4. Structuring your course Copy

Would you like to listen to this topic?

This topic is about the actual course content. It will cover structure, length (word count), words/video/imagery and including exercises to get course participants engaged. I’ll share the various options for feedback or whether you’d like it to be a self-paced course, to minimise your involvement.

People have paid for your online course because they want information – and lots of it. They want you to tell them everything you know on this subject. But it’s important that it’s structured so that the modules flow from one to the next, and that the content is digestible rather than overwhelming.

For this course, as you’ve probably noticed, there are modules and topics. I thought about the four main areas that I needed to cover in this course and divided it like this:

Module 1: What should my course be about?

Module 2: How do I create the content?

Module 3: Where and how should I host my online course?

Module 4: How do I sell spaces?

Then within each module, there are different topics. Some modules will have more topics than others, depending on how much information there is. For this course, module 1 simply needed to cover the subject of your course and what it should be called. This module, however, will have more topics.

So once you’ve decided on the subject of your course and the name, think about the modules; the main areas you need to cover. And once you’ve got them down, go into more detail. How can you divide up each module into bitesized topics?

Tip:

You have to assume that people will enrol with very little knowledge so think back to the basics – how did you learn this subject? Really break it down. Imagine you’re starting completely afresh: where would you begin? What information would you need?

And if you’re still unsure about how to divide your course into the main modules, ask someone else. It doesn’t matter whether they know your subject well or have never before considered it. A fresh perspective can be really useful.

In the next module, I’ll explain in detail how I hosted my first course. It was very basic. But in terms of structure, I had one page on my WordPress website per module and I divided this into sub-categories. So for module 1 of my ‘DIY PR’ course, the title was:

1. Finding your story

And sub-headers included:

  • Some questions to get you thinking…
  • My story
  • Other freelancers and business owners’ PR stories

You might use your existing website to host your course, as I did initially, or have a new one built – as I did once I’d proved that this was worth investing in.

Or you could use a third party website to host them. There are some here. You can often sign up for free and then pay extra to unlock certain features; you might pay a monthly ‘hosting’ fee. Thinkific and Podia seem to be the most popular ones amongst people I speak to. 

Either way, make sure the content is broken up.

You can use one page of a website and separate the topics with different sub-headers that are in bold. Or if you have a more sophisticated set-up, course participants can move from one page to the next for a new topic, as you will on this course.

Make it interactive

Will you have an exercise included in each module? It can help to have something interactive: a task, challenge, exercise, homework. This engages the students and gets them putting some of what they’ve learned into action.

For my PR course, I have one exercise at the end of each module, which is about having a go at what I’ve just taught them. For module one, they learn about finding their PR story and the exercise is to go away and write up their story, using all the tips and advice I’ve shared.

For my Becoming your own Boss course, there are three to four exercises dotted throughout the modules. This course is about deciding what your freelance career or business should be so it requires more thinking and planning on their part, using the tools and exercises I’ve shared.

You’ll see that for this course, the exercises at the end of each module are directly related to the topics you’ve just covered. The idea being that you can consolidate all that you’ve learned by completing the exercises, rather than having to keep scrolling back through the notes for pointers.

Having a live element

Some online courses are run with a live element. This gives you a good reason to have a start date (and if you’re looking for a rush of sales, having a specific date the course starts will likely help with this).

So you get people signed up, you have a date that the course starts and perhaps each week, they can join you for a Facebook Live. Here, they can ask questions or just listen.

There is the issue of timing: people will have different schedules so may not be able to actually join Live. But there’s always the option of replays.

You’ll know whether running Live sessions feels right for you and your course.