Online Courses Don’t Drive Success. Here’s What Does – Melody Johnson

online courses melody johnson her designed life

If you don’t know already, I’ve been on a bit of a mission lately…

and it has to do with online courses (or actually non-courses, i.e. other learning formats).

Why?

Online courses are VERY widespread, especially in the blogging & digital marketing niche. And while they vary wildy in terms of price, length, and value, one thing remains consistent:

Online courses have abysmal completion rates (13% on average according to this study), and even worse success rates.

I, Pete McPherson, believe that the future of online learning (and blog monetization!) will lean more toward interactive workshops and other trainings that focus on implementation, rather than just learning.

So does Seth Godin btw, and so does today’s guest: Melody Johnson from Her Designed Life!

Melody is an instructional designer, which basically just means her entire career is figuring out how adults learn best, and designed programs to teach people things.

  • What kind of formats best help students?
  • How can we make our courses more effective? (Which will generate way more money in the long run 💰💰💰)
  • Examples of online learning done really well
  • Examples of online learning done poorly
  • How to improve course completion rates

The full transcript is below, and please drop us a comment!

Listen to my episode with Melody from Her Designed Life:

or listen on Apple Podcasts \\ Google Podcasts

Here’s the full transcript:

Melody
So happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete 
It is my absolute pleasure to have you. So Melody for those that don’t know you. Why don’t you give us I’m going to break up your bio your background into like a few different parts. Number one, number one, where are you at on the internet? Like, what is your website? what it said about what do you do on the internet specifically?

Melody
Yeah, absolutely. So my website is her designs live. com, I am a financial coach and blogger helping women to accomplish their financial goals and live according to their values.

Pete 
Have you ever heard that that’s actually really good. Most people take like an extra three minutes to even get that part. But you like nailed it. So melody, this is part of the reason I wanted to have you on. And the other part, I think has to do with your day job background. Your nine to five? So I know you said offline a couple of minutes ago grad school. So why don’t you tell everybody kind of what you’re studying what your background is. And it’s kind of explained the nine to five a little bit.

Melody
Yeah, absolutely. So in my current line of work, I’m an instructional designer. And so basically, what that is, is I help adults learn in a corporate environment. And so if you’ve ever gone through one of those required mandatory training about CPR, or if you’ve gone to a training about, you know, compliance reasons, you just have to watch a video or click around, those kinds of training are created by somebody and that person is me.

So I do anything from PowerPoint presentations, job aids, I have created e learning modules, I have helped create videos. And so in my current line of work, I really invested in the financial industry. I work currently in Detroit, so I used to work for a large mortgage company.

And then I’ve kind of transitioned into a different company, but it’s still kind of the same kind of thing. And so in my master’s degree, that’s essentially what I am studying is how adults learn

Pete 
How adults learn. Okay. OMG, Melody I have. I’m such a nerd. As I mentioned offline, as well, like, I am super interested in how adults learn as well.

So I let me preface this next conversation with this because I want to get into, quite frankly, I’m going to spoil the show is going to be about for you. And for everybody listening.

I specifically want to get your inputs on how we as the world, maybe just like how we might move forward, and help adults learn better, specifically online.

So I know your background is corporate, and that might be offline and online as well. But specifically for individual creators like me running like blogging courses, or even people just running a blog or creating hopefully YouTube videos or public speaking like fin con, I’m not sure if you’re going to think on when I saw that on Twitter. Yeah. Even speakers like public speakers, I want to kind of get at how we can all get better. Just straight up. Like I want to hear your thoughts on that.

But before we dive into that, specifically, I want to ask you this.

Have you ever taken an online course from a blogger? You don’t I mean, not like a corporate training sort of thing. But have you ever taken an individual creators online course?

Melody
I have, I have taken so many courses, and I love it. I absolutely love it. And I totally, you know, that’s in projections of what I want to do next. And I’ve actually taken, you know, one of your courses, and I love it, I actually have some great feedback for you. Don’t worry, it’s all positive. But you know, I will totally nerd out with you on this because I could talk about this for a very long time.

Pete 
Okay, when, which course are you enrolled in? I’m such a bad creator.

Melody
It’s okay. Um, so a while back last year, I did the beginner bloggers course. And then I’ve kind of I know you migrated your course over to think epic. And so kind of been peeking in there and looking at the Beginner SEO. So I kind of just wanted to review and analyze what you’ve done in the past. And you know, how your training has kind of evolved, which I really love, by the way. So I’ll talk about that in a minute. Because I know you have some questions for me.

Pete 
What you said in a minute, what are we gonna talk about right now? Did you have something else?

Melody
No, no, I think I’m so I’m sorry. Your question is basically to go back to what you said, I lost sight of that. So what you were asking is how can we create digital learning in an online environment?

