Needless to say, given the recent pandemic, small business owners are canceling events and face to face training sessions at a growing speed. There’s a race to move these events and other activities in the virtual space as fast as possible.
Maybe you are a small business owner that offers mostly offline courses. Maybe you have a business and sell online courses as a side hustle. Or, better yet, you want to start doing this as soon as possible as an additional source of income.
In any case, it’s time to act fast. It’s possible to create a successful online course or expand your business even in these trying times.
The good news is that you probably already have two major steps crossed off your list when it comes to designing online courses:
- Experience: for course ideas and content
- An audience: existing clients or a personal network
These two things usually take a lot of time and effort to figure out so know that you do have some advantages.
Taking your offline business online
Now, what’s left to do is to create a course in a relatively short span of time (two weeks to one month). Here are some tips to help you in this journey:
Don’t lose touch with your clients. People are going to be online all the time and can quickly move on to other things. Even if the course isn’t done yet, you want to have this communication part down so your audience will be aware of it when you finally launch.
You should keep them in the loop with emails, newsletters or teasers informing them of what you are working on. Update your social media just like you did before, or slightly increase the number of posts if you have something relevant to say.
Make an offer to customers
I myself am paying for my gym membership since the instructor will host online sessions. So, take a step further and make an offer to your customers by coming up with a pricing plan to help you retain them.
Think of discounts and other ways in which you can attract new learners, including offering different subscription plans that would best suit their needs. To make a decision, you should take the time to talk to a few customers and get their feedback.
Read more: How to get feedback for your online course
Manage your workflow effectively
In the meantime, devise a strategy to make this transition smoother. Set realistic goals and stick to deadlines as there isn’t much time to change a lot of things.
Most importantly, if you’ve already planned an offline training session, you can use the existing learning goals and objectives. If not, this is the time to define them and also create a course outline, complete with modules and lessons. Keep track of your progress by using a simple spreadsheet or a workflow management tool.
Choose a learning platform
The most cost-effective way to deliver online content is to find a platform that is easy to set up in hours, not days. The platform should also be able to support the growth of your business since you don’t want to move everything to a different place once things start taking off.
Must-have features are an authoring tool, easy portal customization, e-commerce, and marketing tools. However, you should also have a look at ways in which to engage learners, such as communication tools and gamification.
Bonus advice: if you’re testing different systems, start playing around with the course authoring tool first to see which one can help you create courses faster.
Turn offline activities into e-learning
Entrepreneurs turn to webinars and live streams to host events. However, in the long run, webinars are not as sustainable since you need to market them and get people to sign up as well as show up at a specific time. Self-paced courses are more accessible to anyone, no matter where they are.
However, if you’re mostly used to hosting face to face training sessions or webinars, you need to effectively convert those activities (Q&As, group activities, etc.) into content that can be consumed on the go. The following exercise can give you an idea of how to do this effectively:
|Offline content||Online content|
|Introduction: participants learn about the subject and overall purpose of the course||Introductory video: presentation of the course and overall benefits|
|Demonstration of using the blur tool in Photoshop as participants watch and take notes||Video demonstration of using the blur tool in Photoshop.
Alternative: write a guide with a step by step approach plus screenshots
Repurpose your content
Your content’s not dead! On the contrary, this is the time to gather everything you have — and I mean everything. Did you keep a notebook with content ideas? Have you recorded videos, written blog posts or PowerPoint presentations?
Other suggestions include:
- Recorded webinars
- Feedback forms
- Case studies
Last but not least, use curated content when you can. Don’t forget to credit the original author or ask for permission first.
Gather everything together and see how you can breathe new life into it.
Create video lessons
Don’t hesitate to experiment with video, even if you have little experience at the moment. All you need is a camera, lights, and a video editing tool to get started. Alternatively, if you are teaching people how to use an online tool, for example, find a good screen recorder and consider investing in a voice recorder as well.
Use tools such as Animoto to create video presentations or make your existing presentations more visually engaging. Of course, you can always repurpose old videos such as recorded webinars if they’re of good enough quality.
Use quick editing tools
There are many free or accessible tools for editing videos, images, charts, etc. that you can learn how to use by watching online tutorials or taking an online course. You don’t have to be a pro in this area, as many instructors know; you just have to be more resourceful when it comes to finding which one works best for your needs.
- Our top 5 photo editing suggestions
- Find free image resources
- Good proofreading advice
- Tools for upgrading your elearning game
Use them wisely! 🙂
Creating self-paced courses is a good short-term and long-term strategy since the only certainty we have now is that the Internet will keep us connected in one way or another. For small business owners, this is an opportunity to share your experience with existing customers and potential learners around the world, who could benefit immensely from learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and INDIE. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.