How to Create Online Courses Students Will Love (eLearning Best Practices) | Jeff Cobb Interview



okay hello and welcome to thank if XT TV this is the place to be if you want to learn how to create and sell online courses successfully my name is Tyler bye assume the Content Manager for think–if ik and today I have the pleasure of speaking with somebody that we've wanted to have on the show for a while now so I'm very grateful that we finally made this happen this is Jeff Cobb who's joining us from learning revolution dotnet and he is an expert on global learning economy and the rapidly evolving market for lifelong learning continuing education and professional development is also the author of leading the learning revolution which is being called the MBA in a book for anyone in the education business so that is quite a compliment and so he's been helping people cope from everyone from consultants to trainers speakers and experts create educational products share their expertise but more importantly make sure their students are actually learning and applying the material which is a big big topic worth touching on in that so that's going to be our focus today so Jeff thank you so much for joining us I'm excited to chat with you yeah thanks so much for having me Tyler I'm looking forward to it so Jeff why don't you just take a moment to I know I gave away a little bit of you know the of your accolades there but if you could just take a moment to tell us how you got into this space you know why you're in this space and what you're focused on sure I I kind of fell into the world of online learning online education it's good 20 years ago at this point I first got involved during the big calm boom in the in the mid 90s as much younger back then and got involved with a start-up and you know we all thought we were going to make a gazillion dollars and change the world and um you know I think we did some good things we we didn't end up with the gazillion dollars in the end but we learned a heck of a lot and I sort of went on from there to start a company of my own which I ran for many years and out that was an e-learning company we actually had a platform back in the early days of learning platforms and would develop online courses as well and I eventually sold that to another company worked for them for a while and then it's actually close to a decade we're coming up on art our 10th year right now started a consulting business and work with you know different types of organizations a lot of work with trade and professional organizations that are in the continuing education business and so they've been watching this whole world of online learning evolved now over the past decade a huge amount has changed just in the last few years you know with platforms like think if it coming along and just a lot more I think of a what I described is an entrepreneurial fever out there around online courses and online learning and so you know I've continued to watch with curiosity but then also you know continue to help organizations and experts you know what they're with their strategy with their marketing with how they can get out there and actually a grow an education business online mm-hmm yeah yeah you're absolutely right with a the online education really taking off these last few years and in fact I think it was there was an article on Forbes maybe even just two years back that said that the online learning industry was a hundred billion dollar industry and so when numbers like that or thrown out they're definitely a lot of entrepreneurs decide that hey you know if they've got expertise and and and they want to you know create courses and and and sell courses online and take advantage of that of that growing market but there's a scenario that we really want to help people avoid as course creators and that's anyone who has who has expertise and you know they've they've been in in an industry or they've learned a skill set for many years and they're they're ready to share it with others and they create a course but the whole reason we create a course is because we want a student to actually learn what we're teaching them and apply what we're teaching them and get in and so that their lives are better because of it and the big challenge that we're seeing is people creating courses but not in a way that their students are actually completing the videos applying the training and going off and getting the results that were promised and so this is a big problem in the industry I think and I don't know what your thoughts on that if you've noticed that trend as more people have created courses have you noticed also the trend of the challenge of students not completing and not grasped applying the knowledge also increasing or what are your thoughts on that yeah I think it's one of the most important challenges we have right now and you know it's an educational challenge on the one hand I mean like you said anybody who's teaching wants to actually create value wants to create positive change for their their learners but it's also a business problem at this point I mean because of you know what's happened out there and it's become so much easier really for anybody you know you can license a platform like think if it can be up and running with a course and you know no time flat I mean it used to take us weeks months even years you know to produce the types of courses that an individual expert can can now produce on her own but that means you know there's there's so much stuff out there now there's a lot of noise there's a lot of junk learner expectations have changed I mean it's so easy to you know sign up for one course one day and the next day you see another shiny object over here to get your sign up for that instead so it's becoming I mean it's maturing as a business it's like any other business if you don't create high quality if you don't produce the results that you know you promise to produce for your customers then people aren't going to come or if they do come they're not going to stay and that's just the way any business matures and you know education lifelong learning that is a business now and the people who are in it who expect to succeed you know are gonna have to be able to deliver value they're going to be able to deliver learning that keeps their learners around and ideally keeps them coming back for more mm-hmm yeah absolutely does there's a couple of things that I wanted to touch on here and of course both of them help you know course creators create courses that people you know actually take and actually implement what they learn and helps you know helps that knowledge stick as you put it with their students but if we could break it up into two parts so I want to talk about content creation first so in your experience what are some of the ways that an online course creator can structure their content or create their content you know whether that's a video audio text however they do it but what are some of the ways that you found to be effective from the content creation point of view that keep the learners consuming that content completing the lessons go on to the next lessons like water what are a few tips that you found to be effective right well and I would