So yes, I have taken online courses before. And so in general, one of the biggest things that is great about the digital space and learning is the fact that technology allows us the tools for pretty much almost anyone with access to a couple of simple tools to create learning videos.

Now videos is probably the primary way that people are creating courses nowadays, of course, there’s other resources online, like blog posts, and things like that, and podcasts, but probably videos, the highest impacted way in which people are selling online courses.

But one of the challenges, as you know, is actually the completion of courses.

And so you might notice that if you’ve ever taken an online course, you’ll probably start with the first module. And maybe if there’s five or more modules, your your, you start to get a little, you know, mentally fatigued, or you lose interest. And so the reason why that is because number one, there’s a lack of accountability.

Now, in a regular school setting, if you are sitting in a classroom, and you enter the classroom, you can’t actually leave until you physically leave from the room. And probably people will stare at you. So there’s that kind of social pressure to kind of stay in there. And so, for the digital space, what I really think is important is creating that sense of accountability. And how do you create accountability for a self-paced course like that is the challenge, right?

So to create accountability, I really feel like the best way to go about it is to actually, number one, create a supportive community where you have a sense of we’re in this together.

So how do you do that you create your number, you allow people to feel supported and engaged, you’ve done a great job, I know you have that online slack community as a way to communicate with students and to check in with how they’re doing specifically for Blogger U. So I think that’s a fantastic way, but you know, how could we like maybe move it forward a little bit more.

And so one of the ways that I think would be great is to have audits of people’s work.

Feedback is such an important part of the process. So I really like how in your Blogger U courses, they’re really quick and actionable. So that’s another thing.

A lot of times people feel like I need to give so much content, I need to push the limit on giving the best value. That’s great. But honestly, people are going to zone out after about six minutes. So after that six-minute mark, you really want to focus on Okay, what is the purpose of this lesson? And that’s where your objectives tie in. And that’s where you start thinking, Okay, so how can I, and you do a great job Pete I noticed, like, you know, with your Lessons For Beginner SEO, you start breaking down into very simplistic chunks.

And so for example, you have a view on what is SEO. So that kind of ties into, okay, as a student, I’m listening, I know what I’m trying to understand is the definition of SEO. Right?

I want to understand what it is. And number two, I want to realize why it’s important. So kind of just what I was going to get at is creating that accountability and saying, okay, I started the lesson, I have a good community, I know that I’m supported, I can ask questions in the slack group or, you know, maybe it’s a Facebook group, or maybe it’s a, you know, another platform where I can ask questions to the instructor or maybe some of their admin support team. And then, oh, yeah, I’m talking too much.

Pete 
I wanted to interrupt you like five times in that spiel, but I didn’t. 🙂

So let me throw in one thing I saw yesterday, and totally relevant to what you just said, I watched a little four part series of is a free workshop from Stu McLaren. From Tribes, he, I think, has like full membership platforms like open this week. And so I’m seeing a lot of the marketing like floating around, there’s no way I’m buying because it’s way too expensive. In my opinion, I’m sorry folks out there. I’m sure it’s valuable.

But I got some good stuff out of his free modules, one of which was entirely devoted to what you just said about overwhelming people with too much content.

Literally, he only had four modules, it was like setting up this entire cell of his and module three, or something was entirely about that subject, I was actually a little bit surprised, like a full 25 minute video, which is a lot of space when you’re trying to sell people on your thing, talking about overwhelm.

And what happens when people sign up for an online course, or a membership platform in his case, or whatever. And they jump in and they’re like, boom, here’s a bunch of content, ready, set, go. Or here’s like, one module, that’s like 45 minutes, and it covers all these different topics. And like stuff that’s like hard to parse through, like you said, like breaking up into actionable chunks, the opposite of that, as well as not having a defined path of learning. You didn’t say that a second ago. But I also got that out of not overwhelming people with the sheer volume of content.

So that’s something I just learned yesterday, I thought you might enjoy that from Stu, he was like, you need a defined path of learning.

Like you need a direction for new students or anybody who comes into your learning thing. You need a defined path of success for them to like, walk on. I thought that was like really helpful.

Melody
Yeah, totally. extremely helpful. Okay.

Pete 
So play my little game. Melody. I didn’t actually think of these questions till just now. But I thought, oh, maybe this will be interesting.

So you said you’ve taken a lot of online courses, specifically, who, I want to ask you two questions. One, you don’t have to name names, but I want to hear like some downfalls that you’ve seen some like really bad things, as well as some really good things. So please don’t mention me or blogger you. But out of all the other online courses you’ve taken?

Is there anybody out there who’s done something really well?

It could be like a little small detail. It could be just somebody with a great ability to teach it. You don’t actually have to name their name, but I want to hear what they did. Right? If you could think of anything, anything come to mind?

