The 5 Steps to Building a Killer Course

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Most entrepreneurs dream of having a passive income stream, and building online courses is one way to create passive income. But actually taking the knowledge you have and getting it into an online course can be daunting. In today’s LMScast Joshua and Chris go through the 5 steps to creating a killer course.

The first step is giving your students a specific breakthrough or learning outcome. When you focus on the specific outcome your students will get from your online course, you’re creating a clear starting place, and you will increase engagement with your students.

Step two is to use a course structure that makes sense for your content. There are different course blueprints that fit with a course that is intended for behavioral change or for one that is reference-based or for a process-based course. The map you lay out to guide students through your course will make a big difference in their engagement and success with your material.

Applying blended learning for different learning styles is step three. Not everyone learns in the same way, and you’ll increase student engagement and course completion when you utilize a multimedia format for your courses. With LifterLMS it’s easy to include images, videos, audio files, downloads, and quizzes along with your text.

The next step is to increase student interaction and interest through gamification. When you introduce the badges and certificate a student can earn when they are first starting your course, you are positioning those to the student up front as awards they can work toward and earn. Setting up the path of achievement in this way makes the learning process more fun for students and encourages them to achieve those awards.

The final step is to find ways to keep students engaged, even after they have left the course. In order to keep your tribe strong, you need to keep the conversation going with your students and show them that you care about how they’re doing.

When you follow the 5 steps to creating a killer course, you’ll be creating an exciting and compelling learning environment for your students. And when your students are learning and having fun, they’ll be engaged and want to come back for more!

To learn more about these five steps, you can read our blog post that goes into more detail on the 5 steps to create a killer course.

You can try a demo of LifterLMS to see for yourself what it can do for your online courses. And remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast.

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 back to another episode of LMScast, I’m Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett, and today we’re talking about the five steps to building a killer course. This is a podcast where we’re kind of going over a blog post that one of our staff writers, Freya, wrote, which is just an absolutely phenomenal post that she’s put together. Took her weeks to write it, because she put so much research in, so if you’re interested in going and reading that post itself, which is like 2,000 words, it’s a good read, you can just text us the word coursebuilder to 33444, that’s coursebuilder, one word to 33444, and we will send you a link to the blog post.

So Chris, let’s jump right in, the first step is giving your students a breakthrough. How do you do that? What does a breakthrough really mean in your mind?

Chris: Well, it’s like a specific outcome, where they … You’re really clear about what your offering is, and I think a lot of especially new online course creators get stuck here, because they think they have to put their whole life story and experience into a course. I think once you get going, you realize how much wisdom you have, so just focus on like one specific breakthrough or outcome that you’re promising.

Joshua: Right.

Chris: That’s the key. I also like to say a clear starting point.

Joshua: Right.

Chris: If it’s how to get a baking job, is it how to get a baking job out of high school, out of college, out of community college? After a masters degree? You need to put bookends on what your course is, and then give people the breakthrough, show them how to make the breakthrough.

Joshua: I think the other thing, too is like, you always talk about the hero’s journey, which I think is great, but think of your student as the hero on that journey and help them go and find that elixir. That breakthrough is that elixir.

For me, I took a course in the summer called 10,000 subs, which is an email course by Bryan Harris, and the aha to me was that I over-complicate the process of building an email list. It’s actually not that complicated, it’s just doing a bunch of things I generally don’t want to do and chipping away at it. Just creating a system step by step to build that email list. So I think that the breakthrough can be a number of things, it doesn’t have to be like an Einstein’s theory of relativity. Can be something much more simple than that, and I think right now, with the noise of the internet, breakthroughs that I’m really attracted to are ones that just cut through the fog and go, ‘no, this is what you do.’ Then when you do the steps, you actually see some sort of progress. So that’s pretty cool.

The second step here is use a course structure that makes sense. I’ve written extensively and created a course, a mini email course around course structures, but I think that this is something that’s really overlooked, because people don’t think about the way that a course is structured. They’re just like, let’s put a bunch of videos in an LMS and be done with it. But you need to follow an archetype or a blueprint that makes sense for your content. If you’re looking at behavior change, you need to follow a different archetype opposed to a reference-based course, opposed to a process-based course.

Chris: If you’re looking for Josh’s mini course delivered by email, I think the best place to get that is just to go to, and you’ll see a pop-up, and you opt in on that pop-up, and you’ll get the course. It’s really incredible, the videos in there, and the three archetypes you have are awesome. So I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Joshua: Yeah, another place if you’re driving in your car, and you’re fumbling around, just text us, coursebuilder to 33444. In that article or blog post that Freya has put together, there’s a link there, too, so you kind of get double bonus links.

