Developing an online course offers authors one of the most effective ways to repurpose book-based content, gain readers, and make more money. There are many ways to approach course creation. Jay Artale (@BirdsOAFpress), a digital nomad and full-time writer and blogger, has broken the process down to three steps. Read on to learn more.
As a nonfiction author and blogger, it makes sense to diversify the same content in as many places as possible so that you can reach a broader audience and make more money. After you’ve published your book, the most efficient use of your content is to convert it into an online course that creates an additional passive income stream.
If you blogged your book, you’re already familiar with the approach it takes to plan your online course. You segmented your book content into post-sized chunks of information. Those little pieces became a book. To create your course, you reverse that process. Use your book as the foundation, and break it into content segments to build your online course.
Even though you have your source content, there’s still a lot of planning needed to turn the book into a course. Here are some questions you need to consider:
- What content should you cut, keep, split, convert, and create?
- How long will it take to record your course?
- How difficult will it be to master your course hosting software?
Let‘s look at each of these steps to help you create a course creation plan. The plan will help you avoid overwhelm and determine if you’ve got the bandwidth to see the project through.
Step A: What content should you cut, keep, split, covert, or create?
Review each of your book chapters to determine what is required to create content for your course. Here are five activity options:
- Cut your book content out of your course.
- Keep your book and course content the same.
- Split one or more chapters into multiple modules.
- Convert (some or all) of a chapter into a handout.
- Create new modules or handout content from scratch.
I’ve listed these in the order based on how much effort it will take to convert your book into a course.
1. What content should you cut?
Review your book’s chapters and make sure the content converts well from the written page to an online course. Cut any sections you feel wouldn’t fit into a visual presentation, or convert the material into a handout.
Eliminate any places where cut chapter sections are referenced within the course content. You may also need to write new transition text in handouts, so the flow of content without the cut chapter still makes sense.
2. What content should you keep?
The more content you can keep the same, the easier it is for you to create your course. But you still may need to convert your written words to spoken words.
Written text is more formal than spoken, and, if you read directly from your book, your online course will sound stiff and boring.
You have two options when creating your video or audio course content: either create a voice script to read from or ad-lib your book content. The second approach is ideal, but if you aren’t comfortable speaking extemporaneously, this method could entail multiple recording takes to get it right.
3. What content should you split?
Short book chapters may lend themselves effortlessly to being covered in a single course module. Longer chapters need to be segmented into multiple online modules to reduce the time commitment required by your students. If you blogged your book, you might find that one or several of the original posts work well for a module.
With the rise of social media, attention spans are shrinking. So incorporate this into your planning process, and make sure none of your modules become too long.
Based on your chapter content, you might have scenarios where you have to create a longer module. In these cases, make sure your module only has one point of focus and one key concept for your students to grasp. If you discover more than one, that’s a good sign that you should split your content.
Elucidat analyzed over 65,000 digital learning pieces, which revealed that an average online learning session time is just 15 minutes. If your students only have a window of 15 minutes to spend on your online course, they can complete at least one module by keeping them short and concise.
You also can create modules that are shorter than 15 minutes. This allows your students to complete more than one in a quarter of an hour. For example, if your modules were each 10-minutes long, your students may only be able to get through one in that period. But if you create three- to seven-minute modules, they could complete two or more in a single learning session. That also leaves time for them to work on some of your engagement activities.
4. What content should you convert?
Your students will find it challenging to digest a lot of fact-ladened content. So, it’s best to include a few samples of information within your course and convert the rest into a reference sheet.
For example, in one of my nonfiction books, I offer multiple examples of how travel bloggers diversify from blog content to online courses, podcasts, videos, books, services, and travel apps. I provided a summary of their activity and the URL links to see the examples.
If I included all of these examples in an online course module, students would find it boring. I can make the module more dynamic by adding a couple examples within the module and summarizing the rest in a reference sheet (especially if it includes references to web links or online resources).