Melody
Yeah, I think I’ve taken a couple of online courses I’ve been. To be honest, I probably purchased three or four courses on you to me. And they all have been a variety of different levels. So the thing, I can’t remember the name of the blogger, but she’s a pretty well-known blogger. And for some reason, it’s just passing my mind, I can’t remember.

But I took one of her courses. And what I liked about it was, like you said it was easy. And it wasn’t too overwhelming. I think it honestly it took me about two days just to get through it. And it was just honestly about, you know, maybe two hours here, two hours there.

But what the great thing it was it was kind of paste where you were going into it and everyone else who joined there was an action that was that had to take place every day. So think it was like over five days, but you could kind of move ahead if you want.

Pete 
What do you mean, action? Oh, hang on, I’m a little confused.

Melody
Yeah, so the action based it so like for.

So for example, the action would be the first day is to set up your website.

Now that’s kind of overwhelming for some people. But you know, I had done some research, I had already a blog flow set up, I knew what my domain wanted, I wanted it to be. So I kind of was able to accomplish that first. So that wasn’t too hard.

But and then like some of the other things like day two was set up your social media. And so creating his goals for yourself on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, all of the other platforms. So and then you kind of had a way to post in a Facebook group saying and sharing your handle or sharing your website URL. And that way, people who are taking the challenge with you were able to see other people’s work.

And also if you wanted to, you could connect with them, you know, virtually through the Facebook group, or if you wanted to follow their social media handles, you’re able to follow them and actually still friends with two of the people who I started that class with, and they’re really great. So

Pete 
Ok, hang on. I actually really like this. So everybody kind of went through the different steps together. Is that correct?

Melody
Yeah, yeah.

Pete 
Okay. I have no data to support this. Maybe you do, Melody? No idea. I feel like that is an incredible way to foster community right there.

And also support people like it have any questions, everybody else in their cohort, and their group in their community, whatever, would also be extremely relevant and timely to provide support and answers, right. I never really thought about this a whole lot.

But now that you mentioned this, I feel like some of the better courses I’ve been through have been that it’s like we’re doing step one together. And we do it and we’re done. And we move on to step two, and we do it together, and then we’re done. And then we move on to Step three, etc. Yeah, actually, no question. I just wanted to point that out 🙂

Melody
No, you’re right. Well, those are great.

Pete 
Okay. And these were on Udemy, you said? that’s kind of weird.

Melody
I know, that particular one wasn’t on you to me.

Yeah, so.

So that was one class that I took outside of you to me. And it was just, I kind of fell into this Facebook group, I saw it and I took the opportunity to take the course. And I really loved it kind of got me fired up about blogging. And, you know, about what could I do with this. And like I said, you know, just being able to see the immediate feedback, which I again, just want to point out is so important, you get that positive sense, like, wow, like, I’m in this great community, I see other people doing their work, I’m kind of on this track with other people.

I feel like I have, you know, to a sense, some accountability, where, you know, if you meet somebody, people will be like, Oh, did you do day four? Or did you do day five homework and you get that kind of collaborative nature? Do you want to do a guest blog post, or, Hey, can you fall for Instagram.

Pete 
So here, here’s where we go from here. I want to add, actually, I want to double back to the completion rate in just a second.

But you mentioned the word excited, I believe, like in the middle of a sentence back there. And I’ve seen this time and time again, and some of the courses that I bought into, and I’ve actually seen my own stuff as well, I’m ashamed to say, but everybody starts off really gung ho and excited, and they paid a bunch of money or a little money to be a part of this platform, this online course, or whatever it is, and they’re all excited.

And then it dies off.

We two is a little bit less than week one, week three’s a little bit less than a week two, right? And two or three months later, like nobody’s really engaging anymore in the private Facebook group of the slack community, and it’s kind of died off even though the work isn’t done, so to speak.

Right? I was wondering, A: if you’ve seen that, and B: you have any ideas on how we might combat that as platform creators? Right?

Melody
Yeah, yeah, good point. Yeah. And, and that’s, that’s pretty fairly common across the board, not just in the digital space. But also, if you’re looking at online learning, in general, even from a corporate learning standpoint, people generally you will get really enthusiastic about learning and then kind of that motivation, or you know, you lose sight.

So what I think is really important to think about is understanding the motivation of the learner. Now, there’s actually, like a whole learning theory behind this.

So please stop me if you’re, you have questions because I’m going to go off on the motivation learning. But essentially, one of the great things about adult learning is everyone chooses to learn for different reasons.

And so you know, when I first started taking your course, I really was interested in understanding how to apply these, what I deemed as complex principles of blogging in a way that I could actually apply the next day because I wanted to get ahead in my business.

