Free PDF: The 3 deadly course-selling mistakes to avoid at all costs

How to Create an Online Course Outline [2022 Guide]

Want to create an online course? The first step is to create your outline. And today, you’ll learn how to create an online course outline that will make your course stand out. 

Want to learn more? Read on!

Why should you create an online course?

Let’s start from the beginning:

What are the benefits of an online course?

Great question. Over the past few years, it’s become so much more normal to start a course business, leave your job, and make 6-, even 7-figures. Just look at the industry numbers; the global e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 billion in 2025 and one of the leading online course platforms, Teachable, reports that in the past year, the number of Teachable creators earning 6-figures increased by 38% and 7-figures by 48%.

And I cheer every person who does because it shows that there’s a different way from the one we’ve been taught. One with so much more freedom, fulfillment, and abundance than we could have imagined.

Courses can help you free up your time from money and if you have an existing business, they can help scale your business.                                                                                                                    

Those are the real benefits of a course.

Just like my student Emily who is a career coach.

Cultivitae website

Or Ruby, who is a relationship coach. 

Good Gentleman website

But how do you create an online course? That’s what we’ll look at next. 

How do you create an online course?

Creating an online course comes down to a few steps. Before diving into outlining your course, you need to understand the overall process. Following these steps can make the difference between a course that sells and one that flops. 

So what does it take to create a successful course? Here’s what you need to know!

Solve a problem

First, we have your course topic. It needs to do one thing: solve a problem that people care so much about that they’re willing to pay for it. For instance, for some people, learning how to bake sourdough bread isn’t something they’d pay for. But other people really care about their lack of sourdough baking skills and they’re willing to pay for a course that teaches them how to do it. 

Ask yourself: what problem does your course solve? Is there a paying audience for that topic? 

When you know what problem your course helps to solve, you can create a course outline that focuses on that one thing. 

Define your target audience 

Next, understand who your ideal clients are. Identifying your course audience is crucial for your outline. After all, your course teaching style will change depending on your audience. (Are your students adults? Kids? Teens? College students? Corporate professionals? Small business owners?)

And you need to know how to talk to them about your course. If you use jargon or technical terms or go into technical details too soon, you might confuse your audience, depending on who they are. 

Learn the top 3 reasons course creators fail

(and what to do instead to sell out your online course)

Create your course material 

While you DO need a course outline to sell your course (to know WHAT you’re selling), you shouldn’t create your course material just yet. Let me explain…

To successfully sell your first course, you need to start with the smallest course possible. 

Too many aspiring course creators try to turn their first course into a complete flagship course with all the bells and whistles. Which ends up by way too overwhelming to create and sell.

Instead, focus on a “First Steps” course that makes it way easier for you to create, sell, and over-deliver on it.

A First Steps course teaches the first steps people would need to take to achieve their ultimate goal. For example, when I created my first online course for this business, I sold a course called “Your First Paying Clients” (YFPC). Once I had sold that course, I moved on to my flagship course, “Employee to Entrepreneur” (ETE). 

YFPC teaches how to get your first client and is far less comprehensive than ETE, which outlines the entire process of starting a business while in a full-time job. 

What’s more, you don’t create your course right away. Instead, start with the outline and the first module before you sell it. 

Once you’ve sold it to your first students, you create the rest of your course in real time, based on student feedback. 

This way, you create the best course on your topic because it’s based on what students actually want. (So to be super clear, you’ll create a rough outline so that you know what you teach in your course and then add or remove things as you teach your course.)

Now, if you feel you absolutely want to create your course before selling it, you can. But make sure you’re not just doing it because you think that’s going to be higher value or more “perfect.”

Because it might be the opposite. Most course creators have experience with the subject they’re teaching, but not so much experience actually teaching it. When you create your course based on live feedback, you’re able to create the best value and experience for your clients. 

Package and price your course 

The next step is to package and price your course. 

Packaging your course means getting clear on how you’re going to sell it as a standalone product: 

What’s the transformation people get when they implement it?

Plus, what is included in your course? What bonuses do you offer? Do you offer coaching calls or other support? 

And what does your pricing look like? 

If you’re creating a First Steps course, it’ll be less comprehensive than a flagship course, so you’d price it accordingly. 

My own entry-level course, YFPC, sells at $597, and my flagship course ETE sells at $1,997. However, your First Steps course could sell for anywhere between $49-$597, depending on what you teach.

Publish your course 

The final step is to publish your course. 

You don’t need to overthink this if you’re selling your first course. 

If you have a WordPress website, you can create a new, password-protected page and upload your course material there.

Or, even better, you could also simply create a Facebook or Slack group where you post your material. 

If you want to go the more “professional” route (although I recommend waiting to do this until you’ve at least sold your course once), you can use a platform like Teachable to host your course. 

That’s it, now you know how to create a course. Which means that we can dive into creating your outline. Let’s go!

How do you create an online course outline?

A course outline helps you create your course faster and better. It offers a map of your course for yourself and your students. Here’s how to create an outline, from creating a template to filling it in with a clear structure. 

