September 9

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Create a Unique Online Course

The best way for classroom teachers to start teaching online, is to produce an online course which you can sell while you continue to work your job.

Many people create this as a 'Passion Project' in their own time, and through the magic of our connected world, deliver their creation to learners 24/7 using websites like Teachable.

When you start to teach online this way you don’t need to be present while learning takes place - and you can earn an additional income to supplement your salary. 

You also have a huge advantage over most other people doing this, before you even begin.

Let me explain ..

Free with this post ..

64 Questions that Create a Unique Online Course

You can download this below:

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Create a Unique Online Course

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Creating a Unique Online Course

I started delivering online learning about 8 years ago, as a solution to teaching 73 children in an after school club. 

As I recorded units of video for them, I naturally split up complex skills, introduced chunks of knowledge in a logical order, tested their recall of important elements, and challenged students to apply what they learned.

It wasn’t rocket science, I just did what worked in my classroom. 

What I have realised since that time (over and over again), is that Online Courses produced by those with zero classroom experience, don’t do these things well at all. 

As a result, the completion rate of most Online Courses is below 10% .. with 9 out of 10 learners failing to complete what they start. 

Talk to most Online Course Creators, and they’ll tell you that most people they sell to ‘just aren’t motivated enough to finish what they start’.

I call bullshit on that one. 

In my experience you can 5x or 7x that 10% completion rate, by using a few tried and tested classroom techniques. Because what works in the classroom, also works online.

Let me explain ..

1. How to Plan your Online Course

When I first started teaching online, I assumed that what I recorded or wrote was the only contact I would have with the learner. This doesn’t need to be the case, but lets assume for a moment that it is.

The nature of distance learning requires a level of independence in the person being taught.  In an Online Course ultimately it is up to the learner to motivate themselves through it, and then apply what they learn.

So it’s much easier for the learner to get lost - or to lose focus. 

How to Plan your Online Course

Just like in a classroom of young people - it is advisable to chunk everything down and signpost exactly where the learner is going at all times.

Most online teachers do this extremely badly. This is, in my opinion, the main reason for their horrible Online Course completion rates.

As a classroom teacher you have been trained (through direct contact with learners), that breaking everything down aids understanding and progress.  When you create your Online Course - your online learner needs similar things to your classroom students.

At the risk of patronising you to death 😉 , let me highlight a few for you:

        As You Plan and Create Your Online Course:

  • Keep it simple - and teach one thing at a time. 
  • Chunk each objective down to it’s basic elements, and deliver these in a way which makes sense to someone without your knowledge
  • Signpost where you have been, what relevance it has to your learners overall goal - and where you’re going next. 

2. How to Inject Variety and Pace into Your Online Course

How to Inject Variety and Pace into Your Online Course

Just like in the classroom, if a learner is asked to do the same things over and over again, they get bored - and the likelihood of them finishing what they started decreases.

Injecting variety and pace into your lessons combats this in the classroom. The same is true online.

Some online courses which have a very clear focus do this quite well. But the vast majority don’t, asking their students to do the same things over and over again. 

Most Online Course Creators will say that online learners are not children, and can cope with this. I disagree. 

Q. Are Online Learners Really Different?


In fact your average online learner is MUCH more like a child than they realise!

While they are learning from an Online Course .. the fridge is calling them, their mobile phone, their online friends, the post they just sent on Facebook .. the chores .. thoughts about what to wear .. or their plans for the weekend.

Online learners have a whole lot else going on, to distract them from the job in hand.

What works in the classroom to keep young people interested in they are doing, is also important when creating your Online Course.

All learners need the unexpected - they want to be surprised.

        As You Create Your Online Course:

  • Try NOT to stick to a rigid structure to each section, module or lesson.
  • Use a variety of different media to teach with. Powerpoint for one section for example, then appear on video yourself to introduce or conclude something, or when you want someone to apply what they are learning. 
  • Give your learner something to read, an audio file to listen to, and vary the tasks you ask them to do .. a workbook is great and most learners love using them - but death by workbook isn’t.

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Create a Unique Online Course

There are a lot of other suggestions to inject variety into your Online Course in my shortcut guide ..

64 Questions that Create a Unique Online Course

You can download this free here:

3. How to Motivate Learners in an Online Course

ow to Motivate Learners in an Online Courseow to Motivate Learners in an Online Course

A small proportion of online learners will survive their way through a repetitive experience, and if they are determined - will complete it. 

But at no point in most Online Courses are they rewarded, praised or motivated by the Online Teacher.

Imagine this in your classroom .. how would it feel to your students?

It is VERY likely that you use praise and rewards regularly, to help students climb the mountains they feel are in front of them.

It is easy to assume that online learners don’t need this. But thinking like this is totally wrong. 

Distance learners often feel alone. Their problem to a large extent is motivation, and rewards are important to help them make happy progress. 