I would even I would step back even a little further from that because I think before before you start creating content before you even start mapping out your content I think you you really have to make an effort to get into what I characterizes as learner's mind and and really understand the learners perspective because you know if you're if you're an expert teaching something you've got so much more knowledge than probably you're ever really going to need to convey to your learner in the first place and then you know along with that you've probably forgotten what it was like to be back there at the beginning and to be acquiring the skills and knowledge that you're now trying to help others acquire you know a lot of people who are teaching just are talking about what they know that's called you know decorative knowledge they'll declare about everything they know but but really you know learning is a process it takes place over time and you kind of have to take yourself back to the beginning I was just recently teaching my trying to teach my six-year-old daughter for example how to ride a bike for the first time and you know that's a that's a great challenge for anybody who wants to get a perspective on teaching I mean you can't tell somebody how to ride a bike and we can give them some basic instructions but you have to really take yourself back to why was that difficult in the first place because you don't think about it anymore it's just something that's you know in you at this point and I really had to you know step back and say okay you know what do I show her what do I try to help her do that's going to get it started and you know one of the things I discovered was you know so much is about how you just position yourself and your foot on the pedal initially just so you can get that initial push and get some momentum that's a very small thing but it's very key and really only by coming coming back you know to that that position as the the learner so I think when you're an expert and trying to teach people you know you need to think about what is that outcome that you're trying to produce for them where are they going to arrive in most cases you're going to need to narrow that down a lot you're probably going to be trying to teach them much more than you realistically can and a course or a lesson so really really will it down narrow it down to some very specific concrete things you can teach and then keep backing up from there into the processes the experiences that if you had to have as a learner to actually get to that point and then you know as you start to put it together and you're going to teach with it you know chunk it out into whether it's individual videos or pieces of text or whatever it is you're putting it together get it down into small digestible chunks that really scaffold the experience and get that learner from the point of you know putting her foot on the pedal and positioning correctly to them pushing and going and guiding the bike in this this instance and successfully you know riding away into the distance so you know first adopting that that learner's mind and working backwards from there and then you start to see what you need to do in terms of how to structure that experience in a way it's really going to connect with the larder and be meaningful you know that that's really good advice and you bring up a good point that you know if we are an expert in something there's a chance we forgot what it's like to be a beginner so before we go and try to teach everything we know we should really figure out okay what's the specific outcome we want the person that we're teaching to be able to accomplish and then from there work backwards and break it down into steps now before we create any content actually would you suggest maybe going out and speaking and to some beginners or getting some feedback to some potential students and just like perhaps confirming with them what it is that they want to learn as as beginners just so that you you know you're you're just better able to put yourself back in their shoes before you go and Krynn and create this big course for them oh absolutely I mean one of the the concepts that I use a lot in the leading learning revolution and it's not original to me but it's the idea of a Minimum Viable Product and I'm a big fan of you know test driving your material so you can you can run a pilot I mean in the first place you know you should be you should be building your audience you should be communicating with your learner's you know blogging seeing what the feedback is on that building an email list having conversations with those learners so you really should be in touch with your learners before you're ever putting a course out there but then also you know – before you record video you know commit things to a more of a fixed format you know oftentimes to run some form of a pilot even doing something like what we're doing right now you could use Skype you can use zoom you can use you know those sorts of tools and you know flesh out your curriculum find a small target group of learners and take them through a pilot take them you know through that sort of Minimum Viable Product that you think is going to help them achieve the outcomes that you think they want to achieve and you're going to learn you know at least two things in the process one is whether that outcome is really what they want or not and then to whether you really have gotten into that learners mind and understand you know how to walk them through the processes that they're gonna need to get there but you know you have to interact with actual learners to figure that out yeah yeah I'm so glad you brought that up in the concept of Minimum Viable Product or in this case Minimum Viable course you know I've had the privilege of speaking to a lot of course creators and the ones that are doing well never created a perfect course the first time it was always Minimum Viable course they got feedback they were open to feedback they made changes to their content they improved their content over time and now you look at them and you say wow they've got a great course a great program and all these great testimonials from students that are that are doing well but it didn't start out there they worked up to that level by iterating and improving and getting feedback from their students so let's say we've we've gone through that process we've talked to some beginners we we know the steps that they want to learn and so we're ready to create our content do you have any tips on creating content that actually gets consumed well I think you want to plan for a number of things you're putting your content together so that you're going to engage the learners in a way that they are likely to learn and that they'll recognize that they're actually learning so you know some core principles one is to give opportunities for effort for effortful retrieval basically I call this kind of playing fetch with learning so you know as you're creating the content that you're creating you know figure out the ways in which you're going to make sure the students are recalling it throughout the course and in one of the simplest ways of doing this is by just in using quizzing thoughtfully