The most important part of creating an online course is planning the actual course, right? While it’s a vital part, the preliminary online course research is just as crucial.

Yes, there’s actually an entire set of research that you need to do before you even start planning out your course outline. Why? Because it helps you better understand what your course should be.

Don’t worry, it’s not difficult, but it does build the foundation for successful course creation. Plus, you’ll be better prepared to market your course and interact with students.

1. Check The Competition

Never skip this online course research step. You shouldn’t copy your competition, but check what they’re doing. Look at courses on similar topics to yours and see what students like and don’t like. Obviously, you don’t want to make the same mistakes your competitors are making. You also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Some great ways to scope out the competition are with some keyword research tools and online course marketplaces.

2. Know Your Students

Before you plan your course, get a little insight into your potential students. What are their favorite ways to learn (video, podcast, infographic, text, etc.)? Where do they hang out online (social media, learning platforms, etc.)? What skills are most important to them for their careers? All of these questions help you plan out a course that gives your target audience everything they want and need.

If you teach offline, talk to your students in person. You can also check out online learning forums, use polls on social media and just check out online trends. The more you know about your students, the better. Naturally, this gets easier as you create more courses.

3. Consider Your Own Knowledge

Creating an online course isn’t easy. It takes hours of dedicated work for weeks and months to create a successful course. So stop for a moment and consider your own knowledge of the subject you want to teach. Do you know enough to create an in-depth course? What about a follow-up? It’s perfectly okay to take a month or two to refresh your memory and even learn a thing or two. Plus, it’s a good idea to research some great sites to use for reference as you build your course.

4. Consider Platform Options

This might not seem like an important part of online course research, especially in the preliminary stages, but it actually changes how you plan out your course. Whether you build a site from the ground up, use plugins or use an online course marketplace, you’ll have to cater the design of the course to the platform you use. Every type has its own restrictions. Before you get too far ahead of yourself, think about where you want to host your course and then build around that.

5. Running An Online Business

It’s a step most first-time creators skip completely. However, if you want to be successful, research tips on how to run a successful online business. After all, this is what you’re doing. For instance, do you know how to manage your brand identity? What about marketing? Are you prepared financially (online courses may require a financial investment on top of your time)? 

There’s a lot to learn, which is probably why courses on running an online business are so popular. While every tip might not apply to online course creation, it’s a good idea to learn the basics of taxes, marketing and interacting with customers (in your case, students).

If possible, try to find a successful online course creator to help mentor you. LinkedIn is a great place to start. You’ll get free advice, encouragement and tips about everything from the initial research to marketing after launch. The more connections you make, the more you’ll learn.

Want to learn more about turning your passion for teaching into an online career? Enroll in my 5-day email course and learn How to Create an In-Demand Online Course! 

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