EP – 8 Interview with Kat Sorbello – The top course design mistakes and how to avoid them

Kat specialises in course design and coaching people on how to make their courses a roaring success. Kat outlines the biggest traps that course designers fall into that prevent them from creating a course that hits the mark or gets finished at all. You can find out more about Kat at thestellaway.com and on her LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katsorbello-elearningspecialist/ You can also get her ebook with the full list of course mistakes at: https://coursecreator.thestellaway.com/online-course-mistakes


Hello, and welcome to the business octopus where we talk about all things sales, marketing and technology. I am Avon, Collis CRM and marketing automation specialist at relevant and all around good guy. And today I’m joined by the wonderful cat sabelo. From the stairway here to talk about the top mistakes, of course design and how to avoid it. Welcome, Ken, how you doing?

Good. Thank you. Thank you for the warm welcome. How are you?

Good, good. Now you’ve had a bit of an interesting time you’re ever in Chile?

I am I am based in Chile.

So that was COVID. forced

to stay? Yes, it was COVID force.

Yeah. Right. So you went voluntarily and then you got stuck there because of COVID. I think you’ve since published a book you’ve since you know, started working with some academic groups in the online training. That’s all very interesting stuff has that been?

It has been amazing to be able to shift the abilities that we’ve had and find different ways of collaborating, being able to connect with people internationally and then publishing a book, or admits a pandemic has been incredible.

But not only publishing a book, public co publishing an academic textbook, and translating Spanish to English, I think that is a feat in itself that this is a bit of a ration. So well done. They’re here. And you’ve had, you know, quite a few years experience in building courses. And in fact, now you do coaching people on how to build their own online courses.

Correct? Yes.

So why have a course? And is it that hard to do?

Great question, having a course. So let’s start with the first part, why have a course depends on your business structure. Lots of people have it, whether it might be a evergreen course that something like that is just there to be able to further support your clients. You might be in a SaaS company, or a software as a service, we’re having that course can help those clients that don’t need as much hand holding. So then your time, your one on one time is more valuable to their needs, where you can jump in, and really focus on their needs, rather than just going through repetitive stuff. So having a course is really, really useful for those repetitive things that can be done in someone’s own time, as self paced course, not to say that all courses should be self paced.

Yeah, no, I definitely feel that pain, you know, with back to back meetings, and I’m not a finite resource, I can only do so many one to one or one to a few meetings. So being able to have basically bottle myself my knowledge, my experience into something, and allow someone to do it in their own time. You know, like, there’s, you know, kid pickups, there’s, you know, you have this annoying habit of needing to sleep every so often. So we’re not, we have a very limited capacity. So I think that’s very good that it does expand that. But quite often you find so many people that will start a course but not quite finish, or they you know, or two, or maybe everyone wants to, you know, make a million dollars from Nicholas, what’s what’s some your thoughts around that.

They’re all very different viewpoints. My thoughts around that is, let’s go to the stallion but not finishing, something that we see quite often that happen, that a client will get very excited about a new course maybe because of the copy that has been done to sell that course. And then when they jump into the course it doesn’t actually meet their needs. So they don’t want to complete any further from the other end of that the person that has the desire to make a million dollars through courses. While it is possible. I’m not saying it’s not possible. Again, it all depends on that business structure. So you might have businesses that that’s all that they do sell courses, that they’re taking groups of people, massive groups of people through courses, but that’s their business structure. Right, that’s all that they do.

I think, you know, the, for me, I’ve tried to replace some things that I’m already doing so that it reduces my time. Basically, like I said, repeating myself, and and I guess like sometimes people say, I’m going to build this monster of a course like a behemoth john thing. And they go Alright, well this is gonna take 30 hours and then they change their mind on the structure and the layout halfway through and then they get a little bit lost and, and you know, I can really understand how annoying that is. And I think that, you know, being able to add the cost thing like I said, No, it’s I don’t charge any extra or marginal extra money for it. But that’s in replacement of what would otherwise be my hours. So the combined effect is actually cheaper for the client and they get. So exactly supplement because I tell them once and they go, Oh, this is all great stuff. And then they’re stuck on the nights that they scribble down. And then they go. And that’s it, they like a bit, you can pause, rewind, go back, go forward, I think there’s a lot of value there. Exactly. So what makes a good course.

