Starting can be hard. Here’s 7 reasons you need to do it anyway.
For many of us, launching an online course remains an aspirational goal, rather than one we’ve made an clear steps toward accomplishing. Online courses hold a lot of appeal, both as an educational concept, and as a way for entrepreneurs to start a business. Yet, for all the interest they hold, many would-be instructors struggle to get theirs off the ground.
There are many good reasons why a person may put off launching their online course, but there are just as many obstacles that can be removed with a little planning and research. If you’ve found yourself putting your course idea on hold for several years because you don’t know where to start, here’s a breakdown of some of the factors that may be holding you back—and how to get around them.
1. You haven’t chosen a subject.
Some online educators have a good idea of what they want to teach before they get started, while others are more interested in online education as a concept or a business model. For those who want to try their hand at online teaching but haven’t settled on a subject, starting at all seems like putting the cart before the horse.
And they’re not wrong: while there’s a lot to learn about instructional design and LMSs, there’s only so far anyone can go without a defined course subject.
If this describes your situation, you should know you’re not alone. The key is to lean into your strengths till you hit upon the right topic. Learning enough about that topic to become an expert will be an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible.
2. You don’t know who your audience is.
You may know your topic, but struggle to find a compelling angle. In this, you’re definitely in a better position than your peers who are still in the topic discovery phase. Finding your niche comes down to knowing your audience, and in this, research is your friend.
Begin by identifying broad audience characteristics. Do you want to teach adults or children? Employees in an organization, or self-motivated learners? Beginners or advanced students? You may know the answer to these questions without having to think at all—it’s just a matter of deciding what you want.
For the rest, get online and start searching for answers. Run a poll on your blog. Ask an Internet forum. Google. Build a profile of the student you want to teach, and begin writing your content for that persona.
3. You’re not sure it’s commercially viable.
It’s one thing to get excited about a course idea, it’s another thing entirely to find one that will be a commercial success. How do know if your course will be worth all the time you put into developing it?
The reality is, you won’t know for sure until you launch your course. However, you can get a good idea by looking at your market. See if there is strong competition out there for similar courses, then check those against your plan to see if you have a unique take. If you’ve been blogging about your course idea, you can also poll your audience to see if they’re interested, or presell your course to build funds.
4. You don’t know what LMS to choose.
Choosing the right LMS is a critical part of your course development. While it’s not the first thing you need to decide, finding the right LMS can help remove some key barriers to getting started.
First, consider whether you want a hosted or self-hosted platform. (We recommend self-hosting, but the choice is yours.) Remember that there’s more to consider than cost: you may require certain features your course concept, or you may need a specific kind of plugin. And of course, easy integration and an intuitive interface should also be a high priority.
5. You don’t know how to organize your course.
Instructional design is an exhaustive topic, and if this is where you’re at in your course creation process, it’s not a bad place to be. There’s a lot to learn, from online teaching practices to effective visualization methods, and more information comes out every day.
Knowing your way around instructional design best practices is important. But there’s a limit to what you can learn without putting that knowledge into practice. So, if you’ve hit a point where you’re confident with the basics, think about creating a micro course for testing purposes. You can see what works, then expand what you learn into a larger course.
6. You don’t know how to test your course.
Testing can be as technical or as straightforward as you please. Your LMS should provide you with some metrics, and you can work with plugins to find out more. If all else fails, you can even do it the old-fashioned way and send out a simple questionnaire.
In many respects, there’s nothing so mysterious about testing your course. It’s just the same as launching it—just with a more select group of people. Don’t be put off by a fear that you’re not going to do it right. The only way you can do it wrong is by not doing it at all.
7. You’re afraid your course isn’t good enough.
If it’s not impostor syndrome, it’s perfectionism. You may have poured your heart and soul into your course, and still not be convinced that it’s ready for the world. You have standards. We get it.
Unfortunately, neither your timing nor your course will ever be perfect. Rather than exhaust yourself trying to achieve an impossible standard on your first attempt, get your course in front of your students, and start learning from them. They’ll show you how to improve your course in no time.