throughout the course and I prefer not to think of it as quizzing more is just self testing you know for adult learners in particular to be able to kind of self check and to be able to self test throughout a course you want to provide you know those opportunities but even more effective than just the traditional quizzing I mean I think you should use that the kind of multiple choice type stuff you know asking reflective questions you know and making it clear that you do expect them to engage on those and spend the time reflecting asking short answer type questions that are spaced out among the content you know so if you if you've run a video you know following that video ask you know two or three short questions where the learner has to in you know his own words convey what's been learned you know to show that they've actually grasped that knowledge and you know before people get scared to think well you know that means I'm gonna have to look at all this stuff and grade it you don't necessarily even have to do that if you can just encourage the learners to go through that process on their own and actually take the time you know to write out the short answers to the journal out the short answers to actually engage you know with their their own minds I mean I have to take responsibility for their own learning so you know definitely provide frequent instances throughout any course for effortful retrieval for people to bring back the knowledge that uh that you've been teaching them another one of those is another key practice is to you know to help them forge the connections to connect the learning back – how it applies in their life I mean learning really is about creating neural connections basically you know your wiring your brain together when you're learning something so you know as you're putting them together the content again video is so common now people are shooting videos and putting those together at the courses what make make sure that you know in the context of those videos or supporting those videos that you are creating meaningful activities you know those might be worksheets assignments that you're giving the learners to you know to again get them to connected back into what they're doing in their work what they're doing in their life to help them what in learning theory is called elaborate on what you've been teaching them and and figure out how it connects into their life and again you know having them engage in bringing that back to you it's funny you know one of the things I've read about recently that's that's very powerful in working with learners is to ask them to predict what they're going to do with what you're teaching them you know so you know maybe you've just done a video that they've gone through and you're asking them and you may be doing this live or again it may just be you're asking them to journal about it in some way but to predict okay I'm going to take this knowledge now and you know three weeks from now or six months from now or one year from now this is what I'm going to be able to do with it but that that helps to form those connections that cements the learning and at the same time you know it's helping the learner see the possibilities that are coming out of the learning and that's that's something that helps keep them engaged in whatever you're teaching okay no that's some that's some great advice I appreciate that now another thing that you actually you touched on this a little bit already and you mentioned this in your book as well but because there is so much information out there and not just in the form of courses I mean any topic that somebody wants to learn they've got a lot of options I mean they can watch videos on YouTube they can read blogs they can buy books they can take courses there's lots of stuff that they could do so standing out among the those other resources is one challenge but and there's no shortage of information we know that absolutely no shortage so the value in an online course is not necessarily just in the information it's also in you know the community that you create around that course and you as the instructor making yourself accessible to your students letting the students access each other and these things happen naturally in a classroom environment I mean a lot of people will take a course at a college or a university for example not just for the information but also to meet with with students who are also learning that same topic to have access to an instructor who's an expert on that topic so what are some of the ways that we can mimic that real-world classroom environment in an online setting so that our students aren't just getting information which may not be as valuable anymore since there's so much of it but they're also getting that chance to interact with us as the instructor or even other students who are taking the course right well you know some of what I was just referring to in terms of the types of activities that you give them getting them to you know make predictions tell stories that you bring in the elements of what you're teaching along with what they already know I mean those are things that can and should certainly be shared whether that's in the context of a you know a discussion board or a Facebook group I think in in most instances now it's very powerful to be able to have you know at least some form of live interaction when you're teaching a course so whether that's you know an office hours type scenario or just you know some group coaching that sort of thing but you know alongside you know say a platform like think if ik to be able to use zoom or something like that to you know help people see each other and actually you know hear about and engage with each other's issues and challenges and opportunities that are connected to that learning experience I mean the the capabilities for doing that now it's just so much easier than it ever has been before so you know definitely baking that in again you know baking it in in a way though that it that it does really tie into the progression of learning that that it is meaningful you know that you're not that we've I'm sure all been to conferences where you have somebody who's eating the the classroom and I'll say oK we've discussed this among yourselves sort of thing and it's not really clear what you're supposed to be doing or what you're supposed to be getting out of it so you know you really have to tie in okay we're trying to progress to this outcome and here's how having everybody share and interact at this point you know is actually meaningful to do but you know use Facebook use discussion boards use zoom bake them into your overall learning strategy throughout the course yeah yeah and I think that having those those environments and those capabilities built in you know whether it's a discussion board or a forum or a private Facebook group for your students they help add to the value of their course and a lot of times we'll see an online course that would be considered like a high ticket course or a higher price and usually it's because there's a community component attached to it the inexpensive courses and courses that you find you know often in marketplaces and such that are in that lower price