Three tips to make a good online course

Creating a good online course is an iterative design process with the end customer in mind.

Creating a good online course is an iterative design process with the end customer in mind

Online courses and webinars are becoming a good revenue source for the pioneers of the online learning revolutions that is unfolding in front of our eyes. The revolution is taking place right now, and we at Rukuku are in the middle of it all which is pretty exciting. In one of my previous posts, I talked about the independent instructor becoming the new success phenomenon in the world of media, and I concluded that the world of instruction will produce a lot of instructor entrepreneurs who will do well, and then there will be a small group of instructors who will do extremely well and have celebrity status.

The truth is anyone can be famous for 15 minutes with a course, but how does one get sustainable popularity? Here are three tips:

Make engaging and useful content
In the online training and education world the answer is no different than in any other media: an instructor has to generate fun, useful content. Remember the boring lectures at university that sucked the living soul out of you? That would never work online, and never make a course successful. The modern independent instructor needs to think in terms of entertaining their audience while training them. This thinking should permeate the design of the course as well as the presentation style of the instructor.

Less is more
Many large organizations are holding on dearly to their legacy e-learning content. At these organizations nobody is bothered that the traditional e-learning modules are badly designed: they are too long! This usually achieves one goal very well: numbing the mind of the course taker. The new knowledge that we have is that it is best to break up the courses into smaller chunks of 1 to 6 minutes long. This helps avoid learner fatigue as she moves from one logical chunk to another in a steady rhythmic way

Do niche marketing
Producing a course and formatting it in an appropriate way is only the first half of the job. The other half of the job is promoting the course and the instructor’s brand. For example, one of our instructors has figured out that her customers are best reached through professional associations so she started reaching out to these organizations on the phone and worked out a promotional deal whereby the associations became resellers of her courses. In essence the instructor found a good distribution channel for her content and invested in it by sharing revenue with the distributors. She then collected feedback from the many students that took her course and made improvements based on that feedback. Those who master the marketing and promotion game will stay relevant for years on end: good marketers know their target audience through and through, and that knowledge will then feed back into content production and formatting. We have come a full circle.

It is easy to see that in the heart of it all is learning everything about the end customer as well as understanding what, how and when they want to learn from you.

Create your first course on Rukuku

Independent Instructor Is The New Hero

In the past several years we have seen how computer programmers changed the world: they wrote software that transformed our lives, and ultimately enabled data flow in all sort of ways. After the software was good enough for large scale adoption, we saw the spectacular rise of content sharing: from Facebook, LiveJournal and Huffington Post to Medium and Svbtle – marketing driven content platforms continue to change and speed up information exchange.

In other words, content is king. This is especially true in such content and communication heavy areas as education and training. Rukuku was started with an acute understanding that instructors generate a ton of content all the time: they prep for classes, write books, make presentations, draw illustrations and so on. They create day in and day out for a very specific, engaged and content-hungry audience: their trainees and students.

In the past, there was a huge problem: these people could only influence relatively small groups of people – those whom they could meet in a classroom environment. Nowadays with our service and other technologies, instructors can scale beyond the confines of a classroom and impact millions of people. Data shows that this will essentially be a blended training revolution.

The collective effort of these entrepreneurial and creative instructors will change the way people learn and acquire skills. I believe the blended training revolution will impact the instructors themselves in a spectacular way:

Impact_Independent_Online_Instructors

  • Some instructors will become famous – I define this category as “altruists”
  • Some instructors will become rich – “entrepreneurs”
  • Some will be both famous and rich – “celebrities”
  • Most will have limited or no impact or success – “hobbyists”

Given the massive scale of this process, my view is that the power law will apply here: the true revolution in education and skills training will come from about 20-30% of all involved independent instructors, and these individuals will become the new heroes of this decade.

Independent_Instructors_20-30_percent

 

Three Elements For Designing More Successful Online Courses

Producing content is a difficult, slow and often expensive process. Although the cost of production has gone down thanks to new technologies and desktop editing, it is still a logistical hurdle. And many discover that after so much effort, there is risk that the content will have limited appeal to the students. All of these are legitimate concerns when it comes to course authoring. For these reasons, many instructors are reluctant to author courses and forego on a wonderful opportunity to make the world a better place and earn some money in the process.

However, quite often an independent instructor’s course gets a ton of success, scales well, spreads quickly on the web and brings its author a considerable income: in some cases in the hundreds of thousands, and in exceptional cases – millions of dollars. While multi-million dollar success stories are exceptional and extremely rare, an average online course of decent quality generates anywhere in the range of $3,000 to $30,000 of revenue a year.

How do you get there? First and foremost, before you think about marketing, distribution and other business issues, the content of the course has to be relevant, useful and interesting. We are convinced that webinars are an excellent tool for iterative development of online course content, and here’s how the whole setup pans out:

1. Agile development

At Rukuku, we are big fans of agile development and customer discovery. Last year, we were blessed to have been selected for the National Science Foundation’s iCorps training program at UC Berkeley. It is not surprising therefore that we think that lean methodologies and iterative development should be applied to course authoring. Agile development methodologies for course authors can be summed up as:

  1. build your course in small increments one piece of content at a time – Rukuku Composer is perfect for that
  2. collect data and feedback on each additional piece of content – see point 2 below
  3. improve the content
  4. repeat

   2. Customer discovery

Collecting feedback is all about getting out of the building and talking with people. Pick up Steve Blank’s book, read Alexander Osterwalder’s book, or better yet – take Steve Blank’s free course on Customer discovery. This methodology is a reliable and tested approach to discovering what is right for your target customer. Simply, it boils down to doing three things in a structured and organized way:

  1. talking to your customers
  2. recording and organizing customer feedback
  3. analyzing this feedback and acting on it

3. Webinars

Use webinars as your Minimal Viable Product (MVP) testing environment. Rukuku is perfect for doing webinars, whereas webinars are an amazing way to test your content. When you are hosting a webinar, it is easy to collect feedback from your audience. You can ask the attendees to provide feedback during and after the webinar, as well as analyze the questions posted during the Q&A session or while you were going through your slides. Besides, recording the webinar and analyzing it is a great way to take a step back and look at your presentation skills and course content: pay attention to how you use your voice and how you present yourself on video; take note on the structure of your presentation, engagement of your audience, quality of your visuals and handouts – all of these elements can be tweaked to create a better course. Perhaps the best part about webinars is that you can collect payments from participants and offset the costs of producing your amazing course.

