THE INC. LIFE

Cash in on Content Through Online Learning Programs

Here are 4 keys to ensure that your course is providing value.

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BY Tanya Hall - 10 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The path to a strong personal brand as a thought leader involves creating a lot of content. Content, in one form or another, is what typically brings an audience to you. And once you've established an audience, you need even more content to keep them engaged and aware of your brand. Online learning programs can be an excellent way to leverage content to build brand awareness, loyalty, and revenue.

Online learning requires a different, more active content strategy than straight written material like books or case studies, but you can still use that material to create the foundation for your learning course.

Look for the high-level tools that you deliver to your reader (for example, a five-step process to engage employees) and consider working with an instructional designer to fill out the material necessary to teach your framework in the online learning format.

Don't try to force all of your existing content into this format without considering what makes a valuable online learning experience (i.e., don't stand in front of a camera and dictate your book, or your program will be panned for lack of effectiveness).

Use your content as a framework, then keep the following four points in mind as you build it into a powerful new product.

Storytelling Brings Meaning

Effective teaching involves modeling, whether that is through role-playing, case studies, group activities, or another format. Reading and rote memorization are not enough to create an active learning experience in an online format.

Storytelling makes up the backbone of these modeling exercises. Use relatable characters facing a conflict in a realistic scenario. This could be as simple as a role-play scene between an employee and manager discussing lack of engagement on the job.

Show how the application of your solution resolves the first level of the conflict, and then reiterate that learning moment to help drive home the takeaway. Of course, you'll have separate role-play scenarios for each level of conflict resolution. With our employee engagement example, it would start with trying to understand the employee's feelings and motivations, and then move on to coach actions and behaviors.

Assignments and Tasks Bring Applied Learning

Active learning also occurs within assignments or tasks. A component of your online learning module might involve having the learner write or participate in an online group discussion about how they would deal with a scenario described in your content. Their performance in this exercise would be assessed in part on how they used your solution model to address the problem at hand. This assessment can be done by you or by their course peers.

Community Offers Support

Teachers tend to teach in a single way, but students learn in many different ways. Building a community element into your online learning program will ensure that your students are supported for success emotionally and academically. This can be as simple as a closed Facebook group for your students or a separate tool within your online content delivery platform.

Study groups provide an opportunity for peers to collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other, or ask for help and clarification of concepts, in a safe environment. Quite often, a fellow student can offer a different explanation or past experience to clarify a concept that might bring a light bulb moment for another learner.

Outside Resources Add Value

When necessary, augment your instruction with additional outside resources to fill in or add to the content you're delivering.

Going back to our employee engagement example, if you're addressing the fact that part of engagement is making the right hire in the first place, consider providing resources around effective hiring practices. This doesn't take away from your authority but rather demonstrates your commitment to delivering a high-value product.

Outside resources can take the shape of additional reading recommendations, guest speakers, workshops, videos, and so on. Remember that your students have varied preferences for learning new material, so try to provide a mix of formats for them to take in this additional learning.

If you're working within your own content delivery platform, you have the freedom to design your course as you see fit--but you'll need to bring the audience . However, if you intend to use a third-party platform with an existing user base (like Udemy, Coursera, or Lynda), take a look at their typical courses and any listed course requirements and engineer your program per those guidelines.

As with any content strategy, understanding your user's preferences and goals on the front end will help to ensure a successful product launch and the resulting growth in brand awareness and revenue.