Ready to take your course to the next level in 2021? Here are some ideas for how to improve.

It’s a new year, and for most business owners, that means it’s time to reflect on how far they’ve come since the previous year, and where they hope to go in the year to come. While New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, when it comes to your online course, setting just one or two major goals for the year on top of what you’re already accomplishing can get you a long way. The question is, what kind of goals should you set for this year?

Of course, everyone will have their own priorities, many based on their specific business model. But if you’re looking for inspiration, here are five areas which we think might be productive places for growth in the new year.

1. Learn about—and implement—a new instructional design concept.

Innovation doesn’t have to come with fancy gimmicks. It can also come from presenting content in a way you hadn’t thought of before. Many of our users are content experts, meaning they understand the material they’re presenting very well. But it doesn’t follow that they’re educational experts. In other words, knowing your material doesn’t guarantee you can teach it effectively.

One of the best things you can do, if you feel you are in this category, is to read more about educational techniques. The more you know about how your learner’s learn, the better equipped you will be to teach them.

A few of our favorite blogs on the topic include:

2. Add a new element to your marketing strategy.

Satisfied with your course but struggling to grow an audience? Marketing seems to be a “love it or hate it” task for many online educators. Those who enjoy marketing their courses can sometimes go overboard, trying too many things at once. And those who hate it can fall below even the minimum threshold of valuable activity.

This year, begin with an audit of your current marketing efforts. What are you doing well, and what is demonstrating traction? Keep those in your plan. Then think of one other element you can add to your marketing strategy that you could do really well. If you’re already blogging, keep blogging but think about writing a downloadable guide. If you’re consistently posting to Facebook, think about adding an Instagram account. (We did!) If you’re maintaining a healthy email marketing list, think about running some advertisements.

3. Improve an area of your learner experience that’s been holding you back.

You know those minor irritants that you keep putting off fixing because they don’t every seem quite as important as the task at hand but are nevertheless a struggle every time you engage with them? Maybe it’s a task you have to do manually but you wish you could automate. Maybe it’s part of your template design that looks dated and needs a refresh. Maybe it’s a missing link in your learner support strategy.

Addressing this task won’t just clear up an irritation, it will also free you to do more of the work you want to do, and leave learners with a more positive experience. Make this the year you stop putting it off.

4. Experiment with a new technology.

While we often caution our users not to let the promise of a fancy new piece of technology distract them from mastering the basics, those who are ready for something more advanced have a lot of interesting options to consider. Innovating in your course design by incorporating something new, like branching scenarios, interactive content, or even augmented reality, can not only set you apart from the competition—it can also create a better experience for your learners.

5. Involve yourself in a new way.

One of the big ideas behind online education is the promise that it can free up repeatable tasks, like giving lectures or grading quizzes, leaving instructors with more time to devote to individual learners. However, it usually takes instructors a while to get each new course off the ground, meaning that individual time never seems to arrive.

This is a shame, because even a little bit of one-on-one time can keep learners engaged and greatly enhance the value of your course. If this isn’t something you can offer, taking a more prominent role on your blog, on social media, or in a private newsletter can help you connect with your audience and create greater learner buy-in. You may find that learners are more interested in signing up for a one-off webinar with you than in a whole new course.

Making progress doesn’t have to be perfect—it just has to move the needle.

If you’ve ever looked back on old lists of New Year’s Resolutions, you might notice a trend: you never accomplish everything you thought you would, but you do accomplish some of it. While you may not achieve your most aspirational goals, taking a moment to think about where you want to go can keep you from treading water—and from letting your attention scatter in too many places at once.

At the very least, trying new ideas will give you a sense for what’s worthwhile and what isn’t. You may decide to try a new lesson style that doesn’t pan out, in which case there’s no need to pursue that goal. Or you may realize that one of your marketing strategies is more effective than you expected, which is a sign you ought to double down and put more of your energy in that direction.

However you choose to tackle your goals this year, we wish you the best of luck. Happy 2021.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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