range it's just not built into that instructors model like they can't afford to give attention to every one of their students especially they've got hundreds or thousands of them when it's if it's just not a part of the model so I don't know in your experience have you seen that when if somebody's you know buying a course and the price is higher is there that expectation that they're getting more than just information that there's going to be some some community element attached to the course to some extent I think definitely that that's more and more true now I mean we used to you know live in the age of the information product where you know you had some special or secret information that you were going to charge a premium for but you know we just don't know that's not true he stays with when you go out on Google and find just about anything so you know just just having the information doesn't do it anymore and I think even you know this kind of relates to what I was just saying say saying you have the community and really having the community and really have a community having a community that is helping to facilitate learning those are two different things I mean anybody a Facebook page or a discussion board is kind of like what I was saying about the instructor and in a conference session saying you know talk among yourselves sort of things that doesn't accomplish anything I mean if you're going to be effective as a teacher you again you need to have thought through why this is important and then you need to be there you know it's going to be a little bit of a time commitment it's certainly going to be a thought commitment on your part as you know how am I really going to be able to spark engagement here and and how can i you know leverage the community effectively I mean like you said you know if you got if you got thousands of students and some of these high end courses they still get thousands of students in them you're not going to be able to you know communicate with every single student in the course but you can strategically think about okay how do we leverage that community in a way that's powerful for everybody you know so something even like you know a virtual hot seat or something like that where you know yet somebody and maybe you can do this in a discussion environment as well you could certainly do it with something like Skype or zoom where you get you know the one or two or three learners you know to really go through their particular situation you know say what their challenges are get everybody to contribute their input they might be contributing out through text you know to keep it under control but then everybody's learning in the process because you know they're able to connect that back to their own situation and think about how about you know what they would do in the same situation or how there's a little bit different so you know being able to leverage the community the participants in the community and in a way that is gonna you know you may be focusing on a particular learner or a particular situation but you've thought about how that's actually going to you know ripple out across the community mm-hmm well that's some great points have you have there been any scenarios where you as the instructor or perhaps other online course creators that you know of where they're proactively reaching out to students that perhaps aren't aren't completing videos on completing trainings aren't doing the assignments like are there ways that we can proactively support those people and help increase our completion rates by reaching out to those students in some way well I'd say it's offensive fine line I think if I was talking to somebody yesterday who's a coach in a popular program and she was saying you know how they used to do a lot more of that and you know when they they're now on version 3 of their this particular course and it's very successful because you know rave reviews it's a that's a top-dollar course and they've cut back on that quite a bit because you know they felt increasingly that um the learners who were going to take responsibility you know the ones we're going to be successful were going to have that certain level of commitment and motivation and responsibility in themselves to participate you know those who weren't weren't but you got to figure out where that line is you know for you personally and for your group of learners a lot of it comes back to setting expectations both during your sales process and then as students are initially kind of getting indoctrinated into the course experience you know to make it clear that there'll be some hand-holding there'll be some nudging you want to design your learning in a way that you're helping to nudge people along but but you know that they are going to be expected to take responsibility for for their own learning because that's really the only way to learn is going to truly happen in the end so you know I like I said it it depends on the individual and structured it depends on your group and what your goals are sort of where you put that line but I can say my bias is more towards not doing too much of the kind of nagging I guess you could put it to get students interested right now that makes sense and I think the the price of a course also helps qualify people upfront like I personally if I spend you know a thousand dollars or more on a course I'm gonna take it like you don't need to remind me to take it you know I've but if I get a course for like fifty dollars then it's probably it could end up sitting on my virtual bookshelf among many other courses that I bought inexpensively and haven't gotten around to taking yet so I think just pricing a course higher upfront probably helps you mentioned you having some of those expectations in the sales process and trying to qualify people before they get in so that perhaps that that doesn't happen or at least it helps minimize it but yeah I mean it's really up to each instructor to decide how feasible it is for them to to become that accountability partner I guess for their students right you've been showing a lot of good stuff I really appreciate this is there anything that we haven't touched on yet any mistakes to avoid any other tips that come to mind anything that course creators can do to help their students really grasp and apply their material well I would just probably go back to what I was you know saying in the first place just about you know how critical this is now and really thinking about your course not just as an educational vehicle but as a business and you know people come from different angles some some people are coming from a business angle and see this as a money-making opportunity and you know they probably need to learn a little bit more about the educational side of things and the people coming from the educational side of things need to learn more about the business it's both at this point and you have to balance those and you just really you really have to be thinking about that from the beginning as you're as you're architecting the whole experience and you know that it's all it's all thinking strategically basically about how you're going to create your course and then making sure that you know as