I remember the exact point I decided that enough was enough. I needed out. It had been too long of enduring a less-than-satisfactory state of being, state of mind. What I needed was a shift. A change.
In this case, it wasn’t a bad relationship with a person I was seeking to escape. It was my adulation of digital devices, websites, and apps that had gnawed away at the things I knew I deeply wanted to do. I had just taken a little workshop in life design on a blustery Berlin day one October, and one exercise had me establish the things I would regret doing if I didn’t change something. The biggest one was something that somehow never made it into my weekly schedule, even though it was my major North Star goal: to write a feature film script of an idea that had been burning in me for some years. The job always evaded me, and when I actually put it down for a morning of work, there was always another exciting task, post, project, or call to make. In those moments where I clawed out perfect writing time, or even time for general creative thinking (on the bus, on a walk, sitting in the Dentist’s waiting room), there was always a distraction, podcast, or app demanding my brain's focus. I realised I was rarely bored, and so rarely had the capacity to connect disparate ideas together.
After a couple of months of reading (arguably procrastination in its own right!), I managed to work out which habits would lead to which distractions, and, akin to not keeping cookies in the kitchen in the first place, put in the right blockers on the right websites and apps to prevent distraction from even being an option outright.
From this research, and not seeing something similar, I thought I’d share my knowledge with others in the form of an online course on Tech Addiction.
I did it for three reasons.
- It was an excuse to read and research a topic I was interested in.
- It might provide some passive income, while also being a service to others.
- I’m a filmmaker, so I knew I wanted to create a course based around video, and practice being in front of a camera myself.
Crucially, I knew I wanted to keep it short, to avoid people distracting themselves by being online and taking my course.
During the process, I learned a lot about how best to approach this, and what steps to take to get from A to B in course creation.
So, You’re Thinking About Creating An Online Course
Well, look no further, as we have a wealth of information and knowledge to get you headed in the right direction on your teaching journey.
The first step is to decide on the format of your course. There are four options for digital courses:
What’s the format?
- Pre-Recorded Video
- Pre-Recorded Audio + Screen sharing
- Live (Online) Video
- A mixture of some/all of the above
Choosing the format is incredibly important when deciding whether to create a course. It is primarily dependent on what you believe your audience will expect from the course, what learning methodologies are out there already for this topic, and probably a bit of common sense.
For example, I recently took an online course on SEO. The teacher did it only using simple slides, good audio, and screen sharing so we could watch him go through it on his own software. It didn’t need a live element, because you could message him questions on his twitter or email if you really had to, and it didn’t really need video, as so much of it was focused on a computer interface. In this context, the medium chosen was perfect for the content of what was being taught.
If you’re doing language learning (which are notoriously difficult to get right and provide real value), a good amount of video, audio, audience interaction, live classes, and self-directed learning will be necessary, and will depend on the teacher’s own methods.
I chose a video only course because I felt that people taking it would be mainly interested in a consolidation of pre-existing information, alongside some basic tasks they could complete each session which would help them to strategize for after they finish. I also wasn’t trying to help them learn something dramatically new (if you’re taking a course on tech addiction, you probably have already worked out that you might have a problem and done some reading already), and I priced this accordingly.
2. What topic to choose
If you’re reading this I will hazard that you have a pretty good idea on what topic to choose. However, if not, I would say stop here and really consider whether you should be making an online course. The first thing you should be thinking about is what value you will be bringing to your audience that others can’t bring. If you’re merely jumping on a bandwagon and feel that you should have a course because you’re looking to make some quick cash, then this isn’t the article for you, and Prism is definitely not the company you should be following. Our main philosophy in creation is providing value to our audiences and our clients, just like a school’s primary raison d’être should be to bring the best possible education to their students.
Saying that, if you have a good idea of the area, but not the exact topic, we recommend a bit of SEO research into how best to get the right keywords so you’ll find that special person who’s searching about in the dark for some answers. We recommend SEO for Entrepreneurs by Nat Eliason for a good overview on this topic.
For us, it was a topic we’d heard and read some information on, and wanted to see a course that would be accessible but not too long and drawn out. So we settled on tech addiction. There is already a wealth of information on it, but much of it is quite spread out, and we also wanted to see more background information, specifically focused on how addiction is central to a Capitalist economic model.