As you said, you’ve identified a value within your business, on how you can better support your clients. So what makes your courses great is how you are being able to transform your clients even further how you’re able to support them in solving a business problem, or any problem for that, for that matter, anyone that’s creating called, what makes a good course is that your course is going to be solving someone’s current issue, it’s going to be taking them through several steps, I would recommend between three to five learning outcomes, to help them reach one overall goal. And what makes that course even better is when it’s exactly focused on their needs. So as you just explain, you know, some of your clients want to go on to go and have a look at a guess or use a self paced course. So they want to go back and forth through information rather than write it all down. Some don’t. Some need that handholding. Some don’t want to be going through a course and finding that information, they want to ask questions and have you there to tell them exactly exactly what to do. And you know, in your clients and you knowing what they want, and that the course is useful. That’s what’s going to make a course successful. Building a course based on what you think and feel without actually including a client. That’s when we start to have these drop offs where clients begin a course. But then they don’t continue, because it’s not what they need. It’s not what they want. It’s not what it is not what is going to help them succeed.

Yeah, I know, sort of, like from a sales perspective, you know, you’ve got to prove the model three times. So if you can sell something three times, there’s people that actually want to and not you know, your friends and family, they need to be actual real customers that you’ve reached out and collaborated with. The The other thing, I guess is like when I create content for myself, to basically replace what I’m already doing, just to sort of leverage my time a bit, I find that it’s, it’s something that is already wanted by the client or already needed. And maybe there’s some basic knowledge that, you know, they need to have to be ready to work with me. So say, for example, in the CRM game, you know, people don’t know what an entity relationship diagram is, I’ve got a video on it. And I send them that beforehand, and then go right through who what kind of information do you need to store about who what are the relationships between them. And you know, that shortcuts my time when we get better, we get closer to value quicker. So bases my time as more effective. And sorry, I’m going to go on a little rant here and say one more thing, that I think that if you don’t know how to productize your service, it’s the best way to try and replace yourself with a course. So that you know, at the moment, I’ve got something where I’ve just got a few videos, I send people but I might be able to package that into a into a down sell so they can work with me or they don’t want to, you know, invest too much money there. Or they want you know, they’re very self driven. They want to just drive themselves towards it. You know that? And that’s my perspective, by no means of course specialists, but just someone who’s in the trenches trying to handle how much how little time I have. So what are the top three mistakes that most cost designers make? And how would you avoid them?

Good question. Well, I have recently, just done a ebook on the 10 course design mistakes. And these are things that I’ve seen over the past decade of working within the land development industry. So I want to share the top three with you, like you said, the question, what are the top three? So the first one that I see happen so often, which I think you sort of gotten to that earlier, is that someone has this fantastic course idea. And they say this is going to be fantastic. This is exactly what’s needed. And then they start design that they spent hours and hours and hours on designing, redeveloping and ended up designing this mammoth of a course that can sometimes just be this regurgitation of knowledge. And what is happening at this stage. The effects of this is why you’re spending so much time in this in the design phase, because you didn’t spend any time In the planning phase. So there’s three steps to designing courses, three major steps, that is planning, designing and then monitoring the course. So by jumping from this idea to the design, you have no idea who your clients are, what they need, what their goals are, what ways they best learn, your clients might want to have demonstration videos, and you just go explain it all in text, right, or in help guides that say, step one, step two, step three, and that’s not useful for your clients. So by jumping straight to that course design, what I see a lot is that the time is wasted in the actual course design path. And then when you go to launch, no one wants the course no one’s completing the course. Because you have done that vital thing, things. And the second major mistake I see is that people choose a platform, they they jump around, they ask people, what’s the best learning management system? Or what’s the best course platform that I can use? And I always, always, always reply with the question and say, Well, what do you mean? What I see is that people just choose the platform because someone said, this is really, really great. But you need to walk away.

By the way, that’s not just learning management.

Exactly, exactly. And you need to know what you need that system to do. And so what I asked is, what do you need? And what do your clients need? Do your clients need to be able to download material? Do they need to upload material? What type of data do you want to see? Do you want to have access to particular progress reports? Do you want to be able to have videos that are embedded? Do you want to be able to have activities that the students and your clients can do a fill in the gap activity or a hotspot activity where it’s a picture and they click on spots in it? All of these come from your planning? Once you know what your course plan is, once you know what that lesson outline is going to look like, you know what you need from the system? Then you can do your research on what’s the best?

