As an instructional designer and online course expert, I’ve noticed a pattern in all of the programs that come to me. These programs are unique in their style of teaching and their methodology, but they have some major similarities.
These similarities are in the strengths and also the weaknesses, so it might surprise you to know that even though these weaknesses are pretty major, all of these courses are selling really well. They’re popular in their niches and make their creators 6- and even 7-figures. Each enrollment generates thousands of dollars.
So why would a course creator even come to me if their program is doing so well?
They REALLY care about their community and want them to be successful
They see the potential for even BETTER results
And their intuition is on point. A common complaint I hear is that their course is selling well, but students rarely finish or get the desired results.
So that’s where I come in. I take a deep-dive into their course and analyze the content and video data. I talk to their students and ask the hard questions.
Once the audit is complete, there are 3 common pitfalls these programs have fallen into:
1. They have WAY too much content
I can’t tell you how many times a student has said to me, “There’s so much content. It’s overwhelming. I just can’t get through it all …” Here’s the truth: More content is not always the answer. More content does not justify a higher price point. More content does not equal clarity.
Actually, most of the time, more content tends to muddy up the waters and create confusion. What probably began as a brain dump has given way to bonus-stuffing and has created a monster of a course that no mere human can make their way through in a reasonable amount of time.
Feel like you have too much content? Pare it down to only that which is necessary for your students to reach the goal of the course.
2. They have really, really long videos
Okay, so “really” long is not very descriptive, but here’s the thing: studies show that videos should be, on average, 9-13 minutes. And those numbers are a bit on the long side. If you can shoot for 6-9 minutes, you’re right on track.
😰 You might be reading this thinking about your 25-45 minute video lessons … It's okay. First ask yourself, in that 25 minute video, how often are you asking students to pause and take action? If it’s every 6-9 minutes, you’re already doing better than you were!
A complaint from students that I often hear is that videos are too long to sit through. Who has the time? Especially with short-form video rising to the top of our online consumption, it’s imperative that we follow suit. I’m not saying you have to fit a whole lesson in a 1 minute video, but the more concise we are, the less intimidating it is to students, and the more they’ll be engaged. A more engaged student is a more successful student.
Are your videos too long? Check two things: is all that video content necessary for the goal? And where can your videos be edited so they fit into the recommended 6-9 minute range?
3. Limited avenues for consuming content
This one kind of ties into the last one. Courses that only rely on video and PDFs for sharing content operate under the assumption that all of your students have time to sit and watch videos each week. The success of a course is dependent upon knowing that each student may have a different lifestyle, background, experience, etc., so when you only include one avenue for consuming your content, you’re setting both yourself and your students up for failure. It’s unlikely the majority of students will be able to get through all your content that way, and that leads to a domino effect we don’t have time to get into right now (spoiler: it ends in a very small percentage of successful students.)
Are you relying on video and PDFs? A great place to start is to first make your video content available on a private student podcast so that students can listen on the go. Then ensure that all of your videos have transcripts and closed captions for any students that may not be able to listen.
Like I said, these pitfalls are common, so the last thing I want is for you to freak out if your program has fallen into one or even all three. You can find your way out, slow and steady, making it a sustainable journey for all.
If you’re curious about the overall health of your course, check out my FREE Program Health Assessment - a 15-question quiz that will analyze your program and give you some tips and next steps so that you can ensure it’s engaging and actionable.