There's an elephant in your course

Instructional Design is all you need.
— John Lennon

Okay, fine. Lennon didn’t actually say that. 

Which is a good thing because Instructional Design isn’t the magic pill to cure all course problems.

We've been talking about learning problems lately.

But sometimes the problem is that your audience doesn’t want what you’re selling.


This situation is what I call the elephant in your course.

For example, about six months ago my friend Dale reached out to catch up.  

I like Dale. He’s a tinkerer who loves learning new things. By day, he’s an SEO consultant. By night, he works on his side-hustle helping ESL tutors. 

(Plus, he’s British. So we can chuckle about things like “beans on toast.”)

Anyway, after catching up for a few minutes, we started chatting about his upcoming online course.

That’s when the conversation took a turn:

Dale: “Yeah, I have a massive amount of work to do to build this thing out.”

Me: “Why not pre-sell it to validate demand before you spend months building everything?” 

<long sigh>

Dale: “I know I should do that. All the advice I've read says the same thing. But then I convince myself that it doesn’t apply to me.”

<awkward silence>

I’d love to tell you that Dale finished his course and it sold out.

But the truth is he found out the hard way that his audience didn’t want to pony up money for his topic.

By not validating beforehand, he ignored the elephant in his course. 

Dale's not alone. Most new course creators skip the validation process for a few reasons:

  • They don’t think it applies to them
  • They're afraid of rejection from their audience
  • They don't know HOW to validate their course idea
  • Let's unpack each of those.

Why validating applies to you:

An online course can take an average of 3 - 6 months to create, sometimes longer. If you were about to spend half a year building something, working day and night, missing time with friends & family, etc, etc--wouldn't you jump at the idea of finding out if you're about to waste your time?

Yes, yes you would.

The first rule of online courses is to never build something that people don't want. Validation helps you avoid that.


I know what you're thinking: "Why the heck would I seek out rejection, Janelle? What are you, a sadist?"

First, that's none of your business. ;) Second, rejection is part of entrepreneurship (not to mention life).

It saves you from launching to crickets, spending money on ads, etc, etc.

Okay, so how do I validate, Janelle?

Great question.

There are three ways to get started with validation.

Click here to read about them.


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