The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 24.08

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Screenshot from my project tracker

Building an online course - Part 3

The last few weeks I’ve been documenting my journey developing an online course. In part 1, I set the scene and showed you where I start. Part 2 looked at how I plan, build and publish the lessons. And in today’s instalment, where I’ve gotten to, what I’ve learnt, and what happens next.

This will also be the last article in this series about building an online course.

Progress report

This was a good week - I managed to record 4 lessons, bringing my total to 5 with 3 remaining. There’s a total of 33 video minutes so far, and I suspect I will end up with 45-50 minutes in the course.

Keep in mind that I’m doing this in between looking after my clients. I kept track (roughly) of how much time I spent to record, edit and publish those videos - 12 hours in total so far. That number is scary - more on that below.

You can see the live version of my project tracker here.

What I’ve learnt

The first and most notable lesson was how long it takes to record, edit and publish the lessons. I’m averaging less than 3 minutes of finished video per hour, which at first I thought was appalling.

A little bit of research shows that decent quality creator videos take about 3 hours per minute of finished video. There’s a huge variance though - a 1-minute low-budget corporate video may take three days for planning, one shoot day, and one day in editing. And of course if you’re doing single-take social videos your total time spent will be counted in minutes, not hours.

So even though I feel I’m slow, I don’t feel as bad after learning this stuff takes time. I still need to get better at this, and I will be experimenting with my workflow as I go.

So big lesson learnt: recording and editing videos for a course takes time.

There are also a couple other lessons worth mentioning:

Getting comfortable on video

There’s nothing like practice to get better at something, and I’ve certainly learnt that this week with recording videos.

I’ve always been self-conscious when I record videos (who doesn’t!), but I can see a marked improvement in this course over courses I created in the last few years. I’m more relaxed, I laugh at the occasional stumble and my speaking cadence and pitch is vastly improved.

Now to be fair, in each lesson you see my face for less than a minute at the start—the rest is screen walkthroughs. But even so, the old lesson holds true: the more you do it, the better you get at it.

The FUD Factor

The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) factor showed up this week. Fear that my students won’t actually like the course, uncertain that I’m doing the right thing, and doubt that I’m doing it right.

This is not my first course, but still, FUD factor is showing up.

From what I’ve seen with the other courses I’ve built, and looking at what other course creators talk about, this is quite natural. It hasn’t been debilitating, but still…

There are 2 ways I use to get around this:

  1. Look closely at your content ask yourself if the course will fulfill the learning outcomes.
  1. Accept that what you think people will struggle with is just half the story - you will only learn the other half when they actually start going through the course.

We looked at the first point in part 1 of this series. If your course promises X-ray vision, your students should be able to see through walls by the end of the course.

The second point is worth a closer look. I asked Perplexity AI what the average online course completion rates are - here’s what it said:

The average completion rate for online courses varies but generally falls between 5% and 15%, with some sources indicating rates as low as 3% to 6% for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). However, cohort-based online courses tend to have significantly higher completion rates, often exceeding 85%.

Factors contributing to low completion rates include lack of structure, limited interaction and support, and accountability issues in self-paced online courses. Improving course descriptions, offering incentives, implementing gamification, providing regular feedback, and fostering a sense of community can help increase completion rates. Additionally, the price of a course can influence completion rates, with higher-priced courses showing higher completion rates.

So when FUD factor shows up, think about not just “putting your course out there and waiting for money in the bank” - that’s probably going to get you rich. Accept that you will have to watch what students do, give them the opportunity to ask questions, and adapt the course if necessary.

That’s exactly what I will be doing with this course.

This is actually fun

The third lesson worth mentioning is that I’m actually beginning to have fun creating the lessons.

I think the main reason is that I’m getting closer to having the course done, and one of the main reasons I’m getting there are these articles. There are a couple of thousand people reading these articles every week, so I would have major egg on my face if I weren’t able to show some progress!

So to avoid egg on face I had to focus like a laser, and that resulted in stuff getting done which is hugely satisfying.

What next?

I will have the last few lessons complete by the end of next week. I’m adding the lessons to The Boardroom as I go so actual “publication” is done at the same time. So barring any major upsets, this course should be built and available to my students by the end of next week.

This Notion 101 course is a bonus I’m including with SoloBOSS, so once it’s done I can finish off the SoloBOSS marketing videos and get the sales page live.

I’ve had a couple of questions from folks over the last couple of weeks.

Will this course be available as a standalone product?

The short answer is I don’t know. I will first have a look at feedback from students, and if there is a need, I may make it available separately.

Will you be building a course on how to build online courses?

I would love to, but…

My experience is that most courses about building online courses don’t work. The people I know who’ve signed up for them rarely produce actual courses, and even more rarely make money out of it.

To actually help people build online courses is a big job. The key seems to be in expensive cohort-based courses - expensive because you’re more likely to use something that wasn’t cheap, and cohort-based because people need feedback about to understand if they’re doing the right thing. To justify a high investment, the course and the support need to be top notch.

So I know how to do it right, but I also understand the commitment and effort required from the course creator (which in this case would be me). As my math professor would say: “this is a non-trivial problem” which is math speak for bloody difficult.

Let me know if you would be interested in something like that.

Before I forget…

In the first article I promised free access to this course including 1 month access to The Boardroom - that offer still stands. All you have to do let me know who you are, what you do, and what your biggest business challenge is.

Thanks for following along.