If you're going to make an online class, of course you want it to be a success.
And, so, let's talk success. Here are six things I've found to be key to creating a successful course–and happy students.
1. Make sure you're teaching a course people want and need.
When you decide to start teaching online, it's important that you know: 1. who you want to serve, and 2. what they want and will pay for. Do your research ahead of time.
2. When you develop your lessons, be sure to weave lecture and demo.
I've taught before that there are 4 approaches that belong in your online teaching: 1. lecture, 2. demo, 3. assignments/practice, and 4. roadmaps.
The first, lecture, is when you're sharing facts and concepts. The second, demo, is when you're showing how something is done–or telling stories and providing examples and illustrations. The best teaching has a balance and a back-and-forth of the two. Rather than just dropping a big chunk of lecture into the course, present a concept or two, then demo or illustrate. Then move back to lecture. And back to demo again. Create a rhythm that both tells and shows, just like in good fiction we like to see narrative woven with scene.
3. Be sure the technical production of your lessons is of high quality.
You don't need the most expensive equipment to do this and you don't need tip-top quality. For example with on-camera video, you can record with an HD webcam or a phone–as long as you've got good sound and lighting. It's key to test and adjust until things are right. Then you can document your settings and make the final recordings.
If you're making an illustrated eBook, be sure the resolution on the images you include is high enough to print and view at high quality. Be sure materials are proofread and laid out to be visually scannable and easily read.
When you're working with audio, be sure it's clear, and, SO IMPORTANT, be sure it's loud enough. You can adjust this at recording time and in the edit.
Once you get this right, WRITE DOWN ALL THE SPECS. How should the microphone set up? What are the settings on your camera or your screen capture software? How is lighting set up? When you go in and edit video, what resolution is your software set to? If you're making a document, what fonts and sizes are you using. Write this all down and store in your “business hub” (we use Asana for this at Teach What You Do).
4. Deliver well.
As you're delivering your course, make sure your students know what to expect–and that they understand what they're getting and how they're getting it.
Write an onboarding email sequence that announces the arrival of a new lesson while also keeping students motivated, reminding them of why they are doing the work and the benefits. Avoid using the exact same format with each email and just using it to announce the new lesson. Use engaging titles, images and gifs AND varied content within the email. Make the email worth their while to read.
And while you want to stay positive in your messages, it's also helpful to acknowledge spots where students might get stuck and to provide mindset coaching and support that keep them progressing.
Do not skip the email sequence and deliver this information only in a community. Some students will not come to the community. Get it delivered right to them. If the course changes over time, make adjustments to keep things up to date.
If you've got a membership or a course that's always admitting new students watch out for situations in which the old students understand how things work but new students are coming in and it's just assumed they'll figure it out. They won't. And they will be frustrated and disappointed.
Along with this, if you're regularly doing live streams or webinar coaching and creating video recordings out of those sessions: 1 ) make sure you've got a good way of notifying people when you're going live, and 2) a good way to keep an index of recordings that you're always updating so people know what's available and how to find it.
5. Support your students well.
Have a clear avenue for students to request support, and have a process for responding to requests. Any time you're answering a question about access when someone is having a problem, test the response you're giving. Don't assume that your student has screwed up. It could be your system. Anticipate anything you can do to help. And be prompt! Prioritize your student requests.
6. Surprise your students and over-deliver with unexpected extras.
Think about where your students will be as they near the end of the class and what you could do to help them ensure success with meeting their own course goals–and even extending them after course completion. What could they use?
- Is it extra personalized support?
- Or is it one more bonus lesson?
- Maybe it's a template or pattern or project.
- Maybe it's a walk-through of an advanced technique you're using yourself right now: a behind the scenes thing.
- You might not even know what this extra will be as class starts, but keep an eye out for how you could add a special extra to the course before it ends.