When you start building a business selling online courses, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing in myths. From doing big launches to dwelling on names to creating too many courses, there are plenty out there. Believing in myths can distract you from what really matters, causing you to focus your energy on the wrong things. As you make your way into the online course business, try to learn from the mistakes of others. In that spirit, I offer you my top picks of online course myths to ignore—and why: Myth #1: Your Course Name Is Everything Your course name isn’t a headline. Nor is it the sole thing that grabs your audience’s attention. Obsessing over the wrong things is a common mistake new course creators make. A lot of new creators debate their course names for hours, days, and even months. They dwell on this minor detail instead of putting their energy into developing their coursework and growing their audience Truth: The name of your course matters, but it shouldn’t keep you up at night. What really matters is your course “hook,” also known as the OUTCOME people will achieve if they purchase and implement the lessons in your course.
An alarming study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania showed that online courses have an average completion rate of 4%! That means as an online course creator, 96% of your customers are failing to see value in your courses. Failing to impact the majority of your clients is a recipe for disaster. Not only does this guarantee a low client retention rate, but it also means your chances of growing your client base are slim. After all, would you purchase additional courses from an instructor who didn’t deliver results the first time around? Would you then go on to recommend their courses to your colleagues, family, or friends?
More and more entrepreneurs are turning to membership websites, a business model which provides exclusive content to people who pay a monthly or yearly fee. Some entrepreneurs establish businesses which revolve around this model while others are using it to expand an already existing business. It’s not difficult to see why: early in 2018, Forbes reported that the subscription e-commerce market grew by more than 100 percent each year for the previous five years. Of course, membership sites make money for their owners but that’s not the full story. They generate passive income. Unlike other forms of income generation where you don’t make money unless you’re working, with membership sites, you can create content and then let it earn for you. Think about all the ebooks, online courses, podcasts and webinars that you see being advertised. Beyond the money, the best membership websites allow people or businesses to establish themselves as the experts in their chosen field. It also helps them to increase the buzz surrounding their business. Furthermore, membership websites help businesses to offer more value to their customers and create a loyal customer base.
Ever played Candy Crush? Pokémon GO? Monopoly? You’re not alone! People of all ages, genders, and cultures are absorbed in these games for hours––even days. According to The 2018 Gamification of Work Survey, over 50% of people reported they gamed “casually,” while 27% reported playing “moderately to fairly often.” That means there’s over 75% of members, you’re failing to engage using gamification on your learning platform. You don’t need to be a techie to implement games into your coursework. In fact, technology is only a small part of it. The majority of gamification is rooted in psychology and strategy. But in order to understand how to add gamification to your online courses or membership sites, you first need to understand what it is. What is Gamification? Gamification is the application of games in typical non-gaming activities, such as learning, to promote user engagement and loyalty. Nick Pelling coined the term “gamification” in 2002, but it wasn’t until years later that big-name businesses began implementing it on their platforms. Let’s take Yelp for instance. Yelp is a crowdsourcing review platform for local businesses that rewards its most interactive members with “Elite” status. Users who achieve this badge not only get to display it on their profiles, but they also get invited to special elites only events. By doing this, the platform is rewarding positive app behavior and motivating other users to achieve the same status. Here, Yelp uses the two pieces of gamification: game mechanics and game dynamics. So, let’s tap into what these pieces are. Game Mechanics: Game mechanics are the elements that inspire your students to progress in their coursework. They are the rules that players need to follow, as well as the rules the game itself follows. Some tried and tested game mechanics are: Points – Often numerical values, points are collected to measure student success and achievement. Points can be earned various ways on your e-learning platform, such as by watching lectures or sharing and creating something useful to other students, e.g. a study guide. Badges – Badges are usually awarded after a certain amount of achievements. For example, you can award a student with a badge for completing a lesson or for checking in three days in a row. As mentioned earlier, apps like Yelp often employ badges to keep consumers coming back. Levels – Levels help users gauge their progress. Let’s say students need to earn 10 points to reach a new level. By using this game mechanic, students will be even more motivated to engage with their coursework because they want to receive points in order to “level up.” Challenges – Everyone likes a challenge. The feeling of overcoming and achieving is empowering for students. Create learning missions alongside rewards as an incentive for students. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; it doesn’t even need to be monetary. A reward can be something as simple as a special badge or a certificate. Leaderboards – Leaderboards keep track of desirable behaviors. Showing leaders in each category will give students markers to aspire to. Public leaderboards will also encourage competition and participation among students. Game Dynamics: Once you decide what mechanics to use, the next step is to grasp a clear understanding of game dynamics, i.e. the elements that satisfy universal human desires. Some game dynamics are: Rewards – Rewards encourage “good” user behavior by giving positive actions value. Status – Everyone likes to have bragging rights. Status is a great motivator because people want to distinguish themselves or gain recognition from others. Achievements – Completing milestones feel great! Small victories help students gain confidence in lessons, keeping them working towards higher goals. Competition – Who doesn’t like a little bit of competition every now and then? Users will gain satisfaction from comparing their performances to others, as well as the desire to achieve more. Self-expression – People love to express themselves, so make sure your learning platform gives them the opportunity to do it! Self-expression can come in the form of an avatar, a biography, or personal challenges. Overall, game mechanics and dynamics appeal to human desires, encouraging students to stay active and continue taking your courses. People are motivated by rewards and feel gratified by their achievements. Gamification Produces Better Learning Experiences The truth is, increasing user participation in an online course or membership site is no easy task. When we are confronted with “boring” tasks, we often tend to procrastinate on them or to perform them half-heartedly. Gamification works because it activates the brain’s pleasure circuits––making students want to stay engaged with the material. Game incentives, such as rewards or points, provide users with immediate gratification, inspiring them to continue to achieve. Gamification also reinforces desired behaviors and outcomes from consumers. In addition, the use of game methods gives students immediate feedback, enabling them to identify their strengths and weakness. Lastly, Gamification creates healthy competition amongst students through badges and leaderboards, constructing a community in the process. After all, why do people like play games in the first place? It’s simple psychology, really. Everyone likes to win. Conclusion: Does gamification really help keep your students/members engaged? We’ll just let the statistics speak for this one. A report by the 2006 Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists showed that without gamification learners only recalled 10% of what they read and 20% of what they heard. When visuals were added, memory recall tripled to 30%. When an action was accompanied with an explanation, memory retention grew to 50%. When gamification methods were used to complement coursework, retention skyrocketed to nearly 90%.
