess around with like, you know, stories and narratives, and fiction doesn’t fit into this world.” Right? Here’s a great example. One of our students, she’s been with us since the beginning, so it’s been about a year since we did our first launch. She’s been with us, very very active, engaged, and hadn’t really created anything in this year’s worth of time, but very, very engaged. Like always posting in the forums, yada yada yada. We were kind of wondering like, “I wonder when she’s going to create something?” She finally, this last … It was like right around the Christmas break, she had this idea. We did an interview with this guy Tad Hargrave, and he mentioned this idea of this 10-10-100 rule, where the idea is create something, anything, in less than 10 days with less than 10 hours time and less than 100 bucks, and just see what happens with that. She’s like, “That feels awesome. That feels like a good motivator. I’m going to do something with that.”
She was kind of like, “All right. I’m gonna … What do I do? What do I do?” She was kind of coming up with different theme ideas, and she wanted to do kind of like an end of the year sort of process, where women would sort of reassess their goals and intentions and whatnot. I don’t want to get too far in the details, but the same person was definitely very resistant to this idea of themes and gamification and all these sort of things that really make The Great eCourse Adventure what it is, but through time she started kind of being like, “Okay, this makes sense. This makes sense.”
Anyways, she came up with this idea for this, like, her theme was this kind of retreat, log cabin theme, and she just did this simple Facebook group and created these basic images that sort of helped kind of create a sense of environment or place, and she sent out an email to her relatively small list and was like, “Hey, I’m going to do this thing. It’s free. If you want to participate, come do it.” She got a handful of people to participate, and she was amazed at A, how well received this theme idea was, and even these small gamification elements like puzzles and things like that. They all loved it, and her engagement was like, it was like over 90% or something like that. Through all of this, through this simple thing, she is like lit up. You can just tell that she is just, like, “I know exactly the direction that I’m going with this. It was all hazy and unclear, but now I know, and it’s good.” Now that she’s tasted what it’s like to be like, “Wow, I can be creative and this can be fun,” she is just like, she’s on a roll, and it’s so cool to see.
I think it’s just partially that people just haven’t thought about this possibility, and then when they do think about it or are presented with the opportunity, it’s kind of like, “Well, that doesn’t really make sense to my analytical, what? Left brain side of myself.”
Brad: Yeah. I think more play in the business world would be really good for everybody. We feel like if we want to make money, then we need to be buttoned up and serious and come across like we have our shit together, but let’s be honest. Nobody’s really got their shit together. Nobody really knows what’s going on here. If we could just all hang out the dirty laundry and get real with ourselves, I think the self-inquiry piece is so important for people, that if we all just took the time, even if it’s just spending two-three hours and asking ourselves some really honest questions about the direction we’re heading and the direction we want to go, and see if those two paths are aligned. Because whether they’re in alignment with what we really, really, truly want and who we truly want to be, or out of alignment, just being honest with ourselves we can figure that out and change course. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can all be integrated into what we’re already doing, where we’re going.
Andy: We’re really big proponents of this idea, like, and this is something that we do kind of guide our students to consider, is this idea of especially in the online marketing world, there’s this idea of passive income. I know even like Pat Flynn, the Smart Passive Income guy, he’s like … His tagline is like, you know, basically, “Work hard now so you don’t need to later,” or whatever. It’s this idea that we’re going to do something that’s annoying and we don’t really want to be doing it right now so that maybe later we don’t need to do anything, and then we can just kind of retire. I think that that whole idea … I mean, I like the idea of passive income, that’s great, but just the idea of doing something now that we don’t want to be doing so that we can maybe do something we want to do later, I feel like is ultimately … It just doesn’t resonate with me.
Our big question is like, “How do we do what we want to do now, and how do we make this whole business exactly what we want to be doing right now, so that we don’t need to be living a life that we need to take a vacation from?”
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. It’s almost like a shift in the collective consciousness from, let’s say, at least in the internet world, like the 4 Hour Work Week. You’ve got the palm trees, you’ve got the hammock. Person on a laptop, works four hours a week. That’s the passive income dream, but this is another evolution of that. Even the author of that movement and that book, Tim Ferris, he doesn’t work four hours a week. He spends tons of time doing all kinds of stuff that he loves to do, and yeah, he’s got passive income. That’s great, but work is good. The idea that you’re going to live on the beach for the rest of your life, unless you’re, like, you know, surfing or whatever, is like you’re … What gives you meaning in life, it’s not sustainable.
