The Ultimate Online Course Launch Checklist: Everything You Need to Know

Chipo   0

Are you considering launching your first online course, but just don’t know how to start?

This blog post is for you.

Launching an online course can be a big job, but with the right preparation and planning, it can also be a profitable addition to your business.

Before you launch, it's important to make sure that your course is complete and that you have the right tools and resources in place.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about the key elements required to successfully launch an online course.

Let’s dive in.


Identify a Good Course Topic You Can Teach

A good topic for an online course should be:

  • Relevant: Currently in demand or will be in the near future.
  • Specific: Covers a well-defined subject that can be covered in-depth. Avoid overly broad topics.
  • Actionable: Must provide practical skills or knowledge that can be applied immediately so the learner can achieve a tangible outcome.
  • Engaging: Interesting and magnetic content, with interactive elements and multimedia to keep students engaged.
  • Accessible: Allows students to access the course material in a variety of ways. e.g. video lessons, downloadable slides, audio lessons, course transcripts…
  • Scalable: Able to accommodate a large number of learners without losing its effectiveness.
  • Measurable: Should have clear learning objectives and assessments that allow both learners and instructors to gauge progress and success.

The topic you select for your online course should also be something you’re well-versed in.

The more experience you have on a topic, the more value you can give your students through your teaching.

Think of it this way. Would you rather buy an online copywriting course from someone who’s only been in the industry for one year and has no proof to back up their expertise? Or from an instructor with 10 years of experience working for reputable brands?

Key Tips for Identifying a Good Course Topic

Sometimes the right course topic to teach is sitting right in front of you.
If you’re struggling to identify what to teach for your first online course, try using these topic discovery methods:

  • Review the most common questions you receive from existing customers
  • Ask a group of potential students for feedback on your course idea
  • Visit forums & online communities in your field and take note of the common questions being asked
  • Use free tools like Google Trends or AnswerThePublic to identify what kind of questions people are asking about your niche or industry

Pinpoint Your Target Audience

Once you have a general idea of what you want to teach, the next step is to identify who you want to teach it to.

After all, the goal of creating an online course (besides generating sales for your business) is to help your audience achieve a specific goal.

Think of the people who want to learn from you. Who would be interested in the topic you want to teach?

Consider the following target audience identifying questions:

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Is your topic gender-specific?
  • What is your audience’s earning range?
  • What are your audience’s pain points?
  • What do you want your audience to achieve after completing your course?

These questions will help turn your course idea into a specific topic that is relevant and valuable to a niche audience.

Plan Your Course Content

Now it’s time to create a course content plan.

You can achieve this in two steps:

Having clear learning outcomes ensures that only the students join your course in the first place.
  1. 1
    Create clear learning outcomes for your online course, and…
  2. 2
    Generate a detailed outline for your lesson content.

Creating Clear Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes should clearly explain what your students will be able to do, know and feel after completing your course.

What skills will they have achieved or improved upon?

What new knowledge will they obtain?

Having clear learning outcomes ensures that only the right students join your course in the first place.
Screenshot of learning out comes from Course Craft

Clear learning outcomes help your students understand what they can expect to achieve once they’ve completed your course.

By defining specific skills and knowledge gained, setting clear objectives, and communicating clear expectations, you can create a more focused and relevant course resulting in higher student engagement, completion, and satisfaction rates — not to mention lower refund requests.

The easiest way to create learning outcomes that clearly explain what your student will be able to do by the end of the course is by completing the statement: “By the end of this course you will be able to…”

Here are a few examples:

  • “By the end of this course, you will be able to create and edit professional-looking documents using Microsoft Word.”
  • "By the end of this course, you will be able to design and publish a website using HTML and CSS."
  • "By the end of this course, you will be able to analyze and interpret data using Excel's statistical functions."

Outlining Your Course

A course outline is a roadmap for your course content. If you structure your outline well, not only will it deliver an effective learning experience for your students, it will also help you stay focused when creating your lessons.

Whether you're new to online teaching or have years of experience, you should always take time to carefully outline your course.

This practice will pay off in the long run by ensuring that your content is well-structured and easy to follow.

Follow these 4 steps to create a clear outline for your online course:

  1. 1
    Break down the content into modules: Divide the content into smaller, manageable modules. These modules should be organized in a logical and coherent manner, with each module building upon the previous one.
  2. 2
    Create a list of lessons: For each module, create a list of lessons. Each lesson should have a clear learning objective and should be designed to meet that objective.
  3. 3
    Add assessments: Determine the type of assessments (e.g. exams, quizzes, projects, and assignments) that will be used to evaluate a student’s progress and understanding of the course material.
  4. 4
    Include interactive elements: Add interactive elements like discussions, case studies, simulations, and activities to keep learners engaged while encouraging active learning.