Rewards can be given in distance learning - you just need to be creative. Some ideas for doing this are below:

        As You Create Your Online Course:

  • Ask yourself as you plan your course - where are opportunities to celebrate learners achievements?
  • Signpost ends of modules and sections with a personal segment - congratulating them on coming this far.  
  • Show them how far they have come - and link this to the benefits they will earn by continuing their progress.
  • Give them ways to APPLY what they are learning - and they will be motivated by seeing practical signs of progress.
  • Introduce ways to share and communicate with other people on the course, so your learner doesn’t feel alone.
  • Provide certificates for people who complete the course.
  • Assign a classification as they move through levels of your course. For example they might start out as a ‘rookie', but progress to ‘adventurer’ as they complete modules and apply what they learn.
  • In some online delivery platforms badges are able to be awarded for the completion of units or challenges - students love collecting them, and competing with each other on leaderboards.

4. How to Surprise your Learner in an Online Course

As has already been mentioned, when what we learn is repetitive - we turn off. 

Life isn’t experienced this way - and learning shouldn’t be either.  Our best days are often those when we do something completely different and we are engaged and excited because of this.

Learning should be an adventure too. So wherever you can, take your learner by surprise.

        Some ways of doing that:

  • Change the format of the course by changing the media you use, or the order you present units in) .. For example you might start some sections with objectives - and others with questions, a dilemma or a surprising fact.
  • Surprise learners with the variety of presentation of their course. e.g. film segments at a completely different location - or from an unexpected camera angle.
  • Surprise them with challenges to complete and share with others.
  • And leave information gaps in what you present. e.g. Tease a future answer or content that they will get - and explain the benefits of getting it, a while before they do. (Think about TV soap opera cliff hangers for an extreme example)

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Create a Unique Online Course

There are a lot of other suggestions to surprise your learner in your Online Course in my shortcut guide ..

64 Questions that Create a Unique Online Course

You can download this free here:

5. How to Increase the Value of Your Online Course

Give everything you create a name

Name each module, element, technique or strategy you teach. 

The name you choose should be connected to the benefits of applying it. Doing this will significantly increase its significance. 

When you do this well you can increase the value of what you teach, make elements more memorable for the learner - and you satisfy your customer by delivering clearly defined pieces of the solution they paid for. 

Doing this also affects the perception of the quality of what you deliver too:

Think about this .. compare the course that simply calls each module by a number (module 1, module 2, module 3 etc) with one that uses this approach .. 

  1. Discovery - find your unique Online Course idea
  2. Creation - select the tools to create a killer course
  3. Evolution - boost sales by evolving your offer

Imagine how easy it is for the person who names their modules in this way to explain what's in their course .. and to sell what they create.

Everything increases in value with a name.

Provide Support With Your Course

The support you provide online learners will differentiate your course from others offering similar things - and will increase it’s value to the learner.

By ‘support’ I mean the opportunity to ask questions and interact with other learners on the same journey. 

Creating a community around an online course is valuable - as the people who bought it share something important in common:

They all invested to solve a specific problem.  This is likely to be highly significant to their lives - and something they will WANT to share and discuss with others. 

An active community benefits the course creator too .. learners will help each other - and you can interact and assist personally too, greatly improving the relationship you have with your students.

There are several support options to consider when creating your course.  The spectrum below introduces ‘low touch’ support options - which require less of your time, but give you less opportunity to create a relationship with your learner .. 

.. to ‘high touch’ options which are more time intensive, but offer a greater opportunity to turn your learners into lifelong customers. 

But I didn't want to stop there. 

I use some simple questions to test everything I plan and create.  Doing this keeps me focused on creating for my learners - and helps me to remember the options at my disposal when designing Online Courses ..

I want you to have it.

FREE: 64 Questions that Create a Unique Online Course

The Classroom Teachers Guide to Create a Unique Online Course

Inside is a list of 64 questions to ask yourself as you plan and create your Online Course. 

Using this simple tool will help you to create something unique and effective ..

There are far too many Online Teachers creating awful learning products .. with your classroom experience and these 64 simple questions, your course will stand out and be much more effective.

Download this FREE shortcut guide here: 

Not sure what to teach ? .. Start here.

If you have read this and realise your classroom experience could help you create an Online Course .. you need something you can teach which will sell. 

I have devised a process so you won’t spend time creating a course which no one wants to buy.

This post explains this simple system .. and shows you exactly how to test ideas for commercial potential BEFORE you create anything.

Good luck,

If this resonates with you, please share it ...

About the author 

James Anthony

After teaching for 20 years in the UK, I now help Schools, Universities, and Entrepreneurs to create and deliver transformational online learning.
I also work with educators across the world helping them use their skills in new ways - to live happier healthier lives.


#edtech, edchat, teacherlife, teachers

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