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March 1, 2022

Shopify’s Gwen Elliot on what she’s learned launching 70+ online courses

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Dream it, then build it. Gwen Elliot Shares What’s She Learned After Launching 70+ Online Courses

Creator Spotlight: Gwen Elliot has created over 70+ courses that have transformed over 750,000 lives. Gwen started her career in TV production - creating programming for MTV and the Oprah Network.  Then, almost a decade ago, she co-created her first online course and was hooked.  She pivoted to transferring her storytelling and production experience to the e-learning space.  She’s a Senior Course Producer at Shopify and runs her own consulting agency where she helps world class experts build category defining online courses.

In our Creator Session, Gwen brought her knowledge to the Disco community on making your course dreams true. She shares her guiding insights on how to start and build an online course. Here were some of our favourite lessons from the conversation:

1. Start By Taking A Breath: Don’t expect to start at the top - Building your learning empire will take time and effort. Trust the process and be patient as you grow with your course.

"If you  are someone thinking about creating a course, my first piece of advice is to take a breath -  because creating a course requires many skills and components. There's multiple pillars to it - the production element, finding your people and the promotion element. There's the actual product like the course you're making, figuring out the pricing, and the platform.  It’s all doable but to start, we're gonna take a breath."

2. Use the Food Truck Method: Creating a course requires many skills across technical production, marketing, and creation. Before investing all of those resources, think about course prep like a food truck — experiment with ways to create the best possible products on a limited budget.

"I like to teach people to make a course using the food truck method. This means taking the approach of creating the best possible product on a budget.  So you test the dishes and product with a food truck before building a restaurant and going all in, paying thousands of dollars to own a space. So what I would say is to take the path of least resistance for you.”  

3. Understand Your Ideal Learner: Start with your who, and how you're going to build a transformational learning experience for your audience.

Figuring out who is your ideal learner is essential.  This means really considering, who is the person that you would love to work with?  Who can you get results for?  And really go deep on getting clear on who that person is. Do some customer research interviews."  

Gwen's must-read book recommendation: "I recommend Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins for their three step process on:

  • Identifying the desired results
  • Determine assessment evidence
  • Design the learning experience.

4. Design For Progress: Striving for positive indicators and milestones is a great way to map your course progress:

“It’s essential to design the course so that the ideal learner sees the milestones towards creating the ultimate desired results. Say I'm working with somebody where the desired result is creating an online course that replaces their current business income.  Then the course should be designed with milestones along the way, that show that they are moving closer to the ultimate goal.  So in this case, filming the course is a milestone to making the first sale, which moves it closer to reaching that goal post of matching your income with your course.”

5. Building Transformational Learning Experience:

One way I encourage people to think of the course they want to create, is to ask, what could be the transformation that you want to give your audience?”

When someone is encouraged to take action and get an experience, then true transformation happens in their life. That’s what building a course is really about -taking a person on a transformational journey that changes where and who they are.”  

6. There’s No Simple or Single Template:Ultimately, how you design your course depends on the needs of your learner - there's no one size fits all for creating a great course.  

Knowing who your customer is, knowing when they have time to take your course, you know, how would they want to learn from you, really designing it around them.  But the second part of this is also how you want to teach.  You have to create a learning experience that you are excited about teaching live, because if you’re not, it's not going to resonate.

Watch the full session with Gwen here: