So, you may know what you want to do … you may not. You might not have a clue, a vague idea, or you may have planned the whole thing out.
Whatever the case, you are at the right place.
Coming up with a good course topic takes time. I won’t argue with you… However, it’s a process that you go through once, twice or sometimes even more than that – depending on how many courses you have created. The difference to each process though is that every time it takes place, it gets easier and easier.
Actually, this is a lot like playing an instrument.
Practice does make perfect.
Seriously, and it works perfectly for online courses…
Where to Start Looking for a Course Topic
The main idea behind creating valued-packed courses is finding a topic that you have a good knowledge of, one that you love and it’s profitable enough to become a business. This means that you should choose a course subject that:
a) you are knowledgeable in,
b) you are passionate about, and
c) you can make money out of it – there are people looking for that.
When these three parameters are married together they can help create something unique.
The following diagram explains this perfectly:
What you know how to do best + what you love doing + what your audience needs
Your course topic
In essence, it breaks down to these three:
Your knowledge: You are an expert on this topic, either by education (degree, certificate, masters) or because of practical knowledge on the subject. It is the subject that friends, family, colleagues or even your current customers come to you for advice. Sharing what you know with others is truly inspirational, and with an online course you can spread this knowledge worldwide.
Your passion: What is that one thing you always wanted to do? Finding your drive and motivation can transform your life – and of others for the better. Besides, there are tons of reasons why you should start your own passion project! Perhaps this is your true calling and the area where you can succeed and give back to the community.
Your audience’s needs: Research what your audience’s problem is and come up with a solution. People are struggling with everyday subjects and even the smallest of tasks could be extremely difficult for those who aren’t knowledgeable enough in a particular area e.g. using Photoshop or planting a mini bonsai tree.
Taking these three factors in mind can help you map out your thoughts and ideas into something that works for you and a specific group of people that are going to be your students.
What’s great about this is that the topic of your choice can literally be anything you can think of ranging from infant potty training to astrophysics classes.
Now, let’s look at the steps you need to take more closely…
STEP 1: Brainstorm Your Idea
This is the initial phase of brainstorming so don’t worry if you have no clue about what you want to do.
You can start exploring possibilities while looking more into the following:
Knowledge or skills you have developed in your work/career: take a look at the things you are mostly good at, you got praise for (either from your colleagues and boss) and choose to look into that further.
Hobbies that you are passionate about: it’s easier and more enjoyable to teach people on a subject that fascinates you and have a passion for instead of doing something just for the sake of it. Study what you enjoy doing in your free time and makes you more creative. Whether it’s golf, amateur painting, bird watching, yoga or fitness training.
Subjects that people ask you for advice on: think about all the things that people come to you for advice. One of these could become your online course idea or even make you a dedicated coach.
Take into account a personal transformation you have been through: every person carries their own experiences – either good or bad. Judging from your own personal experience, what helped you cope through a difficult time of your life? And what have you learnt from it? If this lesson can be used to help others overcome the same problem you can design an online course for it. Leading people through life’s challenges you have already had experience with can be life-changing.
Find pain/problems of people in specific subject: start asking your friends, family and people in your network what they struggled with the most in a particular area and come up with the ultimate solution for it. You can create surveys and send them to your audience through email to start gathering opinions.
Also, it helps to take a pen and a paper and start writing all of this down. At the end of these tasks you should create a list of a few ideas looking like this more or less:
Who knows any of these could also be amongst the most popular course ideas in the elearning world for the years to come!
You can also read our article on 2018’s Course Ideas & Trends to get some inspiration!
STEP 2: Research Your Course Idea
Think about why do people join online courses. Understanding the market is key to coming up with a suitable course subject.
A recent report from OpenColleges reveals that the majority turn to online learning for career change to gain academic or transferable skills in their field of employment, or to invest in ‘lifelong learning’.
Looking at it from the students perspective, they would choose your course if:
In the process of researching your idea, ask yourself if your chosen idea has the potential to comply with these three aspects. Match these with your current knowledge, the possibility of creating good amount of useful content and information around the subject.
If you can’t think of a course idea for yourself, then you can go online for some research on what there is already in the market. Are there people teaching the subject already? Then, it’s probably a good idea. Competition is not bad, it signals that there is interest in the topic and people are still asking for it.
Then, you can go to course marketplaces like Udemy, Coursera or Skillshare. They are good places to start. They offer student registration numbers, public reviews and data on the most popular courses there. If there are enough people looking for a cheap option, you can always go and build a premium course to sell through your own website.
Popular Course Topic Ideas
Here are some ideas from popular courses on Udemy to get inspired:
Business: Data Science, Project Management, Forex, Investing, Stock Trading, AI, Accounting, Financial Analysis, Online Business, Entrepreneurship, Freelancing, Blogging, Writing, Presentation Skills, Marketing Strategy, Leadership, Management Skills, Recruiting, Podcasting, Real Estate Investing etc.
Finance & Accounting: Accounting, Bookkeeping, Startup, Blockchain, Financial Trading, Math, Investment Banking, Tax Preparation, Personal Finance, Passive Income etc.
IT & Software: Ethical Hacking, Cyber Security, Cisco CCNA, Linux, Network Security, Electronics etc.
Office Productivity: Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Data Modeling, Data Visualization, Mac Basics, SAP, Google Sheets, Google Docs , Project Planning etc.
Personal Development: Life Coaching, Parenting, Personal Productivity, Memory, Learning Strategies, Mindfulness, Self-esteem, Spirituality, Neuroscience, Confidence, Public Speaking, Career Coaching, Personal Branding, Mind Mapping, Study Skills etc.
Design: Drawing/Sketching, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Character Animation, 3D Modelling, AutoCAD, WordPress, User Interface etc.
Marketing: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Startup, Advertising, Business Branding, Video Creation, Google Analytics, Content Marketing, Copywriting, SEO, Email Marketing, Affiliate Marketing etc.
Lifestyle: Watercolour Painting, Acrylic Painting, Bread Baking, Cooking, Wine, Cookie Baking, Cake Decorating, Bartending, Beaty, Cosmetics, Skin Art, Nail Art, Hair Styling, Travel Hacking, Digital Nomad, Chess, Gardening, Farming etc.
Photography: Image Editing, Digital Photography, Colour Grading, Videography, Video Production, Filmmaking etc.
Health/Fitness: Weight loss, CBT, Home Workout, Nutrition, Massage, Dieting, Dance, Art Therapy, Yoga, Sports, Psychology etc.
Music: Guitar, Music Theory, Music History, Music Production, Piano, Singing, Songwriting, Music Composition, DJ, Music Mixing, Logic Pro, Audio Production, Audio Engineering etc.
Teaching & Academics: English Literature, IELTS, Online Course Creation, Foreign Languages, English Grammar, Math, Statistics, Christianity, Media Training, Philosophy, Critical Thinking, Physics, Research Methods etc.
The list is endless. Make a note of a few subjects you are interested in, you have experience with and you can teach as well!
STEP 3: Refine Your idea
Think about what is the purpose behind your idea and what problem does it solve and get down to specifics. Who is the course going to help, what is your “flavouring” or unique knowledge you are teaching?
Ask yourself the following questions to refine your audience results:
Narrow down your idea and write the subject down e.g. “How to bake a Cupcake” or “Golf for beginners”. You can later refine your course title more when you are ready to publish it!
Another way to refine your audience results is searching for a target market at all the right places. Who is asking the question and how are they asking questions on the topic matter. Reading through comments, questions, problems and reviews can give you a quick way into your audience’s thoughts.
Try looking at the following:
Any of these should give you a pretty good deal of ideas and an insight into what your target audience desires and need a solution for.
Also, don’t forget!
Google is your best friend since there is a lot you can get out from there.
To understand what people are searching for in the niche you are interested, look for popular search terms on Google typing phrases ‘I am struggling with …’ ‘I need help with…’ or ‘How can I…’ This type of search will get your results on what people often identify as a pain and need more help and advice on.
STEP 4: Research the Competition
If you have competitors that’s good. It means there is demand in the industry and that is a good subject to develop into a course. So make sure to find out how popular your chosen subject is and learn if there are people interested in it.
The best way to go about it is to see who else is out there, take some inspiration and ideas on how they choose to tackle the problem and come up with a better solution to offer. Combining the information you gather with your knowledge it’s easy to come up with something unique for your own students.
From there on, you can easily identify your own target market and come up with ways to engage them.
The acquisition of skills and knowledge in online learning can cover a range of subjects covering from soft skills to technical skills or very specific ones covering custom-made online courses.
To ensure that the subject you choose is a good subject, find out if someone else has done it before you. If yes, it means that there is a genuine interest for it and higher chances to sell.
Don’t forget why you want to create an online course in the first place. You are here because you want to learn how to build the right course, with the right topic, at the right time, for the right people. And that covers it all.
The most important part of setting up your course business is finding out your niche. It’s also the most difficult – yet exciting phase of creating online courses.
Your goal is to come up with something that is inspirational and offers value. Once you set this objective in mind, you are ready to go.
Best of luck!