Online courses. Er'body's making them. They're a great way to share what you know about specific topics, while earning some passive income in the process. But online courses can be beasts. I've said it before – "passive" income is a bit of a misnomer because it glosses over the amount of work that goes into creating the product in the first place. For each of my online courses, I spent a good 4-6 months creating the content + promotion that went into those product launches.
The InDesign Field Guide and Etsy on Autopilot are my two online courses, and both of these had A LOT of material to cover. The concepts + strategies taught covered a wide range of topics, so making sure it was organized in a logical way for my students was vital to the success of each of them.
Organizing your content is an important first step as you begin to create your online course. This is the step that a lot of people get hung up on. Maybe you know you have knowledge on a specific topic, but you don't know the best way or order to communicate that to a student who's eager to learn. I’ve got one main method that I used to create both of my online courses, and it gets you away from the screen and down on the floor... with good old-fashioned notecards.
MY NOTECARD METHOD
1. Brain dump.
Write out every specific topic you want to cover, each one on a separate notecard. Don’t worry about organization at this point, just brain dump onto those notecards. Try to keep your smaller topics somewhat grouped together for things that are obviously related. Here's an example of what I mean:
For my course The InDesign Field Guide, rather than writing character size, character spacing, line spacing, character width, etc. on different notecards, I already knew that all of these topics would need to be taught together and they fit in the larger category of just Character Styling. So I just used one notecard for that topic, labeled Character Styling, and then I wrote out a few of these smaller items on the same notecard as a reminder to myself later.
2. Group 'em up.
Once you have everything you think you want to cover written out on your notecards, start organizing the notecards into groups and orders. For ideas on how to organize your groups, here are five common ways to divvy it up:
- Sequential / Chronological – go in order, step 1, 2, 3, 4; everything builds on the previous thing
- Cause + Effect – think problem + solution; great for teaching how to troubleshoot or solve problems
- Simple to Complex – start basic and build to more complex ideas; gives a good foundation and confidence that they can tackle the next thing.
- Big Idea to Specific Idea – start with a big picture view of your topic, then start to get more specific and more specific with each additional piece of content; could also be viewed as showing the “whole” first, then elaborating on each “part” that makes up the whole.
- Categorical – topics that generally fit in the same category are grouped together; chronological order doesn’t really matter, just that the groupings naturally go together.