5. What content should you create?
Some students may be so driven to finish your course they only focus on watching your presentation and don’t leave time to absorb and digest the information. That’s why it’s a good idea to create worksheets or templates they can use to put their new knowledge into action.
You also could develop a cheat sheet or an infographic that summarizes the key information from the module. The latter option is especially useful for people with a visual learning preference. These formats are effective retention tools and help students absorb information.
For example, for my How Travel Writer’s Self-Publish book, I provided readers with a dozen worksheets. One of them focuses on “How to do Competitive Research” on Amazon and offers a summary of the process that’s explained in greater detail in the book. Worksheets like these work well for an online course.
Quizzes, quick games, surveys, feedback forms, and Q&A are also useful tools for engaging your students. Incorporating them provides encouragement and an opportunity for positive reinforcement.
Schedule engagement opportunities at milestone moments throughout your course. These occur most naturally at the end of each chapter and provide a two-pronged motivator. Your students feel a sense of achievement at having met a milestone, and, in the process of filling them out, they get a sense of their progress. You can even offer to review these resources and provide feedback.
This type of engagement with students makes it possible to charge more for the class than a book that both covers the same content. In effect, your students pay for interaction. Depending on their learning style, this may be precisely what they need to keep them motivated to finish the class.
Action Step: Use your chapter evaluation to develop a course content editing plan and estimate your new total word count.
B. How Long will it take to create your course?
To put an accurate timeline together, calculate how much time it will take to record your content. This may sound like a complicated process, but it’s straightforward and entails calculating your average speaking rate, recording a sample module, then using your total word count and average speaking rate to estimate your recording time.
Calculating your Average Speaking Rate
First, find your reading/speaking rate per minute.
As an example, the speaking rate of popular TED Talk speakers shows an average speed of around 130 to 180 words per minute. Here’s how to calculate your speaking rate:
- Select one of your book chapters to record.
- Make a note of the number of words in this chapter.
- Time yourself presenting (not just reading verbatim but speaking as if to an audience with relevant pauses).
- Then, calculate your spoken-word reading rate. e.g., If you’re content is 750 words, and it took you five minutes to read that content, your reading rate is 150 words per minute (total words divided by total minutes = words per minute).
Recording a Sample Module
Choose a mid-length module for your sample recording, e.g., five to seven minutes, and see how long this session takes to record.
If you’re recording a five-minute session, it will take you a minimum of 10 minutes to complete (five minutes to record, and five minutes to listen to it). However, unless you’re a seasoned presenter, you will probably have to re-record certain segments. For most people, it is easier to record your module in short segments and string them together in the editing phase than do it in a single take.
Once you’re happy with your module, check how long it took you to record. Chances are it took at least three to four times your run rate (e.g., a 5-minute module could take you 15 to 20 minutes to record—and even longer when you first start out).
Action Step: Use the adjusted word count you calculated in the first step, to estimate the time it’ll take you to narrate your course.
C. How complex is your course hosting software to master?
There are many ways to record a course. This means you need to take into account many variables when considering the complexity of recording your course. These include what hosting company you are using, how tech-savvy you are, the complexity of uploading content, and the approval process.
The best approach to evaluating the level of effort it will take to complete one module is to use your sample module recording and go through the entire uploading process. When you’ve done that, you’ll have a good idea of the difficult off the process is and how long it will take to make a module available.
If this step causes you anxiety, know that, over time, you will get better at this process and find ways to streamline it. Plus, if necessary, you can outsource the work to a freelance professional.
By the end of this process, you will be able to calculate the total time commitment needed to convert your nonfiction book to an online course. You can then develop a course-creation calendar to help you allocate your time effectively and complete the course on time.
Are you planning on creating an online course? What steps are causing you the most anxiety and stopping you from becoming a course creator? Tell me in a comment below. And if you found this article useful or inspiring, please share it with your social networks.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of Aleksandr Davydov