7 Tips On How To Create A Great Online Course

5 mn read

By Mark Cheng

We’re currently working on the third iteration of ‘Financing Your Impact’, our flagship 6-week live online course for social venture founders. Over the space of six weeks, we equip them with the tools and strategies to help them fundraise for their venture.

Early versions of our course were delivered in-person. In 2019 alone, Pauline, Anshul and Mark delivered trainings in Brussels, Budapest, Bucharest, London, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Singapore, and Vienna. It was exhilarating but exhausting!

But ever since Covid broke out, we’ve shifted the course to a 100% online experience. It was the best decision we have ever made.

Moving our courses to fully online has taught us so much about how to create great learning experiences. It’s gifted us the opportunity to re-design our coaching from the ground up, to create a unique format that could only be done online.

Here are 7 tips on what we’ve learnt about teaching online:

1. Keep webinars short – the ideal length of time for a webinar is 90 minutes (2 hours at a maximum). Beyond this, energy begins to flag and learning dissipates. A 90 minute session means that we can run the workshop at the start of the day or during a lunch break. This makes it easier for our students who all have busy work days to manage.

2. Pace the webinars out – during our Live Course, we run 2 webinars per week, spaced out 2 days apart. This gives students proper time to absorb ideas, rather than cramming too much content into a single day. They can also reflect on what they’ve learnt, and come back to us in the next session with questions that we can talk through. Previously we would run live all-day workshops, but that’s too much information to absorb in one go. An online format, with shorter webinars spaced over several weeks, is much more conducive to deep learning.

3. Maximize interaction – during our webinars, we never run a theory session for longer than 20 minutes. We quickly move into breakout rooms to maximize reflection and discussion. The students learn best by sharing experiences with each other. Founders love the networking opportunities to meet other social innovators afforded by the breakout discussions, and we deliberately design the course to foster connections. ‘Come for the course, stay for the community’ is our mantra.

4. Webinars are for interacting with people. We supplement the live group training with lots of videos and extra reading which the students can review in their own time outside of the webinars. This enables us to make full use of webinar time for student interaction – Q&A, live demos, breakout discussions. Our belief is that anything that can be better watched or read in the student’s own time should be. Webinars are for content that can only be acquired in a group demonstration or from an experienced instructor.

5. Use the chat box – We ask students to make liberal use of the chat box, both to ask questions and make comments as we go. Our team of coaches respond to questions in the chat group in real time as the main instructor is speaking. The chat box is like a running commentary on the webinar in real time, giving the instructor invaluable live feedback and helping us adapt content on the spot based on the mood of the group. If a student doesn’t understand a point, we know it straightaway and a coach can respond or follow up offline.

We also produce short Q&A videos to address any pressing questions that come up during the webinars which we don’t have time to fully cover during the webinar itself. We record and circulate these to all students immediately after the webinar.

6. Teach through live demonstration – Our teaching model is more like a cooking school than a university lecture – we aim to show students directly practical ‘recipes’ that they can use for themselves, immediately. For example, we run as many ‘live demos’ as possible where we will demonstrate specific exercises – how to build a pitch deck, slide by slide, with examples of what works and what doesn’t. Or we’ll run a financial modelling session where we show the students step-by-step how to build a cashflow forecast and then work out what the valuation of their social business might be. Then we’ll show them how to put these numbers into a Term Sheet so that they can negotiate with investors. Each step is immensely practical and is best taught by example.

7. Mix group webinars with private coaching – at the end of every week, we host a small peer group session of 4-5 participants which is facilitated by one of our professional coaches. These sessions are to go over the material presented during the week and give the participants a space to discuss among themselves how they might apply those insights. The combination of info-based webinars with these smaller coaching sessions is key to helping each student get the best out of the course, and to come away with relevant insights that they can apply straightaway.

The results speak for themselves: our typical participant goes on to raise over $1M in impact funding. Following our most recent course, one team successfully raised $12m (a health venture based in East Africa).

We are constantly learning more about how to improve the experience, but we are convinced that it would not be possible to achieve this within six weeks without the tools that we’ve developed.

If you’d like to learn more about our courses, please see our website.  You can also find our free toolkit of resources here.

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