So I think what sometimes people lose sight of is identifying the real reason why people are invested in your course. And so again, the like, there are so many stories of why people learn. So for me, the reason why I’m doing grad school is that, you know, eventually, I hope to continue in my line of work, but I also really fascinated by it, and I want to teach others in my business, how to maintain and reach their financial goals.

And I love the fact that I can learn about how I can better help other people. And so define what those goals are in the beginning, I think is really important.

And so it’s hard if you’re in a self-paced course, where do you put that information?

You know, I think, you know, if you had some sort of way to do it in a Facebook group or a slack group or Hey, you know, I saw you I noticed you purchase this course, let’s all comment of what’s what’s the, you know, what’s your business? What do you want to do with this?

Why are you trying to do this now identifying that, and then again, when that motivation dies back down, and maybe you started making those connections, say like, “hey, Sally, I remember you talked to me about how you really wanted to start this blog, and you started taking this course so that you can work from home and you didn’t have to go back to your nine to five, do you remember that you remember that feeling?”

So I talk a lot about that with my clients when I’m coaching them. And I asked them, remember how we were talking about your goal, how you wanted to save money, and how you wanted to be able to move into a new house, and you wanted to stay for that down payment?

And so talking to them, and really re identifying that feeling of, you know, that happy feeling or that excited feeling? And again, just kind of reiterating that goal. I think that’s so and then look your stories. Yeah.

Pete 
I will say the only way that I had kind of wrapped my head around doing that, by the way, I implemented this last Blogger U launched the day back in November, was like really quick onboarding calls.

That gave me just a very nonchalant way of not only helping people out and introducing people to the platform, which is a whole nother thing, but also asking that exact question like, what do you want out of this out of my instructional material out of the course of the community, out of a blog?

For me personally, that’s what I was asking. But anybody can ask that to their own students, clients, etc. What do you want? Like straight up? You know, we have to phrase it in a fancy way, what are your six year goals? That might be a little bit off putting, but you could just ask people and get to that happy, excited thing that motivates them, like, whatever that is.

That’s good. Melody. I like that.

Okay, let’s, let’s go back. I do want to come back to the completion thing in a minute. But by the way, if you can’t, you can’t see me right now, I usually do digital notes on my note taking app, which makes it a little bit easier to like, clue in, but my computer is literally like, out of reach for me. Like I’m not buried, buried in a couch, it’s like, and I grabbed my my paper notebook, and had been like writing things. And so that’s why I’m like jumping all over the place to make excuses for myself.

Examples of online learning done poorly:

So going back just a little bit, I asked about some positive experiences you’ve had with course creators and online courses or whatnot.

What about the negative ones?

What about stuff that people have done wrong, or not as effective as they could be? That sort of stuff? I get no names, don’t name names. But have you been through any courses where something stood out at you as Oh, well, they should have done this differently?

Melody
Yeah, yes. Um, so I’m thinking of two. So I actually kind of work say that one of the things that I’ve noticed about what, of course, I took on was like how to set up a business. And I was really excited about it, because I wanted to understand the basics.

And so when I started the class, it was a lot of animation, and video and have that personal touch to it that I’m accustomed to, or I was accustomed to having gone through other maybe YouTube personality courses or other types of blogger courses, it really lacks that personal touch, the personalization factor is really important, especially when you’re learning to kind of give that, hey, you know, this is approachable content. It’s not too academic or high up there, people really like to learn, but they don’t want to feel like they’re forced back into a classroom and a seat with a pencil, you know, and they don’t like feeling stupid, either.

So you know, you don’t want to create content and you do a good job of this to like you, you, you do a great job in your courses where you’re saying, you know, I’m going to talk to you about this in a really approachable manner. And, you know, your humor and you know, your positivity and the way you’re communicating and your speech, it really makes the learner feel at ease and comfortable with the content.

So I started watching the video for this other course that I was in, and I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t approachable. It was a lot of animation. I didn’t get a sense of the personality who created it. And yeah, I really just didn’t like that.

So I didn’t finish it. I really didn’t like it at all.

And I think I got through maybe the first video and I was like, oh, kind of having buyer’s remorse right now. Not that it was that expensive, but I just was not happy with my purchase.

Pete 
Okay, so what was it that made it so unapproachable?

You mentioned animations, I’m assuming this is like, animated graphics, like moving around the screen and like, like those little like, promo videos that we’ve seen for like SAS products, you know, the animations?

Do you think that was just like, too, overproduced? That kind of turned you off?

Melody
Yeah, you know, I really, I wanted somebody to kind of, in a way, kind of reach through the screen and talk with me, that’s what I wanted.

I wanted somebody who I felt I could trust to, to walk me through. And instead when I got this, like you said, overproduced animated content that didn’t have any personal touch to it, and I felt really forced into kind of an overly academic information that wasn’t relevant.

