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Looking Ahead in 2024: Course Correcting Online Courses

Table of Contents

Introduction

In recent years, questionable course creation practices have led to growing skepticism and doubts about the legitimacy and value of online courses and the experts associated with them. What was once a trusted avenue for knowledge and skill development is now, for some, likened to a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme. In other words, people are seeing online courses as potential scams.

As we start 2024, the landscape of course creation is at a critical junction. I’m calling on all course creators to reassess their online course strategies and embrace a new era of transparency, authenticity, relationship-building, and value-driven education.

In this article, I’m sharing the five things I’d never do as a course creator in 2024 and what I’d do instead.

Strategic Pricing Over Gimmicky Discounts

Gimmicky discounting refers to pricing strategies that may appear attractive at first glance but typically lack genuine value or transparency. These types of discounts are often used to create a sense of urgency or perceived value, but they may not reflect the true worth of the course. Here are a few examples:

  • Inflated original price with heavily discounted rates
    Setting an artificially high original price and then offering a substantial discount to create the illusion of a great deal, yet the discounted price is still higher than the course’s actual value.
  • Limited-time only discounts that are always on
    Creating a sense of urgency by promoting limited-time discounts, but in reality, these discounts are consistently available.
  • Secret or exclusive discounts for select audiences
    Claiming to offer exclusive discounts to specific groups or individuals, creating a sense of privilege even though these discounts are often available to a broader audience and are not truly exclusive.
  • Discounts based on false scarcity
    Creating false scarcity by claiming limited seats or spots are available at a discounted rate, pushing learners to make quick decisions before they’re ready.

In 2024, keep pricing aligned with the quality of the experience provided to ensure learners see the genuine value they’re investing in. Prioritize building trust with learners by avoiding gimmicky discounts like these. 

What to do in 2024 What to do in 2024

Shifting Webinars from Sales Pitches to Value Showcases

Hosting webinars loaded with lengthy sales pitches disappoints participants seeking valuable insights. Webinars were once a beacon of knowledge-sharing and engagement. But today they’re often characterized by filler content, ego boosts, and explicit course promotion.

When course creators promote a webinar as a learning experience, and then employ a sales-centric approach, they lead participants to:

In 2024, let knowledge and skills speak louder than sales pitches. It's time to reclaim the true potential of webinars as a tool for education, connection, and meaningful interaction.

 

When you leverage webinars as a platform to showcase your expertise, you provide tangible value that indirectly promotes your courses. You’ll build trust, enhance your credibility, and increase the likelihood of participants taking meaningful actions, such as enrolling in a course or becoming loyal long-term learners.

What to do in 2024 What to do in 2024

Choosing Relationships Over Transactions

Automation has become a prevalent tool for businesses that allows them to scale operations and focus on other critical business activities. Meanwhile course creators have largely embraced automation as a way to achieve “passive income” or the “make money while you sleep” lifestyle. This has stripped away the human element essential for good business, especially an education-based business.

Effective learning environments thrive on engagement and relationships, principles that should extend to marketing online courses. Unfortunately, many course creators interact with leads and potential learners in a transactional manner, evident in their emails:

  • An overly promotional approach can lead to skepticism among leads, perceiving the communication as sales-focused rather than value-drive. This may result in lower conversion rates.
  • Using misleading marketing tactics—like false urgency, fear of missing out, and fear-inducing language—erodes trust. Once trust is damaged, leads are less likely to convert and may develop negative sentiments toward the course and the course creator.
  • Ignoring learner needs and interests signals that sales matter more than providing value, discouraging potential learners from enrolling.
  • Failing to build relationships misses opportunities to connect in a meaningful way, leaving leads without a sense of investment or trust in the online course experience.

In 2024, prioritize relationship-building in email marketing strategies to foster trust and transparency without neglecting necessary transactional elements. Strategies include:

 

  • Providing valuable content that immediately benefit potential learners, such as related educational content, practical tips, Q&As, resource roundups, or surveys.
  • Building meaningful connections by sharing stories, providing insights about the course community, and personalizing communications.
  • Facilitating two-way communication to actively involve leads, such as by asking questions, welcoming feedback, including interactive content, and offering timely support.
  • Offering transparency by providing clear information on pricing, terms, conditions, and course expectations.

