How to Outline Online Courses Quickly

As an online course creator, it is inevitable that you will, at some point, have to sit down to outline your course. It doesn't matter if you're a first time course creator or a seasoned one. It also doesn't matter if  you know exactly how the course will flow or if you are on the other end of the spectrum with no idea of where to begin. The outlining process is a key check point in the process. This week's video will share my process for outlining a new online course and go into three strategies that work for me every single time.  


Transcript:

Have you been thinking about making an online course, but are stuck on how to get started? I have interacted with dozens of people who find themselves in this conundrum. They know they want to create a course about Facebook Ads or social media management, for example, but they don’t really know how to get started. The real beginning process of outlining an online course involves doing a brain dump.

 

Every Idea Counts

I have created 21 courses in the past year, for me and for some of my clients as well. I have also helped a lot of people in collaborating on various courses that we are launching together. I have learned quite a bit about the brain dump process and how it can be helpful. One of the most important things is keeping in mind that every idea counts; there are no stupid or wrong ideas here. You can edit things out later, but the most important thing about outlining a course quickly is getting all of your ideas out of your head.

I usually do this with a legal pad or a notebook. This is where I start the process; I write down every idea of a topic that could potentially be in the course. For example, I have a course about how to hire and train your first virtual assistant. Here are some things I might write in a notebook while brainstorming on this topic. “The importance of interviewing a potential VA. Where to find good virtual assistants? Common mistakes people make in that process. What to look for in a VA? How to train the VA with a test job or tasks?” I usually collect this over two to three days, as I want to give my brain the opportunity to get every idea out. 

 

Type It Out

Remember – there are no wrong ideas here. We are simply going for every possible idea that could go inside your online course. Next, I transfer this written format into an outline, usually typed on the computer. My handwritten format tends to be a little messy; I start with a list, and then I get additional ideas that I may or may not include.

The first time we are going to edit things and trim some things out is when we are moving from the written format of your outline to the computer. This is also where we are going to start to sort it. I like to use a numerical list – you can change it and move things around. It’s a good idea to go sequentially in certain courses, but in other courses you may just have a preferred order you want things to go in.

 

Come Up with sub ideas

I love typing things out on the computer after I have written them out – this helps me digest that information again and decide what pieces come before or after others. This is usually where I begin thinking of slides or sub ideas that go under these general categories; for example, let’s say the topic I came up with is interview questions, or how to interview a VA. That might be a lecture within my course or part of a module about finding the right VA. Under that category of interviewing, however, I am going to have examples of interview questions. I am going to include a section about what to look for in the interview responses, a section about whether you should interview them over the phone or over a Skype video call, etc. Those are going to be my sub ideas, and since I will be coming back to this after two or three days of digesting all the information, it’s going to help me break it down.

From here, you can break it down one level further if you choose the slides – a lot of my courses are shorter, they are not 9-10 hours long. I usually find that this second level of breaking things down is sufficient for accomplishing this particular goal of getting things ready for slides. But doing this brain dump process allows you to outline your courses quickly. I don’t recommend trying to do it all at once; although that might initially seem faster, you are likely to forget some things, which could just end up frustrating you. So, spread it out over a few days. Give your brain the opportunity to catch up and jump in with additional ideas.

That's a great way to approach the course creation process. Allow your brain to do the work, and then begin to refine it. Remove things that no longer fit, and put things in the order that you'd like to present them in a course.