Andy: I live in Hawaii, and I don’t go to the beach that much. You know what I mean?
Brad: There you go.
Andy: Yeah, it’s true. It’s like, even Tim Ferris, great example. You know, he is completely absorbed and totally engaged with his work, and a lot of it doesn’t pay him directly, but it’s all one thing, you know what I mean? It’s all one thing, and that’s what he wants to do. If you didn’t pay him to do it, if he didn’t make money from it and he was all set, like, he’d still do it.
Brad: He’d still be doing experiments and …
Andy: Yeah. It’s like, if you got to that point of not needing to worry about money, well it’s not like you’re just going to lay around the whole time. You’re going to find something to do, right? You’re going to find a hobby. You’re going to get into some sort of art. You’re going to start crafting something. Otherwise you’d just get really bored really fast, so that’s kind of what our whole mission has been like. “Well, let’s just figure out how to … Like, whatever that future craft would be that I would retire into, let’s just do that now. Let’s get to it, and not waste time doing things I don’t want to be doing.”
Brad: It’s so fun. I mean, the amount of fun this last year has been since we came up with the idea has been insane. It’s been a lot of work. I mean, Andy came here four times in about a six month stretch where we’d do these three week work binges, where we would be working around the clock. We’d wake up, we’d go play sunrise golf, and then we would work until the wee hours of the morning. We’d get three hours sleep, we would have coffee, we would have drinks. We’d go for those epic hikes, and it was just, our whole journey was fueled by creativity.
The Great eCourse Adventure, I mean, we funded ourselves to build this through out beta presale. We had hardly created anything other than a trailer and a few of the videos to show what it was, and we did a landing page, and we had over $30,000 in presales come in. That funded us to start building it before our next launch, and that was like, we weren’t selling a product at that time. We were selling the vision of what we were there to create. Our list at that time was, like, 400 people. We didn’t have a big list. We just, people believed in this because everybody is so ready for, like, “What’s the next cool idea?” Everybody out there who is a teacher, who is building online courses or that’s getting in this, you have the opportunity in your industry to be the next cool thing. To come up with the next really cool idea that everybody turns their head. Right now, you could be scrolling the internet or your Facebook wall and most of what out there looks the same, sounds the same, and on 80% of it is the same. We need to stand out this day and age. Need to be something that is bold, daring, different, and wildly unique.
Andy: That’s a …
Brad: Go ahead.
Andy: I was going to say just kind of tagging onto that, one of our big paradigm shifts is going from this idea that we’re like, creators or transmitters of information, that the purpose of an online course is to basically just to relay info, right? If you take that approach, that’s what spawns so much sameness, in that it becomes a purely mechanical thing.
Chris Badgett: It used to be called information products.
Andy: Yeah. So the idea is like, “Well, that’s not really what’s going on.” Like with the information product, really what’s happening is somebody is paying to be transformed. They’re paying to become something they weren’t before, or learn a new skill that they didn’t have before. Really what you’re selling is transformational process, and transformation happens through experiences, right? So it’s like, we see ourselves as facilitators of transformational experiences. The key thing there is experience, so if we look at, “What is the experience that someone’s having when they are engaging with my thing?” Whether it’s my course, or my website, or this, or that. We’ve kind of come to a place where we’ve actually put the design of that experience at the forefront of everything. It’s less about utility and more about this … Because it’s hard to define, like, what experience is, and you can’t really tell what it’s going to be like to be somebody interacting with your thing.
We’ve found that by taking that into consideration in that creative process, that the experiences somebody has is going to be way more profound. That kind of got us out of our own way a bit. Because if you think about, like, if you just create this purely mechanical course that’s super boring and then you kind of look at it from like, “What is it going to be like to be somebody going through this?” You’re going to quickly realize that it’s pretty friggin’ boring.
Brad: Yeah. I mean you look at, most people what they’re doing is like, “Okay, somebody signed up for my course. I know I need to create a thank you video, so I created a thank you video.” Which is them standing in front of … “Well, hi. Thanks for signing up. Blah blah blah.” It’s like, “Okay, now I send lesson one. Here’s lesson one.” We need to get methodical and put ourselves in the students’ shoes. Rather than calling them customers, let’s call them students, because that’s what people are. They’re not a customer. They’re paying for a course with you, which makes them a student. We need to think about every single detail, like what do we want them to feel when they get on that welcome page? What is the emotion we want to invoke in them, and how can we do that?