Yeah, yes.

And the third mistake I want to share with you is when you’re jumping into lesson design without doing a loner persona. So I want to explain this one a little bit, too. And it comes back to our planning phase as well. So many people who have a business would have done some type of analysis on who their ideal client clients. And that is, Who are they? What are their challenges? What are their problems? What obstacles that they face in? How can you help them what type of support they’re looking for these type of analysis. And you do the same to build a learner persona. When you say, Who am I learned is? How do they best learn? How are they motivated to learn? What do they want from a course? What current obstacles are they facing, and the huge one that gets missed a lot is is a course going to solve their problem. Maybe it’s something else that’s going to solve their problem, that’s not a course at all. And once you had this learner persona, you can then create a course for them. Rather than what I see a lot, is a course creator creates a course on what they like, I love to watch videos. So I’m going to go into create a course filled with video. But that’s not what your learners want.

Yeah, I think that from me, from like a time perspective, I like to try and do things. If I can kill 234 20 birds with one stone, because a level of emotion, I’ll do it. So you know, a client asked me, How do I do list emails out of Salesforce, so I recorded a video on it. But that gave me an opportunity to create content for the person who asked the question, and I sent them back, sent the video back to them immediately. It went on to YouTube, actually, they got the YouTube link and then had a I asked them to subscribe. And then I put that into a course. So so I’ve been able to use one actual live question and you know, from from, from my industry and creating, you know, knowledge management articles and you know, building like a contact service support center. You do that from actual customer questions. Is that something that would help course creators identify client needs or cost needs?

Yeah, absolutely. The questions that are coming in to you as the owner, if these business owners, sorry, if these questions are repetitively coming through, and you’re finding that most of your clients have this same problem, then you can start to build courses and start building mini courses to solve that problem. That’s something that’s quite easy for someone to go through in a mini course. Yeah, but again, go back to business and if your clients need them, for example, most of my clients don’t want to go through a course to learn how to build a course, they want more audit based kind of hand, not hand holding, but they want me to be there to bounce ideas off me and have personalized help. I’m going through yet again, another course is not what they want. From the research that I’ve done from the existing clients and future clients.

Yeah. I think, you know, from a copywriting perspective, I’ve spoken to a number of people, you know, they might have a doctorate and they’re a professional in their field. But the maybe the course that they’re using the language is far too complex, and it doesn’t meet their target market. So you mentioned that the target market was important. And then you mentioned that, you know, being able to break it down how they want to hear it is also I know that when I’m trying to explain something to someone, I really need to think about, how do they understand it, I virtually need to come up with a user story. If anyone’s done software development, you create a user story, which is I want the button to do this so that I can do that. It’s not okay, the API and the trigger and the decent and that that, does that apply? Of course design as well?

Yes, absolutely. And that is one of the other mistakes as well is not having a learning journey. So when we’re creating a course plan, we then start to create storyboards. And I would literally get post it notes for a whiteboard, or I’ve used windows in boardrooms that meet as a meet as long where I literally, I have all my ideas that are all in the the course plan. And now I’m seeing how does it work for the students? When they’re moving from A to B to C? What are they actually moving through? And how am I scaffolding that education? How are we taking little bits of pieces, and we’re actually building on top of each one. So when they go to the course, we’re not confusing them, we’re not creating this cognitive overload, that we’re giving them so much, that they walk away saying, I didn’t learn a thing, there was so much in there, it was so complex that I’m walking away with nothing. Yeah, so having that journey where we can say, hang on a second, this is a bit huge, this should be a bundle of courses, as opposed to one course, or wait a second, this actual lesson has nothing to do with my course goal. So it actually doesn’t have to be in this course, maybe it’s additional resource that they can have a look at if they want to. But just because I love this area doesn’t mean that my clients need it in the course. So absolutely.

