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Creating an online course? Here’s what you need to know - Part IV

Beta Testing


Hurrah! Your online course is complete!


So, now what?


The first thing to do once you have a completed course framework is to make sure that it all works and flows properly.  When it comes to online courses, you’re not only looking to make sure that it actually works, (the technology and software are functioning as desired), but you will also want to make sure that the content flows properly, makes sense to your target audience and yields the results you had intended and are promoting.


Although it can be tempting to launch right away, the benefits to testing before launch are plentiful and should be thoroughly considered.  


These include:


  • The ability to understand how the flow of the course will work in real-time
  • Seeing and reacting to actual results and transformations within your students
  • Collecting testimonials or case studies suitable for launch and promotional messaging
  • Understanding the degree of interaction you will need to have throughout the course
  • The ability to fix any bugs or challenges quickly and effectively using real-time feedback


Define your Beta Audience


The first thing you are going to want to do is define who you want to participate in your soft launch. Since we’re not quite in official launch mode just yet, for the sake of ease and timing, invite an audience with whom you have previously worked. This may be a subset of past course cohorts, membership community members, social media followers, friends and family, members of your professional network, or a selected few from your email list. If you don’t have an audience you can tap into, reach out to your network to see if anyone has any recommendations for areas or forums where you can look to recruit.  


The main thing you want to focus on is crafting a group that will fall within the same demographic and that are experiencing the same pain points as the audience you will be ultimately looking to attract. If your course has set cohorts for each run, aim to recruit the maximum amount of students you will be looking for once your course is live. If you’re running a self-led course, aim to invite at least 20 students to go through the curriculum to ensure you have enough data and feedback to make changes where needed. And aim for a broad spectrum considering their knowledge levels, experience, and comfort navigating technology. 


Once you have found your beta audience, the next step is to determine whether or not you will offer a free or paid demo program.


Pricing your Beta Course


Since your beta course is jam packed with value, it is recommended to attach a price tag of some level. With a price tag attached (even at a discount) it is much more likely that you will have an engaged test audience, as they have invested to be a part of your pilot. This is also a great indicator of whether or not there is a true appetite for your course subject and promised results. 


Pricing your beta course can be intimidating, but making sure that you communicate clearly with your test group that they are receiving this course at a special rate and that it is a first iteration course will set their expectations appropriately; you want them to expect value, not perfection.

Collecting Feedback


The easiest way to ensure consistent and actionable feedback from your beta group is to prepare a series of questions and check-in points ahead of time. Areas to inquire about include standout content or lessons that resonate most, points of confusion or areas that require more guidance and clarity, the average length to complete each module - factoring in homework or assignments, feasibility of completion within the suggested guidelines, the benefits to any facilitator-led interactions in relation to the curriculum, and any gaps that may need additional lessons to accommodate. Google forms, a running Google document, dedicated
Slack channels or Facebook groups are great ways to collect real-time thoughts and feedback from your beta audience.


As with any feedback mechanism, you will want to create some sort of data collection platform/method. Depending on the types of results you are promising, you’ll want to provide tracking mechanisms for your students to ensure you can quantify the results that they achieve. This is also where you can collect testimonials or information to create case studies - with permission from your students, of course.

Pilot Evaluation


Once your beta group has completed the course and submitted any relevant feedback and data, it is time to evaluate whether or not the pilot is ready for launch. If you noticed relatively few areas for improvement and your test group reached the milestones you had set out, then there is a good chance you are ready for launch! If, however, you received quite a few comments about gaps or confusion and your test group didn’t quite achieve the level of key metrics you had intended, you may need to take more time to reevaluate and make adjustments before hitting the streets with your new course. Even if this is the case, your beta test is still a win, as it will enable you to use the insights you have gained to strengthen your product and improve future initiatives.  


Your pilot should’ve also equipped you with the knowledge you need to understand the type of student best suited for your course, the amount of time they will likely need to move through your modules, and what the typical results achieved. 


This knowledge will leave you equipped to launch like a pro, with targeted feedback, genuine testimonials, and the confidence that your course will generate transformational results for all those who go through it.


While this series on Creating an Online Course is comprehensive, each project is nuanced - which is why we take a highly tailored approach to our course creation, modernization, and auditing services. We also appreciate that many of our clients are simply looking for an accountability partner or a group coaching program to guide them along during this process so they can avoid the overwhelm and the shiny objects and rabbit holes that waste precious money and time on things that don’t matter. Reach out for more information on how we can help you bring your concepts to fruition!


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