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Issue #7 • July 2017

How to Review an Existing Online Course to Make Yours Even Better

Business Models

What’s the best way to get inspiration for your online course? By being a student in other classes, of course!

When you enroll and work through the exercises in other courses, you get to experience online courses through the eyes of a student. This can help when you become the educator behind your own online course.

When you’ve been entrenched creating an online course, it’s easy to miss big picture aspects. When you can view a course as a student you can see actual workflow, appearance, structure, and content with fresh eyes. There’s no bias, no forethought, and no prior knowledge of the course to assume why something is done. It’s much easier to see the cracks in the system.

I recommend enrolling in online courses that allow you to quickly test the user experience and gain insights into how you want to build yours differently. All of this can be done while you learn something new! #winning

As you review the course, you’ll be able to pull out the things you liked and didn’t like, all of which help when you create your online course. To help you understand what to look for as you review other courses, I’m going to take you through an example of a course I recently took myself and reviewed.

Why I chose to review a phone photography basics online course

The class I’ll be reviewing today is titled Phone Photography Basics, hosted by Brit + Co. This media company invites female bloggers and entrepreneurs to teach online courses on topics they have expertise in, introducing them to their wide audience of over 125 million online readers.

How to review an online course


Each online course is taped in the beautiful Brit + Co studio in San Francisco. Class topics range from calligraphy to coding, ensuring that their primary audience of millennial women learn about new topics in record time.

The Phone Photography Basics class is taught by Helene Sula, a fellow ConvertKit user and blogger. I’ve followed along with Helene’s Instagram adventures for years now so after hearing she mostly uses an iPhone to capture her beautiful images, I was intrigued.

I don’t currently own a digital camera and only take photos from my phone, so I thought this class would be the perfect way to uplevel my Instagram feed. Some of my best copywriting clients have come from Instagram within the last quarter of my business so I know it’s worth the time investment.

I’m between the beginning and intermediate level of photography so this class seemed like a good fit. Also, learning about how to take better photos with my phone’s camera in a short afternoon was really appealing.

As I break down this online course, feel free to take notes on what you learn as I share what worked and what could be improved. I’ll also share tips along the way to help as you create your own online course. Ready to dig in? I sure am!

Online course outline: Phone Photography Basics Class

With a fairly broad online course topic like phone photography, there are hundreds of subtopics within the subject. It’s more important than ever to narrow the online course topic down so you can teach others quickly and effectively.

Brit + Co did a great job of showing exactly what you’d learn in class by publicizing their course outline. For this class, they decided to blend all of the lessons into one 39 minute video workshop. The class is broken into 10 total lessons, each lasting from two to four minutes each. This length is fairly typical for Brit + Co classes, and that consistency builds trust with their students.

Here’s a full breakdown of the lessons:

  1. Introduction: a welcome video clip introducing Helene to the audience and why phone photography is a skill worth learning.
  2. Supplies: a breakdown of the tools that are needed in order to get the most out of the class.
  3. Lighting: teaching students on the importance of natural lighting with examples of what to look for.
  4. Camera Settings: a step-by-step tutorial on what camera settings are important to customize and activate.
  5. Real Shoot – Flat Lay: a live action view of how Helene styles a flat lay shot from above.
  6. Real Shoot – Outside: a brief look at how phone photography best practices change when you’re shooting outdoors.
  7. Editing a Flat Lay: different techniques on how to edit and filter styled flat lay photos.
  8. Editing an Outside Shot: same as above, only with outdoor photography.

  9. Sharing on Social Media: a simple walkthrough of how to share your photos on Instagram, especially with hashtags.

  10. Final Words: very short outro reiterating what students learned and how they can connect on social media.

This online course outline worked well for this shortened class and helped students work quickly through each exercise. So how was the quality of each lesson? Let’s break it down in an online course review.

Online course review

Like I said earlier, one of the best ways to brainstorm for your own online course is by enrolling and reviewing another course. It’s important to note what worked well and what needs improvement so you can bring this knowledge into your own creation process. Here’s an example with the same Phone Photography Basics class:

Who would benefit from this online course

Phone photography is on the rise as more bloggers leave their DSLR cameras at home during vacations. I’d recommend this Phone Photography Basics online course to any beginner photographers who want to look professional on Instagram but aren’t ready to invest in expensive equipment.

The time commitment is very low since the class is only 39 minutes long. It focuses more on giving you the tools necessary to get started with your own photoshoot. If you want to take perfectly styled flat lays or capture beautiful sceneries with just your phone, this class could be a great choice for you.