Start using Rukuku for webinars. Take your Rukuku course

Rukuku Offers Free Service To Unsafe Schools

Safe Connection Program

Recent barbaric attacks on school children have made headlines around the world and shocked everyone.

As our contribution to world piece, we at Rukuku decided to launch the “Safe Connection” program for schools and training organizations where student and instructor safety is a concern. If you represent such a school or training organization please email us with an explanation of your needs. We will then contact you to discuss technology issues and to assess the possibility of connecting every instructor and student at your school to Rukuku free of charge. Obviously, we can only help if your instructors and students can access the internet.

Our software products and services effectively enable live and asynchronous instructor-led and self-paced training programs, which eliminate the need for students and teachers to meet in a classroom. We are certain that Rukuku technology products can help schools and training centers in unsafe or war torn regions deal with some of the safety issues by enabling more distance programs.

Digital Training

Digital Training

digital training

On July 6th 2014, Tech Crunch posted an article written by Ingrid Lunden – the headline quoted the research organisation Gartner: “Device Shipments Break 2.4B Units In 2014, Tablets To Overtake PC Sales In 2015.”

That’s a lot of devices. Especially when you consider there are ‘only’ about 7 Billion of us on this planet.

In the enterprise space, this creates challenges as well as opportunities. The challenges in areas such as security and managing total cost of ownership, for example.

The opportunities lie in the unexplored potential of what these devices will allow in terms of employee interaction and engagement. And employers do want engaged employees.

Good training and development can act as a major contributor to greater employee engagement. But it is the very nature of training that is evolving in companies right before our eyes..and sometimes under our noses!

There is an on-going debate in the training community centred on traditional/physical or ‘in person’ training versus e-learning or digital training.This, as I have come to learn, is a vast topic that far exceeds the aspirations of this article. The key theme of this debate is: “Can e-learning or digital training ever be as good as the more traditional, in person, type?”. However, as so often happens, the debate may be asking the wrong questions – and also, as in many other debates, this one may be pandering to vested interests.

The only question that really matters is this:

“How do you produce and deliver great, engaging training to your people all the time so that they may develop to their fullest potential in the shortest possible time and consequently play an increasingly productive role in your organisation?”

It’s a long, detailed question, but take a second to re-read it, and see if it somehow resonates.

How valuable would be to you if you were fuelling this aspiration most of the time? Now back to technology for second.

Given this crazy growth of mobile devices – the same Gartner report says 256 Million tablets will be sold in 2014 – how can we leverage this for greater employee training and engagement? Sure, your tablet won’t replace the awesome trainer who kept you in bated breath through sales training for a whole day – but what can it do?

A whole bunch of very cool things is the answer.

Mobile devices are helping training become increasingly learner-centric – together with some superb software companies out there helping companies customise training needs down to the individual member of staff: immediate needs, strong points, learning styles…truly incredible stuff!

Yes, it is a Learner’s Revolution.

Your employees, The Learners want to learn, to develop…to grow; but they want to be able to do it where they want and when they want; and they want it to be fun and engaging – because when it is fun and engaging, they learn better, faster and want more.

And who would not want to head, manage or be a part of that kind of organisation?

Digital training – from the mobile device to the software platform you would use can make a huge difference in the quality and reach of your training. And no, it need not replace the cherished physical training, but it can complement it beautifully, and seamlessly if planned adequately.

So welcome to the world of Blended Learning!

A scenario:

Before a two-day sales training, employees receive some theoretical game-based modules to complete in their inbox – these can be accessed and completed on their iOS or Android devices, but must be done by the time training starts – like this when then get to Day 1, they have already become familiar with some key tenets of the training, and the facilitator during his ‘Live’ interaction with students in the room can focus on more practical case studies rather than wasting absorbing the whole time on theory.

But wait, that’s not all!

This Live training with the trainer and handful of students in the room is being filmed and beamed to tens, hundreds or thousands of trainees across the country, continent or planet – these colleagues could not make the trip, as it was too far, too costly…and quite frankly they would get as much from the training as their colleagues as the exercises they participate in still have to demonstrate the practical application of what they learned in theory.

Education and training are being disrupted, and it is a huge – and yes, rather fragmented and messy – area in full ebullition.

But it is also very exciting and brings with it more opportunities than challenges. A key challenge for organisations is to navigate these fragmented waters of Digital Training. There are many legacy systems exploiting their dominant market positions and extracting ludicrous price points from customers in a challenging economic environment. These same legacy systems are often not future-building and offer very closed standards not designed to cope with the increasingly rich, engaging and interactive training content being produced by thought leaders and innovators in the industry.

The good news is there are a handful of organisations out there that live and exist on the crest of this new wave and can deliver what you need and more in a simple and cost-efficient manner.

Some are better known, others more discreet, for now.

But they share a common and passionate belief that learning must be fun, easily accessible and rewarding, to all concerned.

Happy Digital Learning!

The Rukuku Team