[NOTE: if you’re not interested in the tech behind building an online course, this one might not be for you. I don’t go into too much detail, it just won’t suit everyone. No harm, catch you next time!]
I teach a lot of course material online, and one of the biggest problems I’ve had to date in my business is finding a system that is user friendly, that I can also easily use.
When it comes to tech stuff, I’m not completely lacking, and I can figure most things out – but I sort of have to relearn everything unless I’m doing it regularly. I don’t know if it’s bad memory due to long term stress, undiagnosed dyspraxia (doing things by muscle memory or unthinking repetition/habit have been my coping mechanism), some weird combo of these… or something else entirely. I mean, who the fuck knows, right?
I redid my Weebly website early this year, moving to a WordPress site with an LMS theme. (That stands for Learning Management System, and it’s basically an overlay that organises your course materials and is supposed to sort it into easy to use and manage course content. Spoiler: it didn’t.) The theme was buggy from the start. Myself and the wonderful designer I was working with (she tried her best, bless her, with bad tools and a client who hadn’t a clue) basically patched a site together that was working grand, until I started to need to change it or do more with it, and then it wasn’t working hardly at all. Certainly not in the way I wanted it to.
So I embarked (about 2 months ago now) on a journey to learning wordpress for myself, building out some simple websites – such as this one! – and figuring out a) what I wanted my main author website to do, and b) how to make that happen.
The long and the short of it folks, is that I kind of wasted the last 2 months fecking around with stuff that I don’t need to be worrying about as yet, or that didn’t suit my business.
I’m always planning for growth, and when I started this pivot in my business over 2 years ago, one of the things I set myself was that everything I did had to be scaleable, ie. I wouldn’t stick myself in a situation where I can’t grow due to money or – more likely – time restrictions.
We can always earn more money, right? But there’s only so many hours in any given day, and I don’t want to have to spend all of them working in order to get any bigger in my business.
So I set up in a way that is sustainable, and scaleable. For example, my Patreon doesn’t require that I create an item per person, either originally (ie a poem or a story) or even through the posting out of packages. I do the work that I do each month, and no matter how few or how many patrons are signed up to that level, the work stays the same.
With the exception of top tier personal consultation work, which is high ticket pricing and limited availability, so worth taking on at that level.
Another important part of my buisness model is re-purposing. I create a piece of content once, but it gets re-used in multiple different ways. My monthly live classes are an example of this – Patrons at the $50 Reward level get a class invite to the session on the last Sunday of every month (as well as all the other rewards from the tiers below)… but I also sell class access invites seperately.
The class is recorded, and all live participants get a link to download the files as part of their original deal. Those class downloads are also avilable to buy as a standalone course though, and the guided journeys can be repurposed into other products too, in various formats. At last count I had 20 of these single topic courses available for download. Before my website crashed.
Going forward, I would like to re-record or edit a lot of this material into shorter module courses (sitting down for a 60-90 minute teaching session requires commitment, though I do offer the material in video, audio, and text/slides format, to help with this).
Those 20 individual courses also lend themselves to bundles, for example, a series on Otherworld Journeys from start to finish. Or Magic, or Irish Deities. So I could group them together and create longer course programmes.
Anywho, as you can see… there’s a lot to do. And I plan to get a lot bigger than my current business levels, so I do need systems in place to handle that, and save myself doing all of this AGAIN in another 12 or 24 months.
The New Course Platform
Having run a very successful foundation/beta programme of my newest longer learning programme (26 weeks of Ogham) I was keen to get moving on building that out into a professional looking and functional course, rather than doing it all by email delivery as I have done previously.
I messed about with Member Mouse (payment and content protection plugin) and with Thrive Apprentice LMS plugin for most of those 2 months – both of which came HIGHLY recommended by other online course tutors.
However, about 2 weeks in, Thrive changed the Apprentice plugin to a new version, and it just doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to. I’ve been happy with the rest of the Thrive stuff, the themes are basic but function really well, and their Architect site builder plugin is really good.
With the changes though, and all the support materials detailing the old version of Apprentice, I was scrambling. Between trying to figure that out, and figure out how the Member Mouse system would work with my courses, I was going round in circles. And not making ANY money, by the by.
I guess no learning is wasted learning? But I finally admitted, coming back to work yesterday morning after my first day off in way too long, that it wasn’t working.
There was another option that has been floating round my awareness the last few months, a sort of plug n play system called Teachable (it used to be Fedora, and is used by loads of top online course creators I follow).
It’s basically a learning management system that’s been built for me – an online platform for creating and teaching courses. Content creators can create an online course and upload them, and they provide the structure – like, an online college that I can go teach a course in, virtually.
Now, this isn’t free. They do have a free pricing plan, but they take a 10% cut and it doesn’t have the features I need, like drip content. So, for a monthly fee, they do all the back end work for me, and I can focus on my course creation and teaching.
Having made the decision, I sat down to work yesterday morning, and by evening I had my monthly class option live, and the extensive Ogham Journeys course programme mapped out and ready for content uploads.
TWO. MONTHS. LATER.
With no sales. With massive headaches. With frustration and feeling incompetent.
And in the end, I got this system figured out in ONE DAY.
Right but it’s done now, and I can redesign my website too, without having to incorporate the LMS elements into it. That makes that side of things, for a focus on blog and book sales, a whole lot simpler too.
Winning, I suppose?!
I set the new monthly course up, with a FB event, then ran a little boost to it so my current audience would see it. And I woke up this morning to sales, which cover the monthly fee I just paid for Teachable. So yeah, I call that winning 😁
[If you’re interested in what all this looks like, you can see it at LoraOBrien.teachable.com/]