When it comes to creating an online program, there are a lot of moving pieces to consider. With all the noise out there about all things online programs and online courses, it can be really easy to overlook some of those tasks or some of those steps.
I’m going to share with you the four main phases that go into creating an amazing online program and the absolutely two essential people that you need to make your program as awesome as possible, as well as several other key people at each phase to help you create an incredible online program. So let’s dive right on in!
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I’m going to break down the four main phases that go into creating an online program and the key people who can help you along the way.
What I want you to remember is that these are all suggestions. I’m not saying to build an online program, you need to go out and hire every single one of these people. I am saying that these are the different hats that you wear as a course creator or as a program designer, as someone who is taking their one-to-one work and turning it into an online program.
There are a lot of different moving pieces and sometimes we forget that each piece requires a specific lens or a specific set of skills and when you are designing your program versus when you’re building your program materials that’s going to pull on different skillsets.
Now you may be one of those people that’s incredibly talented and can do absolutely everything yourself, in which case rock on, you’re doing an awesome job! And I hope that you can take this post and think what hat am I wearing? So without further ado, let’s dive in!
PHASE ONE: IDEA AND VALIDATION
The first phase is when you’re starting to brainstorm the possibilities for your program and the two essential people in this phase are:
Key Person #1) YOU!
You, obviously, you are the idea maker, you are the subject matter expert! You are key at this process because you are the one coming up with the ideas.
Key Person #2) Your audience
The other key ‘person’ is your audience. You’re going to probably sense a bit of a theme throughout this post when you hear me say you and your audience are the most essential people for your program.
We want to design a program with your learners, with your clients, with your students at the heart of this program.
This means they need to be involved every step of the way for creating your online program. Especially in this first phase when you are figuring out what their problems are and how you can help them, it’s essential to be talking to your people because otherwise it’s all guesswork and it makes selling your program a lot harder. It also makes building your program a lot harder because you are just guessing that what you’re creating is helping them.
The shortcut is to just talk to them, talk to your people.
We reach out and say, “Hey, do you want to hop on a coffee chat? I have an idea for this program”. Talk to your past clients or send out a survey to all your past clients and really see how you can support them by keeping your audience involved, you are making sure you’re building a path that meets them exactly where they are.
PHASE TWO: DESIGNING YOUR ONLINE PROGRAM
I may be a bit biased, but this is my favourite phase. Arguably I would say phase 2 is not only one of the most important phases, but also happens to be the most overlooked. There’s a lot of information out there that talks about how to validate your ideas and then how to launch your course and there are amazing resources out there for you, but what I’ve realized is a lot of people skip right on over the design phase of the program, which is where you lose out on the intentionality of building a journey exactly for your people.
So on top of having 1) you and 2) your audience involved at this phase, the other key person is:
Key Person #3) a Learning Designer (a.k.a instructional designer, LX designer, curriculum designer)
We go by a couple of different terms. I prefer learning experience designer or learning designer because our role is to make sure that you are building something that your people need that’s going to set them up for success and isn’t going to overwhelm them with content. Often what happens when we sit down to create an online program, especially as heart centred coaches, is we care so much about giving our people absolutely everything they need that we throw so much at them that they just fall off the radar and they don’t make it past module two, or they don’t put anything into action because they’re totally overwhelmed.
The advantage of working with a learning designer at this phase is you have someone who has your learner’s best interests at heart (and absolutely no attachment to your subject matter)
You are the subject matter expert, which means you can think everything is interesting and everything is essential. And sometimes what you need is someone to come in and lovingly say, that’s super interesting but it doesn’t belong in this course because it’s not going help your people get results. In Phase Two where you spend a lot of time on the design, you are building an intentional path for your people, and when you work with a learning designer, you can be assured that your program is setting your people up for success. It’s actionable, it has exactly what they need and nothing more. And it’s an experience, not just a dump of information.
Not only will this make you feel a hundred percent confidence selling your program because you’ll know for sure that you’ve put something together that’s super intentional and solves their problem, but it’s also going make you feel totally clear about what comes next in Phase #3!
PHASE THREE: DEVELOPMENT AND LAUNCHING
This is the phase where there are the most amount of hats or the most amount of people that you need to outsource to when you’re building your online program.
So once again, the essential people that absolutely need to be involved are:
We want to make sure that your program feels like you. We want it to represent your brand, your energy, that awesomeness that is you, that brings your people into your program.
2) YOUR PEOPLE
We want your people to be involved. So whether it’s through a beta group, whether it’s through friends, whether it’s through past clients, involving the people that are going to benefit from the experience at this phase as well to get their input on how things are looking and feeling and working is super essential.
3) A Learning Designer
The nice thing about having a learning designer involved in this phase is they can look through everything you’re creating, your materials, your platform, your launch strategy, all those things, and make sure that it’s still in alignment with the super intentional design that you’ve created for your program.
They can review how things are looking, how things are working, and make sure that things are staying actionable and focused on the learner.
Key People #4 & #5) A Web Designer and/or a V.A.
The first thing to think about in this phase is the platform that you’re hosting your online course on. Now, if you haven’t decided this yet, I have a whole post helping you choose so you can check that out.
