eLearning 101: What is an online course?

eLearning & Teaching

2014 was a crazy year for me. I started a new job working at a law firm, actually filling in for my wife. (She’d hurt her leg and was not able to physically do the job for a few weeks). 

Eventually, that job turned into a 6-year stint. I’m forever grateful for that time, though, because I was introduced to an entire new world in the process: Online courses, or, eLearning. 

I think my first introduction to this world of eLearning came from either Michael Hyatt or Pat Flynn, both of whom have been creating online courses since well before it was “cool.” 

You see, just a few short decades ago, the “standard American dream” of graduating college, getting a great corporate job, and retiring with a reasonable nest egg was still the norm. 

Gatekeepers were still a threat. The “piece of paper” (your diploma) mattered a lot to employers. Of course, not all industries have grown out of this—many for good reason. (I don’t really want my surgeon to be self-educated.)

But in the vast majority of career opportunities today, these things simply are not necessary. Many skills can be learned entirely through self-directed learning. Why go to college for four years, when you could take an online course and go deep into a subject for one summer, and start getting work by the fall? Or sooner? 

Enter eLearning: online courses, memberships, masterminds, mentorship programs, etc. 

Online courses give people like you and me the ability to learn specific skills from others (or teach them!) without hefty college expenses, the time associated with those classes, homework, or diplomas. 

So, an online course is usually a short collection of topics, modules, and/or lessons focused on teaching a specific skill or delivering a specific outcome.

Should I Teach an Online Course?

Online courses are a fantastic way to make an extra income for you and your family. 

The thing is, most people have what experts call “the curse of knowledge.” See, because you know what you know, the have a basic assumption that others know it too. But this is simply not correct. 

The fact is, no matter who you are, where you are, what you do, or what you’ve done, you have specific knowledge that others do not and would be willing to pay for. 

In fact, even if it is true that someone else has the exact same set of knowledge as you, what they absolutely DO NOT have is your experience with what knowledge. 

That means someone could learn the exact same thing from you and someone else, yet take away completely different things. 

Although there are more, here are three types of people that make great online educators: 

  1. DIYers. If you’re someone who likes to “DIY” things, you have probably accumulated lots of knowledge about a variety of subjects. What’s cool is, with an online course, you could actually teach other DIYers just like you who are not as far along in their journey!
  2. Technicians. If you work for someone else doing a specific skill, why not consider teaching others? Let’s say you are a landscaper by day, working for a company. Why couldn’t you create an online course as a side business, educating others on how to do their landscaping?
  3. Enthusiasts. Let’s say you LOVE bowling. You’re not necessarily a pro, but you’re known to be pretty darn good. Someone would absolutely pay to learn how to bowl from you! 

If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Right now, I earn money teaching web designers how to offer subscription design services. 

Kevin, one of my clients, is teaching men in their 40’s how to “relax and learn guitar.” 

Dee, another one of my clients, is helping physical therapy practice owners to transform their front office into a patient care and practice management machine.

Josh, my personal mentor, teachers other web designers how to build, run, and grow an awesome business and a lifestyle they love in the process.

Honestly, the list just goes on and on and on.

How to Get Started Selling Online Courses

To be honest, entire books have been written to cover this one headline. So it would not be possible (or fair) to attempt covering such a topic inside of a blog post. 

Still, here’s a simplified look at the process:

  1. Choose a topic. 
    1. This the most important step of all. You have to pick a topic and be as specific as possible. 
  2. Evaluate the 3 P’s:
    1. Am I passionate about the topic?
    2. Am I proficient in the topic?
    3. Is the topic profitable?
  3. Consider the why, how, and the what.
    1. Why, because you need motivation to do this (it’s hard work!)
    2. How, because you need to know how your content will be delivered
    3. What, because you need to be ultra-clear about outcomes and promises the course will make
  4. Tell someone about it!
    1. In order to get students for your course, they will have to know it’s available!

Conclusion

Although this was just a brief overview, I hope it gave you a glimpse into the opportunity of creating an online course. 

If you have questions, please leave a comment below! I would love to chat with you about your online course idea.

About Me

 
Hey, I’m Steve Schramm. I write about marketing, design, business strategy, and productivity. This blog is my personal “cookbook” to help you design a healthier business through self-directed learning.

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