Do this before you organize your course content

Do this before you organize your course content (guest post by Karen Sergeant) on

“How should I organize my course?”

This is one of the most frequent questions I get.

My first piece of advice is: Don’t.
I don’t mean “Not ever!” just…”Not yet.”

Many of the clients who come to me, come right at this stage – the “Can you help me organize this?” stage. And they usually come with a big brainstormed list of topics they have for their course.

My first concern isn’t how to organize that list – it’s whether that Big List contains the right things. Many times this list is constructed by answering the question, “What should they know about this topic?”

That’s a big disconnect: focusing on knowledge rather than on boosting performance.

So here’s my first piece of advice: Instead of thinking “What do they need to KNOW about?” – brainstorm “What do they need to DO BETTER?” This new list will be much a much richer collection: of skills, of best practices, of mindsets even.

Now we’re onto something.

So now that your course has some focus, you need to make some decisions about what content is in or out. And again, people often try to solve this by looking at their list and drawing a line somewhere.

Here’s a better way: Think about bridging the gap between current performance & better performance.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Brainstorm a list of what incoming students perform like (skills, beliefs, mindsets). Cover all the rookie mistakes, the indecision, the fledgling skills, the less-than-optimal decision-making that you see them make.

  2. Now make a corresponding list what you want graduates of your course to perform like. When they leave your course, what does their new performance look like? Go line by line through the Rookie list and write the corresponding post-grad behavior/mindset/actions.

Hint: Be intentional here about what level of mastery you’re shooting for. Graduates of your course don’t necessarily need to be master performers — that’s a very tall order — but what does “better performance” look like specifically for those who have taken your course?

Now have a really good look at your two lists: the gap in between is what your course much teach.

Now, we’re back where we started — with a list of content we want the course to cover — but it’s a MUCH better list. It should be very easy to determine what content is IN or OUT: Does it bridge the gap in performance? Then it needs to be in your course. If it doesn’t? Then it’s not. (This content may still find its way into your sales funnel, however, via opt-ins, graduation bonus content, etc).

A fringe benefit of this process is that you’ve spent time absorbing the student experience of the problem. Instead of focusing on organizing the solution, you’ve dug into the problem — Seth Godin calls it “aggressively defining the problem” — so that your solution is elegant, designed and very on-point.

Now, have a look at organizing your content list. I think you’ll find that all the work you just did has suggested some organization structure all on its own. You’re on your way to a blockbuster course.

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This is a guest post by Karen Sergeant. 

Karen Sergeant helps small business owners create exceptional courses that delight their customers & grow their bottom lines. Ready to turn your idea into a course? Click to see Karen’s free Getting Started Resource Page for the best articles to move you forward.

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