Validating Your Online Course Idea Before Getting Started
Ain’t nothing worse than spending a gazillion hours on an online course, and having tumbleweeds and crickets as your only students. Get the scoop on validating your course idea before you bestow your knowledge on the world.
A Little Background
Remember that classic movie “The Royal Tenenbaums”? Eli Cash, played hilariously by Owen Wilson, achieved fame with his wild west book and then flopped with “Old Custer”. He didn’t validate his idea first.
Don’t pull an Eli, cowboy. Here’s how you can validate your online course idea, without breaking a sweat or a bank.
Look for Demand: Google Trends and Keyword Finder
Type in your course topic and ta-da, you’ll get graphs, charts, and data telling you if people are really searching for it. Think CSI but way easier and less bloody.
Ask Your Tribe: Social Media and Email Lists
Got a bunch of followers on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook? How about an email list? Utilize these gold mines of data by simply asking what folks want to learn. Social media polls and email surveys are your ammunition.
The worst thing that can happen is they ignore you. The rad thing that can happen is they give you compelling insights.
Scan Your Competitors
Gather some intel on your competition. What are they offering? Look at their course contents, reviews, testimonials, price tags, everything. Don’t worry, it’s not stalking, it’s competitive analysis.
If their course is booming, it means demand exists. If it’s lacking, see what they’re missing. Maybe you can swoop in and save the day.
Encourage Beta Testing
Ever see a software geek shriek in joy because they found a nasty bug in their beta version? That’s because debugging before launch can save a ton of headaches later on. Apply the same logic to your course creation process.
Create a minimum viable course (MVC). Get a handful of guinea pigs (aka beta testers) to take your course and give you feedback. Feedback is love, embrace it.
There’s no foolproof way to 100% validate your idea before taking the plunge. It’s like dating: it’s only when you commit, you know what you’re getting into. However, taking these steps can give your online course a fighting chance in the wild west of the internet.
Dust off your thinking caps and giddy up, partner!
Check Online Discussion Forums
Online forums are a treasure trove of information. Look at what problems people are trying to solve or the skills they’re trying to acquire. Websites like Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn groups, and niche-specific forums can give you a sense of what topics people are desperate to learn about.
Use Google Autocomplete
Google’s search bar can be a secret weapon for course creators. Start typing a general topic and see how Google auto-completes it, indicating what users often search for. This can reveal new niches you hadn’t considered or highlight subtopics within your chosen niche.
Review Course Platforms
Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, and other platforms can be used to explore the most popular courses and topics. Look at the number of enrollees, reviews, and ratings; they can provide a glimpse into market needs and trends.
Many online tools and platforms can provide insights on trending topics, popular content, and high-ranking keywords. Some of these tools include Buzzsumo, Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, etc.
Welcome Feedback and Suggestions
Whether you already have a following or are just starting out, never underestimate the power of feedback. Ask your audience what they want to learn, hear their pain points and problems. You could even create a small survey or a poll to gather this information.
Test Run a Mini-Course
A safe way to validate your course idea is by creating a short, free version of your course. This allows you to gauge interest, gather feedback, and refine your final product.
Forums, groups, and online communities like Quora, Reddit, StackExchange, and LinkedIn groups, are great sources for finding real problems that people are trying to solve, thus helping you identify potential course topics.
Keep Track of Current Trends
Keeping an up-to-date knowledge of your industry and current trends in your field can provide you with a wealth of potential course ideas. You can use platforms like Google Trends, Twitter Trends, and Trend Hunter to help with this.
Look for Existing Gaps
Look at the existing courses or resources in your chosen niche and identify gaps – questions that remain unanswered, subjects that are not adequately covered, or areas where you believe you can provide a unique perspective or methodology.
Interviewing experts in your field can provide you with a wealth of insights into potential course topics. These experts, through their experience, often have a deep understanding of the needs and gaps in the industry.
Consider your Expertise
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a course topic is your own expertise and passion. Your knowledge and interest in the topic will translate into a more engaging and effective course, and your genuine enthusiasm will help to motivate your students.
Listen to your Audience
Listen to your audience’s wants and needs, whether they’re existing students, social media followers, or blog readers. See what questions they’re asking, what problems they’re trying to solve, and consider how you can create a course to meet their needs.
Use Online Tools to Identify Popular Topics
There are many online tools that can help you identify popular topics in your field. This can give you a sense of which topics are in high demand, giving you a starting point for your own course. Tools like Buzzsumo, Google Trends, and SEMRush can help you monitor trends and popular topics in your industry.