Avoid These Mistakes When You’re Making Your Online Course

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There are several pitfalls you can encounter while developing online courses. In today’s LMScast, Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett list the most common mistakes when making an online course and discuss how you can avoid making them.

Joshua and Christopher polled several outstanding online influencers about challenges they have encountered with their eLearning development, and what they would have done differently. Knowing what they have learned means you won’t have to make those mistakes yourself.

An edupreneur is a combination of entrepreneur, developer, marketer, and educator, and each discipline can present different sets of problems. However, there are some basic mistakes that most course developers make, and the most common is failing to listen to input from your potential audience. You may think you know everything that needs to be presented in your course offerings, but your students know more than you do about their eLearning requirements and preferences. Find out exactly what they need in the early stages of your course design and deliver on those requests.

Before you put time and effort into building your course, determine if there is an audience for it. If no one is hungry for the information you want to share, then no one is going to buy your courses. Also, if you make your courses too generalized, then they won’t have value because that general information is already available. Provide specific, detailed training and education in defined interest areas within your subject. Then you can gauge interest by pre-launching those courses. This is also an opportunity to get feedback from users while you are still in the course development stage. If you have significant sales and interest from the start, then you have a viable offering.

Another mistake developers make is to be too focused on the substance of the courses, or spend too much time trying to perfect everything from the beginning, instead of focusing on students’ actual needs. You might get sales initially, but if you don’t provide results, then your courses won’t continue to sell. You can also get too wrapped up in your membership site, or in the technology itself – especially if your learning management system requires a high degree of expertise and detailed modifications. A simple yet resource-rich LMS like our LifterLMS WordPress learning management system plugin will allow you to get the most out of progressive eLearning technology and resources while focusing on user-responsive course development.

In short, make sure you have an audience for your subject, know what your students need most from the coursework, and make sure they receive their desired outcome so that others will want to use your course offerings.

For more discussion of potential mistakes when making an online course, check out our blog post, Avoid These Mistakes When Making Your Online Course.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter at LMScast.com for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. You can also try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you. Thank you for joining us.

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 to the next episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage. I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we’re talking about the mistakes that you need to avoid when you’re creating an online course. We recently polled, gosh Chris, how many online influencers?

Christopher: It was about was about 15 or so.

Joshua: Yeah, and these are big names in the online course space. We asked them a simple question. It is: What would you do differently, I suppose, so that you wouldn’t make this mistake again when you’re creating your online course? We got some incredible answers. Chris, take it away.

Christopher: Excellent. We interviewed a cross section of people. Some people are famous podcasters, some people are more writers, some people are more in the development community, like Chris Coyier, WordPress and CSS kind of development. When it comes down to eLearning, entrepreneurship, or building a WordPress-powered learning management system, you have to wear several hats. You’re wearing the entrepreneur hat, the development hat, the marketer hat. Depending upon who you’re talking to, the mistakes are going to be different.

We wanted to get a broad cross section across all those people. What’s interesting is what came back was a lot of similar responses. I’m looking at our blog post right now. You should check it out at blog.LifterLMS.com. The title of the post is Avoid These Mistakes When Making Your Online Course. I’m going to say that really the number one thing that came up is that people didn’t listen to their audience or they created the course in a vacuum without getting that, as we’ve talked about before, like an interactive offer where you co-develop the course.

You got to get outside the mindset that, “I know what’s best. I’m just going to do it. Then when I’m ready, I’m going to sell it and the hordes of people are going to show up and buy my online course.” That was probably the number one mistake that we got from the interviewees is to avoid not engaging your audience, especially in the early stages of conceptualizing and creating your online course.

Joshua: I think it’s a really good point. I’ve seen this happen back from my freelancing days. You get this idea of, “This is what I’m going create. This is what people what to know.” You go create that course. You spend all the time in producing videos or audio or whatever it is, and then you get ready to sell it and you realize that’s not what anyone really wanted at all. I think it’s great feedback. It sounds like all of these experts out there, at one point in time, probably launched a course that didn’t do so well and took one on the chin. That’s, I think, why we see this one point come up over and over and over again.

Christopher: Absolutely. I’d like throw a hat tip to John Lee Dumas. He has a podcast over at Entrepreneur On Fire. He also has a community called Podcasters Paradise, which is like a community online course wrapped up into one. John said that the number one thing that you want to make sure of is that you have a starving audience or a hungry audience.

The way that you can really gauge that to give you guys a specific action step into testing of whether your course has legs or not is to see if people are willing to buy your course before you create it. If they’re willing to pull out their wallet, enter their credit card details, and purchase it that’s really good validation that there is that kind of starving crowd for your offer. You can also use interest lists like email lists, but there’s nothing better than someone putting cash on the barrel head.

