The digital world has introduced many innovative ways for entrepreneurs and influencers to get their message to the masses and increase their niche authority. Among these offerings, one of the most exciting is the development of online courses, which allow influencers to share knowledge while—in some cases—generating additional income.
In preparation for this post, I spoke with Brian Cliette, an academic at Penn State with a penchant for consumer research. A successful teacher, his ebooks hit nine million downloads on Amazon, along with 34 Udemy courses he’s taught to date.
Of course, this success didn’t happen by accident. You can’t just quickly throw a course together and assume it will boost your niche authority. Indeed, a poorly-constructed course could actually hurt your reputation. So how can you ensure that your first online class meets its goals?
Here’s a closer look at five mistakes you absolutely must avoid if you want your first online course to be a success.
1) Neglecting the Audience
Ultimately, a successful online course is all about the participants. You might have great knowledge to share, but if nobody is interested in your chosen topic, you likely won’t see very many people enrolling in your course.
As Cliette explains, “The last thing you want to do is waste countless hours creating a course nobody is actually interested in. So, you need to learn more about your target audience. What do they want to know? What problems do they have? When your class provides a solution to a real-world issue your audience faces, you’re far more likely to build an engaging and successful course.”
2) Producing Lengthy Content
The latest data shows that the average person’s attention span has dropped to a mere eight seconds, with technology taking much of the blame. With brevity in mind, you can’t expect your audience to love your three-hour video without wanting to take a break. Quite simply, the longer your video, the more likely your students are to become distracted and less engaged.
Cliette—and a raft of other experts—recommend breaking up your course materials into smaller, bite-sized chunks. “Even an hour-long video lecture should be split into smaller modules. A full hour can seem impossible to finish for someone using their smart phone to take your course.” Breaking the videos into ten-minute chunks, on the other hand, makes it easier to complete individual modules or halt until later to finish the class.
3) Providing Broad Content
As tempting as it may be to thoroughly explain everything related to a particular subject in a single video, this usually isn’t the best course of action. It’s easy to assume that your audience wants broad content that fully addresses a topic, but provide too much information and you’ll completely overwhelm it.
Smaller classes with a narrow focus are less intimidating to a potential—and especially new—student. Perhaps even more appealing, these classes also tend to be less expensive, making it easier for someone to justify paying for your course. If you have a lot of information to share on a particular topic, you’ll get much better results by splitting it up into several short classes rather than trying to sell it as one massive course.
4) Focus on Technology
Quite often, course instructors make the mistake of believing they need flashy tech tools that will make their class more visually appealing. All too often, however, this gets in the way of delivering meaningful information in a way that is easy to understand.
As Cliette notes, “While choosing a quality delivery platform is essential, incorporating tech gadgets into your online course isn’t always necessary. Too many gadgets can become a distraction for both you and your students. Keep things simple. Avoid using tech that doesn’t actually contribute to the learning experience. This way, you can keep more of your focus where it belongs—creating quality content.”
5) Thinking Your Job Is Done After the Sale
As any college professor or highschool teacher could tell you, the work isn’t over after you develop a class. The same is true when creating an online course. Your work isn’t done after class fees have been paid. Especially in those initial stages, going the extra mile to personalize your course and really focus on your current students will go a long way in building your reputation and helping you grow your course.
Cliette explains: “Even simple things like making yourself available to questions that come up during the course or sending a ‘thank you’ message to people who complete your class can improve students’ perception of you as a teacher. This is one of the best ways to get referrals and repeat customers so that future courses will be even more successful.”
A Stellar Teacher
Putting together an online course can require a fair amount of effort, but the results are well worth it. By avoiding the potential pitfalls of developing your first class, you will be able to create content that appeals to your target audience, allowing you to increase your niche authority and, if appropriate, generate some extra income.