Remember the feeling when you decided to buy that one specific course because you believed, with your whole heart, that it was going to solve your problems? You felt like your time was running out, and that course would help you beat it.
And then it didn’t.
Somehow life got busy, you realized that you didn’t exactly know how the course would help you. Or you discovered that there was a lot more work involved and a much higher commitment required while you were hoping for a quick win?
You get course-d out (using Breanne Dyck’s words), go on an online learning moratorium, thinking you’re beyond help.
And then you realize you can do it all on your own. Better yet, you can buy and read thousands of books and save lots of money.
So why are courses not helping you? Maybe you’re doing something wrong?
Today I want to look at why courses fail to help you and what you can do about it.
Online Course statistics
According to 2015 Novoed report, general online course completion rates are as low as 13%. This means that out of 100 students enrolled in your course for instance, only 10 will actually complete it.
So if you, like me, have at some point taken a course and left it unfinished, you’re definitely not alone. I’m sure you know the pain all the online course junkies have to go through.
You’re then asking ourselves, is it the courses that fail to help or you who can’t seem to find time, focus, set our priorities straight, etc.? Let’s look closer.
Why online courses fail to help us.
The goal of the course:
Not all online courses are made equal. Each course you take has a different goal. From the marketing standpoint, you need to understand that
- Some courses are created to help you solve one problem you might have.
- Some courses are created to give you more opportunities to buy new products/services (through affiliate links for instance; nothing wrong with that, by the way, but for some that is one main goal, which makes the “helping part” less helpful).
- Some courses are created to sell higher-ticket items. So you take the course, complete your first session and have a question. But to get the question answered you actually need to upgrade to a VIP level.
How to fix that:
If you don’t want to buy a course that offers something else, rather than help you, take the time getting to know the course instructor. I know the pressure sometimes is beyond belief, but take a deep breath and do some “background check.”
These days each content creator has at least 1 content channel and 1 social media account to help you see what this person’s business philosophy is.
Follow this person for some time to find out whether they actually know what they’re doing and are willing to help (not just push sales all the time).
To make it practical, on a scale of 1-10 (1-too little; 10 – too much) rate the author’s business philosophy and make an informed decision whether or not you want to invest into that business.
- Sales strategy
- Engagement with the audience on social media
- Answering random questions
- Responding to emails
Clarity and simplicity of instruction
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, not simpler.” Albert Einstein.
When I did ESL teacher training institutes for school teachers years ago I gave them a simple assignment: explain a topic in under 10 minutes (on the spot).
Then they had to fit their explanations into 5 minutes.
My point was: if you can’t reduce what you know to the bare bones, you aren’t sure about the material yourself.
These days when I help coaches and teachers create a course, I start with a small product. Because amazingly, nobody has issues putting together a 300-page manual. Reducing it to 3 pages is a challenge.
When you take a course by a content creator who isn’t good at breaking things down, you will most likely get overwhelmed.
Overwhelm is a scary place to be. You get great value from the course in terms of volumes of information, but you lose clarity. This in turn demotivates you.
If you’re not clear on what you’re doing, it’s hard to be motivated. Which is why seemingly easy tasks, like sending a fax, could end up taking months. There’s a lack of clarity on how to do it, so you don’t — until either you have to or it’s too late. — Benjamin Hardy, 9 Ways to Achieve your Biggest Goals Quickly.
How to fix it:
Again, take a look at this person’s free content (blog posts, videos and podcasts).
- Is he/she able to explain things easily?
- Is the author able to break complex things down into smaller chunks?
- Is the author giving you some application points to help you implement the principles right away?
- Do you feel empowered or overwhelmed after you read their blog post/listen to their podcast?
- Does the information make you hopeful that you can do it or depressed that you’re never going to get there.
It’s important to emphasize that what might seem clear and focused for some people may be completely overwhelming for others. This is why I encourage you to get to know not just the instructor, but yourself as well.
Want to launch your course or product? Check out my mini-course with basic tools you’ll need:
Why you fail to complete online courses.
You don’t know yourself and your goals.
You feel stuck and overwhelmed. You have no idea where you should be moving with your business, and you’ve exhausted all of your options. So on the brink of your despair you decide to enroll into an online course.
But then life changes: you get a new client. Someone buys your e-book. An inquiry comes through that can potentially bring a lot of money. You don’t need a course after all! Things are looking up. (Cue the samba!).
Tomorrow the client dumps you, your course doesn’t sell, and you’ll pull out your credit card again.
Stop playing this game, seriously! Stop relying on luck and a unicorn to give you direction in your business.
- Ask yourself why you’re in this business. Where you want to be in 1, 3 and 5 years.
- Ask yourself what you want people to remember about you, your business.
- Ask yourself how your work is different from others and whether your website reflects that.
“Your brand is what other people tell about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.
Connect with your goals. Set bigger goals, then break them into smaller steps. Move yourself backwards from where you want to be to where you are now. Then set deadlines.
You don’t set deadlines.
