Opening your course to the world brings many possibilities. Still, one of the most cited reasons behind boarding the online course train is the generation of passive income.
That’s because when people take their business online they’re happy to be able to save time by selling a finished product that people just buy and can access right away. In reality, that is only the tip of the iceberg.
What if you could plan every step of the learning experience and control when, how and what happens in certain events so you can actually focus on the big and important decisions instead of routine tasks?
To do this, what you should be looking for in any learning platform is automation.
Through automation, you’re telling a system what you want it to do in certain instances, such as what happens when a learner finishes the course? Or, what do you do when a learner is inactive?
With platforms that are becoming increasingly user-friendly, you don’t really need to know how to code or spend many hours to build these actions for your course. In fact, the following tricks can completely transform the way you manage online courses and most importantly: save time!
Beginner: save 8-10 hours/month*
1. Set actions for enrollment and unenrollment
To be honest, taking an online course can feel like a pretty solitary affair. I mean, learners are probably browsing alone in the evening or on their daily commute. To make a course more interactive, you need to look no further than automation.
To set the expectation from the beginning, you can decide what happens when learners enroll in a course or even when they unenroll. For example, they might get a badge or points, and get added in a discussion group, or simply receive a warm welcome message. These details really matter in the long run!
2. Send custom notifications to learners
Everything’s about customization nowadays, and why shouldn’t you take advantage of this? Sending a more personalized message helps you instantly connect with learners.
These messages can be sent to them when they enroll or unenroll from a course, or maybe when they are inactive so they can get back on track. Why not congratulate them when they get past a more difficult section? Whenever you can, look for the option of custom notifications.
3. Automatically give certificates of completion
Usually, instructors are not obligated to give completion certificates, but it’s a nice perk to offer to learners nonetheless.
Of course, any learning platform worth its salt has to have an option to award certificates automatically that they can then save or print. As a bonus, they can also share them on their social media.
Medium: save around 15 hours/month
4. Effectively organize groups
There are many instances in which you’d want to automatically organize learners into discussion groups. Let’s say that you are hosting a creative writing course and you want them to give feedback on each other’s work.
When you have so many learners it can be hard to organize groups manually. Automation helps you add them to a group as soon as they sign in for a course or take a specific action. Just as important, you don’t want to have groups with thousands of members and minimal activity so you can remove the learner from a group once they complete a course.
5. Decide what happens with inactive learners
Inactivity is a problem since it tells you that for some reason learners are not visiting the course at all. So if you want to do something about it, you don’t have to painstakingly contact each and every one of them.
Instead, you can put in place rules for what happens when they are inactive and what you consider inactivity to be (a month? Half a year?). For example, you can send these users a message to remind them that they’re still enrolled or lock modules for them, etc.
6. Schedule the release of content
You might want to consider scheduling modules to be released gradually in order to keep learners on their toes and make a difficult topic easier to digest. It’s also great if you’re creating a course for people that live in different timezones. It helps engage them since they’re more likely to see a notification about a new module coming up at a convenient time for them (and you’re probably sleeping).
There are two ways of doing this:
- Drip content: you can choose a schedule to release the modules weekly, daily or every few days
- Based on actions: learners lock or unlock a module or section of a course based on their actions in the platform
For example, if learners complete the first section, they’ve unlocked the second one. Or, if they successfully complete a quiz, they’ve locked the previous module. It’s up to you!
7. Award learners and sell more courses
I’ve said it before: retaining learners is easier than getting new ones. As long as 1) you’re building relevant and interesting courses and 2) you’re offering incentives to stay.
Let’s say that you have a new bundle of courses and a coupon for a 25% discount. You can automatically give users the coupon code when they take a certain action such as finishing a module or taking a quiz.
The most popular option is to award a coupon when they complete a course and in this way, you’re making users aware of new offers all the time. You can also be sneaky and offer them a coupon when they complete a survey with feedback for the course.
Read more: How to get feedback for your online course
Advanced: save more than 15 hours/month
8. Make a course more fun in no time
Learner engagement is a larger subject to tackle, but instructors have lots of tricks up their sleeves, such as gamification. You can award badges and points automatically, set a course game in which all learners can participate and have fun.
The option to add levels is great since you can configure how many points are necessary to reach a level and can make it as easy or difficult as you want it to be. However, once you are done, the game runs by itself so you don’t need to make changes if you don’t want to.
9. Configure third-party integrations
Even if your platform doesn’t have it, you can integrate with another tool and find a way to automate what you need. For example, you can use webhooks to call a third-party API when an event occurs.
Let’s say that a learner enrolls in a course and they are automatically added to a database in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as MailChimp. You can then use the database to send out a weekly newsletter or curated content to learners.
10. Use chatbots on your website
The chatbot market is currently on the rise, meaning that more and more businesses are jumping in the action.
If implemented well, a chatbot can actually improve your interaction with learners and although you might need to jump in from time to time to answer a question directly, it’s actually a very convenient way to automatically answer FAQs about courses and make navigation much easier.
Make time for the important things
Automating both small and big tasks helps you step up your online course game. So the last step is to make more time for what matters, whether it’s growing your business, focusing on delivering quality learning content or taking time for your personal life.
*The times are approximated based on the number of hours that it would take to manage a course with around 10,000 enrolled learners. Workflows can also vary depending on a number of different factors.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and INDIE. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.