Create Your Course in Half the Time by Pulling These 3 "Magic Levers"

Creating an online course takes time, but many first-timers spend it in all the wrong places. Create your course quicker using these insights.

Creating an online course takes time, but many first-timers spend it in all the wrong places. Create your course quicker using these insights.

You’d love to create an online course for your business, but…

You’re nervous about how long it’ll take.

When you picture that finished course in your mind’s eye, it feels great. But you can’t help thinking about all the hard work you’ll need to get there.

And it’s true. I won’t sugarcoat it. Course creation can be time-consuming.

But you can easily make more of a meal of it than you need to.

So let’s see how you can do it a whole lot quicker.

The Three Magic Levers that Control Your Course Creation Timetable

In practice, lots of factors can affect how quickly you can create your course.

Your experience creating content. Whether you outsource some of the work. The format you use for your content. All will have an impact.

However, many of these factors are outside your control.

You have the experience you have. You may not have the budget to outsource. Even the format may be dictated by what your audience expects.

But there are three factors you can almost always control. So much so that I like to think of them as “levers” you can push or pull.

Move them all in the right direction, and you could dramatically reduce your course development time.

Ready to learn what they are?

Lever #1: Scope

The first “lever”, Scope, is all about how much ground you’ll cover with your online course.

Naturally, the larger the scope, the more time you’ll need to create all the content.

For example, if your target audience is parents of young children, creating a course to help them deal with tantrums will be quicker than creating one covering every aspect of child development.

In other words, the size of the problem dictates the size of the course.

So when you think about the scope of your course right now, ask yourself:

Could I solve a smaller, narrower problem and still provide a valuable result for my audience?

Why It’s Okay to Think a Little Smaller

One reason it’s okay to think smaller is that too many first-time course creators try to deliver too big a result with their first course. And this causes them a whole heap of problems:

  • Building a large course before gaining experience with a smaller one is like trying to run a marathon before running a 10K. Chances are it won’t go well.
  • The average student doesn’t have the stamina to work through a large course. Your completion rate will be low and your success rate even lower.
  • The bigger the result, the harder it is to persuade people you have the experience to deliver it. But if you win their trust with a smaller course they’ll take a bigger journey with you next time.

You can even think of it this way: if you succeed in solving your audience’s biggest problem with your first course, you’ve probably cheated yourself out of repeat business down the line!

3 Ways to Create Your Course Quicker by Reducing the Scope

To reduce your course creation time using the Scope lever, try these ideas:

  • If you ultimately plan to create course solving a substantial problem, consider “splintering off” the first two or three modules to create a smaller course that solves a sub-problem first.
  • Remove some sub-topics from your curriculum. You’re not responsible for filling in every single gap that a student might have. Consider removing topics that people should already know.
  • Defer to someone else’s free content. If a sub-topic you need to cover is explained well elsewhere, don’t reinvent the wheel. Set students an assignment to study the other material.

Overall, try to pare the scope back as much as you can while still delivering a valuable result for the majority of your audience.

Lever #2: Quality

Quality is the second “lever” that controls how long it’ll take to create your course.

As you’d expect, creating a product to a very high standard takes longer than a lower one.

“Hang on there Glen,” you might be saying. “Are you suggesting that I create a shoddy product?”

Not at all! I’m not talking about poor-quality ideas or methods here. Those will only disappoint people and damage your reputation.

I’m talking about lowering the production values of the content you create. You don’t have to create your content to the standard of a Hollywood studio or a big publishing firm to delight your audience.

So when you think about how you’ll create your course content, ask yourself:

How could I cut corners on quality without affecting the learning experience?

Why It’s Okay to Aim a Little Lower

Here’s why high production values aren’t as big a deal as you might think:

  • YouTube and TikTok have redefined what acceptable quality looks like. (It’s no longer true that almost everything we watch has been shot by professional crews.)
  • The law of diminishing returns kicks in fairly fast. Content that falls below a basic standard is distracting, but anything much beyond that doesn’t greatly improve the learning experience.
  • Your ideas and methods are more important than perfect execution. After all, high production values won’t save poor thinking.

(By the way, do you know who is impressed by high production values? Other course creators. But I’m guessing those aren’t your target market.)

3 Ways to Create Your Course Quicker by Reducing the Quality

To pull back on the Quality lever, focus on being good enough, rather than best-in-show:

  • Good enough means doing two or three takes of your lesson video instead of 10.
  • Good enough means choosing the first suitable stock image you find instead of holding out for the perfect one.
  • Good enough means spending a couple of hours writing a solid script instead of half a day writing an immaculate one.

Overall, try to optimize your course for the quality of the result rather than the quality of the production.

Lever #3: Depth

Depth is the third and final factor that has a big impact on how long your course takes to create.

You can think of it like this…

If Scope is horizontal — how wide should your course be? — then depth is vertical — how far into your topic should you dig?

Going deep means exploring the subtleties and nuances. It means looking at rare cases and exceptions.

However, in most cases, you shouldn’t go nearly as deep as you think.

As an expert, you should have a deeper subject knowledge than your students. But that doesn’t mean that the job of your course is to bring them to your level.

So when you think about the depth of your future course, ask yourself:

What details can I leave out without jeopardising the result?

Why It’s Okay to Be a Little Shallower

Here’s why staying in the shallows is not just time-efficient but better:

  • Creating a course that’s too in-depth makes it harder than it needs to be for the majority of students who don’t want to geek out on every little detail, they just want the result.
  • If some students want to go deeper they’re free to do it outside of your course. You could even point them in the right direction by providing links to recommended reading and research.
  • If enough students tell you they want more detail on some area of your course, you can easily add an extra resource or two that go deeper.

By the way, providing too much detail is a byproduct of thinking about your topic (the subject matter) instead of your tribe (the group of people your course is for.)

When you focus on your topic, you’ll naturally think about everything you could teach about that topic. When you focus on the tribe, you’ll naturally think more about what they need.

3 Ways to Create Your Course Quicker by Staying Shallow

To create your course quicker by pulling on the Depth lever, try these ideas:

  • When pondering a specific detail to include in your course, ask yourself honestly: do students really need this, or do I just like the idea of teaching it?
  • Set limits on the length of each lesson (minutes of video or number of words). If the extra detail you want to include won’t fit, seriously consider removing it altogether.
  • Instead of covering every scenario that a student might encounter, just cover the most common ones. If that means your course won’t work for absolutely everyone, that’s fine so long as you offer those people a refund.

Overall, only go deeper on a course topic when doing do helps the average student avoid common pitfalls.

Ready to Build Your Course in Half the Time?

Course creation needn’t be as time-consuming as you think.

In reality, you can build your course quicker by thinking more carefully about the scope, quality and depth.

Nudge each of those levers in the right direction and you could cut your course development time in half.

Which makes everything seem more achievable, right?

So let’s get that course idea out of your head, and into the real world.


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