Last week I did a Free Product Incubator challenge where I helped coaches and teachers create their first free product that would help them grow their list.
Day 2 was all about deadlines, and as we’re discussing this on the forum I hear the oh-so-familiar sentiment,
“My feelings about deadlines: I love them and hate them at the same time. Love them because the closer I get to the deadline the more pressure I feel, the more I work – love doing things at the last second. And hate them because if I set them… I’m more likely to postpone them.”
“Deadlines put a lot of pressure on me. I hate all kinds of deadlines. No matter how small or big tasks are, deadlines are stressful.”
I used say the same things, but I eventually learned that it’s just a convenient cop-out. Because if we choose to resent deadlines we might as well accept that we never get results.
If we choose to resent deadlines we might as well accept that we never get results.Click To Tweet
Now nobody really wants to say, “I’m running a business that gives me no results.” That’s nuts. This is why a deadline is like an anchor. It makes sure that we aren’t carried away by a new tide of distractions and shy objects.
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How to fix it.
Re-frame your thinking about deadlines:
- Don’t think of them as a prison, think of them as boundaries necessary for you to thrive.
- Don’t think of them as limitations, think of them as a framework that keeps you focused.
- Don’t stress over them, rely on them to a successful completion of the project.
Create a reward system to keep you motivated as you’re working on the project.
Knowing why exactly you’re working on this project is also going to keep you motivated.
Finally, give yourself some grace. Deadlines must work for you, not the other way around. Show them who’s in charge.
Deadlines must work for you, not the other way around. Show them who’s in charge.Click To Tweet
So let’s wrap up with some takeaways:
- Learn more about the author of the course before you pull out your credit card. See if you align with his/her business philosophy enough to invest into it = support it.
- Study the author’s free materials and see how much you can learn and implement without having to pay. Are the materials simple and actionable?
- Get to know yourself and your goals. Start with bigger ones: define your core message, the vision for your business, your why. Then ask yourself what tactical steps will help you move closer to those goals?
- Reframe your thinking about deadlines. They need to help you, so consider them as your buddies, not bullies.
- Once you see deadlines in a new light, set them for each of your projects. Be realistic and give yourself some grace.
- Surround yourself with a supportive community to keep you in line and help you take small steps towards your big dreams.
If taking a course is too overwhelming to you, I invite you to join our Smart Teacher’s Library – a growing selection of useful trainings and workbooks on any given aspect of online teaching:
- Marketing (niche finding, email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, copy writing, etc.)
- Smart online teaching (product creation, free trial)
- Tools for online teaching (websites, resources, a program building kit, terms and conditions, etc.)
- Niche language teaching: accent training (live lesson videos, observation charts, trainings)
- Money making (hustling, sales, etc.)
You will also get
- Access to our closed library forum>> Monday – Friday
- Access to monthly live trainings + workbooks + recordings – all in one place
- Access to monthly challenges (creating products, making your first $1k, creating a mini-course together, etc.)
- Support and motivation along the way.
More weekend reading:
Finally, I want to encourage you to learn more this weekend. Here’s some inspiration that I’d love to share with you:
- Thomas Oppong, Get Smarter. Hurry.
- Dan Ariely, What makes us feel good about our work (TEDex Talk)
- Philippe Petit, Creativity: the Perfect Crime.
The post was updated in March, 2021.
This is another excellent blog post, Elena. I really like the way you wrap up with bulleted takeaways especially, “Reframe your thinking about deadlines. They need to help you, so consider them as your buddies, not bullies.” So true and easy to remember with the alliteration. : )
Congratulations on launching the Smart Teacher’s Library! As a former librarian, I can really appreciate the concept. I’m looking forward to spending some time there this weekend, browsing and rereading some of my favorites.
Thank you, Kate! I’m so excited about the library, too. I love libraries and totally lose track of time when I go there. I specifically appreciate libraries in the US and am grateful I have this opportunity to enjoy them. And then I thought – why not create one on my site? Thank you for joining, we’re going to grow together, it will be a-m-a-z-i-n-g experience. Veronika and I are on fire with ideas!
I love what you said about showing who is boss to deadlines ! Many of the things you said, really resonated with me because of where I have been this week.
The Smart Teacher’s Library is an amazing idea ! I am so happy I get to have all of my stuff in one place and can check out the few things I haven’t already bought ! Thanks !
Thanks, Elfin! Because I’m a creative person, I keep coming up with ideas of products, trainings, workbooks, etc., but promoting each one of them was taking its toll on me and making my systems too complicated, unnecessarily. So Veronika helped me keep my sanity by encouraging me to take this huge leap and create a resource library. That made me excited about creative process again, gave me a venue to engage with my customers in a meaningful way and took the stress out of “marketing.” I also kept receiving emails from former customers losing some of the emails or deleting them so going back and sending them the links was overwhelming and just not convenient. We’re still working on the functionality and tech stuff, but I am excited about engagement and growth that’s going to come out of this!