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#158: The 5 Key Components to a Profitable Course

Introduction

Welcome back to the Entrepreneur Mindset podcast. For the past few weeks, we have been talking about course creation. We have talked about ideas to get you started, the mindset for making progress, creating engagement, building your audience, and more. 

One of the questions that I get asked most often is when does the work begin. These decisions and concepts are nice, but what about my actual course? If you have ever uttered those words or you have been wondering when we were going to start talking about your actual course, today is the day.

We are going to talk about some instructional design principles that are often overlooked in most course creation courses. There simply isn’t enough time to talk about all of the tech, the marketing, messaging, evergreening, and scaling concepts in addition to the actual instructional design. So if you are taking, or have taken, a course on how to create courses you might even notice that these things are missing. The good news is that you’ll know to include these ideas in your own course!

Why Does Course Design Matter?

All too often course creation becomes about deciding what tidbits of information to share. Don’t get me wrong, that is incredibly important. If you don’t have good content to share, then your course will ultimately flop. However, if all you have is some great bullet points and no real process to sharing the information that is rooted in the principles of human learning, then your students aren’t going to get the results you want for them and they have paid for.

Instructional design is a concept that really picked up in popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it has been around forever. Think about oral traditions passed down from generation to generation. Those stories, traditions, and rituals were communicated verbally, in pictures, through dance, and other ways. They were repeated early and often in life and you were given the chance to share that information. The key objective being that these oral traditions were not lost and were passed to new generations. That is instructional design at its finest. Quality information geared toward the people who need it, presented in a way that they can remember and understand, and opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. 

So why the burst of importance and attention for instructional design in the past 20 years? I think it picked up because that is when we first started to see the introduction of online learning. Suddenly it wasn’t enough for a teacher or expert to share their expertise. In an online setting you can’t read your student’s faces as they listen to your videos. You have to anticipate what they might feel, the questions they will have, and where they will get stuck in the implementation.

This is why building a course is so much more than just the bullet points you outline on sticky notes. It is about the experience.

5 Key Factors to Consider in Course Creation

As we talk through key factors that you need to take into account when developing your course, keep in mind that these things are not done in a specific order. Instead, you’ll find yourself thinking about these simultaneously, separately, and in some kind of mash up. It will likely depend on where you are in the process and the day of the week! 

The key is that you need to develop a systematic approach to your course creation process so that you are understanding where information and support is needed, what needs to be taught and who will be the recipient of this course. As you explore the needs of your students you’ll be able to determine what the outcomes are, what is needed to get there, and even what it will take to get your students on board.

With these high level concepts in mind, let’s talk about 5 ideas to explore as part of your course development. These are elements that will help to boost your student engagement.

1. Knowledge Type

There are different types of learning and knowledge that you might be trying to convey. You might be focused on declarative knowledge, which are skills, facts, and rules. That is what you are learning right now. You are learning facts about how to create a strong course.

Some learning and courses will be more skill-based or procedural. They are geared toward the development of motor or technical skills. These are things like computer skills. And finally, there are affective outcomes. These are training objectives that will shift attitudes or beliefs that predispose someone to work in a certain way. For example, if you are helping a corporate employee think about options for earning income differently or changing attitudes about inclusion or diversity.  This is much for metacognition related.

These kinds of learning can be combined or stand alone, but learning is just one part of the picture. There also needs to be a demonstration of the learning for the training to be considered a success. We want our clients and students to put into action what they are learning.

2. Course Objectives

This is exactly what it sounds like, what will the student be able to know, think, or do at the end of the training? But you need to take that a step further and consider under what conditions the learning will be applied and what is the criteria for success.

3. Delivery Order

The key point with delivery order is that you can’t skip around, you have to make sure to present the information in a logical order.  For example, if you are teaching someone to use a computer, you wouldn’t start with word processing, you would start with how to turn it on and log in.

If you are teaching someone how to create a course, you wouldn’t start with uploading course videos into your digital course system. You have to place the skills in the appropriate order that is best for the learner to successfully facilitate learning and ultimately performance or implementation of the course material.

4. Delivery Method

This is probably the most complicated part of the course development process because there are so many considerations. Course delivery method, how you present the information to your students, should depend largely on the purpose of the course, the resources available, and your students needs.

There are many methods available for course presentation.  Some course creators choose to offer their course in person using a traditional lecture style approach, others incorporate discussion and role-playing. 

There are also so many online courses that incorporate a variety of options for learning information. There are interactive practices, video lessons, downloadable workbooks, games, and more.  

The key is to keep students engaged and that can be improved by allowing active participation and using a variety of delivery methods.

5. Develop Feedback

With your course content in place, you also need to consistently and constantly think about feedback. You need to provide feedback so that your students can make adjustments, stay motivated, and improve their performance. And let’s face it, being able to receive feedback makes learning more interesting!

This is also as good a time as any to remind you that you need to receive feedback from your students so that you can adjust what you are doing, create additional resources or lessons where necessary, and generally show your commitment to the student’s outcomes.

6. Student Characteristics

MOTIVATION is an important student characteristic. Motivation in this case is the extent to which the students are interested in completing the course, learning from the lessons, and transferring that information to their business.  

You can actually help boost your student’s motivation in your course by offering feedback, like we just talked about as well as showing very clearly how the course will pay off for them and their business. 

You also need to take into account the readiness of your students. Students who aren’t ready for your course material won’t be successful in implementing what you are sharing. This is another place where you can create a lead magnet to help your potential students get to the place where they are ready for your course. 

Action Item

This week as you think about your course, examine what you have already taken into account of these five factors. If you haven’t taken any into account, 

Conclusion

To quickly recap, here are the 5 plus one bonus ideas that we talked about today.

  1. Knowledge Type
  2. Course Objectives
  3. Delivery Order
  4. Delivery Method
  5. Develop Feedback
  6. Student Characteristics

As you think about these concepts, let me know what questions you have and send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram. I’m always happy to help!

I’ll see you back here next week for another episode of the Entrepreneur Mindset Podcast, where we focus on mentoring, community and implementation. It’s all about taking action so that we can remove the overwhelm of building a successful and profitable business and add in a little dose of momentum.

Until next time, have a healthy, safe, and happy week.

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