What worked well

The video set is beautifully done. For a topic like Phone Photography Basics, seeing the perfectly styled video set gave me instant inspiration for taking photos. The set was professional, warm, and inviting. It also matches Helene’s brand really well, which I thought was a smart move by Brit + Co.

Welcome intro started with a personal story. One of the major things I loved about Helene’s intro was that she shared how she got into phone photography. After breaking her DSLR camera while hiking, she decided to take sponsored photos with her phone and the company loved them. It was a great selling point to start the online course with!

Shared a class specific hashtag for students to use. To inspire students to engage even further, Helene shares a hashtag to use when students share their completed photos on social media after the class. Such a cool idea to inspire others to take action.

Included a phone photography downloadable guide. Printing out the online course PDF helps students go through the lessons with Helene and plan out their photoshoot. This added learning gives the class more value.

Showed a real-time view of what’s being done on the camera. Helene’s audio is paired with a phone mockup video to show how she’s moving throughout apps and phone settings. It’s a great way to show the visual walkthrough of each step.

Highlighted the difference between shooting inside vs. outside. I really liked that the class showed how your settings and vision changes depending on whether you’re shooting a subject indoors or outdoors. Since I do both for my Instagram feed, these tips were helpful.

What could be improved

While I really enjoyed the simplicity of Helene’s lessons, there were a few things I noted as I went through the class that could have made this online course even better. Each will feature a lesson that you can take away from this online course review.

Add more supplies to the Supplies lesson. The Supplies portion of the course only mentions three things you need to get started (phone, worksheet, and an app). Once you get to the Real Shoot – Flat Lay lesson, Helene grabs a white foam board and quite a few props to start taking photos. I’m not sure why these didn’t make the original list.

Lesson: students feel more prepared if you give all of the supplies needed upfront.

Lower film quality in Real Shoot – Outside lesson. The shooting location chosen for the outdoor photoshoot created harsh shadows in the photos and on Helene’s face. It was a little disappointing, mostly because the studio quality of the other videos was so stellar. The cars driving by and garbage cans on the road were also a little distracting.

Lesson: be consistent with your video quality.

Turning down the music between transitions. It’s a nitpicky thing, but I kept having to turn down the audio as the music played and turn the audio back up when Helene started speaking. It didn’t deter me from giving this online course a thumbs up, but it did interrupt my note-taking a few times.

Lesson: make sure all of your online course audio is balanced.

Overall

While I found a few things that needed improvement, it didn’t overshadow how actionable the Phone Photography Basics class was, especially at only 39 minutes long. I ended the online course feeling motivated to whip out my phone and go on a photo adventure.

My biggest takeaways were learning how to use a few additional settings on my phone’s camera including AF/AE lock and HDR, as well as different ways to edit photos through A Color Story app.

I’d recommend this class to any bloggers and entrepreneurs who aren’t ready to invest in a DSLR camera but still want to take high-quality photos for their blog and social media. It’s great for beginner photographers who want to learn about the basics so they have more inspiration and motivation before getting started.

Brit + Co also offers other free and affordable classes that you can enroll in and review as soon as today! Who knows? It may inspire you to try something new when creating your online course.

Questions to ask yourself when reviewing an online course

By taking note of what you learn as a student in another online course, you’ll not only be able to take full advantage of the knowledge you’re gaining from the online teacher, you’ll also become a better teacher yourself.

Before you sit down to take a new online course, it will help to have a good list of questions to pull from. To help you get started, here are a couple questions to be ready to answer:

  • Did the course cover the topic I expected? Why or why not?
  • How consistent was the course content with course structure?
  • Were the lessons arranged in a logical way?
  • How confident do I feel in the subject after the online course?
  • What was my favorite activity? Was it because it was fun, educational, or both?
  • What made me want to take the course? (ie- testimonials, ads, etc.)
  • What type of content did they use? (ie-quizzes, games, slideshare) And did those types of content work for that topic?
  • What extra material would have helped my understanding of the topic?
  • How was the customer support for the online course? Did I need to interact with the teacher at all?
  • How long was the online course? Did it fit easily into my busy schedule?
  • What pace was set for the online course? Did I get a lesson a week or could I go at it at my own speed?
  • How was the quality of any audio or visual components? Did that change my opinion (good or bad) of the course?
  • After taking the online course, would I pay the same amount for what I learned? Was it higher or lower in value? Why?
  • Would I take an online course from this teacher again?

What have you learned from taking online courses?

What have you liked (and disliked) about courses you’ve taken? How are you using that information to build a better online course? Let’s chat in the comment section.

 

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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