Coming straight off an important discussion about how to build the different learning styles into your training products (see episode 118), we’re now going to move into some of the specifics on how to create an awesome online training course.
How can you make the course truly effective? How can you alleviate confusion? How do you put it together?
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- 4 highly important aspects of a successful course
- What to do before you ever create your first training video
- Whether you need to use modules or not
- Should you give them everything at once or drip it out to them?
- How to make your job as the instructor much easier (and ensure you get the course done quickly)
- The learning management system I use to assemble my courses
- Where to host your training videos
- How to do a “digital whiteboard” video
- How to make your training videos more engaging and less boring
There’s a lot in this episode (and its a little bit longer than the average CBB episode). Be prepared to take notes.
So now, let’s get started with this new episode of Coffee Break Blogging!
Now in these last few episodes we have been talking about various aspects of product creation. In the last episode, Episode 118, we talked a lot about different learning styles that we need to accommodate in our online training courses. Now with that in mind, we are going to jump right in to this one, which is how to kind of put this all together and create an awesome online training course; one that actually works, one that is kind of like get the results that you want and ultimately that is going to help lead to more sales. So I want to start off here with a few important aspects of an awesome course; something that is really going to connect and do its job.
4 Important Aspects Of A Training Course
Have A Very Clear “Start” and “End” Point In Your Course
I have seen a lot of courses and I have done this myself and it is actually something I am resurrecting, as we speak I am working on it inside the Blog Monetization Lab; because it is really easy when you have got something large like the Blog Monetization Lab itself to get in there as a brand new user and go, “Hooohhhh… Wow!I see there’s a whole lot in here but I have no idea what direction to go”. And so, for that reason it is very important that you have an “on ramp” for people who are just getting started with your course. You have got to provide them a very clear starting point.
In my case, I have people coming in to the Blog Monetization Lab at various aspects of their business. I have some people who are just starting out and literally have never made a sale on the internet, I have some who are in the game and got something cool going on already and they are just looking to improve their game. And so, in my case, I am actually going to be setting up different tracks so that people can self-choose, essentially, what direction they want to go. So, if they are brand new, they are going to go down one path and if they are not brand new, they are going to go down another path. And that is how I am going to provide that clear starting point.
And then of course, another thing that I do with the Blog Monetization Lab is that I have an Orientation Webinar where its entire purpose it is there is to get people clued in as to what is going on with the community, get them integrated, get them on the right track with their Lab membership. And so that is a way to provide a clear starting point as well. And so when you create your awesome online course you need to think about what is the clear starting point going to be. What are the first few steps you want them to execute as soon as they get in there?
Now, at the flip-side, you got to also be thinking about “The Ending” because all good transformation eventually have an end and we want our customer, our student, to acknowledge the fact that they have actually gotten to the end. You need to acknowledge them; you need to put a period at the end of that sentence but they need to realize that they reached that point as well. So it is very important. This is a really good point from a marketing perspective to ask them for referrals, to ask them for their testimonial; those types of things. But you want them to realize that they have accomplished what they were set out to accomplish.
Provide A Very Clear Progression Through The Course
My second important point here is the “in between”. We want to have a clear start, we want to have a clean end, you also want to have a clear “middle”. And what I mean by that is that you need to provide a very clear step-by-step… This is the order of progression through your course. You want them to be able to track their progress. And you want them to know what comes next after the thing that they are doing right that minute. And that is very important when it comes to training because we see Module based courses; module 1, module 2 and that is great, so that provides some semblance of order. But human nature being what it is and because so many people structure their courses around different modules people tend to just kind of go any damn way they want. And sometimes, it is just not in their best interest but they are still going to do it. They are just like, “Eh, that looks interesting” so they just jump right in to Module 5. So you need to provide that clear progression and take some control over the situation.
And if that means that you need to dish the content out to them over time rather than letting them have the whole thing, then do it… Even if you get a few people who protest; do it and tell them why you are doing it, because that is important. If you just say “No” well, you are kind of being like, not a cool person. But if you say “No, this is exactly why… I am really interested in you getting this result” they will understand, most of the time. And you need to control that so that they actually get the result that you are trying to get them to.