That’s the thing. I don’t mind academic information, I don’t mind information that is very specific. But what you don’t want to do is make it overly academic where like, in this module, you’ll learn how to to identify the objectives of the course.

And, you know, it’s like, really to mechanical, you know, you want something where like, Hey, I’m, you know, so and so and I’m going to help walk you through the five things that I didn’t have when I first started my business. Let me walk you through point a, you know, point of view. That’s what I wanted. And I didn’t.

Does production quality matter?

Pete 
Interesting. Okay. This is only somewhat related. Apologies, Melody.

What say you on production quality in general?

And let me give you a little bit of context before I release that. So a lot of people are totally comfy recording complete online courses, where they’re, like built-in webcam without proper like, lighting? or what have you.

Some people feel called to have a certain production quality, before they can start. Obviously, that’s bad as well, like, I want it to be perfect. So I can’t start yet. Or I’m procrastinating or it’s taking me longer, but because I can’t get my, you know, lighting situation setup for my online course.

How much does it matter?

That’s my question to you, in terms of you just mentioned, like a little bit of, I’m going to say production quality, but what I really mean is like kind of going over the top, like with the animations and stuff like that, probably not necessary. That could be a little bit bad. Because it’s, it’s not as human, not as personal like you said, but in production quality in general, like how much does it really matter? Do you think?

Melody
I think it matters, but maybe not to the extent that people feel like it matters.

You know, and it also depends on the way that you approach the course because, you know, I’ve been in a course online where the instructor had utilized both like a talking head where they’re speaking directly to the person viewing the instruction, and then kind of flip over to like PowerPoint presentation recording like yours, you’re seeing the screen, and that kinda thing.

So I felt like it was a good mixture, because I felt like I identified with number one, who is this person to? Like, should I trust them? Three, what is the content, so I was able to kind of accomplish all those between, you know, the first 30 seconds. I mean, you know, it goes more into detail as you would get further in the course.

But I have, on the flip side, actually it was on a LinkedIn learning video module, and I was watching a video. And normally those are really highly produced videos. And so when I was watching a video about instructional design with which is what I’m learning right now, it was really not the quality of standard that I was accustomed to for LinkedIn learning and this instructor was you could hear him like clearing his throat and set you know, using filler words like “um” and “uh” you could tell you know, you try and it was it was difficult to listen to because I was thinking to myself, Okay, number one, the context of this content is very professional and polished.

But if it was, you know, like a YouTube personality or you know, blogger or something, they could probably get away with doing more approachable, conversational kind of instruction.

So it really depends on the perspective and the way in which you teach, do you want to be more formal? If so then you really need a higher production quality.

If you want to be more approachable and conversational, which I think you and a couple of other instructors do very well.

It’s okay, if maybe your production quality is a little bit lower. As long as number one, it’s clear, you can hear what people are saying. So you’re not mumbling? Ding, ding. Right?

Pete 
Well, hang on, let me stop that because that’s a huge, huge, huge tip.

So when I started off in podcasting, this didn’t really click in my head, because I was concerned with, okay, this is gonna sound really hypocritical, as I’m sitting in a loud coffee shop.

I have, I’m mostly concerned with how good my audio is, regardless of where I am right now. But alas, I was always thinking about audio quality.

So when I started dabbling in video, I didn’t really have to think about it that much. I was I was kind of thinking about audio, but a lot of people don’t. And so this is going back to your tip. I just heard my good buddy, Nick True give a presentation on YouTube and video last past week at a little mini-conference that we’re about that.

And this was his number one tip.

He’s like, if you creators out there, and I think this applies to online courses, or any sort of video youtube alike. Worry about the audio first and foremost, like forget the lighting, if need be, you can use your phone, it’s fine. But the audio actually makes a way bigger difference in a video format that we all like to think, which is interesting to me, I did that never would have clicked for me being a podcaster.

But I think he’s right.

For example, something I do in post production when I’m recording my, like online course videos, I do audio first because I want that to be done. It matters over talking head. It matters over PowerPoint slides or screen share videos or whatever.

The audio is always there.

And I think that if that piece is at least taken care of didn’t have to be perfect. But as long as it’s like a minimum quality audio, I feel like that adds 10,000% to the actual production value. And that’s super easy.

It’s not like having a big studio setup. All you need is like a halfway decent $20 headset mic is better than nothing. Right? I that’s my one pro tip from Nick. True for everybody listening.

Melody
Yeah, no, I think I’ll honestly when I actually I so in my line of work, I do voiceovers for videos, and I also do kind of some audio editing for video production.

So with that being said, You’re totally right. That’s the first thing that people don’t think about. They think, okay, I’ve got this great content, I want to share it with the world. And then all of a sudden you listen to it, you go, Well, that sounds terrible.