I mean, we’ve thought about it from every detail, even our autoresponders that we have. Some of the autoresponders are hilarious. We’ve got one character in the adventure called Sherpa Steve, and he’s this grumpy bastard of a Sherpa, and so some of the emails that go out are from Sherpa Steve. And if somebody has been inactive for, say, three days, they haven’t come, then they’ll get a reminder from Sherpa Steve of, you know, “Get back on the trail or I will be standing here with your pack and I will surely die because there’s a pack of wolves surrounding me.” It makes people want to come back to the mountain, because they get that injection of dopamine. They’re like, “Oh yeah. This was fun. I want to go back.” You don’t have to have a Sherpa Steve in your course, but how can you make every single step … I mean, when you create every lesson, every lesson page, every autoresponder, ask yourself, “How can you make this an enjoyable experience for your student? What is going to make it enjoyable for them?”
The two things that we’ve found kind of ties that together and makes that answer really easy is one, having a theme, and two, knowing what your course’s personality is. Your course will have a personality. It will talk in a certain way. It will write in a certain way. The lessons come off with this certain vibe. The graphics and the colors, they all give off this energy. If you can be clear on what that personality is for your course … If your course was a person, how would you describe it? It’s a really great question to ask, because most of the courses that are out there have very little to no personality. If you’re learning from somebody who doesn’t have a personality, how much fun is that going to be? How engaged are you going to be? Chances are, you’re going to glaze over and you might retain 10%. What do we do to make it so that we retain 90%?
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If I was … Let’s just use an example. Let’s say I’m doing a kettle bells for beginner, like, training video. It’s like, if I’m honest with myself and I think about it, I’m like, “Yeah, I wouldn’t buy my course. It’s boring. I’m just in front of a … I’m in my yard, showing proper technique.” What if I wanted to invoke some, you know, crusty Russian kind of theme? How would I do that?
Brad: Let’s call the course “Kettle Bell Hell.” It goes from like, “How to Do Kettle Bells” to, like, “Kettle Bell Hell,” and maybe the lessons are infused with some rock music. You could be on a green screen.
Chris Badgett: Like some death metal.
Brad: Bring that fire to the practice, right? Then your emails wouldn’t be like, “Oh, gee, I sure hope you enjoyed your practice today.” It would be like, “Get your ass outdoors and get your kettle bells on!” That personality would come through.
Chris Badgett: Lots of black and red.
Andy: Exactly. It’s like, once you kind of understand or have a picture of what your theme is, and when the synergy is there and it works well, everything becomes like crystal clear in this very uncanny way. It’s like, once we said those words, “The Great eCourse Adventure,” I mean, just had that picture in our mind of like, “Oh, we’re not creating courses. We’re climbing a mountain.” You know what I mean? It was like, from that point, it was clear what needed to happen, in the moment we were dreaming up each component of it. In the same way that, like, with the Kettle Bell Hell thing, if that was the theme, and we really want to make it this kind of like, almost like over the top kind of comedy of ridiculousness but still serious, like, “No, this is serious boot camp.” If that was the theme, then it’s like, you can almost just see how that could evolve…
Chris Badgett: I see what you’re saying.
Andy: …and become a thing.
Chris Badgett: I see what you’re saying too, how the information is still kind of the same. I still have the same technique. It’s just a personality comes out.
Brad: Exactly, and obviously …
Andy: Because honestly like …
Brad: … the personality of your e-course, it’s going to be similar to your personality. For us, like The Great eCourse Adventure, we’re kind of goofballs. We love to have fun. We’re playful. We laugh a lot, and so that personality is really expressed through the course. Kettle Bell Hell, perhaps that will work for somebody. Perhaps it’s a different scene with a different personality, but that was just the first thing that popped into my mind.
Andy: Yeah. It does need to be in alignment with the truth of kind of who you are. When you get the right combination, it provides an unexpected channel of expression and creativity. That’s when the fun stuff happens, because then it’s like, “Oh, wow. There’s all these parts of myself that I would never have been able to insert into this project, but now it’s all there, and it’s demanding it of me.”
Brad: I just want to share another example from one of our students. She’s building a course that’s helping people to change careers. She’s got this really cool superhero theme, and she’s somebody who’s not … She doesn’t love being on the camera. She’s also a part of an improv group. She loves writing. She loves creating the lessons, and doing all the writing, and she’s bringing in friends from her improv group to play some of the characters in her superhero themed course. She’s writing all the scripts, infusing with the lessons, and then she’s bringing other people in to be in front of the camera more. She’s still getting on the camera and she plays herself in this adventure.
