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Decoding 6 Online Course Buzzwords

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If you’re a course creator, or considering creating your first online course, I’m sure this narrative sounds familiar:

Are you sick of your 9-5? Is that corporate grind not cutting it? Did you know you can productize your knowledge and start earning 7-figures right now? That’s right! All you have to do is build an online course (don’t worry you can do it in one day). Wait, wait…actually you can start selling it right now, before you even build it. I’ll teach you my proven system using this framework I named after myself. Once you put that baby on autopilot, you can head to the beach and sip a fancy cocktail while you watch the zeroes in your bank account rack up. Just like me. Don’t forget to take a selfie leaning on a palm tree so everyone knows it’s the real deal. Wink, wink.

OK, so that’s a little extra. But I think you get my point. Course creators are trying to sell you a lifestyle of autonomy, freedom from a corporate job, quick wealth, passive income that requires little to no work, more time with your family, and so on. And they’re doing so by stuffing their pitches full of buzzwords and empty promises that mislead you and make you feel like you’re missing out on something better. They’re more focused on monetizing their content than creating effective education for you.

What they’re not telling you is that creating and running an effective, profitable, and sustainable online course takes time, hard work, dedication, and resilience. And when they don’t say that, or they promote the exact opposite, I question the quality and effectiveness of what THEY are selling. And so should you.

This article dives into six of the most common online course buzzwords I see across online course providers. Some of these things are industry jargon. Others are intentionally ambiguous and misleading. Learn what these buzzwords mean, what you should know about them, and what you can do to avoid buying into these lies or making the same mistakes.

Online Course Buzzword #1

Productize Your Knowledge

If what you know about your field is valuable, people may be willing to pay for access to your knowledge. You can package up what you know and sell it in many ways—speaking engagements, books, consulting, coaching, and of course, online courses. Therefore, you can productize your knowledge.

What you should know

  • Not all knowledge is valuable. What you know must be able to solve a problem or fulfill a need for your target audience.
  • Anyone can share information online with relative ease—good or bad, accurate or inaccurate, helpful or unhelpful. While this presents the opportunity for experts to expand their reach and impact. It also presents the opportunity for others to just give the perception of expertise online. Without governance and regulation, anyone can look like an expert.

What you Can Do

  • Rather than assuming people will pay for what you know, do your research to fully understand the audience, their problem or need, and how they can benefit from your expertise as a solution. Then make a plan for how you can help them achieve some desired future state. This will likely mean being selective in what you share, learning more to round out what you know, and having a plan for how to deliver it effectively. Simply downloading your brain into a PDF and calling it an “online course” won’t cut it.
  • Prove your expertise to stand out, build trust, and get loyal clients. Demonstrate your expertise explicitly, transparently, and authentically. Show the work you’ve done, share your credentials, participate in professional organizations, and continue to contribute to your field’s body of knowledge. Don’t be a know-it-all. Experts don’t know it all but they can demonstrate how to figure it out.

Online Course Buzzword #2

Passive Income

In general, passive income refers to recurring income that’s earned automatically with minimal effort.

What you should know

What you Can Do

  • Spend time really getting to know your client’s needs and designing a course using materials and methods that will be most beneficial to them. While your product won’t be perfect the first time, if you listen to the needs of your audience, there will be less frequent updating or pivoting needed.
  • Avoid shortcuts in creating and delivering your online course. Don’t create your course using someone else’s templates, thinking this is the fastest way to generate passive income. Make it original and meet a need no one else is meeting. Yes, this is going to take more time. But I guarantee your custom course will last longer than a $57 “investment” in someone else’s predictable or bland experience. Quality lasts.
  • Once your online course is up and running, be active in it. Period.

Online Course Buzzword #3

Run on Autopilot

You can create automated systems in your online course that do all the work for you on repeat, which enables you to earn passive income.

What you should know

What you Can Do

  • Explore elements of your business that can be automated without negatively impacting your service or product, such as email automation, social media scheduling, or payment processing. The last thing you should automate is the course experience itself or anything representative of your course including email copy or other lead generation materials.
  • People expect more from you than a glorified Google or YouTube search, pre-made PDFs, and a bunch of canned “you can do it” emails. You need to facilitate learning for them. You need to bring thought and critique, considerations and problem solving to the table. You just need to show up consistently as the expert you are. If you don’t, you won’t keep people engaged, and before long, you’ll struggle to get them enrolled.


Did you know only about 15% of people on average finish online courses. I wonder why?

Online Course Buzzword #4


Done-for-you is exactly what it sounds like–you can buy a template for something that has everything already done for you. You can even buy an entire course done for you.

What you should know

What you Can Do

Online Course Buzzword #5

Trading Hours for Dollars

You’re limiting your income potential if you’re working by the hour versus based on the value of your offering.

What you should know

What you Can Do

  • As attractive as it might be, resist the idea that online courses are always on, 24/7, making money for you while you sleep.
  • Carefully consider what’s most important to you. Entrepreneurs don’t become entrepreneurs to do less. They become entrepreneurs because of their passion for creation, to maximize their impact and potential, to challenge the status quo and drive change. They don’t expect quick results or big payouts without doing the hard work.
  • Do the math. Calculate your potential earnings at an hourly rate with different product and service options. Create a menu of offerings that you will enjoy and that will meet the needs of your audience. An online course isn’t right for every audience.
  • Don’t avoid service-based work, like consulting or coaching, if that is something you love and can thrive doing. When you’ve established yourself in your field, you can charge a higher hourly or daily rate that can far exceed what you can earn with an online course.

Online Course Buzzword #6

The $325 Billion Opportunity

The online learning industry is 🔥🔥 and you better get moving right now if you don’t want to miss the boat.

What you should know

What you Can Do

  • Focus less on this number and more on understanding what your industry or domain is looking for or can gain from online learning.
  • Keep up-to-date with the big players in this area and how you can leverage their tech solutions to improve your course offerings and business.
  • Bring it all together and be realistic about what it takes to be successful in this hot market. To get you started–understand your audience and their needs, prove to them your expertise, outsource work in areas you’re lacking expertise, avoid shortcuts, prioritize quality over quantity, show up for and engage with learners, design for effectiveness, create original materials, automate operational, not course, elements, be passionate about teaching, design portfolio of offerings that you enjoy doing, stay up-to-date with technology and trends, and be authentically you.