 

Focusing on meaningful relationships fosters trust, which is a crucial factor in the decision to enroll in an online course. Learners who feel a connection with the course creator and who feel invested in, are more likely to engage, convert, and remain committed to the learning journey.

What to do in 2024 What to do in 2024

Fostering True Expertise Beyond Templates

The hard truth is that I question the true expertise of course creators who design online courses primarily composed of templates. And while that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that the course creator is not an expert, it certainly raising questions about the depth of their expertise and their ability to teach it.

Here are some ways online courses that rely heavily on templates hinder the development of learners and cast doubt on the depth of a course creator’s true expertise.

Templates and pre-made solutions...
True experts...

Hinder a deep understanding of concepts by prioritizing task completion

Prioritize a comprehensive understanding beyond completing tasks

Neglect the development of essential skills

Ensure learners gain proficiency in applying knowledge beyond the confines of templates

Limit the application of concepts in diverse contexts

Impart skills adaptable to unique and diverse situations

Restrict engagement and hands-on practice 

Create an interactive environment for active participation and collaboration

Discourage creativity and innovation

Inspire creativity, encourage original though, and guide innovative solutions

Fail to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving

Empower learners to navigate real-world challenges independently

Rely heavily on the instructor’s experiences 

Provide diverse examples relevant to learners’ experiences

Falls show in inspiring and motivating learners

Convey enthusiasm about their subject matter and teaching 

In 2024, course creators should shift their focus from templates to empowering learners with knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Design a well-rounded online course that balances theoretical understanding, practical application, and opportunities for learners to develop their skills in diverse contexts. And most importantly, help them forge their own path rather than taking a copy-and-paste approach.

What to do in 2024 What to do in 2024

Ditching Gimmicky Pedagogy

Gimmicky pedagogy refers to course design and marketing practices that prioritize style and presentation over educational depth. The goal is to create an attractive facade that entices potential buyers through the illusion of exclusivity, differentiation, expertise, and promised results. Courses that employ these methods often fail to deliver substantive educational value. This typically leads to a disconnect between marketing promises and actual educational outcomes, which leaves learners frustrated and damages the reputation of the course creator.

There are four common uses of gimmicky pedagogy by course creators:

  • Exclusive, Undisclosed Methods
    Course creators claim to possess an exclusive, undisclosed method that guarantees success, creating an air of mystery and exclusivity. This approach relies on the allure of secrecy, aiming to attract learners through the perception of accessing unique and privileged knowledge.
  • Catchy Frameworks or Acronyms
    Courses creators claim that an original framework or acronym represents a revolutionary approach, even if the actual content lacks substance or genuine innovation. This approach is focused on creating a memorable and differentiated brand rather than delivering impactful educational content.
  • Exaggeration of Complexity
    Course creators exaggerate the complexity of basic concepts using jargon and convoluted explanations to create an illusion of depth without providing substantial educational value. This approach makes concepts seem more intricate than they are, boosting the perceived expertise of the course creator and the perceived value of the course content.
  • Vanity Metrics and Personal Stories
    Course creators rely on vanity metrics and personal success stories, emphasizing the instructor’s achievements rather than the effectiveness of the educational content. This approach prioritizes the personal narrative over the educational substance, potentially diverting attention from the course’s true merits.

In 2024, prioritize transparency, honesty, genuine innovations, authentic demonstrations of expertise, and educational value. Move away from misleading practices and focus on designing and delivering courses that equip learners for success.

What to do in 2024 What to do in 2024

Summary

2024 is the year for a major course-correction. I’m calling on course creators to abandon five outdated practices:

  • 1
    Gimmicky discounting
  • 2
    Sales-focused webinars
  • 3
    Transactional email automations
  • 4
    Template-based courses
  • 5
    Gimmicky pedagogy

Course creators who do these things will do so by: 

  • Embracing transparency
  • Authentically demonstrating their expertise
  • Building meaningful relationships
  • Delivering value-driven educational

Together, we can make sure online education remains a trusted and reliable space that truly serves its purpose—to educate, empower, and enable learners on their journey to success.

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