And you go, Well, how do I fix this? And so I learned quickly. Yes, find a very quiet spot where you will be uninterrupted. Go you know, pull yourself up in, you know, your mom’s basement or something that’s not going to be interrupted by your dog.

But because honestly, I recorded videos in very loud places. And later on was listening to it and thought this was terrible, I need to do it again. And so it’s not it’s a totally a waste of time, resource and energy, if you don’t find a quiet spot, and then to investing in products to be able to find, you know, that will capture your your audio input clearly.

And then three, trying to make sure, like Audacity is really great for for content creators, it’s you know, completely free, if you want to get really fancy.

There’s also of course, in the Creative Cloud, you can use Adobe Audition, which I use as well in my line of work, but audacity also really great.

Pete 
Totally. Yep. And I’m really sorry, podcasters total hypocrite today.

But you know what, actually, to be fair, I give myself some credit. If I didn’t you right now I’m using my ATR 2100 USB dynamic microphone, which is the highest ROI microphone in the entire world. It’s so awesome. Like 60-70 bucks.

If I was not using this mic, this would be unrecoverable, like what we’re doing right now. Because I am in a coffee shop. Yes. I’m sorry, podcast listeners.

But I at least picked a little corner that I thought would be the quietest in the room. And this dynamic mic makes it possible. If I didn’t have this, I was using the built in mic, it would just would not work at all, which Sorry, I was trying to like defend myself there, Melody.

Okay. So I really only have two more things that can only get through what? Which one do I want to first? Okay, I want to talk about the future.

The problem with online course completion rates:

So I want to tell you my little three minute rant melody, and you can either agree or disagree, that’s fine. But I want to get your thoughts on how we as creators can improve or, more specifically, launch different formats of educational material on the internet going forward.

Here’s my three-minute rant for context.

I am slightly ashamed, of course, completion rates. I’m not even completion rates, but also success rates, right? Like, it’s not just whether you watch all my videos, whether you watch all my videos, and actually, implement stuff that you have learned and take action.

And in my case, grow your blog and make money on the internet. Like that’s kind of what I teach. That’s what I try and walk people through.

I’m ashamed of the course completion rates and the success rates, specifically for online courses. I think it’s a fantastic learning format, like there’s nothing better than for free or spending a little bit of money for an online course and then just learning something as phenomenal. That’s why YouTube is so big for learning as well. It’s because the format lends itself well to that videos playlist, right?

There’s one guy who teaches how to use Logic Pro, which is what I use for my audio editing. And the playlist is like 75 videos on YouTube.

They’re all free.

This has to be like 30-40 hours, I have no idea. It’s phenomenal. It’s so good. It’s by far the highest rated and the most easily found Logic Pro tutorial series. That’s amazing. The format works for learning.

However, my rant comes with the fact that online courses specifically, especially those with very little community involvement, very little one on one creator to student interaction, I guess you could say, courses without that, in my opinion, do not lead to the success that I want them to, that I want them to and a bunch of other course creators feel the same way.

Kate Ahl at Simple Pin Media is shutting down all of her courses in favor of a membership community that will help people take action more, Bryan Harris is running his partnership accelerator after shutting down a multi-million dollar course, 10 k subs, because his success rate was less than 1%.

And 1000, 1500 2000 people have taken that, over the past five years, less than 1% have actually got 10,000 subscribers and huge props to Bryan for not only admitting that, but literally shutting down the course and doing something else that works better.

Huge kudos to him. I respect that.

And there’s like four or five other creators that are doing this to Seth Godin. Right. He taught courses on me, even his completion rates were like, way above average. And it was still like 20 30%, like way above average, but still 20 30%. So that’s why Seth launched like the MBA, which is a highly interactive, non-online course sort of format. That’s why all of his his boots, trappers thing, and his freelancers thing, and his he has a podcasting seminar now getting her what these are called, sorry, stuff, bad marketing stuff. I don’t remember they’re called. No, but they’re a much different format. Their live trainings are live learnings, their workshops that keep people engaged for a set duration of time, like it’s all different.

It’s not an online course.

That’s my rant. my rant is over. Thank you for hearing me out. Melody.

How can we increase course completion rates?

I want to hear your thoughts on how individual creators specifically folks like me, folks, like you, whenever you create something for her design life, what can we do different?

And what can we do better, to both better serve our students, and then I’ll just say this, too, which will make us more money. In the long run, us producing better products will make us more money and the long run. I know people out there like, okay, I want like my multimillion dollar course launch or whatever, that’s great. You can get that better by doing this over the long run, in my opinion.

Wow, that was like a whole other rant. Sorry Melody. So what are your thoughts on that? Let me ask you that.