Remember: your outline isn’t necessarily the final outline you’ll use because you might end up modifying it based on student feedback. But it still gives the overall picture of what your course will teach and its outcomes.

Step 1: Create an online course outline template

How do you create an online course outline template? The first step is to create the bare bones of your course outline.

In the next step, you’ll include more details, but for now, let’s create the outline “skeleton” that you can easily fill in.  

Define your learning outcomes

First, get clear on your course’s learning outcomes. The transformation you offer is the most important part of your course so don’t skip this step. 

However, this part doesn’t have to be very long; a few sentences are enough. Like this:

“(Your course name) teaches you how to (your course topic) so that (goal).”

In this video, I share a few more thoughts on the subject: 

What should be included in a course outline? 

Your course outline should include: 

Course name: Include your course name in your outline. 

Course description: Describe your course and what the end goal is that people get when they go through your course. 

Course schedule: Include a schedule that outlines when you’ll create each step of the course 

Modules: Include your modules. 

Lessons: Add the lessons you’ll include under each module. 

Bonuses: Include an overview of the bonuses you’ll include. 

Example training course outline sample 

Here’s an example template you can use:

Name:

Description: 

Module 1

Name: 

Description: 

Lesson 1 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 2 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 3 

Name: 

Description:

Module 2

Name: 

Description: 

Lesson 1 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 2 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 3 

Name: 

Description:

Module 3

Name: 

Description: 

Lesson 1 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 2 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 3 

Name: 

Description:

Module 4

Name: 

Description: 

Lesson 1 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 2 

Name: 

Description:

Lesson 3 

Name: 

Description:

Bonus 1: 

Bonus 2: 

Bonus 3: 

Bonus 4: 

Now you have a course outline template. But how do you implement it? Here’s how to structure your course: 

Step 2: Structure your online course 

How do you structure an online program? 

Use the outline template here above and follow the steps in this section to fill it in. That way, you’ll structure a course that helps your students get the best results. 

But first, let’s start with your course milestones. 

Identify the main milestones 

The first step to creating your perfect outline is to identify the main milestones that your student is going to pass through while following your course. These milestones support the overall goal they’re working towards. 

If your course requires students to achieve certain goals before they can move on to the next module, you’d organize your outline according to those goals. 

For example, if your course teaches how to build a savings account, the milestones might be getting out of debt, then saving your first $100, then saving your first $1,000.

The second way to organize your content is through distinct areas of mastery. These milestones might not necessarily be part of a linear process, but they are distinct areas or benchmarks that your student will have to master before being able to reach the final destination.

For example, if you’re creating a course on how to play tennis, you might organize your content around the 5 different stroke types, with one module each on the serve, the forehand, the backhand, the volley, and the overhead.

By organizing your course in this way, you’ll know what to include in each module.

I talk more about orgainzing your course in this video: 

Name your course and describe it 

Before you create your modules, you need a course name.

Think about words related to your course. You don’t want to be too creative here; instead, use a clear name. A few examples include my own courses (Employee to Entrepreneur, Your First Paying Clients, and Ultimate Course Launch). 

Also, include a brief description. You can use the learning outcomes you brainstormed in the previous step as your course description. 

Plan your modules and lessons 

The next step is to plan your modules and lessons.

Share value (not information) 

Your course needs to be easy to follow so that your students achieve their learning outcomes. 

A common mistake many first-time course creators make is to include as much as they can in their course because they mistake information for value. 

But your students don’t care about how many lessons you include or how many PDFs they get. They care about results.

And that’s why the best courses include only the information people need to implement it and get results. 

To be easy to implement, your course should include 4-8 modules. And each module should have no more than 3-7 lessons. 

Define your modules and lessons

Fill in the course outline template with your modules based on the milestones you defined earlier in this section. 

When creating your lessons, think about:

  • Creating an introduction in each lesson where you tell students what they’ll learn in that lesson
  • Sharing results-focused content, not just information 
  • Summarizing the main takeaways and letting your students know what they should do next at the end of each lesson 

You also need to specify how you’ll deliver the content. 

Are you using audio, video, or text? Or a combination of all of them?

And what supporting material are you including in your modules? Make sure to include a list of that material (notes, checklists, implementation guides, trackers, and so on). 

Decide on your course bonuses 

Finally, you need to include bonuses so that your course offer feels like a no-brainer for your students. Your bonuses depend on your course, but a few examples include:

  • Results trackers 
  • Templates
  • Scripts 
  • Case studies 
  • Bonus lessons

Include a list of your bonuses in your outline. And you’re done with your outline! 

Learn the top 3 reasons course creators fail

(and what to do instead to sell out your online course)

Over to you!

There you have it! Now you know how to create an online course outline. 

What it comes down to is that you create a comprehensive outline that you can modify as you create your course.

I’d love to hear from you: 

What’s your #1 question about creating a course?

Let me know in the comments below. 

How to create an online course outline

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know the 3 deadly course- selling mistakes to avoid at all costs?

Want to know the 3 Deadly Course-Selling Mistakes to avoid at all costs?

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