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A guide to start your own online course

Online education is a reality and will only become more pervasive in future. One can either ignore or embrace it. There has been a healthy debate on whether it will replace the classrooms. My personal view is that it is a powerful tool that will definitely complement learning for a student. And as a person who started his career in technology and has seen how it transforms lives, I chose to embrace it. In this article, I will share the ring-side view of how I went about the process of creating my own online course “Present with Confidence” in partnership with a bunch of bright young entrepreneurs ofChalkStreet – a startup in the online course space.

There are four important phases that I experienced for my course. They are 1. Planning & Pre-production, 2. Shooting the videos, 3. Post-Production & editing and lastly 4. Promoting and marketing your course

Planning & Pre-Production Phase:

This phase is more about going through a major shift in your own thought process as a teacher. Your audiences are people with phones, tablets and laptops around the world who are consuming content from a variety of platforms. They want to learn. But they do not want to get bored. In a classroom, the students are stuck till the lecture gets over. But over here, the student can leave your course and go to some other one which is more interesting. So as a teacher, you need to really think through this phase. Your entire content has to be re-thought for someone who will not hesitate to go some place else if you don’t hold their attention. Here is what I did for my course that might help you

  1. Ask yourself who do I want to reach out to? Do you want to target the executive sitting in an office who is 30 years or a student in a school who is 15? Paint a picture of this learner in your mind. For my course, I chose a learner who is from Class 10th upwards to a learner who is just going to his first or second job.
  2. List your objectives. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience from point 1 above and write down what will they learn at the end of the course. Chose 7-8 concepts that can help them in their life or career. Avoid the trap of force-fitting everything into one course.
  3. Prepare short (upto 10 minutes max.) lectures on each of these concepts. If the content for a concept is too big and extends more than 10 minutes, break it down into smaller portions.
  4. Use common examples and anecdotes for your concepts that anyone around the world can relate to. I use food and movies a lot in mine as I am more comfortable with them and feel that they might cut across borders and cultures.
  5. Find a capable partner who can help you with your course. I got lucky that ChalkStreet co-founder Venkat reached out to me. You could also go solo and do everything on your own. I personally felt that I needed experts who understood this space better than me.

By the end of this stage, you should have a rough outline of your target audience, your course objectives, the modules with concepts and the framework for you to prepare further. Most importantly, make sure that you have a good team who can work with you on your course.

Shooting the videos:

This phase was an eye-opener for me. I thought I was the coolest dude in speaking in front of anyone. I was so wrong. The camera is a nasty one-eyed beast to deal with. I became nervous, forgot my script and it was not fun at all. Overall, this phase took two full days of shooting spread over three weeks. Here are some steps that can help you in this phase.

  1. Prepare yourself to face this horrible one-eyed monster. I would practice with my own camera at home before I went to the studio. I also decided what to wear and how to be consistent in case we don’t finish the shoot in a single day. The Chalkstreet shooting team led by Vishal Bondwal was brilliant. They kept getting flasks of Ginger Chai from Chaipoint to keep my spirits up. Pruthivi kept the dog outside the studio entertained with biscuits so that he doesn’t bark while we shot.
  2. Jot down your thoughts so that you know what to say and avoid rambling which could be a lot of work in the post-production stage. Memorize your lecture and practice it as many times as you can before you shoot.
  3. Stick to your plan that you came up with in the earlier phase. During the shoot, you will be tempted to add many more concepts and ideas. Avoid the trap of adding more content. Finish what you have already planned before you decide to add something else that is of value. Here is a picture of my shooting plan that you can look and match the overall course.

RGodhwani_PresentWithConfidenceChalkStreet_ Curriculum.JPG

Take a look at your own videos again and again. The more you see yourself and get used to it, the better you will perform in front of a camera next time. Tell yourself that even a great performer like Amitabh Bachchan takes few retakes before he gets the scene right. It is only natural to make mistakes. Despite all the planning, things go wrong in the real world. Enjoy this blooper video that we curated just to give you a sense of how mistakes happen and how you can deal with it (remember Jackie Chan movies? They all ended with a video of how he made his movie, how he fell down, got hurt, made mistakes etc.) Here is a similar attempt for my course which has all the bloopers in it. Enjoy!

Post-Production phase:

The raw videos that came out of the phase above now need to go through the clean up phase which is called post-production. This is where Vishal, Rajashree and their team spent a lot of time. I had no role to play here at all. Magically, one day, they showed me the first video and I was thrilled to see the output of our work. I was working on the quizzes by now and closing the content piece for the course. The good news was that I felt the content had shaped quite well and didn’t feel that I had missed out much from what I had thought in the planning phase. Broadly, here are some tips that might help you in this phase

  1. Have a consistent look and feel for all videos. Chose a nice background image that adds value to your topic. For my course, I chose a background of a library full of books. It gave a very cozy feeling to me. Vishal and I brainstormed some other backgrounds too. We liked one which had a lovely green forest but somehow, I am a little partial towards books and I went with it for all my videos.
  2. Name your video with an appropriate title that matches the content of that video.
  3. Guide your audiences: tell your audiences what has been covered so far and what will happen in this video. Guide your audiences throughout the journey.
  4. Choose nice jingles and music for the videos: remember that learners want to learn but they don’t want to get bored. We chose a nice jingle at the beginning of every video just to add that little fun element.
  5. Overlay key messages: In your videos, make sure that the key messages are overlayed by a text or an animation. This technique helps the learners to grasp the concepts better.

Launch and marketing phase:

Now is the time to set the ball rolling and tell the world about your course. Start with a teaser campaign with a good poster or a banner. Take your course to every nook and corner like a peddler. This phase takes time. Results don’t come overnight. And I am very realistic that learners will not sign up in millions on the opening night. I will write a separate blog on this once I have some more data points to share. So far, this is the first week, and I have not even shared the course link. This was just the teaser campaign. I am happy to share that learners from around the world have already signed up.

Go ahead and sign up for my course by clicking here. I would love to hear your comments.

About the Author

Rakesh Godhwani calls himself a nobody. He teaches, writes, reads a story to his kids every night before they sleep, bicycles his way to work when he can, does yoga, earns a fraction of what he used to, but lives a million times better. Follow him @godhwani. Read his other posts at https://in.linkedin.com/in/rakeshgodhwani 

 

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