Yeah, I think trying to understand their perspective, like, I know, things that I know, because I just know that but in my life history, my life experience my, you know, education and training that I’ve done up to this point. So for me, it’s like, all, you know, it just is you know, like, it’s common sense, but it’s actually not that common. In most places, I would imagine that, you know, someone who comes from a completely different walk of life, maybe just didn’t experience the same things. And they’d know, just as much and I almost feel like there’s everyone has the same level of intelligence, it’s just distributed in different areas. So it might be physical intelligence, in terms of, you know, having good tactile skills and being able to, you know, quickly tie knots and things like that. Or it might be academic experience, or it might be something else. And so how do you cross across those boundaries? When people you know, like you said, learn differently, they think differently, and you have different understandings.

It all comes over time. Right? So one way that I do like to manage that is at the beginning of the courses, I do run a, like a survey. And that survey talks about, what’s your goals? What are you looking to achieve? And what do you know about this? What have you tried so far? What haven’t you tried? What do you like, What don’t you like, and we’re collecting that data about our clients. So that then during the course, I can quickly adapt based on them. And if we’re always always always listening for feedback, feedback comes to us in so many different forms. Someone not replying to your follow up emails is feedback. Someone not progressing through a course is feedback, not direct feedback is is indirect feedback. That then helps you to understand Okay, well, no one finished watching this video on lesson 14, for example, is it too long? Is there a problem? How can I adapt it? So listening for that feedback constantly, helps you to create revisions for your course and modifications. It’s not You’re going to achieve your first launch, your first launch is the absolute bare minimum, your beta launch. And overtime, if you’re constantly constantly listening for these little cues, then you’re able to adapt to them each time.

Yeah, and I think, because it’s always difficult to figure out what level of coming on so with a basic is the basic two basic, or everybody Id do you have to do three versions of basic, intermediate advanced. And I think that just becomes, you know, from again, from the south side becomes that product Ascension model. So maybe they buy version Mongo, or that was alright, I’ll do version two, version three, and then rest. And then eventually, they roll into doing a full consultation with you or, or, you know, running a program with you or something like that. And I think from the pricing perspective, it’s different for everybody. But I know from a sales psychology perspective, people don’t value what they don’t pay for. Exactly. You might just say, say, even if you think it’s nothing, it’s really basic. You know, for me, personally, I’d probably try and say, all right, well, you’ll pay $20, for it to some, some transactional value. And then you’ll be my guinea pig. And I’ll give you super extra time. And I’ll understand everything that you do like and don’t like and don’t have, and then put that into it. Is that is that sound idea? Or is it you have different thoughts on that?

No, I think it’s, it’s a great idea. And off the top of my head, the the studies, I, I’m not sure the name of the studies of the links that I can direct you to. But studies have shown that when there is a price point associated to a course completion rates do go up. And when there’s no price point, there’s no kind of it’s like not having an ending to something, right, someone’s is not invested. Yeah. Or I guess it builds up more of that investment so that completion rates do increase. And so yeah, if you were to say, Hey, I’m doing this as a beta version, I’m going to give it to you with a discounted rate that come on board, now it’s this first version, it’s going to be discounted, and you can help me make it better for future versions. One of the adult learning theories is involving our clients involving adults in the course creation, because they can then look at it in the future and say, Hey, I helped even create that I was part of that creation. And that’s another motivational aspect to tap into as well is how can we involve our clients in the creation of our courses, which is just like you’ve said, do it at a lower rate, get testimonials, and also make them very aware that this is the first trial so that you collect that feedback to make it better for the future.

And I think you’ve given them that, like chaperoned experience, they’ll feel a little bit more valued anyway. So, that’s, so obviously, we’ve scratched on probably more than your top three. But there’s, you know, we’re really, really only picking the surface here. And, you know, you mentioned that you’ve got checklists, and guides and and things that basically shortcut your learning if you’re going to do this. Um, so it’s been really great having you on today. And if you’re listening and you want to get info on the top 10 course design mistakes, you can get cats ebook on the stellar way.com. And I’m also going to link the websites and her LinkedIn profile in the comments of these episode. So thank you very much for coming, Kat. It’s been great listening to, to your experience.

Thank you very much for having me.

No worries. And thank you, listeners if you like this podcast. If you have any questions, or you’d like to be on the show, please reach out at https://relevate.com.au you and fill out the contact form. Otherwise, thank you very much. It’s been great and take care. You can learn more about implementing scalable systems in your business with our book, the business octopus, where you can learn how to give your business a brain and teach you to grow itself. You can get your copy from relevant.com.au slash octopus. You can also find answers and ask questions in our online community at support relevant.com.au