Dealing With Criticism Of Your Courses

thick-skinMost articles you find relating to instructional design and elearning course creation centers around strategies for increasing the chances of successful courses.

You will find advice on objective setting, visual design best-practice, evaluation techniques, engagement strategies, and so on.

What you won’t come across too often is anything related to the other (not-so-fun) part of creating an online course: criticism.

No matter how much hard work you put into your elearning course at some point someone will eventually criticize it.

When these comments are merely suggestions then it’s not that bad. However, sometimes you’ll receive a scathing review of your course. If you’re selling your courses, the scathing review may be accompanied by a refund demand.

These are more challenging situations to deal with.

“How Dare You!?”

Our natural reaction to criticism is to become defensive, especially if you know that you spent countless hours building out your course. When you work on something for an extended amount of time then it’s easy to take critical comments personally.

When this happens then the first thing you should do is allow for an hour before giving any kind of response.

The point of this is to give yourself ample time to get through your knee-jerk defensive reaction. If you find that after an hour you’re still heated, then wait a little longer. The last thing you want to do is to immediately reply while you are fueled by emotion – only bad things will happen.

As you get past the initial anger, try to look beyond how the person is voicing their criticism and focus on why.

Maybe there is a misunderstanding that you can help clear up, or perhaps there really is something you can do to improve your course that you overlooked.

Sometimes though there isn’t anything you can do other than acknowledge that you received their feedback. Not all criticism are valid, but people like to be heard – so at least give them that.

Remember, it’s impossible to create something that makes every-single-person happy. We are opinionated creatures and at some point opinions will clash.

When you accept this reality you will find that you relieve yourself of the self-imposed burden of trying to be perfect. Keep creating your elearning courses and striving for excellence. Use feedback along the way to grow as an instructional designer and as a person.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

3 Comments
  1. Michelle

    I completely agree and I always make it a point to communicate back in a friendly manner, possibly remind them of the positives of the course and how many people have found it useful, apologize that the course wasn’t a good fit for them, issue a refund (even if they didn’t ask), and let them know I hope they find what they’re looking for. This almost always illicites an apology (if they were out of line) and a positive view of my company. I know not everyone will be happy with my products or offerings but I aim for them all to be happy with my company.

  2. Andy

    Justin, good blog article as always. I have a specific issue customers are brining up, that I hope you can help with. My customers are mostly companies that have a number of employees. There will be a owner, or office mamas we that has a company credit card and they would like to use that credit card to purchase the class for multiple employees. The way Learn a Dash works with PayPal now, you can only have one user per credit card number. Your tech support group claims this is due to a limitation of PayPal. My webmaster does not think this is a Paypal limitation, but s limitation in Learn Dash when using PayPal. I have to believe that other users of Learn Dash have run into this and it is really frustrating my customers. We don’t really want to add a shopping cart, as we don’t sell other products online. Paypal doesn’t really care about what you’re buying, other than displaying it as text during the payment process, and doesn’t have anything to do with creating accounts and giving access to the course….that’s all in Learn Dash. What we really could use is for one person to purchase one course for multiple people, or at a minimum, at least have the ability to use one credit card number for multiple people. Is this something you are working on for a future release?

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