Online courses are a useful tool for any business looking to amplify their brand. An effective online course or workshop should do these two things:
Empower your customers with new knowledge or skills
Gain their loyalty and future business
So, how do you go about creating and marketing online classes? Start by putting together a curriculum that engages your existing audience and builds a dedicated community of learners and customers.
Teach what you know
Whether you’re an entrepreneur using courses to attract customers to your products or an educator teaching as your main gig, choose a course topic that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. When you show you have clear authority on a subject, you also position yourself as a thought leader to your brand audience.
People are enthusiastic about expertise—and when you show you have clear authority on a subject, you also position yourself as a thought leader to your brand audience. If you make it clear that you have plenty of knowledge to share, your customers will be happy to pay for your courses and content.
You can expand your range of course offerings by drilling down to the finer details of your subject. For example, if you teach guitar, you might run a course on “beginner rock guitar,” another on “intermediate classical guitar,” and another on “advanced jazz guitar.” With multiple courses, you can meet your potential customers’ specific needs and skill sets.
Do your research
Work out where your target audience’s knowledge gaps are and then deliver a curriculum that fills those gaps.
If you’re already running an online business, check your website analytics to see what keywords are driving people to your page. What do people continually ask, and is the answer something you can develop into a workshop or course?
Alternatively, if you’re just launching your online business, you can type a few related search terms into a search engine and see which questions “people also ask” on the results page. This will help shape your courses according to the subjects you know people are seeking out.
It’s also important to research what your competitors offer for their online courses. What topics do they teach, and what is their approach to teaching them? How do your topics and your approach differ from theirs? Looking into your competitors’ online courses can help you contextualize and improve upon your own offerings.
Write a course outline
What’s the learner journey that your curriculum will offer? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and figure out:
Their current knowledge level on the topics you teach
The skills and expertise they’re hoping to gain
That gives you your natural “lesson one” and also your endgame. Just think about what level of expertise they should have reached by the final workshop. Now, fill in the stages in between that will get them to where they want to be.
Say, for example, you’re putting together some cooking classes. Do you want to start out by teaching people to boil an egg or will they already have a few more basic skills? When they finish, should they be able to serve up a simple three-course dinner or should they have mastered more advanced skills? Which culinary skills along the way will take them from one point to the other?
Make sure you keep the scope of your course manageable. Few people are likely to sign up for a 24-week program—most online learners just won’t have the time. Break it down into a reasonable number of classes. Anywhere from two to six lessons will make it feel both worthwhile and achievable.
In one sentence, write down what each workshop in your course aims to teach. This is what’s known as your “lesson objective.” Now write down the topics you’ll cover in that workshop. Repeat this process for every lesson in the course to put together your full course outline.
Develop your workshop content
Once you have your course outline, think about how you can leverage any relevant assets you may have created already.
Have you done any video storytelling, for instance? With tools like Video Classes, you can upload, organize, and curate your video content into online libraries for your audience. That way, they can browse and find the class that’s right for them, using categories you define such as class type or level of difficulty.
Maybe you have an existing blog, podcast, whitepaper, or webinar content that covers some of the subject areas in your new course. If so, repurpose it. Reusing your older content can save you time on course development. Plus, it may have a positive impact on your website’s SEO because it signals to search engines that your content is still relevant and authoritative.
Once you’ve audited existing content, you can start to produce new workshop material to fill out the curriculum. Most online educators use video as their primary medium, as it gives you the chance to come face-to-face with your learners. If you’re not sure where to start, consider experimenting with video content and production by learning how to create professional-looking video ads without a studio.
You can also deliver workshop content across other formats such as:
Webinars: Virtual events that invite an exclusive audience will give your learners the chance to interact with you in real time. You can record webinars and add them to your video library over time, or offer them as an exclusive resource for specific audience segments.
Audio recordings: These are useful for assignments, since customers can download and learn from them while going about their everyday business.
E-books: A digital course book can become an additional revenue stream, or can be included in the course package. You can easily embed these into your website.
Quizzes: Delivering a quiz at the end of your workshop will help people to quickly recap what they’ve learned. Squarespace allows you to add third-party quizzes to your website using code blocks.
Want more options? Explore other tools to deliver your curriculum.
Incorporating assignments between workshops is a way of keeping people engaged while they’re away from your website. It builds brand loyalty and ensures that your audience has a reason to come back for the next lesson.
You can start by embedding downloadable assignments into your course and automatically sending reminders of assignment due dates. A tool like Squarespace Scheduling lets you add events to your students’ calendars and send emails when it’s time to turn in their work.
Learn more about tools to help you build your online courses.