Create Your Course Content

Creating your course content can be a daunting task – especially if you’re new to building online courses. But if you focus on keeping the creation process simple and sticking to your outline, you’ll be just fine.

To create an engaging, memorable course for your students, you should:

  • Use a variety of media: Videos, images, and audio files to break up the text and make your course more dynamic. This will keep your students engaged and make the information more memorable.
  • Include real-world examples: Use practical examples and case studies to illustrate the concepts you are teaching. This will help your students see how the information they’re learning is relevant to their own lives and careers.
  • Encourage interaction: Add activities, quizzes, and discussions in your course to engage with your students. This will give them the opportunity to apply what they have learned and receive feedback on their progress.

Choose a Hosting Platform & Set Up Your Course

These days, there are tons of course hosting platforms all with very similar features, and it's difficult to choose between them.

You can sign up for a platform that hosts your courses for you, like Teachable or Thinkific, or you can opt for a WordPress course plugin like Thrive Apprentice, to build and host your courses on your own website.

Key questions to ask when choosing an online course hosting platform are:

  • Does this platform support all media formats (e.g. video, audio, images, text, PDF download resources)?
  • Will I need to pay for additional data storage?
  • Is this platform’s user-interface easy for me and my students to navigate?
  • Does this hosting platform offer customization tools like the ability to add my own branding and custom domain name?
  • Does this platform have built-in reporting features I can use to monitor my students’ progress?
  • Does this platform offer a variety of payment options to make it easy for students to pay for my course?
  • Can I easily integrate other tools (e.g. your email marketing service, analytics tool, automation tool) with this platform?
  • Does this platform have a responsive support team I can contact when encountering technical issues?
  • Is this platform secure and does it comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR?

Once you’ve selected your hosting platform, create your account and start uploading your course content. Don’t forget to come up with a good name for your course.

If your chosen platform offers design & customization flexibility, then you should personalize your new online school with your logo and brand colors.

And if you’re using an advanced WordPress online course building plugin like Thrive Apprentice, you can go the extra mile and set up a fully-customized course completion page as well as a beautifully designed and personalized certificate of completion — which includes a unique QR code that can be used by anyone to validate the legitimacy of the course completion certificate.
Screenshot of a course completion page in Thrive Apprentice

Use a WordPress course building plugin like Thrive Apprentice to design a customized course completion page for your students.

Test Your Course

You wouldn’t want to buy an online course that’s riddled with technical glitches, clunky designs, and typos galore, would you?

Well, neither do your students.

Launching an online course without testing it first can lead to several bad outcomes like a poor learning experience for your students, low course completion rates, refund requests and negative reviews.

Your credibility will diminish and you may struggle to successfully sell future courses.

That’s why it’s important to test your online course and ensure you’re giving students a smooth, engaging and fun learning experience.

Test your online course by:

  1. 1
    Asking a small group of target customers to take the course for free in exchange for reporting any technical issues, as well as providing feedback on the course’s content.
  2. 2
    Reviewing all multimedia elements – such as videos, images, and audio recordings – to ensure they are functioning properly and students can access them easily.
  3. 3
    Checking for technical issues – like broken links or missing pages – to ensure that students can navigate the course easily and that there are no barriers to their learning.
  4. 4
    Testing all assessments and quizzes to ensure that they flow in the right order, without glitches, and accurately assess your students' understanding of the course content.

Define Your Price Strategy

Now that your course is ready, it’s time to think about pricing.

Are you going to charge a one-time payment or a subscription?

Will you offer a special launch discount, to encourage more people to purchase your course, or will you only offer the course at full price? 

Do you want to sell your course in a bundle with other products?

As you consider these questions, be sure to research other course creators in your niche to find out what they’re charging for their courses.

Selecting an appropriate pricing strategy is a critical part of the course launch process because it directly affects all aspects of your online course business — from your marketing strategies, to who your target audience is — not to mention the potential revenue you hope to earn from your course sales.  

So you want to make sure you pick a pricing strategy that properly reflects your course’s value while also being profitable for your business. Finally, make sure your target audience can actually afford your course or you won’t win many customers!

Set Up Your Course Launch Funnel

What are the moving pieces required for your launch? You’ll need:
  • A lead magnet to entice people to sign up for your email list, where you can then nurture them with relevant information about your course. This can be a PDF guide, a webinar, or even a teaser lesson from your course.
  • A landing page to promote your lead magnet and collect email addresses.
  • An automated email sequence to promote and provide more information about your upcoming course to those who sign up to your mailing list.
  • A sales page to explain your course’s benefits and convince your target customers to purchase your course.
  • A secure checkout page where students can pay for your course.
  • A thank you page that confirms payment, while also providing next steps for your students.

With this funnel, you can easily guide your potential students through a journey that ultimately leads them to enroll in and take your course.

Promote Your Course

Illustrated image of a “Coming Soon” page for an online course

Before you launch your course, you need an audience to sell it to.