Joshua: Yeah. I think pre-launching, we’ve talked a little bit about that in previous LMScast episodes. Creating a pre-launch strategy so you launch with a product not even created and you work with a small group of students and you basically teach just-in-time type of teaching. You’re creating courses as you ask them, “What do you want to learn?” Out of that, you create your product. I think that’s what a lot of people have done here.

I’m scrolling through … I like this one, “The biggest mistake is to create something you think your audience needs instead of creating something you know they need.” That’s just a different way of wording what we’ve already said, but Scott Dinsmore said that. I really like the way he phrases that. I don’t think we spend the time to really know.

Then James Schramko says, “The most common mistake when creating online courses is focusing too much on stuff and not enough on the customer getting results.”

Christopher: Don’t get me started on that one. That one comes into what we talk about, the difference between a learning management system where you’re really focused on the student versus just making the sale into a membership or getting people through a pay wall and that sort of thing, not that all membership site creators are like that. I really love how succinctly … You should check out James’ exact quote at blog.LifterLMS.com. He said that just basically it’s all about getting results for your customers. If you’re not getting those results, you may get the sale, but if you don’t also get the results that’s the canary in coalmine. You might have some trouble on your hands.

Joshua: Right. Absolutely. Chris, what do you think the number one thing is, outside of what we’ve already talked about? You’ve created a lot of different courses in niches that are not online business related at all. I’m curious what you think the biggest thing is.

Christopher: I’m actually towards the bottom of this blog post. For me, it’s kind of counter-intuitive because I’m here selling a learning management system at LifterLMS. Actually, I see a lot of people getting a little too focused on their membership site or learning management system technology, whether that’s a WordPress LMS theme or WordPress LMS plugin and the various features it comes with, that it’s important to not get too sidetracked into the technology.

Really, I would agree right there with James Schramko about the results and make sure your course solves real problems for a specific group of people. That’s what it’s all about is really knowing your target audience and making sure you’re either solving a problem or bringing someone closer to the desired outcome.
I think a lot of times I can split that into two in terms of serving specific people. I think in most people, in most cases, people make their courses—their audience—a little too general. I think people probably need to go one step down, tighten up the niche a little bit more even if it’s uncomfortable, not just like dog training videos but dog training videos for Huskies or for Rottweilers, whatever it is. Take it that one level done. The internet’s a big place, the world’s a big place.

There’s a lot of dog owners out there that are passionate about their specific breed. If you say, “This is for people with this kind of dog,” versus “This is for people with dogs,” you can create a much deeper connection. Your course material is also going to be a little different, different dog breeds are different.

In terms of solving real problems or helping people get desired outcomes, that one is super critical. I think I heard … There’s a great online marketer and business education guy named Eben Pagan who said, “Don’t sell suggestions; sell solutions,” which is a really statement. At the end of the day, you want to actually sell something that changes something, that is almost impossible for your course student to ignore, not just give good ideas like, “You should do this.” You want to sell a blueprint and the solution to get them where they need to go.

Joshua: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that’s the question that arises out of that is: How do you find that blueprint? I think that’s what my number one thing would be is if you already have a group, even if it’s a list of 100 to 150 people, doing somewhat of a pre-launch scheduling type of system or doing a pre-launch to gather feedback before you create the product is huge. I think it’s really an important step to create a product that actually fixes problems, is that you’re not guessing, you know for a fact. You know that it fixed their problems. That would be my point of feedback there.

Then something that I would push people to do is to sell and just be honest about what you’re doing. Say, “I wanted to make a product on X, Y, Z topic. I want to talk to five highly engaged people.” I think if you do more than five you get overwhelmed from perspective. “I want to talk to five people. I’m going to coach them over the next month.” Through that you create your material for your ongoing course. Done that in the past and it works like Novocaine every single time.

Cool man. Do you have any final thoughts for those people who are listening or are ready to create a course and want to avoid some mistakes?

Christopher: Sure. I would key in and piggy back on what you were saying about being honest. I’m going to take it to a Chris Coyier’s response, who is a well-known developer in the WordPress and the CSS, different programming language community. He has a podcast also, called ShopTalk. Chris said that the number one mistake you can make is about how you approach your training videos. What he says when he’s teaching online is that he doesn’t cover up mistakes.

I think that sometimes you can get a little too caught up in being too polished that you do a couple of things. One, it slows down the creation process of your material. The other is you come off as overly cinematic or perfect. It’s nice for people to see it like they’re learning from a real human being who makes mistakes, too.
That’s what I’d close I out on is don’t get caught in that imperfection. It may actually help you to just come across as a normal human being that makes mistakes, too.

Joshua: Right on. I love that. Awesome. Chris, this had been a jam-packed episode. I hope everyone who is listening goes over and checks out our blog post. We’ve spent literally weeks on that piece of content. I think it’s so, so valuable. Thank you all for listening. Until next week, we’ll talk to you then.

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