This past December, I created my E-Course Advent Calendar. It was a fun little course that revealed one new e-course tip every day for the month of December. Going into it, I had fairly low expectations for the turnout. December is a really busy month for a lot of people and I just wasn't sure how well it would be received. I remember thinking "If I got 100 people to enroll, that would be amazing and I would consider this a complete success." Well, as of today there are 270 (Update: 525) enrolled in the advent calendar course with new people joining all the time.
You might be wondering why you should care about promoting a free course. It might seem like a lot of work for no reward, but now I have over 500 people that I'm able to contact about new courses. I could have even promoted a product within the free course itself.
The whole thing was a lot of fun and a really fantastic experience. Here are 5 things I learned from the whole process.
1. It was hard and I had to push myself to finish.
Real talk: making an e-course is hard work. If you're thinking about creating an e-course, you're probably already familiar with how hard it is to create great content. It's a lot of planning, writing, re-writing, editing, finding/creating images and stress. I had the idea for the advent calendar near the beginning of November and thought "No problem. It's only 31 lessons! And I have so much time." Cut to me several days into December and not even close to finishing. Some of those lessons got written only the night before they were scheduled to publish. But, it was so rewarding. The signups were rolling in, people were really into it and I was getting a ton of positive feedback. I really wanted to create something useful for all the CourseCraft users and it was a great feeling when I finally finished it.
2. Comments and feedback are the fun part.
The comments section was really the heart of this course. It was so fun to see everyone really engaging with me and their fellow participants. In fact, I got so many comments that I had trouble responding to all of them! But I really felt it was an important part of the course to get involved in the conversations everyone was having. That's really the best part about an online course if you ask me. If you want to learn something in isolation, you can read a book on your own. An e-course provides your participants with a chance to interact directly with you, ask questions and give/get feedback.
3. Start promoting early.
Like I mentioned before, I had the idea for the course at the beginning of November. Even though the first lesson wouldn't publish for another month, I started promotion almost right away. I did that for two reasons: 1. I wanted to give everyone enough time to find the course, enroll and be ready for the first day. 2. It was really encouraging to see new people enrolling everyday and it kept me focused on writing. Now, you don't necessarily have to start promotion before you're finished creating your course but it was something that really worked for me. It set a hard deadline and held me accountable to complete it. If I decided to wait til the course was 100% done before telling people about it, I honestly don't know if I would have ever finished.
4. Try to be flexible for latecomers.
Running a course like the advent calendar that had a specific start and end date, you might feel inclined to make the enrollment process a little more rigid too. You could open it up in November (like I did) but then close enrollment on December 1st. Then archive the course right after it's done. (For those of you who don't know: Archiving your course closes access to it.) But if I had done that, I probably would have lost half my participants. There were tons of people still enrolling each day in December and I still get new people joining to this day. At the time of writing this, the most recent enrollment was yesterday. The latecomers are generally a quieter bunch, they ask less questions and just work through the material in their own time. So keeping the course running isn't really that much work. At some point I probably will want to shut it down, but for now I'm leaving it open for the stragglers.
5. It's important to be yourself and have fun.
Writing is something I actually really struggle with. Over the years I've had lots of practice and definitely improved but it still doesn't comes easy to me. One of the hardest things for me to do is to make sure I'm writing in my own voice. I don't ever want to come across as robotic or phoney. If your personality comes through in your writing, people will be so much more receptive. You'll be seen as more approachable and friendly. That's something everyone wants right? I wanted to write as if I was talking to a friend. So for many of the lessons I talked out loud first. I tried to explain the concept in my own words and imagined myself sitting across the table from a good friend. Sometimes I actually sat my husband down and we had a conversation about that day's lesson. It made the writing part so much easier and I think (I hope!) my personality came through.