How To Avoid Confusion And Get Clarity About Your Online Course

As an expert, do you ever experience having all this unique knowledge you want to share with the world? 

You might have an excellent idea for an online course. But you just don’t know where to begin.

You know that sharing valuable content is essential to showcase your offer and attract the right clients, but you don’t have the time.

There is hope!

In this article, I will help you cut through the confusion. I will give you 3 simple steps to clarify your course idea and how to approach the task.

If that sounds good to you, please read on.

Trying To Map All Your Knowledge?

Let me illustrate the challenge that many experts face when they are thinking about creating an online course.

I was at a business network meeting. In-person! My first in-person meeting since the pandemic. “This is amazing.” I thought to myself. “Here I am talking with real people – in 3 dimensions.” 

In the break, we talked in small groups. Many conversations were going on at the same time. I was thinking, “It is just not the same on zoom.” 

I was talking with a consultant. We were talking about how I help experts create meaningful, well-crafted online courses. He said: “Can I ask you for some advice on behalf of a friend?” 

“Sure,” I said.

He said: “She is an expert. She found this guide about creating online courses that she has decided to follow.” 

“How is it working for her?” I asked. 

“Well.” He said: “Honestly, she is trying to map all her knowledge in a spreadsheet, and she is getting completely overwhelmed and stuck. What can I say to help her?” he asked. 

“I would be happy to talk with her,” I said.

“I don’t think she is ready to seek alternative advice.” He said, “She is bound and determined to stick with the program she has already paid for.”

Let me pause the story here for a moment.

What If You Know What To Do?

What if there is a different path to follow? An approach that will take you out of your confusion and frustration. Would you be willing to give it a try?

Based on my 20 years of experience in teaching, learning, and curriculum development, there IS another way. I have seen the transformation and alleviation in myself and countless other educators once they follow the approach I’m about to share with you. 

The Secret Is In The Point Of View!

The great secret is that it is all about the point of view. 

I realized this secret myself as a new teacher. I thought I had to share all my knowledge about what the students needed to know about the subject. I would think about all the details and aspects that I thought were important. I would plan and prepare long speeches to cover as much content about the subject as possible. The problem was that this way of teaching only worked for very few of my students. These few students would be engaged when I asked questions. And from their answers, I knew that they understood. I would engage in conversations with the few and assume that everyone had the same understanding. NOT SO!

The truth was that only a few “Academic Susan’s” had gotten it. Most of my students had other things on their minds than paying attention to what the teacher was saying in class. On top of that, I later realized they couldn’t relate to what I was saying. They didn’t have the necessary framework to process the knowledge I was delivering in my talks.

The other problem was that I was overwhelming myself trying to map all my knowledge out to the students. 

I spoke with one of my peers, and she said something that I will never forget. She said: 

“I have found that the students need to do the work, not me. And by the way, they learn much more that way.”

“Of course.” I thought to myself.  And as I adapted this point of view, teaching became more manageable for me and much more effective for the students learning.

My experience as a new teacher is not unique. Research supports the experience. The diagram below shows the connection between student levels of engagement, teaching methods, and effectiveness in achieving the intended learning outcome.

Graph about methods for learning from Biggs and Tang.

Biggs and Tang, 2011, p.6.

The diagram shows how most students behave like “Nonacademic Robert” when they are passive learning. A passive learning situation is what you find when someone is lecturing. 

When no engagement is required – as the case is in most online courses – most students get a minimal learning outcome.

The few “Academic Susan’s” or “Hermione Granger’s” in each classroom will learn no matter how the instruction is because they know what to do with the knowledge presented. They automatically relate the new knowledge to the knowledge they already have. They know the codes for learning.

Many experts  – myself included – had to learn the hard way that not everybody approaches a learning situation like I and other “Academic Susan’s” do. And thank God for that. It forced me to change my approach to teaching and instructional design. I had to rethink the way I planned my lessons. I had to include activating learning activities to embrace as many students as possible. And the change of focus paid off. 

It made my life as a teacher easier, AND it improved the learning outcome for a much larger group of my students by:

–       Keeping the instructions short and to the point

–       Focusing on the big picture, to begin with, and not including too many details 

–       Incorporating activities that allowed the learner to engage in the subject 

–       Giving the students tasks that forced them to describe, explain, relate, apply, and evaluate what they were learning

This approach significantly improved how the students were able to meet the intended learning outcome. 

See Your Online Course Through The Eyes Of The Learner

The secret is to plan your online course by looking through the eyes of the learner. Look at the content as “Nonacademic Robert” and not your expert “Academic Susan” point of view.

If you change your point of view and put yourself in the shoes of your learner, you will see things differently. To me, it was conducive observing teachers, students, and classrooms. It helped change my perspective from that of the expert to that of the learner. Sitting in the back of the classroom helped me see how difficult paying attention for more than 15 minutes is if the teacher is just talking: “Bla, bla, bla….”

3 Steps To See Your Course Through The Eyes Of The Learner

I suggest that you ask yourself the following questions to put yourself in your learner’s shoes as you go through the process of planning your course.

1.     What am I (your learner) supposed to know or do differently after being through your course? What will I be able to do that I was not able to do before?

2.     How will you (online course creator and expert) give me (your learner) an understanding step by step in what I am learning to know or do differently? How can you (expert) make the steps engaging and to the point that I (your learner) may keep my attention? 

3.     How can you engage me in relevant learning activities that will allow me to describe, explain, relate, apply, and evaluate what I am learning? 

By changing your focus from your expert knowledge to seeing your course through the learner’s eyes, you will notice that what you know is less important. You will no longer need to map all your knowledge in a spreadsheet because your detailed knowledge is irrelevant to the learner. It is much more important to the learner that the end goal is clear. All the learner needs to know is what they will be able to do that he could not do before and how to get there.

When the end goal is clear, you can break the learning down into bite-size pieces. You can make short videos that will allow the learner to follow the process step by step. Your online course will gain a more significant impact on student learning if you include learning activities at the end of each module. Learning activities that will help your students relate and apply what they are learning.

Summing Up 

As a course creator, you will find it much easier to break the learning process down into smaller, manageable steps when you know exactly where you are heading. When you see your content through the eyes of the learner, it will help you get to the point faster. You will also want to make sure that you include engaging activities in your online course.

If you want to create an online course and are curious about how I can help you out, you can connect with me here. I offer a free 30-minute call.

If you want more information about creating meaningful, well-crafted online courses with real impact, you can subscribe to my blog.


About Sophie Higgins, MA, MBA, MBC: I help experts create meaningful online courses with real impact. An online course should be a well-crafted, empowering learning experience. So, your unique wisdom can make a real difference in the learner’s life. 


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