Online learning is a popular medium for readers and authors alike. E-courses can help you connect with your existing audience and expand your fan base by offering engaging, instructive content that goes beyond your book itself. In this article, we explore what makes an online course successful and how to determine if creating one is the right strategy for you and your book.
What is an e-course?
Put simply, an e-course is a class that a consumer purchases and completes online in order to develop new skills and/or learn more about a specific topic. Most e-courses are self-paced; they vary in length from short online classes to intensive months-long trainings. Pricing also varies from $50 or $100 on the lower end to several thousand dollars on the higher end, depending on the subject matter, length, depth of content, and other factors.
You don’t need to be a professional educator to teach an e-course; as long as you have expertise on something people want to learn about, you can create a course using some basic tools.
How is an e-course structured?
An e-course generally consists of short video lessons, which are grouped into “modules,” or sections, to guide learners step by step through the specifics of the subject matter. These modules often include practice exercises, quizzes, and/or additional reading and resources to help users practice what they have learned.
Here is a sample curriculum from PRH author Terry Wahls’s e-course, The Wahls Protocol, based on her book of the same title:
Benefits of an e-course for authors
An e-course can give you the opportunity to:
- Offer additional content to members of your existing audience who want to learn more about topics you touched upon in your book but weren’t able to explore in depth
- Reach new audiences that you can then convert into readers
- Demonstrate, for visual learners in particular, how to implement advice, strategies, or ideas from your book
- Potentially earn incremental income
Of course, as with any product you create related to your book, the key is to make sure your e-course does not duplicate your book’s content but rather expands on it or goes deeper into it.
Should I create an e-course?
Developing and launching an online course is a significant undertaking, from mapping out the curriculum and scripting each lesson to filming and producing the content, then launching and marketing the course to your audience. Here are some things to consider:
- What problem am I trying to solve for my consumers? In other words, what is the outcome you are trying to help your readers/learners achieve?
- Does an e-course make sense as an extension of my book and/or other existing content? Practical nonfiction books tend to be the most logical fit for e-courses. The goal of online learning, after all, is to teach consumers how to hone specific skills, techniques, or knowledge they want to acquire. Are your fans regularly asking for more information, lessons, advice, and tips from you about certain points in your book? If so, you might want to consider creating an e-course around those topics.
- What other e-courses already exist on this topic, and what can I offer consumers that is different? There are hundreds of thousands of online courses available, so it’s important to look at the competition and determine the unique value you can give learners that they can’t get anywhere else.
- How will people discover my course? If you don’t have an existing audience you can market your course to, it can be tough to break through the noise. So think about how you would get your course discovered by your target audience.
This article from Foundr offers an excellent breakdown on what is involved in creating an e-course. And Teachable and Udemy are two inexpensive platforms that provide tools to help you create an e-course on your own.
An e-course may or may not be the right choice for you as an author, but many have found it effective and engaging as a complementary offering to their books. If you are interested in making one, reach out to your marketing team to discuss whether an e-course makes sense as a way of extending your brand and delivering new content to your readers, and to explore topics that would be relevant and appealing to your fans and followers.
Stephanie Bowen is Senior Manager of Content Development, Publishing Development and Author Platforms at Penguin Random House.