7 Takeaways For Online Course Creators.
I’ve always preferred creating and moderating online courses over in-person events.
They allow me to reach more people.
To date, my five courses on Assertive Communication and Critical Thinking have reached students in 143 countries.
It’s pretty cool to think about it and look at the maps available in the instructor dashboard.
Since publishing my first course intended for an international audience, in 2017, more than 9000 people joined the programs, generating more than 13.000 enrollments — many participants chose more than one course since the topics are connected.
I had a few years of prior experience creating online courses exclusively in my country, but things took off when I decided to publish on Udemy — one of the biggest online marketplaces for educational content.
Later on, I also licensed the courses to Skillshare and for a brief time, to a Canadian company that turned out to be a really bad choice for instructors, which is why I ended that collaboration rather quickly.
Interacting over the last five years with both students and instructors, and running this educational segment of my activity on two major platforms based on very different business models, I experienced many things and learned plenty. Some of these revelations came quite abruptly, too.
I would like to share my main takeaways. From one content creator to another. Maybe you find some of the things I will write below useful, or at least they will confirm or dismiss some of your thoughts on the subject.
Let’s dive in.
What courses do I teach?
And how many enrollments each of them generated.
The five courses address Assertive Communication, Critical Thinking, and Productivity from an accessible psychological perspective.
I started with “The Assertive Way” online course collection, which includes:
- “Assertive Communication: Build The Independent You” — 4400+ enrollments.
- “Dealing With Criticism: The Assertive Way” — 3500+ enrollments.
- “Delivering Constructive Criticism: The Assertive Way” — 2800+ enrollments.
In June 2021, I added the first course on Critical Thinking:
- “How To Identify Fake News and Fight Misinformation” — 2700+ enrollments.
This year I launched my first course on Productivity:
- Optimized Goal-Setting: Step-by-Step Strategy | Productivity and Critical Thinking Skills — 30 enrollments.
The shortest course has 19 minutes of content and the longest one is a little over 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The ratings ranged between 4.2 and 4.8 out of 5 stars — a volatile measure, but “Dealing With Criticism” often held the “Highest rated” tag in its subcategory.
Now, on to what I learned from the experience.
7 Takeaways of being an Online Course Creator
In no particular order.
- Selling your course through an established marketplace is infinitely better than self-hosting.
At first, I used to host the courses for a small, regional audience, on my own website. Having to deal with everything from website design to marketing, payment processing, and invoice tracking was definitely very time-consuming and I would rather put that time into a new project.
Also, licensing your content to another platform means that you already have access to an audience interested in what you do.
I don’t think I would ever go back to self-hosting for online courses. For time-limited projects, maybe, but otherwise no, thank you.
2. The business model of the platform hosting your courses matters.
There‘s a huge difference in numbers between enrollments on Udemy and those on Skillshare. Not necessarily true for earnings, but that is another story.
Skillshare, on the other hand, is a subscription-based platform — monthly or yearly access — and does not issue certificates.
From an educational perspective, I am against certificates of completion, as many people may abuse their use and claim to have gained competencies they did not or cannot be acquired online or through a 2-hour video program.
From a client’s perspective, that document may be a nice reward and reminder of one’s performance, but that’s about it.
I noticed that students who are interested in learning, consume a lot of content, and like to compare and mix-and-match approaches, prefer Skillshare.
Those who want a classic approach to learning and have a more traditional online behavior, go with the one-time purchase on Udemy.
3. 4K resolution and other technical elements do not matter. Not if your content is useful.
I don’t film videos for my courses. They’re all slides with a clean design and a voice-over.
I am not a native English speaker either, so the voice-over is not one you would want to hear on Audible. Scripted content and the use of a foreign language make my delivery not very engaging. Even I know it.
But it doesn’t matter.
Students care if you offer value. If they can use the information.
Can you help them solve a problem? Do you give them a new perspective, present alternative paths toward a certain result?
If so, you’re safe.
You don’t need fancy equipment to make your classes useful and get high ratings.
Sure, if you can also add high-quality production, that’s a bonus. But I am saying that if the quality content is not there, the cool background and cool B-roll won’t get you anywhere.
Trust me. I’ve seen a $4000 initial investment for a great-looking but otherwise dull course return less than $100. So…
4. The only technical feature that is an absolute must is clean audio.
Unless you need to demonstrate the skill you are teaching on camera, then all you need is a decent microphone.
An external one is better but the one that comes with your phone is otherwise enough.
The voice-over for my first three courses was done using my phone’s mic. I did minimal editing afterward and it ended up being of decent quality.
5. The bestseller is not necessarily a good course. No need to compare yours to it.
Sometimes, the bestselling course in a category truly deserves the rank. Good quality, knowledgeable instructor, in-demand topic, etc.
Other times, the bestseller tag is the result of unethical practices and algorithm manipulation.
I’ve seen instructors claiming to offer official certificates in forensic psychology or psychotherapy. That cannot be done on online platforms, and definitely not worldwide, given the different regulations for these professions.
Look around, but do not unnecessarily compare yourself to others.
The only opinions that matter are those of your audience.
6. Participants’ motives for enrollment vary. So does their behavior regarding your course.
If you want thousands of people in your courses, be prepared for the full range of reactions and behaviors.
Some students buy a course now and watch it a year later. Others watch the course, love it, leave a great review, and ask for a refund. Yet another group will not write a public review but will tell you their opinion about your class in a direct message.
This person may love your delivery, the next one might completely dislike it. It’s all there. Diversity in everything. Be ready for it.
Most of all, don’t take things personally, learn how to make the difference between justified and unjustified criticism, and respond accordingly.
7. Repurposing content goes two ways. Or more.
Unless you are one of those individuals who rush through every subject they think could make them money, we can only be prepared enough to teach classes in a few fields or subjects.
The information you produce for the online course can also benefit your website audience or your followers on social media.
Get used to and good at repurposing your content.
A course can be turned into several blog posts, with matching video and social media content.
The other route is possible, too. If you already have many articles or posts about a certain topic, you can put them all together to create an online course.
Mix and match. It’s fun.
Teach what you know and are good at.
Focus on content quality as in value for the user, not form.
Make your own journey.
Others may want to join.
Be grateful when they do.
This article was originally published on an external platform on May 12, 2022.