you as you created the content as you sequence the content as you think about the activities to go in to get people to apply the content as you think about where you'll repeat concepts across it that all of it is aligned with you know reaching that ultimate outcome for the learner ya know that that's actually a really good point and I was just having a conversation with some colleagues the other day because we hear the you know the encouragement there's a lot of encouragement happening online where where anybody can teach online anybody can make courses things like that and we thought about it and we're like well no that's not actually true because it there's a few different skill sets it takes to do this successfully number one is you do need a neck you need expertise first of all you need to act you need competence and whatever it is that you plan to share with others then you need to know how to teach that which is another skill set being able to teach something to others and transfer knowledge and then on top of that you need to know how to build a brand and build a business and you know wrap your courses into a business model and then get out there and promote yourself and market yourself and things like that so that's three different skill sets right there and I'm sure there within each of those there are many more but I am curious because you're somebody who has built a business by sharing your knowledge is there any anything in particular that's been helpful for you in terms of learning how to transfer what you know to others is anything that you'd like to recommend and I know and I know you have a ton of resources as well but for somebody who has expertise but they're not quite good at teaching their expertise just yet where some ways we can learn to become better teachers mmm well you know I think in so many ways your being at being an effective learner and and being an effective teacher I mean they're two sides of the same coin and I think in so many instances you know if if you're going to make progress in whatever you're doing you have to know yourself well and I think you know one of the ways that that I've come to be a better teacher and to be more effective as a teacher has been simply through becoming a better learner and understanding what my own learning involves you know so you know I understand now that if I'm truly going to master something I'm gonna have to methodically repeat it and practice it in a meaningful way over time for example that's just one example of you know how to be an effective learner and so you know I think anybody who's really serious about being successful as a teacher and helping others learn should step back and look at their own learning practices look at where they struggle as a learner look at where they struggled as they were trying to learn what they know right now and try to have that inform how they approach their their teaching of others I mean in so many ways as traces back to my original point about learners mind I mean that applies about the very specific and a very general level and I think the people who do manage to master those different skills or at least become very competent to those different skills that you just talked about for being in the online course business or excellent learners you know they have to be and then they start to realize you know how to take that excellence in learning and transform it into how they're actually teaching their students yeah okay no those are some great suggestions thanks for sharing that so Jeff I just have one last question for you and then we'll wrap up if we could you know inspire those who are in that process of creating courses or they're thinking of making a course and they want to be successful at building a business around sharing their knowledge but they also want their students to succeed of course by applying that knowledge but I'm just curious what kind of an impact has you sharing your knowledge and having people who are learning from you and applying what you teach what kind of an impact has that had on your life in business and you know what are some of the things that you're that you enjoy now that you didn't enjoy before you were you were sharing your knowledge with others cool boy that's a interesting question you know I think that uh as our business has grown one of the things that that I've had to do more and more is um you know is actually be up on a stage in front of people and you know even though I've been teaching for a long time it's sort of it's one thing to be in a small classroom with you know 10 or 15 people and that's kind of how I started out teaching and graduate school many years ago or even being in an online environment because you you have a little bit of shelter and an online environment you know you're just in your office with your computer or whatever the case might be but then you know actually have to be up on a stage in front of a lot of people and I actually just went through a training experience myself a few weeks ago and this was with Michael quartz who's well-known as a sort of the the trainer of drug speakers parole it was a speaking right yeah yeah the rogue public speaking I did a master class with that and uh you know so I got up on stage in front of this auditorium of other speakers and just kind of got put through my paces for an hour or so and I have to say it was just the most thrilling experience in the world you know and I've realized that uh I I like you know being up on the stage like that I like performing in a way something I would never really have thought about as part of my life before and and I also really liked and it kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about you know teaching and learning being two sides of the same coin being able to kind of almost step back and have this meta perspective on witnessing how he was doing what he was doing and how I was learning in the process and and I realized that I'm now able to do that and I don't ever think I've thought of that as a skill before but I walked out of there just you know really amazed on multiple levels was a fantastic learning experience but it was also this fantastic way for me to be able to step back and see somebody else who was really an expert at their craft and then how that actually worked and you know I think having the ability to do that now obviously is very helpful in my business but it's also just personally very rewarding to to kind of see those dynamics at work and be able to recognize them at work mmm okay no that's great well Jeff thank you so much again I really appreciate your time today and for sharing your insights with us now I recommend your book if anyone wants to grab your book leading the learning revolution that is on Amazon and if anyone wants to get in touch with you learning revolution dotnet is that your home base online correct is that that is right yeah okay that's the place to find me there perfect so I will I will link to that below the video and if anyone has questions for Jeff or wants to get in touch with him or take advantage of any of the great resources that he's put together please do Jeff thank you so much it's been a pleasure yeah Thank You Tyler enjoy talking about you