Andy: She’s actually great on the camera.
Brad: She’s amazing.
Andy: She just doesn’t enjoy it, so she’s like, “Well, I don’t need to be the one on the camera.” She’s just scripting everything out, and she’s just finding where she best fits and what she needs to outsource, essentially. Her course is brilliant. It’s called Career Avengers, so it’s like you have this sort of Marvel superhero theme, and it’s all about you, as a participant, you are becoming … You’re in superhero training to, like, basically learn how to change your career with the most ease, right? Because she’s like a career change coach. It’s brilliant. It’s almost like, the way she’s got it set up, it’s so fun that even if I wasn’t looking to change careers, I think I’d still want to go through her course just because it’s really well-made and well thought out, and just fun, you know?
Brad: Yeah.
Andy: That’s one of the things, too, that we made it … We were like, “Wow, you know, this should be so enjoyable that even if somebody doesn’t want to create an online course, they should still have fun watching these videos and going through this course, just for the sake of going through it.”
Brad: Yeah. I mean, another thing is so many courses out there end up not being financially successful or sustainable businesses. That sucks when you create something that you hated the process of creating and it doesn’t make you a whole bunch of money like you originally intended, so why not create something that’s awesome, have a blast doing it, put it out to the world. If it doesn’t succeed, then go create your next thing. It took me … I’ve been building courses since 2011. I actually was building meditation courses. That was how I got into e-learning. Those courses, they took several years to get to the point. Now they’ve circulated all over the world and that’s how I bridged into teaching people to build courses.
It takes a lot of work. I mean, I made the commitment. I went from teaching 200, 250 meditation workshops a year to telling myself, like, “I’m done. I’m not going to teach meditation workshops anymore. I’m putting all my energy into online.” That was my commitment at the end of 2011. I gave myself five years. Now I’m like, just past the five year point, and I’m like, “Holy cow. I never would have saw myself doing what I’m doing now when I made that commitment.”
We kind of have to obsess about this stuff. We’ve got to really love e-learning. We’ve got to fall in love with the tech learning curve as well. Fortunately for us, there’s amazing tech out there, like what you guys are doing at LifterLMS. You make it easy for non-techies like myself.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I appreciate that, and it’s a journey. It’s not a destination, and it’s not six figures in six days. You might as well enjoy the process. Success isn’t guaranteed. You might as well have fun doing it. That’s all really good stuff. I think to kind of close it out for you, the listener out there, let’s just take a trip back up on that mountain, and let’s say somebody is … You out there listening to us right now, you ask yourself, “Would you take your course?” You’re brutally honest with yourself, and you say, “No.” What are the next questions that you should start kind of potentially reflecting on to help step into that power, to step into that art form? What should someone, if they realize the answer is “no,” what are the next questions? Is it like, “What do I actually have fun doing?” What would you guys say? What would you guide the listener to ask themselves?
Brad: I remember a few of the first ones we asked. It was really simple. The first one we asked, “Well, what would we want to purchase?” What would take us from a “no” to a “Yes, I would pull out my wallet and pay $500 or $1,000 for this course”? What would convert us? That was when The Great eCourse Adventure idea came out. We started describing the type of experience that would inspire us to pull out the wallets, and that was one we were like, it had to be adventurous, had to be fun. I think that’s the best question to start with is, “What would inspire you to purchase?”
Then it’s like, “What do you need to change about what you’ve already created to turn you into a yes? Can you take what you’ve already done, or do you have to take all of the wisdom and experience you’ve gained up to here and give yourself a blank canvas?” We just added this new flair on top of our old blueprint, and that was all that was really needed.
Andy: Yeah. For us, it was a very … It was quite simple, because once we asked ourselves, “What would we want to buy?” Like, “What would make us go from a no to a yes?” One of the first things that came up was like, “Well, we need to feel adventurous. It would need to feel like a grand adventure of some sort.” There was a few other words. It was maybe a matter of a couple minutes, in all honesty, and then I was like, “It would need to be like a Great eCourse Adventure.” Then we were like, “Oh, there it is.”