Cover The Different Learning Styles
And again, we talked about that in a lot more detail back in Episode 118 which is one episode ago. We need to cover things like, having videos inside of our training in order to cover those visual learners and those people who learn by sound and by looking at those types of things. If you have videos it kind of covers both of those aspects. We also want to cover the written aspect. So, one way to do that is by way of transcripts and I definitely recommend that you do that. But the other way is to like go the extra mile. Do not just be a transcript. Actually clean it up and make it towards actually readable as its own thing. I mean, you take what I am saying right now and we do transcribe every podcast, but I am well aware of the fact that if you are reading this in a transcript, it kind of goes all over the place or what have you. It is a little more difficult to read because I was saying this. I wasn’t preparing it for the written word. So you can go the extra mile for your customers and instead of it being just a raw transcript, you actually clean it up and make it flow really nicely because some people learn better via written word than via video.
Another thing that you can do in order to cover the major learning styles is to have exercises or application drills inside your course. And I think this is a really important thing to do because they don’t really make this knowledge theirs until they actually use it. And sometimes, you think that they are there to get a result, they think they are there to get a result, but for some reason not everybody connect the dots. They actually have to go “do stuff” to get a result. It is weird. I mean, I have people (still) who come through stuff inside the Blog Monetization Lab and they just kind of check off the Action Plans and it is almost like they are checking it off simply because they watched the video. And I am like, “That’s not why you should check it off! You should check it off because you went and actually did it!”
So, sometimes you just really got to make that special point to be like, “Hey, Dude, go do it then come back.” And tell them exactly what to do. If it is not something that is on their own business, then you make up a situation and apply a drill on that and have them do it. But go and have them do actual things in real life to apply those things that they are learning.
Have “Systems” Inside The Course
Systems… for those people who do things by way of reasoning or by way of checklist, for those who are very systematic in the way they think. And for that you can have, literally, checklists that they can download and go through. You can guide them to the entire course by way of a checklist or a check sheet and say “This is what you do, check it off, do this, check that off” and literally give them some easy to follow stuff that they can go and implement.
You want to have a social aspect inside your course, I think, in order to make it a really complete experience. And a lot of people these days are setting up private Facebook Groups for that or you can have a forum. I think in a lot of cases, private Facebook Groups work a lot better, though.
This is the idea of having that clear ending point that I mentioned just a few minutes ago. And also, with this acknowledgment of completion should come as an element of status. And so, a really good way to do this is simply by giving them a certificate, maybe acknowledge it publicly; something like that, that really shows them that they reached something. I think that is a really cool thing to build into it.
The Creation Process
Outline The Full Course, (First Of All)
The first thing that I recommend that you do before you record anything or write anything; is to outline the full course. I think you need to outline it down to probably some detail. You want to separate your planning from your actual execution here. I think it is really important to have that course completely laid out from a bird’s eye view before you get busy actually making it.
Now as you create this outline you need to build in the different learning styles that we have talked about. So make a mention of what is the format of this particular thing going to be. How am I going to cover these different learning styles? I think that is a very important thing to build into the course.
I want to make a little note about modules. A lot of courses are put in to module format and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It does provide some sense of order. The only thing is, like I mentioned earlier is that for a lot of people the whole module idea has just kind of fallen by the wayside because they just say “Oh, great. I got a six-module course” but they still go and they determine their own path through it. And so, sometimes what happens is that the students; because they are doing everything out of sequence, it does not really connect and they get a little confused and overwhelmed by it and ultimately they do not get what they enrolled for. And so for that reason, there is nothing wrong with the module structure but you might need to exercise some actual control over the release of those modules to ensure that they go in a particular order.
Now at the same time, if the material that you are teaching does not really warrant having a multi-module set up, then don’t do it. Some of the things that I teach inside the Blog Monetization Lab I put into Action Plan format because quite frankly, I do not need to do a big-ass multi-module course on it. I just don’t. It is more useful for me to just simply outline the progression, walk them through that progression and they get the result at the end of it. Then it is for me to make a special point to do module simply because everybody out there seems to do modules in the inside of their courses. So keep that in mind as you outline your course.
Now the whole time while you are outlining, I want you to keep your eye on the goal. And your job is to get your student to the state of goal of the course. You are delivering an outcome to them through your course. And now for that reason I recommend that you do a fluff check. A fluff check is simply making sure when you outline your material that you are not introducing things in there that quite frankly; they just don’t need to know in order to get their result. Generally speaking, most people are not out simply to acquire information. They want to learn the things they got to know just to get the result they want and then they want to move on with their lives. So do a fluff check and don’t just cover things to make yourself look smart or anything like that because that is not helpful.
