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Faster Horses

How to Resuscitate Your Course, Part 1

The situation: You launched to crickets, underwhelming numbers, or non-rave reviews. You’re now running forensics to determine what to tweak and everything is on the table to be examined. Including your course.

This 3-part series will cover how to audit the course content itself to make sure it is solid.

I’ll tackle the 3 best audit techniques you can perform on your course, and I’ll cover each one in depth. Starting today with CONTENT.

Part One: Defining & Solving Your Customer Problem

1. Are you crystal clear on what you are selling, to whom, and for what benefit?

You should be able to close your eyes and succinctly articulate a single, simple sentence that answers this question.

Here’s a good example:

     I’m teaching bootstrappers how to use MailChimp to accomplish basic list-building and subscriber-communication tasks to save them frustration and time.

This is for a 24 module training course, boiled down into one single sentence.

Notice how this sentence begins to rule certain content in and out: No to power-features, tricked-out web forms, and advanced analytics. Yes to patient explanations with no steps cut out, translating lingo into “real” language, and beginning every action from the same starting dashboard.

You either want this product or you don’t, but you’re not confused as to who it’s for and what value it brings. It’s not a kitchen-sink dumping-ground that tries to be many things to many people, or a platform to show off how clever and expert its creator is. (She is, by the way, both clever and an expert. She’s Jamie DuBose and the product is MailCHAMPMastery.com, check it out.)

2. Is your learning objective focused on changing behaviors instead of “increasing knowledge”?

Fill in this blank:
At the end of my course, my students will be able to __(verb phrase)__ better than they had before.

You can repeat that as many times as you can list worthy learning outcomes, but it’s deliberately written so that the phrase “to learn more about” doesn’t fit. Sure your students will increase their knowledge — but as a means to acquiring or improving a specific skill or behavior — not as an end in itself.

Knowledge alone doesn’t change behavior. If it did, there wouldn’t be any smokers.

Which leads me to…

3. Have you aggressively defined the problem?

No, not the customer problem. The barrier to performance. Why aren’t your customers performing better at this set of tasks?

Let me use the MailCHAMP example to illustrate what I mean: One customer problem is that many do not know how to customize an opt-in form for their website.

By why not?  MailChimp has an extensive knowledge base, it even has some training videos. They are free, and they come up right away on a Google search. Why are small business owners still confused about what actions to perform?

This, right here, is where you will start to separate yourself from the pack. If you spend time here, sinking in to your customer’s mindset and working diligently to uncover the true barriers to better performance, you will create a blockbuster course.

Let me say that again:  

“If you spend the time to sink into your customer’s mindset and uncover the true barriers to better performance, you will create a blockbuster course.”

This is Empathy, and it’s the first step in the Design Thinking process, which is a system created by innovators to actually teach innovative thinking to others. Companies steeped in Design Thinking reap the benefits of leading their markets and creating new markets. They do it because they’ve taken the time to deeply understand the true barriers to better performance.

4. Have you solved it with faster horses, or with a breakthrough?

 Now that you’ve defined the problem, how will you solve it? There are two ways to go:

  • Just Like Everyone Else’s, Only Better
  • Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before

Both are legit. Especially if you can change Better into Way Better (Quicker, Easier, More Enjoyable, Cheaper, More Lasting, or All Of The Above).

But a deep understanding of the barrier to performance can lead to some pretty epic breakthroughs:

  • Like a mouse instead of a computer language with easier syntax.
  • Like an engine-powered automobile instead of faster horses.

These are market-creating ideas that are a quantum leap forward from how others were solving the same problem. Training courses are particularly well-suited to this shape-shifting potential, in my opinion. I’ve worked on several, and one in-particular I was most proud of:

For years, I had worked to prepare students to survive detention/abduction events overseas in war-zones and denied areas. For years, I had taught off older curriculum, and watched students struggle to make good use of the material we would teach them.

The problem was we were teaching them lots of important things that they would need to put into practice in a moment months or years away during the worst day of their lives. (That is curriculum design on the edge!)

I realized the true barrier to performance was recall, plain and simple. No matter how many clever persuasion techniques we taught them, we were shortchanging them if we didn’t equip them with something they could recall and implement in the heat of the moment. When I had a chance to build my own business in this market space, I returned to this principle over and over again as I worked to craft training that was really quite different.

When I fielded it the first time to students, the coordinator came up to me after the first day and said “I’ve seen nearly every kind of training produced in this field for the last 10 years…and this is far and away the best.”

I hadn’t made up new techniques, I had made the same techniques accessible in a way that hadn’t been offered before, and in a way that truly super-charged student performance.

You can do it too. And then you won’t ever be having to check your course for a pulse.

Have a question? Pop it in, below. And be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of How to Resuscitate Your Course.

Do you want a helping hand with reviving your course? I can help.