Melody
And you know what, I think you’re you’re absolutely right, there are so many courses out there, you could buy a whole bunch of courses. But if you do nothing, it’s really not benefiting anyone.

You know, I mean, obviously, you know, from a financial standpoint, if you receiving some income, sure, but you want the feeling that you’re helping somebody to get ahead. And their goal is that’s why you’re building something. So what I believe to be true is that, how do people really learn, they learn from experience, they learn from real life experience.

And so that is so difficult when you’re trying to capture it in an online course. So we have seen in the past that has actually helped me tremendously. So I actually specialize in kind of software training. And so for example, I took a course and it was an online boot camp. And it was for a program called Adobe Captivate. And so this program is basically an authoring tool for creating learning courses, but more for corporate.

And so when I did this course, it was really expensive. First of all, thankfully, my company had paid for it, but it was over $2,000.

But what that included, was, it was a 3d day, you know, eight hour intensive online course. And so what involved was a live screen share of step by step instructions with a workflow, and also included chat functionality for the students, there was probably only about 10 people there on the line that I was able to chat with, and the instructor would be very engaging, he would tell us, you know, introduce yourself, why are you here?

You know, what, what kinds of things would you like to learn, and then he would take us through the process of actually walking through the steps of applying what he visually showed us.

So for example, he downloaded all of this templates, and then provided those templates to us beforehand, so that when we’re in class, we’re actually practicing immediately after he’s demonstrating what he has taught us.

So it’s hands on. Yeah, so big, right?

Because, you know, for example, for you Pete and you know, you could take this however you want, but I think what Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to engage with people online, to have feedback, maybe like auditing somebody’s website, or maybe doing something where people are creating a blog post, after you showed them how to create a blog post using WordPress, wouldn’t be great if somebody could ask questions immediately.

Right when they’re in the middle of doing it, they’re pulling up their laptop, and what did that person wants to spend more on getting that live instructed, instructed feedback?

Instead of going, “Oh, I’m going to do it eventually” or “I’m going to do it. But then I got stuck on this one part. And then you have to post on a Facebook group. And then you have to wait, you know, a couple of hours. And then “oh, no, I have to put my kid to bed” and “Oh, now I gotta work.”

Right?

Pete 
You nailed it. Yeah. Totally cool.

So I am like, you can’t see me again, melody, but I’m like over here like shaking my head. Yes. Like nodding, like preach, like, yes, this was after this is what I was after. Okay?

How can we boil that down to a word? I thought of the word interactive.

That’s not quite right… But it sounds like that’s kind of what you were pointing at this ability to teach. We all sign up for learning stuff to learn something new, whether that’s a new strategy, or a new concept, or learn a language or whatever it may be, there has to be learning involved.

And in my opinion, by the way, this is just totally my opinion, I’m still going to throw my hat with the online course format, specifically, like video course, or text, really, I still think that’s the best and fastest way to learn.

But what you just said, let me I’m just gonna, I’m just brainstorming for myself, and maybe other people in podcast land will appreciate this Melody, it sounds like what you were saying is to have a little learning. Coupled with a tighter, I’m going to call it a feedback loop. Maybe where somebody learned something, a small chunk, and they take action on that small chunk. And then they have the opportunity to ask questions or get support, or get a peer review, maybe or something that kind of gives very, very quick feedback. And then it’s on to the next feedback loop. Step number two, or the next thing, the next module, the next strategy, whatever it is, and then the same thing like small action, opportunity for feedback or something like that.

Is that sort of what you were you were summing up to say?

Melody
Yeah, no, I think that that’s you nailed it on the head. That’s exactly what I was going for just exactly what you said.

Pete 
Okay, sorry, I’m just reiterating it for my own purpose. I’m like taking notes over here. Do this Pete do this? I think that’s fantastic. I think it’s a great idea. And thank you also, like, I’ve kind of had that a in my head for a couple of months now.

But the way you laid it out right there, I thought was very clarifying for me. So kudos to you, Melody.

Anything else on that front? Before I ask you like my last one or two questions, the front being? Is there anything else that we as creators can do to shape our learning experiences to help people more and make more money?

Does anything else come to mind, if not totally can move on.

Melody
I do have just a few more thing. So on the line of kind of providing that feedback loop, just thinking about the places where you can do it. So, you know, can there be group conference calls where you kind of talk about a specific topic, and then ask people questions surrounding that topic? And you know, maybe the comments, you can kind of review what people are saying and learn from other people’s experience?

Can there be some role-playing activity?

So you know, I just joined Jillian’s mastermind group, Wi Fi & Tea, and it’s really, you know, interesting, they’re talking about, you know, having hot seats, you know, role-playing situations are, you know, you need a smaller group to be able to do that, but it is possible in certain contexts. And then, you know, is there a way that you can create maybe paid challenges, so I’m on, I’m in this Facebook group, where I’m surrounded by other online financial coaches, and the creator of that group actually made like a small challenge, and people just put it in some small amount of money.

