Online Course Pre-Requisites: Before You Launch

You're not at the finish line yet – the online course pre-requisites

We've made a lot of progress in our 2021 Online Course Series. But we're not ready to launch, and most of the time, once people have an outline and start recording content, they think they're close. That's why I want to pause you and give you another list of things to care about – the online course pre-requisites.

Here's what we've covered already:

  1. Who should create an online course
  2. How to come up with an idea for your online course
  3. Creating a course structure / outline

Now you might think – wait, are you going to cover how to record the videos?

Yes, that's coming.

But before we get there (and I know some folks already have some of their content recorded), we need to look at a few other things.

What are the online course pre-requisites?

Your online course needs more than content to become a course. I know you know this, but so often we forget that we have to:

  • market a course (landing page)
  • convince and convert prospects (funnels)
  • collect funds (carts / gateways)
  • and we need to onboard customers (emails)

This is what I call online course pre-requisites – not because you need them before you build your course, but because you need them before you launch or market your course.

Here's another way to look at these course pre-reqs.

Why cover this before we focus on creating content?

I know I referenced it before. We will get to the part where we talk about creating course content. And I know I do things in a strange order.

But there's a method to my madness.

Most people create their content and then start to try to market it. I think about things in the reverse order.

How do I plan to market my course?

That will tell me what to create. Know what I mean?

So I suggest you focus on all the things you need to sell your course, and have that shape your final content that you'll create next.

Also, the tools you select for these things will impact what you can and can't do. And that's worth knowing up front.

The Product / Sales Pages

Before you create your course content, I want you to think about the story you're telling. Who are you serving, what are they trying to learn, and what would success look like for them? All these questions are critical to how you sell your course.

Remember my Bridge Framework? That stuff. In order to know and understand how to sell your course, you're going to have to know and understand their pain, and how you help them get from there to success.

More importantly, you don't just need this content. You also need to know what platform you're going to use and whether they allow you to create the pages we're talking about here.

Most platforms do.

But some platforms will say you don't need a product or sales page, you just need a funnel. Or you just need a cart.

I don't buy it, which is why I recommend WordPress (and hosting with Nexcess). But as I wrote a bit ago, you can also use platforms like Podia.

The Cart / Checkout

First, let's look at the WordPress-related solutions.

If you use a course plugin like LifterLMS, it comes with its own cart / checkout. The same is true if you use plugins on WordPress like AccessAlly or DAP.

If you use LearnDash or others, you could also use not only WordPress but WooCommerce – which is flexible and can allow you to use a lot of additional features like post-purchase flows.

But that doesn't mean you might not look at non-WordPress solutions like Podia, Thinkific, or Kajabi – all of which have their own carts.

Here's why I bring this up now.

Every one of these solutions has its own learning curve. What's important is that you make the choice early so that you know what you can and can't do.

When I was working on a course in Thinkific, for example, I couldn't create a lesson that was video when the video was hosted on Vimeo. I had to create a lesson that was text, and then drop in the link to the video. It was ok, but not what I wanted.

Of course I found this out after starting to build on that platform. I'm not against the platform, I'm simply encouraging you to know the limits of your platform before you go all in.

So figure this stuff out early!

The Funnel / Campaigns

Not every platform supports funnels. Not every platform makes it easy. If you're using WooCommerce, you could check out one of these two solutions:

Both will help you create funnels, but each works a bit differently. And most importantly, you need to start thinking about the content of your campaign.

I know I said this already, but you'd be amazed what happens when someone has already created their content and then they go to write their funnel / offer content and realize they've missed something (or about to reference non-existent topics from their course).

This is why I recommend pulling a lot of this together before I sit down to create content. It gives me more lines of thinking than just the outline from my last post in this sequence.

The Onboarding Emails

Every time I watch someone launch a product, especially one I've been waiting for, I rush to pay. Not just to support them and give them money, but because I'm interested in one thing.

No, not the product.

I want to see their onboarding email sequence.

I want to know:

  1. Did they shape the message based on which tier of the product / course I purchased?
  2. How many times in the first week do I get emails?
  3. Do these emails take into account whether I've logged in or used the product / course?

As you work on your onboarding, you may discover that the order of your lessons may need to get tweaked. Or more importantly, that you need another lesson to cover something that you now see could be confusing.

And since we're talking about tools, you also likely need to evaluate which tools you can use that are integrated with the platforms you've chosen already.

Now let's make these decisions

We've covered a lot of stuff here, but when it comes to course pre-reqs, your decisions are focused in two areas:

  • Content
  • Platforms / tools

I recommend you investigate and decide on your platform, and then work on these other content components that aren't on your course outline. They will adjust and enhance your outline, and prepare you for the next step.

And that's creating your course content!

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.