8 Comments

  1. Nihal ElGameel said:

    That was very insightful. THANK YOU!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  2. Honey Bie said:

    Finding new students and increasing sign ups have always been a number one challenge for Online Tutors. A well performing Online Tutorial should have a steady consistency of sign-ups to their platform.
    https://goo.gl/kQeCHi

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  3. Honey Bie said:

    When it comes to making a good tutorial video, length matters. Usually 7–8 minutes is the right amount of time for a learner watching your video to still remember all the steps by the time they get to the end. It’s also an easy length to consume, meaning your learners will be able to view the video multiple times if need be without feeling like they’re losing too much time. https://www.createonlineacademy.com/blog/how-to-record-video-tutorials-to-create-more-engaging-online-courses/15 #videotutorials #onlinecourses #learnerengagement #createonlinecourses

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  4. How Communication Works said:

    Excellent interview. Lots of useful info.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  5. Bryson Green said:

    Thank you!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  6. AMIGO VIOLÃO said:

    Great theme and interview. Thanks!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  7. Patricia Espinoza said:

    This interview is real gold. Thank you so much Tyler & Jeff, sooo appreciated!🤗

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  8. Jack Smith said:

    good compilation. it is possible to compile a list of such online courses Globally. i like your concept. the video was really good it gives a lot of knowledge and also teach a many new things thank you so much for this video.
    for more details: https://goo.gl/JSXNvX

    June 26, 2019
    Reply

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