You need an audience to sell your course to — and this is where promoting your course comes in.

This isn’t just a step for the pre-launch stage of your online course launch. You need to promote your course before, during and after your course launch.

How else will you get your online course in front of a wide audience?

Here are a few ways to promote your first online course:
  • Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to share updates on your course, drop exciting details about the benefits students stand to gain, and build a community of potential students.
  • Create a website or blog to provide in-depth information about your course, your background, and your teaching style. This is a great way to show your target audience why they can trust and learn from you.
  • Use email marketing to send newsletters and promotional emails, as well as behind-the-scenes updates to your existing audience.
  • Reach out to your professional network (colleagues, friends, and family) and ask them to share information about your course with their own networks.
  • Run paid ads to reach a larger audience and promote your course to people who are actively searching for courses like yours.
  • Host a webinar to give potential students a taste of what your course is about and to answer any questions they might have.

You need to be consistent with your promotional efforts and be prepared to adjust your strategy as necessary based on the results you see.

Launch Your Online Course

Illustration of a course being launched

Once you’ve finished building and promoting your course, it’s time to launch.

It’s the big day.

You’re about to launch your very first online course — congratulations!

There are several effective ways to announce the launch of your online course:

  • Send out an official launch email: Let your mailing list know that the online course is finally out and they should act and purchase the course immediately! If there's a discount for early buyers, this is the best time to highlight that.
  • Post an announcement on social media: Design a simple poster with your course’s details on them, and post it across all your social media platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. Don’t forget to add the link to your course’s sales page in the post, and in your social media profile’s bio.
  • Host a live webinar: Connect with your students and share more details about your online course. Highlighting the value they stand to gain from taking your online course is a perfect strategy to amplify your marketing and earn more sales.
  • Publish an announcement blog post: Write a detailed, engaging post about your online course, who it’s for, and the benefits such students stand to gain if they complete the course.

Remember to keep promoting your course after the official launch, so you can reach more potential students who are interested in what you’re teaching.

Bonus Tip: Pre-Sell Your Online Course

Pre-selling your online course is a great way to jumpstart your launch and ensure that you are creating a product that people want to buy.

Not only does it give you a chance to validate your course concept and gather valuable feedback from your target audience, but it also provides you with early revenue to fund the development and promotion of your course.

This can help you build buzz and anticipation for your launch and attract more customers when your course is finally available.

To learn more about best practices for pre-selling your online course, watch this video:

Monitor Your Course’s Performance

Illustration of online course analytics

Track your course’s performance to pinpoint what’s working and what needs to be improved.

The work doesn’t stop after you’ve officially launched your course.

It’s important to monitor your course's performance, so you can see what’s working and what needs to be improved.

  • Track student engagement by monitoring the number of students who enroll in the course, the number of students who complete the course, and the number of students who leave the course early.
  • Measure student satisfaction by conducting surveys or collecting feedback from students on the course content, teaching style, and the course platform.
  • Monitor the course completion rate to see how many students are finishing the course and where they are dropping off.
  • Analyze student performance by tracking their progress in the course, their scores on quizzes and assessments, and their overall understanding of the course content.
  • Monitor the course's financial performance by tracking sales and revenue, to see if the course is meeting your financial goals.
  • Study the course's reach by tracking the number of views, clicks and enrollments through the platform's analytics or by using third-party analytics software.

By continuously monitoring and analyzing your course’s performance, you get the opportunity to adapt and optimize your course, which not only improves your students’ learning experience, but earns you better reviews and more sales through time.

Thrive Apprentice Reports:
The Most Advanced Analytics And Data Reporting Engine For Online Course Creators

When you use Thrive Apprentice to build your online courses, you also get access to the most powerful course analytics and data reporting feature for ANY learning management system.

With Thrive Apprentice Reports, you can:

  • Track the number of students enrolled in your courses
  • Identify where students are dropping out of your courses
  • Pinpoint your top students
  • Identify the lessons that are seeing the most engagement
  • Follow your students’ progress throughout your courses
  • …and so much more.

Click here to learn more about Thrive Apprentice and how this course-building tool can help you build a thriving online business.

Are You Ready to Create & Launch Your First Online Course?

Now, you have everything you need to plan, create, and launch an online course successfully.

After your online course goes live, remember to keep tabs on any feedback you receive.

You’ll get feedback from students about content to improve, requests for additional resources, and of course, praise for your hard work.

If you’re still looking for the best online course building tool for your business, then check out Thrive Apprenticeespecially if you already have a WordPress website.

Thrive Apprentice makes course creation fun and easy — which is quite different compared to the other WordPress LMS plugins available.

So if you want a WordPress course plugin that offers total design freedom, a robust reporting engine, and seamless integration with a variety of business apps — Thrive Apprentice is the course building solution for you.

by Chipo  February 13, 2023


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