3. How much should you invest?
This is a key question which usually isn’t given a huge amount of attention, due to an overwhelming amount of information on this topic promising rich returns for merely the most basic effort. The reality is that the best courses you see online have a great deal of investment. Take David Perell’s Write of Passage course. It represents a large outlay in the region of several thousand dollars, but Perell has a full time staff who help him create and orchestrate the month long learning that takes place, as well as office space, software subscriptions and guest speakers who also join throughout the course.
There are two main components to the thinking process here:
- What’s your intended profit margin?
- How long term is your thinking?
Now unless the course is intended for the purposes of marketing something else, or additional services you provide, your outlay in creating it should naturally be less than the amount of money you expect to earn from it.
This becomes a much more tricky question: How do you know how much revenue your course will earn?
Many course creators circumvent this question by creating a pre-order or pre-sell page for potential learners to sign up early and either place a deposit, or merely show a sign of intent to take it once it comes out. This enables the creator to understand just how much interest there is in what they’re offering, and could even provide an “advance” for the weeks or months long time period which they’ll spend in creating the learning materials themselves. It may also help with final pricing strategy.
This comes down to a crucial question, who is your audience base?
Do you have a social media following that you’re looking to engage? An email newsletter? Perhaps you’re a known figure in a certain niche topic online? All these things help greatly in allowing you to spread the word about what you’re doing, and ensure that the effort expended in working on the content will be rewarded once it’s out.
If you do not have a pre-existing audience (which we didn’t before we created out course), then you can expect this process to be longer, and have more effort.
Here are some things we suggest if this is the case:
- Join online groups (reddit subreddits are perhaps the most ubiquitous online forums right now) that you’re looking to provide value to in what you’re teaching, and integrate yourself. Answer questions, bring knowledge and enthusiasm. Only once you’ve become more of a consistent member in the community, start to integrate your course into your answers, and only if you really think it’ll provide others the value they’re seeking.
- If you have an offline audience, or you do teaching in a live, in-person setting, then consider word-of-mouth advertising by telling those people you teach about it. They might be looking to dive deeper into a certain topic, and trust you as a teacher. This might be a great way of getting the word out on yourself as an authority.
- Once you have some takers, ensure you gather testimonials from them, and post these on the course’s website, or wherever you’re hosting it. If you’re doing marketing on other platforms, make sure that these testimonials are central to that, as social proof is an essential element of online decision making, and will definitely be a main driver of further interest.
When understanding how much great your profit margin will be, and having previously established your format, you can work out what you need to invest in production.
As a high-end video production company, our clients are always looking to stand out from the competition with better quality and interesting and innovative ideas. Even if your budgets don’t stretch to being in the thousands, you can always be considering how you might try to stand out from others who are doing something similar. It’ll make a big difference.
Long Term Thinking
The reason I mention long term thinking in how much you should invest in your course creation is because if you are trying to make a name for yourself in a certain niche, being associated with high quality and high value therefore brings a high degree of trust. This is essential in others associating your name, or your brand, with great courses. If people make this association regularly, you’ll end up standing out ahead of competitors when you bring a new product, course, book, or any other medium, to market.
So starting strong with good investment in a great quality product an be a massive help in doing this.
4. Where to publish?
There are a myriad of course creation platforms out there, but they can really be split into two main categories:
- You own the storefront
- You exist in a marketplace
We chose a “you own the storefront model”, so went with Thinkific, which offers a lot of customisability and a range of pricing options. However there are plenty more platforms out there such as Teachable and LearnWorlds that also offer great products.
Marketplaces will allow you to offer your course in direct comparison to others in similar genres or topics. Platforms like Udemy and Coursera allow you to publish a course easily and have millions of existing users, as well as the clout to attract more, who may be potential students if your offering and topic area is sufficiently interesting.
We chose the storefront option because we felt our course was too niche to be findable on a marketplace platform, as well as not offering education that may result in something more concrete other than a reduction in one’s online or digital tech usage. We also wanted to be more experimental with marketing and outreach, and owning the platform in that case was the best option.
That’s a Wrap
If this has provided any learning value whatsoever, then we’ll feel it’s been a job well done. Out philosophy is to empower the next generation of talented and passionate teachers to bring their knowledge to a larger audience, and we’re incredibly excited by the potential of the internet, and platforms within, to do this.
Do keep up to dates with more articles, experiments, and films in our newsletter or on our social channels. And if you'd be interested to take our course on Tech Addiction management, click here.