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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
Today, I’m sharing all about what I’m seeing as an online course designer and strategist, as upcoming online course trends in 2024. These are all things that I’m seeing working really well with online courses and digital products right now. If you have an online course or you’re thinking about potentially creating one, this episode is going to help you brainstorm some new ideas and add some things into your course that make people EXCITED to buy and become a student. Let’s jump in!
I am going to dive right in because I don’t want to waste any of your time, which actually correlates to the very first online course trend, and that is that everything is getting shorter. When I was outlining this episode, this bullet point was originally SEVERAL different bullet points where I had shorter lessons, shorter webinars, shorter courses in general, and then I realized that really this is just one trend of everything that has to do with online courses and digital products being shorter. It seems like everyone feels very stressed out and short on time right now. Can you relate?
This is also a really big objection I see as an online course designer when we survey people’s audiences and we ask them, “why did you not buy during a recent launch?”. A lot of people will say something like, “because I don’t have time to implement the thing you’re selling”.
Of course money is always an objection and it always is going to be an objection. People are going to go through seasons of life where they don’t have money to buy your thing, whether that’s to do with the economy or their personal lives or something like that. But, one objection that you CAN control is how much time it takes to go through your course and start implementing things. People feel very short on time, and so tightening up your course and the things that lead into your course can be a very powerful strategy for supporting your students.
When I say “shorter everything”, there’s a few things that come to mind. The first one I want to talk about is webinars or hosting a free training. In the past, they were often about an hour long with a majority being a training, and then a pitch to the course at the end with a Q&A session. One shift I’ve seen in the industry lately is that people are switching to much shorter training. So instead of doing an hour long webinar, it’s a 15-20 minute long training..
This is something I’ve seen a lot of traction with as well with my clients that used to have an hour long webinar. We shortened it up, whether that was editing their existing content or refilming it, and we’ve been getting a lot more people opting in. We also say on the landing page how much time the training will take to increase signups!
With clients where we tightened it up and shortened it, we saw people had a much higher rate of attending and then they also had a much higher rate of attending or watching the entire video compared to the more traditional hour long masterclass.
With the hour-long webinar, I would always track metrics, usually about every 15 minutes, and typically in the first 15 minutes that number goes up, and then after the first 15 to 20 minutes, that number starts to go down. After the 30 minute mark, it goes down quite a bit and then after really the one hour mark, it goes down dramatically. So people do like consuming shorter content.
Traditionally a lot of launches are about a week long, or sometimes 10 days depending on what you’re selling. Lately, things have shifted and I’ve been a part of a lot of launches that were 3-4 days instead. The truth is that with longer launches, people get bored, disinterested, and they really just stop listening. It also gets confusing when the deadline for your sale is, and so often I found that when people are able to remember the deadline, they’re actually able to make a purchase decision. When the window is a little too long, they can kind of forget about it because they think they have time to “think about it”.
I’ve had a lot of clients (and business friends) who choose to instead of creating this long signature course that is eight modules long, make a mini course instead. I’ve even seen people just breaking off one lesson and selling it as a cheaper product.
In my experience as an online course designer, that can feel so much less intimidating than feeling like they need to spend a bunch of money just so that they are going to be given even more that they will have to do. When you do that, you’re making people feel like they’re purchasing something that’s going to make them feel overwhelmed and that’s not what you want to do.
So when you shorten your stuff, often you can help people see “this is how long it’s going to take” and “you’re going to have time to implement it” and therefore “you will have time to actually change your life”. Because let’s be honest, so many of us are worried about buying something and then never having the time to do the thing we just spent money on.
I did a survey and I asked people all sorts of questions about business and what they wanted to hear on this podcast, but one question I asked was, how long do you want podcast episodes to be? And every single answer said shorter episodes.
So definitely episodes that are like 30 minutes or less, and some people even set episodes that are five to 10 minutes. So that’s something I’m experimenting with this year is how can I tighten up content and make things impactful but also shorter as part of my business? I also do online course audits where I help go through people’s courses and we figure out how we can make the course better so that they can sell more of it. And a huge thing I’ve been focusing on this year is how do we tighten up the content? So how do we eliminate things that don’t need to be there? How do we make it easier for students to consume the content and how do we make sure it takes less time to go through everything?
I recently put out a survey and I asked people all sorts of questions about business and what they wanted to hear on this podcast and I’ve loved reading the responses. One question I asked was, “how long do you want podcast episodes to be?” And every single answer said shorter episodes.
So people are definitely wanting episodes that are 30 minutes or less, and some people even said they prefer to listen to episodes that are 5-10 minutes. So that’s something I’m experimenting with this year and asking myself, “how can I tighten up content and make things impactful but also shorter as part of my business?”. Stay tuned while I figure it out!
In the same way, I also offer online course audits where I go through people’s courses and we figure out how we can make the course better so that they can sell more of it. A huge thing I’ve been focusing on this year is how we can tighten up the content. How do we eliminate things that don’t need to be there? How do we make it easier for students to consume the content and make sure it takes less time to go through everything?
Okay, the next one of the 2024 online course trends is something that might not be attainable for every course creator, but it’s still a huge trend, so it has to go on this list. When I talk about including AI elements, I’m not necessarily talking about using something like chat GPT to help you write your course or generate the sales page. Instead, I’m talking about when someone buys your course, and then they get access to some sort of AI that helps them with the course.
