In the past two years, online courses have moved from the fringes of learning to the mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of students studied and graduated online. Employees used the commute time saved by working at home to upskill themselves. Online courses have enlarged the digital world by encompassing use cases and functions that till now thrived on personal interactions and physical presence.
Until recently, an online course was rated higher on convenience but not comparable to a conventional training program or a teacher-led course at a university. But today, it is considered on par with, if not better than, a classroom course.
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What has made the online course so popular?
The first version of an online course replicated the standards set by its ancestor, the distance learning course. Classes were pre-recorded, then televised or played back. The complete responsibility for learning was on the listener.
As the e-course rapidly evolved to meet changing customer needs, it surpassed conventional methods. Online learning models today champion teacher-participant interactions through Q&A forums, exclusive facetime with paid users, and platform-run online communities.
Online learning’s biggest strengths are also its differentiators. Firstly, its reach is potentially as large as the internet itself. Secondly, course creators can keep their material up to date at their convenience, ensuring both the relevance of the material and its effectiveness in meeting student goals.
Why make an online course?
According to this study, organizations increased L&D spends during the pandemic, and this trend is likely to stay. The shrinking of the economy, rapidly accompanied by The Great Resignation, has resulted in a skill-employability gap. The cyclical effects of this are reflected in stagnant unemployment numbers in the United States, one of the largest skilled labor markets in the world, and in the tepid growth of the world’s leading economies. Hence, professional workers are looking to update themselves to stay competitive, students are getting more real-world exposure even before graduating, and more and more people are learning to sing, dance, cook, write or just create.
As any teacher will tell you, their ideal classroom is one with students eager to learn. For an online course creator today, the entire global population is now one enthusiastic class of students.
How to pick a topic for an online course?
There are two starting points for selecting a course topic.
1. Create a learning module around your topic of expertise or experience
While picking a topic in your area of expertise, it is not only important to choose something that you are well versed in, but also one that is relevant to people looking to learn more about it. Many functions that used to be done manually, like sales management systems, for example, are now automated. The topic has to meet current demand. A good thumb rule for content topics is to be as specific as possible. If your area of expertise is, say, web development, and you want to create a course on how to develop a website, start by listing sub-topics, similar to the rungs of a ladder. In other words, every topic that you list out should directly add to creating a website. Anything else, like learning a programming language, or designing a sitemap, should become another course.
Unlike a classroom, listeners can move away from the online course whenever they like. As a creator, keeping the listeners engaged and interested throughout the course is as important for you as ensuring maximum learning.
Tip 1: Audience needs + experience, expertise, or both + clarity of content = best selling course
If this is the first time you are creating an online course, our step-by-step tutorial can help get you started. For ideas on how to structure the individual lessons, you can follow a storyboard template. There are a number of online resources for this as well.
2. Repurpose existing content
If you believe that there is an audience for your content, then selling it as an online course is a smart way to monetize this asset. With a growing number of paid users and a range of platforms to connect them to learning content, the creator economy is a flourishing one. Reusing existing material can save you time and money, and you can go live faster.
Tip 2: Monetize existing content by repurposing it
Elearning professionals use Murf Studio’s extensive text to voice features to convert their PowerPoint and google slides presentations into course modules. If you don’t have a presentation you can still make voice over videos by uploading your script and the images you want to include, as explained in this resource.
Two ways to sell your online course
Once your online course is ready, there are two ways to sell it. You can self-host it or sell it on a course marketplace. While getting your online course ready for the world is no small feat, it isn’t the final step. You have to title it effectively, choose the platform(s) you want to host it on, and determine the price. Depending on the path you choose, you might have to do the marketing and maintain your course page too. This article shares options to sell your course and ranks online learning platforms by user votes.
Things to remember
1. Finishing is as important as starting
Content creation, especially in a structured, long-form scale like an online course can take time, energy, and more than a few revisions and edits along the way. If you are tempted to give up when the going gets too tough, don’t. Give yourself a break instead. Take some time, or even a day off, and begin again. Finishing what you start will not only boost your self-confidence, it is the building block of a healthy work habit.
2. Every step will take time
Each step, from conceptualizing, making and revising, to pricing and monetising your online course is a separate path in itself. If you have never done any of this before or you don’t know anything about pricing, give yourself time to learn. Remember, each one of us learned to walk by falling many times.
3. Get feedback from early learners who are not family or friends
Every venture that boasts of million-dollar valuations or explosive scale today has worked on early feedback. Once your course is live, don’t sit back yet. Engage with your first set of learners. Ask them for feedback. Interact with them and share their experiences. Implement improvements that you also agree with as soon as they come in, and check their effectiveness too, with users. There is comfort in encouragement and support from loved ones, but at this stage of growth, constructive feedback from the market is critical to success.
4. Keep creating
Acclaimed American storyteller Maya Angelou said, "You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Creating is an intensive process, and is likely to leave you drained at the end of the day. But as with any other skill, creativity is a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. When you make a habit of creating, it will rise up from inside you whenever you call for it, and you will get a little better every single day.
1. The online course is the most popular method of learning today, both with students and working professionals. Studies show that organizations have increased L&D spends since 2020. The audience for online learning is growing across the globe.
2. The online course has a number of advantages. It can be made accessible to the global market, easily and cost-effectively. It can be regularly updated to reflect changes and improvements, and can also be designed to be interactive. All these features enhance the learning experience for the users.
3. You can create a course from your expertise or existing experience, or repurpose existing content like presentations and scripts. Making a best-selling course requires some understanding of audience needs and a reorientation of the subject matter for effective consumption through audio and video. Once your course is ready, you can self host it or upload it on a platform.
4. If you are creating an online course for the first time, the process can feel complicated and interminable. Give yourself a break when needed, but don’t give up. Creating can be as intense as it is fulfilling, and the prospect of earning from the joy of sharing your knowledge is incomparable.