I think that we’ve done multiple podcast episodes on archetypes, but really, structuring a course, and I’m just giving, I think the word with what I’ve thought is blueprint. You still have to make it your own, you still have to think about your learner’s journey.

One thing that I’m experimenting with now, is badge maps and objectives and making sure … A badge map is simply a graphical representation of the steps that a student will take through a course. You give them a map that has badges that represent lessons in your course, so that they can visually see if they follow all of these steps, they’re all interconnected to get a certificate. You do that at the front end of the course, because then it really sets this frame around the course that there’s something to achieve, there’s badges and certificates to be achieved. That’s another thing that I think people should look into their course structuring and add into it.

Again, if you want to check that out, head over to our website or opt in to this blog post, and you can learn more about the course archetypes.

Step three here is keeping students engaged by applying blended learning and catering to different learning styles. So, Chris, this is right in your neck of your woods with flipped classrooms and things. How does someone do this, just like the quick hit, what’s the simple way of doing blended learning online?

Chris: Blended learning is just about breaking the rules and challenging your assumptions. If you’re doing a video course, maybe have some kind of live component where you can interact with your students, because maybe just watching videos, they’re just not absorbing it, or maybe you can get some questions that way. You could also use it to supplement a live classroom.

There’s all different things you can do, different types of learning that you can blend together. I think it’s important not just to package everything in videos and call it a day. There’s a lot you can do, and then and that also keys into the different learning styles, so including audio, video, text, downloads, images, whatever you can do to bulk out the media exercises where people have to work with their hands to do something. There’s so many different ways people learn. You’ll see it on the playground, you’ll see it in the college classroom, you’ll see it in the workplace. Different people learn in different ways, so just think about that when you’re building your course, and don’t just build it for the way that you learn.

Joshua: Right, that’s key. That’s absolutely key. The other thing here is step four, is look for places to add gamification to encourage and reinforce the learning process. I think gamification is used very blunt force right now. I think its unfortunate too that people just push gamification thinking that it’s just, I don’t know, a magic bullet to get people engaged. Gamification has to be done intelligently, and that’s again going back to what I just referenced with the badge map. It’s making, it’s positioning that badge or that certificate, as a award, at the front, and placing it in the students’ mind as a mark of achievement and a mark of progress.

It’s not just something that should randomly appear, because it doesn’t do a whole lot. It can do that in a video game, but when it comes to learning, people need to understand what’s out there. It’s kind of like … I look at it like the Boy Scouts. Back in the day I was in Cub Scouts, Webelos, Boy Scouts, the whole thing. There was always, in the troop, you’re like, “well guys, we’re going to go get our canoe badge.” Well how do we get the canoe badge? We all want the canoe badge, but we’ve got to do these three things to get the canoe badge. Or we want the archery badge, what do we got to do? We saw that there was these things, badges out there for us to go get, but we had … That was placed in our minds by our leader, and there was these steps to go and get it, and we were very, very motivated to go get it, because we knew it was out there on the horizon.

A lot of people don’t do that. They don’t take a minute to do like a pre-lesson before the course to say, “hey this is where we’re headed, these are the badges you can earn, and if you get all of them, you get the certificate.” Just that 90 second to three minute video can change engagement dramatically, because you’re setting up a path for achievement. That’s a good way to do gamification.

Find ways to keep students engaged, even after they have left the course. This is step five. And I think this is something that, Chris, you do as kind of this marketer hybrid community manager for the LifterLMS group. What are the some of the ways that you keep people engaged after they go through your course, or they have some sort of touch with maybe our demo course, or something like that?

Chris: The main thing is I just keep conversation going, I keep talking to them, I’m still accessible. I think if you have that attitude, like, ‘all right I got your money, you got your certificate,’ you’re not really going to develop a high level learning experience. You might make some cash, and maybe the passive model is what you need to do in your life and your business model, and that’s okay, but if you want to have extremely high reengagement, I think it just comes down to caring about your people and just being there for them, talking to them, and also continuing to add value and share resources or share ideas you’re having, share new course developments or product developments or whatever. New offers that you have coming or some things you’re seeing going on in the industry, that you have nothing to do with, that you think might be of value to them.

It’s just to do all those things. Just keep the conversation going, you don’t have to spend a ton of time and go over the top or anything, but people just like to be treated like people, so just keep it going, if they want to keep talking with you, they will.

Joshua: Absolutely. Well that sums it up for this episode of LMScast. Again if you want to get the deep dive and go into this post, you can just text us the word, it’s one word, coursebuilder to 33444, and you’ll get an email with a link to the post where you can dive deep. It’s an amazing post, it’s one that I’m actually … I read it, and I was like oh man, I’m convicted. Someone on our team is calling us out for doing our own courses better, so it’s pretty cool.

But yeah, that’s the episode for today, thank you so much and we will see you next week.

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