Do you have a great idea for an online course but you don’t know where to get started with the technology? It’s time to to put aside your technology fear and make a plan. Get out something to take notes with, and let’s get cracking!
1. Make an Inventory of Current Resources
The best way to make a new program is to build off what you already have. It is easier to try to work with what you have instead of reinventing the wheel! So, before you start, make an inventory of your current technology, services, assets and resources, such as:
- Website or web-based software
- Plugins you use or have purchased
- Mailing list services
- Survey services like Wufoo or SurveyMonkey
- Marketing services or service providers
- Social media followers and mailing list subscribers
Don’t forget friends, colleagues and partners! If you have people to help you create, market, sell, or admin the class, add those to your inventory.
2. Questions to Ask Yourself
Whether you are considering your needs or evaluating a particular technology, you don’t want to end up with a solution that doesn’t meet your needs. Here is a checklist of questions that you may find helpful when you are creating your course technology plan:
- What are my multimedia needs? Are you using audio, video, or content?
- What kind of continuing contact will I need? Will you need to contact your class with reminders in an ongoing basis?
- How will my class interact? Do you need questionnaires or interactive discussion? Will the class need a way to interact with you directly?
- How many people will this class serve? Is the course for one or one hundred people? Are they enrolling all at once, or in a trickle fashion?
- Who will share information? Will all participants share the same common materials or will you need individual materials for each participant in the program?
- What is the class and content schedule? Is the class self-paced or are all participants interacting with the materials at the same time? Are all the materials available from the beginning, or do they get rolled out at intervals?
- What is the format for the class? The format of the class will depend on the content being presented and the schedule it is presented at — but it is good to define the class in general terms such as "self-paced/DIY," "teleseminar series" or "one-on-one coaching."
- What other services do I need to integrate? If your list of resources from above includes 3rd-party services that you would want to use with your class (such as mailing lists and survey services), then you’ll want to make sure that your specific service provider works with whatever system you chose.
- How comfortable am I with technology? If you are, then great — and if not, you will need to consider who you will need to hire in order to get the job done. There are more than two answers to this question however, as there are varying levels of comfort. Some people can set up the whole system by themselves, some need help with setup but can do fine on the admin side once everything is set up, and some just want someone else to do it all for them!
Hopefully these questions will not only help you think of your technology plans, but also how you design the course and how you hire assistance for this course. There is no right/wrong answer to any of these, and answering the questions honestly will help you to work out a customized course development plan that works for you!
3. Course Models
As there are many ways to build a course, look back to models that you have seen from colleague or courses that you have taken. What sort of course would fit your needs, and how can you structure your content to fit that? Examples include:
- A E-mail Course can be self-paced (ie you sign up and get all the e-mails in order from the moment of purchase) or done in a launch model (where everyone starts at the same time). This can be done through WooCommerce integrations, connecting Paypal and Mailchimp, or connecting Paypal with Aweber. Want more interaction with your e-mail course? Consider adding a Facebook group!
- A Membership Site usually consists of a login for users that directs them to pages that have text, audio or video content. This system is usually connected to a payment system to collect payment and a marketing system to drip information out to the users. I typically like to use Wishlist Member for this, combined with Paypal for payments and Mailchimp or Aweber for autoresponder services. (WLM also works with Infusionsoft!)
- A Self-Paced Content Course consists of a packet of information that the participant works through, like a learning kit. This can simply be assembled as a zip file and given to the purchaser at the time of purchase, or it can be dripped automatically. For this, you can use something like WooCommerce to sell a digital download, or e-Junkie to deliver your file.
- A Teleseminar can be a single call or a series of calls that are designed to either teach the participants something, with or without interactivity. You can have pre-recorded calls, live calls with guests, broadcast calls where all other participants are mutes, or calls where all the participants can talk in a group — the possibilities are unlimited! To sign people up, try combining Paypal with Mailchimp (perhaps using a service like Zapier) or Paypal with Aweber (using built-in Aweber integration) and then deliver the content via Instant Teleseminar.
- A Webinar can also be done as a single event or as a series, as a free course or a paid one! A webinar is better than a teleseminar if you have graphics, charts or slides to help get your message across. Google Hangouts on Air, Go To Webinar, and Any Meeting are all good choices for this delivery method.
Questions About Course Planning?
Are you planning a free or paid course right now? Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask or leave comments below — or tell me what you’re working on!