Record The Course In Order
Now what do I mean by that? Well, you have an outline, it is going to go bullet by bullet point or module by module, whatever it might be… I think that you should record and create the course in that exact order because then you are actually following along in the same progression that your student will. And that means that you can provide a lot more order through things because you are going through it along with them. Now in order to make this even better, I think that you should try like hell, to record this whole thing as quickly as you can.
If you are going to record a course, spend that day or two or whatever it takes to outline the whole thing and really get it nailed down. And then, once you got it nailed down you just record it as quickly as you can. Maybe dedicate a day or two and say “My entire goal for this couple of days is to create this course.” It shouldn’t take you that long to make it at this point because you have already made decisions as to what is going to be inside of it. You have already planned it all out with the outline. Now you are just executing so you can just go “Bam! Bam! Bam!” and get this stuff done but I recommend that you do anything you can to shorten the amount of time that you are spending creating it because then it keeps you on the groove, it keeps you traveling along on the same progression as your students instead of allowing yourself to get distracted by things in your life while you are creating this course. And I think the result is going to be that you are going to have a course which is just a lot more buttoned down, it is just really going to be a lot more effective this way. And it also makes it a lot more logical for you because you end off recording one thing and you know exactly what mindset you are in when you move in to the next one.
Tools For Building Your Online Course
Now let us talk a little bit about “tools” here… Tools of building online courses. We are going to be talking more about this a little bit later here in Coffee Break Blogging where we are going to start talking about putting together Membership Sites and stuff because it just so happen to be that Membership Sites are really the main way that most people in my business are delivering online courses. But let us mention a few things, here…
First of all, I am a big proponent of building on top of WordPress as a platform; that should be pretty much a known fact by now. Now, the platform that I recommend on top of WordPress is a learning management system called WP CourseWare. Now I am a fan of WP CourseWare. It is not perfect, but it is a really good system. What it does is that it allows you to structure content inside of WordPress into a course format. Literally, your modules, your training units; everything is organized with WP CourseWare. The other thing I like about WP CourseWare is that it has some of these important aspects of an online course built in to it. For example, there is clear tracking of one thing into the next. WP CourseWare will automatically put a little box at the end of a training unit and in so many words, it basically says, “Are you done with this?” and then they check a box and actually mark it “complete” and then that takes them to the next one. And so, WP CourseWare actually will allow you to put an actual progression to your material and guide them from one to the next and it tracks your progress through it rather than letting it be a free for all. And I think that is probably the most important aspect of what WP CourseWare will do.
Now there are some alternatives out there and you can go and do your own pros and cons evaluation of them. One of them is called LearnDash which is also another WordPress plug-in. One is called Sensei, I am very not familiar with that but I have seen it out there. Another one is called Zippy Courses put out by Derek Halpern. I have seen Zippy Courses in action; I’ve not actually used it myself. It looks like a really nice, clean system. It does have the theme and everything included with it but I don’t think that is required, but it is more of a new player on the scene; it might work out for you. And there are other ones probably as well, but the one that I prefer and the one I am using myself inside the Blog Monetization Lab is WP CourseWare.
In terms of the theme that you use for your training course, quite frankly, it really does not matter. You can use any theme that you want. My blog is set up on top of the Genesis Framework using a custom theme. And it works just fine. Basically, the same exact theme that is used for my main public site is the one that I am using for my training content. It works just fine. If you want to have a little bit more control than that and you are not as technical as I maybe; you can use systems like Optimize Press or Thrive Theme. These guys have some nice course templates built in to the system and it works all just fine. At the end of the day your theme is not a major consideration when it comes to your course. As long as the stuff is easy to find and the navigation is easy to use, you can pretty much work with almost any theme out there.
Now a word about your videos: Definitely an important component of a good online course… You want to do what you can with these videos to make them as engaging as possible. And for that reason I recommend that you do what you can to not rely only on slides. A lot of people will make slides and then they will just record themselves talking through their slides. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that; it is just that you have got to look at it from the student’s perspective and realize that after watching a bunch of that it can get a little mind numbing to watch your material. And so you need to take that into account when it comes to the videos that you create for your course. Realize that it is an experience in and of itself to go through your course and you have got to hold their attention throughout it in order to get the result that you want and what they want. And so, you should mix it up a little bit. Don’t depend just on slides. Mix in some live action shots; maybe you on camera talking to them and switch it up. Switch it back and forth. If you are teaching a topic that is more like real world and not just simply on a computer screen then take a camera and show some live action of those things happening in real life. Mix it up. Don’t just depend on bullet point slides. I think that is an important point.