- If you’re self-hosting on your WordPress and you are not a web designer, I highly recommend getting the web designer to help you out so that you don’t need to worry about all the tech nightmares.
- On the other hand, if you want to just fire it up into a done-for-you service like Thinkific, which is my personal fave, then having a VA do that for you can also be a nice thing to take it off of your plate.
Key Person #6) A Graphic Designer
One big piece of your finished program will be the program materials, including your workbooks, slide decks, welcome packets – anything visual to help bring your program to life and make it feel really visually appealing. Either you can make the materials yourself, or you can get some awesome templates to help you, or you can hire a graphic designer.
Key Person #7) A Copywriter
You can also think about the copywriting of your program, not only for your program materials but also for the marketing and the launching. Do you want to do that yourself or is that something that you want to outsource? Or maybe you want to purchase some swipe copy or take a copy writing course?
Key Person (or people!) #8) Marketing Strategists
The other people who can also help you are the marketing strategists. Whether you need a sales funnel, or you want a launch expert – is that something that you want to do yourself or is that something that you want to outsource? What feels manageable and what feels like oh my goodness, please don’t make me do this?
Key Person #9) A Videographer / Video Editor
Now full disclosure, I actually didn’t mention videographers in my original video but wanted to make sure they were mentioned in this post!
The reason I didn’t mention videographers is because I want you to get your program out there to the world as soon as possible and thanks to modern technology, you don’t need to let video stand in your way! Especially for the first few rounds of your program, keep the tech nice and simple. One of my favourite tools for easy video recording is Loom (and it’s free!)
Now just to be clear…
My message is not saying that you need to outsource absolutely everything at every single phase. It’s just to be aware of the different hats that you’re wearing as you bring your program to life so that you can be aware of what skills you’re drawing on, what skills maybe you want to outsource, and what experience you are creating for your people.
This brings me into the fourth and final phase and often forgotten phase of building an online program.
PHASE FOUR: PILOTING AND BEYOND
Now a course is a living thing. It is not a one and done, set it and forget it and never visited again. It is something that grows and evolves and evolves just like your people do.
It’s something that you want to constantly be tweaking and adjusting and elevating to make sure that you’re continually giving your people the best experience possible.
In this phase, again, the key people to help you out is you and your ideas and how you can breathe fresh life into your program, your people listening to what feedback they’re giving you, what would make their experience even better, what’s working well for them, and what could be working better.
Also, a learning designer can support you in this phase as well. Whether it’s through a full program audit where they look at everything you’ve created and how you can make it even better. Or it’s just chatting out some of the feedback you’ve gotten from your students and what they’re seeing and how you can add things into your program to make sure it’s the best it can be.
To Wrap Things Up…
As you can see, there are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to creating an online program. I’m here to remind you the importance of making a plan and setting a budget ahead of time so that when you start creating your online program, when you start designing it, you know what you’re going to do, what you’re responsible for, who you have on your team to help you, or who you need to track down for a specific set of skills. Or maybe it’s kind of an in-between, whether it’s templates or swipe files or courses that teach you how to do what you want to do with your own program. There are lots of resources out there and there are lots of people available to help you.
Now, again, I may be biased, but I would say if you only hire one person to help you bring your program to life, it should be a learning designer because we can help you at every step of the way.
Whether it’s from taking your ideas and how you can hear what your students or your clients are saying and bring it and organize it into a specific program idea.
Whether it’s structuring out your entire program into a crystal clear blueprint so you know exactly what’s going into your program and that your people are being set up for success.
Whether it’s looking through the materials you’ve created and checking out your course website and making sure everything is in alignment with adult best learning principles with the kind of the jargony stuff that you don’t want to have to think about, but what helps people learn and reach that transformation or whether it’s in the piloting and the beyond, which is tweaking your existing courses or it’s making the experience the best possible.
Our role, or at least my role in what I say is I am here to be the voice of your people. I am here to help you make sure you’re giving them everything they need to set them up for success, to reach those transformations that you’ve set out for them, but also to help you feel so clear and so confident in this program that you’ve created.
If you’re ready to bring your program to life and you want help, you want support, you want that learning design lens every step of the way, please reach out and book a call with me. I would love to chat. I would love to hear about how you are taking your one-to-one awesomeness and turning it into a super online program that people love, love, love, and doesn’t collect digital dust in the online graveyard because that’s not what we’re going for.
We want people finishing your course. We want people getting results and we want people to taking action.
Now, if you’ve decided to do this yourself and you were like, no, I can do it. I also have some things to help you out. I’ve got some super awesome freebies.
I have my learning journey map, which is the first step I do with all of my clients to mapping out their online programs, and I have my guide for inspiring action to make sure that your course is focusing on action and not on content.
Grab Your FREE JOURNEY MAPPING GUIDE Below!
P.S. I’m really lucky that I have super talented friends and so if you need any help with creating and bringing your program to life, whether it’s through web design, graphic design, copywriting, those different things, please send me a message and I’d be happy to connect you with the right people to help you bring your vision to life.