A good web designer creates a website that speaks to it's viewers.
Great writers write content that speaks to their audience.
Successful businesses create products that meet the needs of their customers.
See a trend here? No matter what you create, it should meet the needs of your audience. (Unless you're an artist. Artists get creative license to do whatever the heck they want. Must be nice!)
Online courses are no different. In order to meet your learner's needs you've got to get to know them. Most entrepreneurs ask "How?" It all comes down to research and question asking.
How to Research Your Online Learners
If you own a big business, you probably have tons of money to throw to Research and Development. But if you're an entrepreneur, not so much. So what do entrepreneurs do to find out more about their existing or potential learners for their online course?
What's worked for me in the past has been to email people who've shown interest in what I have to offer and ask them two questions:
What are you working on?
What's your biggest challenge?
From there, you can setup a chat with those who respond and, through socratic questioning, discover other challenges and constraints. This information is invaluable for your online course.
Another successful tactic is to find out where your target learners hang out online, then go there and listen. Forums, comment sections on industry blogs, Facebook pages--all of these are golden opportunities for research. Is there an online resource or community that your target learners love? Stop reading this article and go there to see what you can learn from them.
If you're afraid to contact your learners to know what they want, don't be. They're engaging with you for a reason. Chances are they want to hear from you. Chances are even greater that no one else has bothered to ask about their needs.
How Will Learning About Your Learner Help Your Online Course?
Simply put: your learner's needs will define your course content, delivery and marketing. If you know which areas your learners struggle with, you can design a course that focuses on those topics.
For example, let's say you know your learners work long hours and have family commitments, you might consider creating audio content that they can download and listen to during their daily commute.
Maybe you discover that most of your learners are, let's say, divorced moms who are trying to start a second stream of income, well now you can tailor your marketing efforts to use words and imagery that will speak to them.
Know that your learners want the opportunity to ask you questions? Maybe you design office hours as part of your next course.
Back to You
What do you do to make sure your content is laser focused on your learners?