Brad: I wrote them down. I wrote, “The Great eCourse Adventure” on a piece of paper, and “The eCourse Creation Blueprint.” I’m like, “Which one would you buy?” We’re both like, “That’s it.” We literally killed The eCourse Creation Blueprint right then and there, even though we had a launch coming up in less than a month. We were going to do another launch, and our income was dependent on that launch, but we’re like, “Screw it. We can’t go forward with this anymore. We have to go into this.”
Andy: I would say, too, just for somebody like, if somebody is realizing, “Wow, okay. I really don’t want to continue down that path I’ve been on. I want to freshen things up and make it more exciting for me and my students,” the first thing is really to take an inventory of what excites you. What are you passionate about? What are you a total nerd about that is seemingly unrelated to your course? In our case, going on adventures and big hikes was like, that was the thing that we were doing when we were not working on the course. That was the natural, like, “Well that’s okay. It needs to feel like an adventure,” because that’s in alignment with what we were really immersing ourselves in.
From that point forward, more of the details kind of came into view of, like Brad said, he loves skit comedy. Then we were like, “Well, we could kind of make the lessons feel kind of more skittish, and have characters and stupid jokes and things like that.”
Brad: There’s about 90 videos in The Great eCourse Adventure. Like, 90 video lessons, and every single one is on a different background. There’s 14 checkpoints. Each of the 14 checkpoints is a different landscape that we go through on the journey up the mountain. All the backgrounds kind of look similar, feel similar. Each checkpoint has at least one new character that comes into the story that helps to teach the next lesson in building your courses. There’s all this mystery that keeps you like, “I can’t wait to finish the work I have in front of me here so I can go see who we meet next, and where are we going after this?”
Andy: I just want to point out too that it’s important, like, to realize that your theme, when you introduce a theme into your course, it changes the dynamic in many ways. Specifically around, it creates more of a niche product, right? That’s something that’s very important. Especially with how things are in the industry today, like, getting more niche is actually the way to go. You’re more clear about who you’re serving, and it’s easier for those people to find you.
For us, we are attracting more of the people that are in resonance with this idea of going on an adventure. If somebody has no … They don’t want to go camping, they don’t want to go to adventures, like, that’s just not their thing. They’re not into, maybe, humor, they’re not our people, even though they might have bought our other course. That’s an interesting thing to realize, and also, like, you wouldn’t want to pick a theme that you’re not really super stoked about.
Brad: Just one more exercise, that once people get into this question asking thing. There’s a game that I like playing in brainstorming sessions, and it’s just the “what if” game. Once you start to open your mind to possibility and just start asking yourself, like, “Well, what if it was a mountain scene? What if people got a map when they do this thing? What if when people sign up, we send them a package in the actual mail, and they actually receive a formal letter, and maybe a gift about it?” Just start throwing ideas down. Don’t limit yourself to what you could do. We have all the technology, all the tools. It just takes imagination, creativity, and some play to come up with your great idea that’s going to help you build something that you’re going to be stoked about for the next five, 10 years. Who knows where that’s going to lead as you spiral out?
Chris Badgett: I like that “what if” game. I can see just a trend here looking at words, and perhaps just playing around with different names of your course. Like “Avengers,” you guys mentioned. “Kettle Bell Hell.” The adventure theme, but just hypothetically reimagining what you would call your course, and then when that lines up with your personality and what you represent, that’s a neat way to play that game.
This is really amazing, and I just want to encourage people to go check out TheGreateCourseAdventure.com. You’re going to see Brad and Andy’s website, and you’ll see exactly what they’re talking about. How this is very much a themed experience. I know you guys put on webinars and stuff too, so I’d encourage everybody to go check that stuff out and see all the content that they’ve got, and just check out their videos. They’re really good. Once I saw these guys, I was like, “This is different. I’m really into this.” I’d encourage you, the listener, to go check it out and just see, because it’s not the norm of what you see out there with building online courses, and how to go about it. Go check it out.
Is there anything else you want to kind of point people towards to go and see?
Brad: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got … If people want to go check it out, we’ve got an outer space adventure that will teach the art of e-course creation, where we really take people deep into the concept of themes and storytelling and gamification, and community development, and all these different things. It will really showcase exactly what we’re talking about. It’s about a 48 minute presentation adventure. Check that out, and we’re always thinking about what we can create next in this body of work, because it’s so much fun.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Thank you guys for coming on the show, and to you the listener out there, ask yourself that question. Would you buy your course? If the answer is no, it’s time to start reflecting.

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