For example, say you have a course about “how to grow on Instagram”, and as part of the course people could gain access to an AI robot that would help them write their profile for Instagram or help them come up with content ideas or anything like that.
I’ve had a couple of clients who have built out some AI element like a script or prompts that students can use to help them finish some part of the course (for example, to help them with copywriting or to come up with a schedule or even to help them come up with ideas).
Having an AI component is SUPER appealing to people and I think this is going to continue to become a bigger thing in the online course world where there’s the learning part of the course and then there’s access to a chat bot or some sort of script that helps you implement.
It is expensive to add though, so it’s typically something I see with people that have already had a course that has been around for a while. They’re already making a lot of money from it, and they have the resources to hire a programmer or someone like that to help them build out their preferred AI tool (there are a TON of options beyond Chat GPT). It’s effective too because people will buy just to get access to that AI tool.
On a list of 2024 online course trends, this one has been around for a while, but it’s going to become even more important in the next year. Nowadays, most people take the course on some sort of device that is not a computer, like a phone or a tablet. That’s something you see with apps as well (for example, DuoLingo), where companies are super focused on the app experience and how the app helps people learn.
I think that sometimes as course creators, we’re focused on the desktop experience and as an online course designer, I see people completely forget what the mobile experience is like and that you need to be thinking that through as well. Now more than ever, people are just using their phones to take a course and people might not buy your course specifically because it does not work well on their phone.
As a course creator, you need to check how your course works on a phone. Some online course softwares like Kajabi have an app where people can access your course, and then there’s other course software like Thrivecart that don’t have an app, but still work pretty well on mobile. I highly recommend checking the layout of your course on mobile because sometimes mobile is really funky and even if you have a software that has an app or works well with mobile, it’ll do weird things where links won’t work or a photo will be cut off.
As a bonus tip for you: tell your students how they can access your course on mobile. They might have no idea how they can use an app or how it works on a phone, and so they might not be going through your course because they think they have to do it on the computer. Consider something like sending out an email and telling people, “Hey, download this app or bookmark this login on your phone”. This ALWAYS enhances the course experience. If you have features that work really well on mobile, double check that your students know about them.
This 2024 online course trend is actually my favorite because it scratches my teacher brain and warms my heart to be honest. In 2024, we need to make sure you build accountability into your course and find ways to support your students better. Specifically for this trend, what I’m seeing works well is having some sort of co-working session or matching people up with accountability partners. Have something built into your course that helps people do the work in the course.
Here are ways you can do this:
These are really valuable to people because if they haven’t come up with a podcast title, for example, they can come get feedback, get brainstorming on their idea, and then most importantly, they can check it off of their to-do list. People love knowing when they buy your course you are going to help them implement it and provide space for them to get the work done.
The other thing I mentioned was doing something like accountability partners where you match people up. That’s something that I’ve done recently in a couple of courses that we’ve launched and it has worked really well, and has been very appealing to people. It was something that we could use in the sales messaging and something that really did help the students as well.
Another really easy thing you can do to boost accountability is document yourself going through the course. Now, this sounds kind of weird, but what I’m talking about is whatever you teach in the course, go public about how you’re doing that work. Send an email to your students that shares for example that you’re doing module one of the course again.
Let me give you an example. Say you have a course about business finances, and the first module is about creating a budget. You could show people, you could send an email, you could do a live training about how you are using that information in your own business today. That’s really powerful for students to see a live example of how you do the work in the course and what it really looks like when done.
Even more, you can publish the schedule of what you’re going to do ahead of time. Maybe you’re going to focus on one module a month or one module a week and then show people what you’re doing, how you do it, and encourage them to go through the lessons along with you.
Last on the list of 2024 online course trends, we have adding more templates to your course.
I’ve said this so many times before, but it continues to be a growing trend and often when I’m part of a larger online course launch and we do a survey to students about what tipped them over the edge to make a purchasing decision (which is a great idea to ask by the way – because it’s usually something really specific), but the answer often is having some sort of template inside of the course.
When I say templates, I really am talking about something that is copy and paste or something where they can click a button and upload it into their account and then they can start using it. The idea behind this is that your course then doesn’t feel like it’s throwing a bunch of information at people, but instead that you’re also helping them implement the information as fast as possible.
Anything that is a template that’s going to make them do the work faster is so valuable.
For example, think about things like Canva templates. Do you have a Canva template of a proposal or an Instagram graphic or a reel that you can give people? If you do, they can click the button to copy it into their own Canva account and then 70% of the work is done for them.
You can also think of things that have anything to do with software. For example, ClickUp templates are really valuable. You can even make a ClickUp template that is literally just a project about how to go through the course, where you lay out all of the lessons, and that feels really valuable to people. Anything around software is really valuable.
If you have an existing course, this is usually where I recommend starting. Go back through the lessons and think about what you can add a template to already.
I hope this episode was helpful and helped to generate some new ideas, whether you have a course that you’re revising this year and trying to grow and sell more of, or if you’re starting from scratch and are just starting to brainstorm what kind of course you want to create. My goal here is to give you ideas of cool elements you can add that will make a really impactful course for you and your students!
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