And then, you know, for 10 days, or I can’t remember how long it was, people would have these, you know, daily challenges. And so people would get ahead with their goals, by having this set instruction and set specific tasks to accomplish. And they felt like, Oh, I should do this, because I paid some money to do it.

So that was kind of an interesting way. And it wasn’t, you know, really exspensive, it was, it was fairly cheap, I think it was like 15 to 20 bucks or something like that, I can’t remember the exact amount.

So, um, you know, Facebook Live, having you know, that feedback, or doing IG live or getting zoom conferences, or even live events are great ways to interact with the audience. And also, not only just speak in front of an audience, but also leverage the learning the resources and the experiences of the group in general.

Pete 
It’s a shame you didn’t join Wi Fi & Tea earlier because you would have got to hang out with us in Montana. and prove your last point, which is specifically in person events, live events. In my opinion, again, this is just my opinion, you cannot put a price tag on that it’s so silly, the value that those interactions can have, I’m not saying everybody should absolutely come to Social Media Marketing World open con, or podcast movement, or the huge advance or a small retreat like the one Jillian did, or other stuff like that.

It may not be for everybody.

But there is a very certain experience and value that you get from those that you cannot get anywhere else. Online.

You just can’t I’m really sorry. I’m a digital dude, myself. But there is something that only happens in live events.

So I love, for example, I’ll throw Ruth Soukup out there and elite blog Academy. I actually don’t think she’s doing it this year. But I actually really liked the idea that she started a live event. I think it may have been open to the public eventually. I’m actually not sure about that. But I think it was primarily geared towards members of her community, the people in EBA elite blog Academy, that’s what I was for, it was a chance for those students that community, specifically and WiFi, it is the same way, by the way, for them to get together in a live environment.

I think that’s like, really, really smart. Just want throw that out there.

Melody
Yes, I agree. 100%.

Pete 
So I think we’ve answered all my questions, including the one that I wrote down on my notes here. And we talked a little bit about at the very beginning, increasing completion rates and success rates. But I had a feeling we’re going to kind of answer that by default, I feel like we kind of have, I feel like you’ve given us a lot of thought on how do we can keep people engaged in our content and actually taking action on what they’ve learned and that sort of good stuff.

So I think that’s all I got it.

Melody
Well, thank you. This was exciting. Thanks for so much for having me.

Pete 
I am more than thrilled to have you. So two more things. Where would you point people to either learn more about what you do or connect with your personal finance blog? Where would you point people?

Melody
Yeah, so, people can follow me on Instagram. My handle is @herdesignedlifecoach, I’m not a life coach, but it was available. I know.

So yeah, for @herdesignedlifecoach on Instagram, I also have a free money masters challenge. It’s a five-day video and worksheet challenge, where people can go to my website at her designs, like calm and grab a whole bunch of free principles.

Pete 
Have you implemented any of the strategies we’ve talked about for your own challenge?

Melody
I have, yeah, clear, actionable goals, chunks lessons, like the first videos, like three minutes or something. And then yeah, every day is a new worksheet. It’s super awesome.

And also they’re pink. So for people who are really girly and love, you know, to help with their some help with their finances is a really great way to identify some of the goals and also kind of live intentionally so I really loved it, making it and I’m hoping to improve it soon. based off what we’re talking about.

Pete 
That sounds awesome. That really does. And good marketing for you, by the way, good branding, having pink, there’s actually pink in your, I’m looking at your Skype, like profile image, and there’s pink in the background. So it does. Well, Melody. Thank you so much. Your website is her designed life.com Is that right?

Melody
Yeah, that’s it. You got it.

Pete 
Nailed it. Her designed life coach on Instagram. think we got it. Melody, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate you taking the time this morning. And I feel like there were some juicy nuggets in there. So I appreciate your time.

Melody
Yeah, thanks. I appreciate it. And I hope you have a good rest of your day.

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6 Responses

  1. Ah man I love this whole concept you have going Pete. It’s almost like you can see he future, you can so tell you’re gonna be smashing it very soon!!

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with to replace these online courses! Got my brain working on overdrive now…

    P.s. how do you get the transcript?

  2. Hi Pete, Thanks so much for sharing this podcast. Melody is a student in the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology at Cal State Fullerton. I am so impressed with her ability to share her knowledge about online education training during the podcast. Thanks for providing her with this opportunity.
    Cynthia Gautreau

    1. You’re welcome Cynthia! Is it safe to say that you’re involved with that program as well?

      This is a topic I’m extremely interested in right now 😃

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