Another thing that I sometimes do in my videos is use what I call a digital whiteboard. It’s very simple. Instead of it being slides you can literally draw on your screen. Here’s how I do this: I have a tablet attached to my Mac here and it is made by Wacom. I think it is called the Wacom Bamboo tablet or something like that. We can link to it up on the show notes at the Blog Marketing Academy but it is simply a tablet that connects to my Mac on the USB and it allows me to draw on my tablet.
On my Mac I have a program called FlySketch. And I think it cost me like 15 bucks or something like that but it allows me to drawl on my screen. I can make that screen pure white; I can actually make it any color I want and just simply drawl on there or I can make the thing transparent and drawl on top of whatever that is underneath it. So let us say that I am doing a tutorial on a piece of software or perhaps I am doing an evaluation of somebody’s blog; I can actually show their blog and drawl on top of it and point to opt-in forms and point to all kinds of different things. It is very, very useful and I use FlySketch to do that. Then I simply record it as a screencast right there with ScreenFlow in my particular case. If you are using a PC then I would recommend you check out Camtasia, that is a really good option for recording your screen. If you do not have FlySketch or anything similar you are not going to be able to do the transparent thing but you can do the whiteboard thing if you pull out a copy of Photoshop or any other program that will allow you to draw using one of the tools and you just simply have a nice white background and draw inside of Photoshop and record it in the same way. So that is how I do a digital whiteboard and it is a good style of training video.
In terms of hosting, I like Vimeo Pro. Vimeo is a great service but if you are going to do this type of stuff I really recommend that you get the extra features of the pro account. I believe I am paying them like $200 for a year which divided by monthly it is not that much money. There is video hosting out there available with Amazon S3 that works out just fine, if you want to do that. It is a little bit more of a manual process and you are going to have to find a player that works for you. And quite frankly, I just like outsourcing that to Vimeo Pro because they take care of all those logistics for me. And I, my job is to be creating training content not to be screwing around with the technical part of it. So that is why I use Vimeo Pro.
There are also options like Wistia and many people know about Wistia. It is a great, great service. Now that they have reduced their pricing several months back, it is a little bit more within grasp of many people for training content. But realize that the cost will add up a lot quicker than Vimeo Pro. And so for that reason I use Wistia primarily for marketing videos where I actually need to track engagement with it and stuff like that. I don’t typically use it for training stuff inside the courses. For that I use Vimeo Pro.
The one last tool that I want to mention here for an online training course is Gravity Forms. Gravity Forms is a plug-in for WordPress. It allows you to create some really nice forms. But the thing is first of all, you can create forms that are really intense. You could do some quizzes with it which should be great for online training. Really cool stuff you can do with Gravity Forms. But the other thing I like about it is that it is very nicely integrated with the WordPress user system.
So if you are running a membership site and they are logged in and they are viewing training videos you can do things like have the person’s name and email automatically attached to the form even as a hidden field so that when they type something to you, you are not sitting there asking them to enter their name and email address or any of that crap again because the system should already know who they are. And so that is why I like Gravity Forms because you can do some really Ninja stuff with the way that Gravity Forms works but also, it just provides a better student experience because I am not asking them who they are constantly. My system should already know that. So that is the Gravity Forms plug-in.
So we went a little longer than I usually do in an episode of Coffee Break but I really want to cover a lot of different aspects here on how to create an awesome online training course because this… this kind of stuff that we are talking about right now is how you deliver your transformation which is the underlying thing behind all the sales and the monetization stuff that we are going to be talking about later. At the end of the day, if you do not have a solid product that gets the result, nobody is going to buy it. So that is why all of these stuff matters so much.
I want to end off this episode of Coffee Break by reminding you again that if you are finding these episodes valuable, if you have been listening to me for a little while and if you have not yet posted your review of this podcast on iTunes, then I implore you to go and do that right now. So you can do that by running over to blogmarketingacademy.com/itunes and that will basically shortcut you right in to iTunes and you can do that. You can also go and probably search iTunes for Coffee Break Blogging and do it that way but I would really appreciate if you drop me a line, drop me a review and a star rating inside of iTunes and let everybody know what you think of the show, if you are finding it valuable; things like that.
The other thing is that if you ever have a question for me and just want to respond privately to me on any episode of Coffee Break Blogging, you can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now if it is an account related question or something like that, you are going to hear from Dawn first. But those emails all come to me and I will be happy to reply to you.
A little bit of a longer episode than usual though, but I hope that you found it valuable and I will see you next time here on Coffee Break Blogging! 😉