Let’s be honest: When you hear phrases like “online training software” or “learning management system,” do your eyes glaze over just a bit? Do you automatically assume that they have nothing to do with you, personally?
In the past few years, it’s become increasingly possible for anyone with specialized knowledge of a particular subject to share that expertise with learners in far-flung places and to earn money doing it. This is awesome for learners–this week, for example, I took online workshops on how to use a light meter and photo editing software through the Skillshare platform–but it’s also good news for teachers. Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a teacher and have never heard of an LMS, jargon for “learning management system.”
If your friends are always asking you to show them how you build such beautiful websites or to share what you know about marketing for nonprofits, chances are good that there are other people out there with the same question. Although you can’t expect to slap some ideas together and expect people to pay top dollar for it, if you think about the exact problem you’re helping your learner solve and figure out ways to give them high-quality, well-organized content, you can create courses with genuine value to your learners.
Here are some important questions–and answers–to consider as you go about creating online courses:
Q: Isn’t everything already on the internet? Why would someone pay for a course?
A: Do you have time to sift through every possible lesson out there on how to use CSS on your new blog? If you have that much free time, do you want to spend it sifting through the crappy tutorials to find the good ones?
In theory, we can use the internet to teach ourselves pretty much anything, but there’s a big cost in terms of the time we spend searching for that information. So when you find a site with vetted authors and a robust community or you find an expert in their field who also knows how to explain things to beginners, the money you pay for a course is worth it in terms of knowing you’ll get quality content that much faster.
Q: Isn’t teaching hard?
A: True, teaching can be a lot of work. One writer describes creating an online course as a time investment similar to writing a book. It takes awareness and empathy to anticipate where your learners will have trouble and to figure out ways to help them overcome those challenges. Of course, many teachers will also tell you that this is where the fun comes in!
This post lays out a solid framework for creating content, formatting your courses, and marketing them.
Q: Why would anyone think I’m an expert?
A: Unless you’re already recognized as an expert in your field, this is something that will probably take some time. As this article discusses, course authors with large social media followings will tend to have an easier time of it marketing their courses on an individual platform, at least at the beginning.
This is because these folks have demonstrated credibility of some sort, which should be your goal as you start out.
Combine your course offerings with a coordinated campaign of consistent, thoughtful blog posts and social media presence. Always, always keep your learners’ needs in mind: Why should they believe you? How can you help them?
Meet them halfway by offering a scaled-back version of your course free on your website or YouTube channel. If you’re using a subscription model, a reduced introductory price or discounts on future courses can also convince someone to sign up.
As with anything else, though, basically you prove yourself by providing value for your learners: good content, well organized, that helps them solve a problem.
Here are more tips for creating and selling online courses.
Q: I’m really good at baking cakes. I have no idea how to run an online store!
A: Sites like Avizr make it really easy to handle the business end of things. We’ve set things up with Shopify and Ontraport so that they take care of the money and you can focus on helping your learners develop their skills.
I'm endlessly fascinated by how people learn, and I'm happiest when I'm in the process of learning something new myself.
When I'm not working on marketing for Avizr, I can be found teaching Spanish, working with my student teachers, hanging out with my dogs, and exploring the many trails around Bellingham.