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The Biggest Online Course Creation Pitfall You Must Avoid

There are a lot of mistakes you can make when building a course, but there’s one in particular that I see repeatedly.

This mistake happens to people that you wouldn’t expect it to happen to. It happens to experts, to teachers filled with enthusiasm, and to people overflowing with excitement to teach their topic.

Passion and enthusiasm are a huge advantage because they are contagious feelings that pass on to students. The best teachers out there are FILLED UP with passion.

But, at the same time, it can be your biggest pitfall!

I know you want to create value for your students. But the truth is giving them every tip, trick, and minute detail creates overwhelm.

Overwhelmed students don't complete their training. As a result, they don't learn the skill they desired to learn when they sign up.

They lose, and so do you.

This is what I call “The Firehose Effect™.”


The Firehose Effect™ and Why It’s Bad

The Firehose Effect™ occurs when students feel overwhelmed and have a hard time gliding through your course. There’s so much content that students can’t discern what’s important, and there isn’t a clear path towards completion.

As an online course creator, you need to find the right balance. Not enough information leaves students feeling unprepared and ripped off. Too much makes them feel overwhelmed and leads to inaction.

When people have too many choices or things to learn, they can’t see a straight path through to the ideal outcomes that you promised them. It’s like walking through a Walmart Supercenter and not knowing which aisles to go to or purchasing at a restaurant with 50 dishes and getting a case of analysis paralysis.

The biggest problem with this confusion-provoking phenomenon is that it reduces the number of students that complete your course because of the need for extra willpower.

Are many of your students not finishing your courses? Or if you have a membership site, are they leaving at month 2-3? 

The Firehose Effect could be creating the friction and resistance that’s making your students drop out.

Luckily, I’ve faced this problem countless times before and know exactly how to address it:

How to avoid the Firehose Effect™

1- Create a clear course structure

Letting people learn at their own pace is important, but not guiding their path will almost always guarantee their failure. Remember, small wins lead to big wins.  Big wins lead to success. Creating your courses with this in mind IS the path to SUCCESS. 

That’s why your course structure should be simple, and the path to achieving promised outcomes needs to be clear for your students.

A simple course structure with clear goals keeps your customers motivated and engaged. It helps them know exactly what’s the next step to take, and what they have to gain from it.

To start, ask yourself: 

  • What is the objective of each module or lesson?
  • Is every module taking students one step closer towards the end goal of the course?

Every module and lesson needs to have ONE objective. When students know what they’re working for and how they’ll benefit from it, they are much more likely to follow along the course (while learning faster and having more motivation).

If a module has 3-5+ goals, students can’t wrap their minds around what they’re trying to accomplish, and it’s easier for them to get overwhelmed and drop out. Consider splitting a lesson into two or more shorter lessons to make the path easier to follow.

Read more: Guide Students Toward Completion: A Proven Method to Structuring Your Online Course

2- Craft an enjoyable experience and make students feel rewarded

An essential aspect of making a successful online course is making it rewarding and frictionless. When students feel empowered and motivated as opposed to confused and purposeless, completion rates skyrocket! 

“Better organization and reduced Learner Friction™ is what will keep customers, not more content.”

- Mike Weiss

Here are three effective strategies to create a rewarding and frictionless experience:

Content Chunking: Content chunking is the technique of breaking down content into many small pieces that are easier to manage and learn. Small challenges or chunks are easier to handle and help students to comprehend material faster and retain it, all while exerting less effort.

Prizification™: Prizification™ has become my new technique to solve online "engagement" problems.  We’ve all heard students complain that there's too much content, or it takes too much time or it's boring. Implementing this one small painless strategy makes all the difference in your completion rates.  Meaningful, relevant rewards are the key to Prizificaton.

At the end of the day, students come to us to change their lives.  If they don't finish, we fail that task. Prizification helps push them over the hurdles they face so that they do finish.

And the best part?  We're seeing 500% or more increase in student completions.  It keeps them engaged so they finish and get results. Students who get results buy more courses and this rockets income.

Learn more about it here. 

Digital Badges: If you want to encourage students to finish your course, participate, and interact more with the instructor and other students, offering a tangible reward is a good method. Why? People love rewards. They want to feel unique, recognized and important. And if you can do that for them, their self-confidence will increase, and they will be more willing to continue progressing in your online course. So, how do you find tangible ways to reward and recognize? Start using digital badges to reward your students:

  • Provide a digital badge for course completion. People love showing up their achievements with the world, and adding them to their CV.
  • Offer bonus points for accomplishments. When they reach milestones, they get points. They can then turn in points for Amazon cash, gift cards, etc.
  • Design a virtual training "passport" and encourage participants to earn visas. The more they complete of the course, the more visas (or badges) they receive.

Read more: 6 Reasons Why Online Course Creators Should Use Digital Badges

3- Create actionable course content

You may know a lot but resist the urge to pack your course with “nice-to-know” information. Students want “must-know” information which, they can apply to their daily lives! They want to know how to get ahead in their careers or accelerate their business using practical steps. They want marketable skills they can add to their resume.

This doesn’t mean that you have to ignore theory, but you need to find a way to connect it to students’ lives and make it ACTIONABLE. You do this by showing how theory can be applied in real situations, exposing case studies,  finding applications in real-life issues, adding exercises, missions, and assignments into your course. 

If students can’t see how your content is relevant and they have a clear vision of what they can do with it, they’re unlikely to learn it. Even if they do retain it so they can pass the assessment, they’ll likely forget about it soon after. However, if they learn how to DO something, they’re more likely to retain the information for a long time, complete the course, achieve their goals, and have an impact on their lives.

Actionable content not only tells your students what to achieve but how to achieve it. It’s engaging, informative, and, most importantly, action-driving!

Your students bought a course instead of an e-book because they’re looking for something that’s more likely to help them achieve their desired outcomes. As a course creator, it’s your responsibility to help them do that. You play a key role in helping your students take action!

personas online courses

4- Break down your course

Many course creators feel like a longer course packed with lots of content is considered more valuable, but that’s far from the truth.

As I've mentioned before, having too much content loses you customers and blurs the learning path. Remember, you want students coming back for more, so keeping your course's lessons short and focused on a specific topic is vital!

Breaking down a long course into smaller chunks, or mini-lessons, that are more easy for students to digest, increases motivation and engagement by giving them the feeling of progress.

The effectiveness of this approach is backed by a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. This effect states that people are more likely to remember tasks which are in progress than those which they have completed. The Zeigarnik Effects also indicates that people are more likely to want to complete a task once they have started it. This means that when you separate your course into small chunks, it gives learners the motivation to complete all the sections once they have started. It helps students comprehend the content better, learn more of it, and remember it longer. It also makes the goal of each course more specific and clear, and therefore also easier to achieve.

I’ve said this before, and I will never get tired of repeating this: More is not always better. Longer is not always better. Bigger is not always better. The more content you include in your online courses, the more you risk confusing your students! 

Check out this article to read more about strategies to avoid the Firehose Effect™ and to keep students motivated, coming back for more. 

steps to make more money with your online course

Mike Weiss
Mike Weiss
Mike Weiss is the founder of Client Engagement Academy, The Client Engagement Membership Platform and Internet Sales Experts. He has become one of the top experts in online sales and marketing and client engagement. Mike's Client Engagement Membership Platform is leading the global movement utilizing modern technology and proven adult education methodologies to increase client engagement and course graduation rates causing profit margin expansion.

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