Are you meeting your goals with your online course? I’m not asking whether you’re making money. I’m asking about the primary goal.
Is Your Online Course Meeting its Goal?
National Teacher’s Day
Today is National Teacher’s Day, a day to honor our teachers. Teachers don’t exist only in the classroom. The beauty of our world is that anyone can serve as our teacher, if we are open to learning what that person has to offer. With the explosion of the industry for online courses, it seems that, these days, everyone is trying to be a “teacher.” The question is whether they are succeeding.
I’ll come back to this in a moment. First, the language.
Language and Meaning: Say vs Tell vs Teach
The English language offers us many options to describe what we do when we communicate with others to convey ideas and impart wisdom and knowledge.
We tend to get lazy with our language, but word choice is important. If we want to write or speak with intention and clarity, it helps to understand the distinctions between words.
In another context, I briefly touched on two of these words: say and tell. Today I want to revisit them in the context of teach.
Are say and tell distinct? And where does teach fit in?
Say vs Tell
I believe that say and tell carry distinct meanings, and that the distinction lies in the listener. Here is my take:
The word say connotes only that the speaker spoke words. It does not imply the presence of another person who may have heard those words. When you say something, you can be speaking to an empty room or to a room full of people. Even if others were physically present when you said what you had to say, there is no implication that anyone heard you.
To tell implies that another person was told; we tell something to someone. To tell is more than speaking words aloud. It is communication that is intentionally directed towards another person. When we use the word tell we imply that the other person heard the message. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that person listened; only that he heard. I’ll leave that distinction for another time.
Both of these words are distinct from teach.
The word teach implies the presence of another person who learned. In fact, I would argue that teach requires that the other person learned. If your goal is to teach something to another person, and that person didn’t learn what you taught, then you didn’t teach it.
You might argue that maybe you taught it, but not effectively. If that’s the case, then you didn’t teach it. You said it, or you told it. If the recipient of the message didn’t learn what you attempted to teach, then at best you told that person something. Possibly, you merely said it. You communicated information and ideas, but they weren’t absorbed in a way that allowed the recipient to integrated it into knowledge.
You might also argue that maybe the fault lies with the student. That’s a topic for another time, but for now I’ll say this: NO. If you are teaching something, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the student learns it.
Is Your Online Course Designed to Teach?
Consider this in the context of the booming industry for online courses. In theory, the purpose of any course — whether online or offline — is to teach some subject or skill to people who wish to learn it. When you create an online course, in theory, your outcome should be to teach the participants. This necessarily requires that the participants learn what you set out to teach. In theory.
Intended Outcome vs Actual Results
I feel the need to qualify this with “in theory” because from where I sit, that’s not how it works in practice. Many people seem to believe that the outcome of an online course is to generate income for the creator. I have nothing against earning income; I help my clients stand in the value of their work, and as a result they increase their rates. But the primary outcome of a course is to teach the students who enroll.
Unfortunately, most online courses fail to achieve that outcome. At best, many online courses tell their participants about a subject. Most merely say things. Yes, I know they paid you. Just because someone paid you money doesn’t mean they hear what you communicate.
The statistics show that the vast majority of people who purchase an online course never even start the course. Of those who do start, only a small percentage finish. An even smaller percentage actually learn the material to the degree necessary to apply it to their lives.
Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than a series of videos and a content outline to create an effective course.
How are you making sure that your participants are hearing, listening and learning?
Do You Care?
If your personal mission is to earn income no matter how you get there, then you likely don’t care about this. As long as people buy your course, you believe you are achieving your goals. If that works for you … good for you, I guess.
Meeting Your Mission
If you’re reading this, I suspect that you are driven by a mission to serve others. You created (or desire to create) a course because you believe that people want to learn some subject or skill and you know enough to teach them what they want to learn. That doesn’t mean you cannot also earn income from your work; the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
But if you are driven by a mission to serve, then it’s worth asking yourself:
Is my course designed to teach my students, or am I merely telling them information, or, even worse, saying things that nobody is hearing?
Better still, ask your students. They stepped up and possibly invested money to learn from you. Now you must step up. Understand why they aren’t learning. Change your model to help them get results.
Become a teacher.
I help mission-driven leaders stand in the value of their work and deliver their work in a way that facilitates transformations in their clients and students. Want to learn more? Contact me for a complimentary Clarity Call, where we will discuss how to best position your work to help you make an impact and make money.