If you’re working on creating any kind of new course that people will do online (whether it’s a freebie pdf or a paid online course), one of the biggest questions that might be coming up for you is “How do I know if this is any good?”
The answer is simple – test it with real people and let THEM tell you whether it’s any good. This is called beta-testing, and you need to do it.
Having beta testers is a NON-NEGOTIABLE part of creating an online course.
Right now, I have 10 amazing future retreat leaders marking up an entire 77 page Google doc with super helpful comments and questions, and it’s amazing the stuff that their eyes are seeing that I totally missed in my first draft. NO course should ever be launched without other eyeballs on it.
I know, it can feel vulnerable. It’s scary to have people read your unedited, rough work. But when your eyes are burning and your head is hurting from staring at the same content for so long, you need people to come in and tell you what they are loving, what’s not working for them, and fill in any gaps that your overtired course-writing brain can’t see right now. It’s the most valuable thing you can do if you want to actually create a course that NAILS IT for your people.
Here is exactly what I do to test my online courses:
- Write out the course content in a Google doc, clearly divided into sections with an outline on the side so that I can jump from section to section easily.
- Once I have the core content more or less there (without having copy-edited it yet), I choose 10 people who would be my IDEAL clients for this particular course. I pull these people from either the interest list I have been generating for the course, or from my main email list, or from my Facebook group.
- I let these people know ahead of time what is required, what kind of person I am looking for to review (ie. life coach, health coach etc), and I let them know that if they can’t get their feedback to me in the required time (usually within one week), they’l be invoiced for the price of the course materials (this helps make sure I don’t get a bunch of people who just want a free course and aren’t willing to do the work).
- Then I email the link to the Google doc to them with instructions on how I want them to review it. I tell them that I’d like them to use the commenting feature in Google docs to make notes about anything they particularly love, anything that needs more explanation, anything they just don’t understand, and any additional questions that come up as they are reading through. Then I include specific questions at the end of the doc that I want them to answer, including what ballpark price point they’d put the course at.I also include testimonial type questions here “What were your biggest fears about running retreats?”, “How do you feel about planning your retreat now, after using the course”, “What was your favorite part about the course/what did you find most helpful?” etc.
- Then I go through and review their comments over the next week – asking followup questions in the comments section if I have Qs for them, and tweaking the material based on their suggestions.
Once I have gone through and figured out what to do with all of their suggestions (some I use to help review the content or add new content that I hadn’t thought about before, some I ignore because they are outside the scope of the course), I edit the course as needed, then run through it one more time for spelling and grammar and to jazz up the copy, and then it’s ready to ship off to my designer to create into something beautiful.
Once the course is launched, I send the beta testers a copy of the full course, so they can see how all their hard work paid off.
To charge or not to charge
For online courses like this, where the content is content and there is no coaching time with me involved, I highly recommend giving the course for FREE to your beta testers. You are asking them to do a LOT of work – the least you can do is not make them pay to have to do that! If what you are testing is a service, you may decide to charge a nominal fee in order to make sure that clients show up and participate and value the work you are doing. But for online courses, nope! Give it to them for free. The feedback you get is WELL worth more than the price of the course.
If you’re creating ANY kind of content that you want to deliver online, you NEED to be beta testing it like this. Yes, that even goes for that free PDF you’re putting together to send out when people sign up for your website. And it goes for the $1000 online course you plan on selling as evergreen content. And everything in between.
I am SO grateful to all my beta testers who have helped me create my new course on how to run retreats – thank you!
Happy beta testing!