When you’re creating an online course, you need to make sure you’re properly compensated for your hard work. The best online courses are designed with some success factors “baked in.” This requires thoughtful planning since you’ve got to craft the exact educational experience that your audience wants to buy. Then, of course, you’ve got to deliver that experience. Don’t make the mistake of skipping these planning steps, or your digital education business will take much longer to gain any traction. Here are the five steps on the road to paving a profitable and scalable online course business the first time: 1. Find your niche and make sure your course idea is profitable It’s actually a myth that to create a successful course, you need to pick a broad topic to attract a broad audience. This isn’t true. You actually need to target a specific audience and solve a specific problem for them. That’s how you make a course that sells! So let’s rewind for just a second. If you want to sell your course, you need to cater to a particular kind of person and attract people who will buy what you have to offer. The key here is to focus on QUALITY over quantity. You might reach thousands of people with your marketing, but if none of them are interested in what you’re selling, you’re not going to get anywhere. Narrowing down your audience into a niche is powerful.
Innovation in educational technology and the shift to a digital world has necessitated huge changes from instructors, coaches, business owners, and entrepreneurs alike—they’ve had to make drastic alterations to not only the way they instruct, but to their entire business models, and at a much faster rate than predicted. Investment in Educational Technologies Continues to Increase
So, you are excited…you have finished developing your online course! Kudos! Now the real work starts! Just because you have finished building it, the money does not automatically start rolling in; you have to do the work. “More work?” you ask. “I just spent all that time developing the course!” But, how are you going to make an income from the course? People don’t even know it exists. Now is the time to plan the marketing of your course. Laying out a well-thought-out plan on the front end will increase the likelihood of building a profitable online course.
Today’s busy, but knowledge-hungry learners do not mind paying for an online course that they can take at their own pace and in their own time. Enter you, the specialist with the knowledge to share and plenty of industry experience to guide those who want to learn. But wait! This is not enough to make your prospects stick around and take your course and then come back for more. In this post, I’m going to walk you through the process I used with my clients in creating six-figure online courses from scratch: 1. Choose a topic that will sell. It is all about that one stellar idea that will hit the ball out of the park. You may have several great ideas about the topic you want to teach, but to zero in on one, keep the following pointers in mind: Brainstorm and list all your ideas. Take a look at what your competitors are offering, so you can select topics that will make your course unique compared to other that already exist. Figure out what topic motivates you the most. Remember, passion is contagious. Make sure that the topic resonates with the audience. More specifically, the topic you choose should address a specific pain point of your audience. (To learn about their pain points, read the comments they post on your blog, the type of posts they like and share, and the questions they pose on forums.) Ensure that you craft the topic title such that there is no ambiguity about the theme and focus of your course. In other words, the topic title should spell out the what’s-in-it-for-me information upfront.
You are the expert, and now you want to share your knowledge with the world at large. But you are confused. You know you want to create informational products for your audience, but the question that’s bugging you is how to sell your products. Should I create an online course and sell it on my blog? Or should I build a membership site and charge members to access the content I constantly put up there? There is no right or wrong choice here. What is best for you depends on how much money and effort you want to put into your products, how much information you have to share with the world, the size of your audience, and the nature of the subject. But before you plunge into a decision, learn more about online courses and membership sites, especially how they work, so you know what you are getting into. Membership Website In a nutshell, a membership site is like a gated area of your virtual business world that users can access only by paying a fee. Your membership site is not just a platform for you to put up new content; it is also a community where you can interact with your members. The following are the features of a typical membership site:
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