Your Online Course: 5 Mistakes To Avoid

by Dr. Jeanette Cates

Now that you”ve decided to create an online course, naturally you want to do the best job possible. So here are some things to avoid as you create and deliver your course.

Mistake #1: Failure To Plan

We all understand the value of planning, but sometimes there is the temptation to skip it, particularly when you are in a hurry. If you fall into that trap with an online course, you are almost certainly headed for disappointment.

There are a lot of moving pieces to an online course. You need to understand your target market and what they both need to learn and want to buy. You need to understand the nuances of the delivery system you will be using. And you need to be very clear in the outcomes you will ensure upon course completion.

If you skip any of these steps in the planning process, you may not be able to recover from this mistake.

Mistake #2: No Feedback From Students

It”s difficult to teach effectively in a vacuum. Yes, you can present the information. But unless you are getting feedback from your students, you don”t know whether or not they understand or even if the course is meeting their expectations.

There are multiple ways to get feedback. For example:

  • Ask for questions during live presentations.
  • Provide a question form on the course site.
  • Offer live “office hours” in which students can call and talk to you, either on the phone or via skype.
  • Provide a discussion forum, either as part of your site or a private group on Facebook or Google.
  • Ask questions on surveys and reward them for responding.
  • Call or email some of your students and ask questions.
  • Provide a scorecard so that you can track their progress.

Each of these methods can be used independently or in conjunctions with one another. But the important thing is to make it known that you are open to feedback from your students and encourage them to provide it.

Mistake #3: No Updates Or Enhancements

Nothing is more disappointing than signing up for a course, getting the materials and realizing they are totally outdated! In fact, most people ask for a refund.

To avoid this you want to have a plan to both respond to student feedback and to provide ongoing updates to the course content. This may be in the form of

  • Short video or audio updates
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Industry updates
  • A regularly scheduled Q&A
  • Ongoing content casino online dripped out over time
  • Email guidance through the course materials
  • Re-recording of outdated material

The list is endless! But you can control it easily by planning to update your course, adding value and relevance as it grows.

Mistake #4: Difficult To Use Delivery System

When choosing how to deliver your online course it”s important to balance your needs as the instructor with the needs of your students. Nothing will be a course unusable faster than not having an easy-to-use delivery system.

So when deciding what to deliver, how to deliver it, and how often to deliver content, look for a system that is easy to get to, easy to update, and easy for you to use. After all, if you dread setting up delivery of new content, you are more likely to avoid doing it. So you want something that is easy for you to update.

Likewise, if your students find it tedious or awkward to use a delivery system, they won”t. They may not even recognize that that”s the reason they are avoiding the course.

Under ideal circumstances you would like to watch as someone who is not familiar with your delivery system goes through the typical process: sign up, log in, use materials, provide feedback, get updates. But barring that ability to look over their shoulder, choose an established, recognized system used by your peers. That way you”ll be able to get support from others doing the same thing you are!

Mistake #5: No Follow Up

When you teaching an online course the assumption is there is a beginning and an end to the course. Even with a membership site that provides ongoing content, there should be points where it makes sense to recommend the “next step.”

That”s where having a well thought-out follow-up system is important. Generally you”ll use an autoresponder sequence to follow up with students who have completed the course or who are most likely to be ready for the next step.

In this follow-up you want to praise them for their achievements and lay the groundwork for the next step in the process. Remind them of their goal when they started the current course and show them how the next step helps bring them closer to that goal.

Without follow-up, you just have a one-time sale. And those are the most expensive for you as the course provider because acquiring a customer is where the cost lies. But once you have a student, you can average those costs over multiple courses – often by just suggesting them.

While there may be other mistakes you could make in offering your online course, these five are the top offenders. When you”re confident you are avoiding these, then you are getting closer to your profit and learning goals.


Dr. Jeanette Cates is an Internet Strategist who works with experts and small business owners who are ready to leverage their expertise into Online Success. As an Instructional Designer, Jeanette was a pioneer in the Online Learning field. Her ability to apply her experience and education to individual situations shows in the variety of case studies included in her premiere course on Online Course Design.

Let Jeanette help you Design Your Online Course!

6 thoughts on “Your Online Course: 5 Mistakes To Avoid

  1. I think the biggest challenge for me has been the updates. Because I teach the techie side of things, it seems there is always an update or change that puts my product out of date quickly. The flip side is I have regular opportunities to offer a new and improved version of my products to folks who didn’t buy the first time or may have missed the live presentation.

    Thanks for the great info, Jeanette!!

    Theresa ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    • One thing I’ve found helps is if you divide up the training when you publish it so that you can replace individual parts (instead of having to redo the whole thing).


    • I teach technical skills as well, Theresa. So I’ve gone to publishing short tutorials (10-15 min) instead of the longer 60-90 videos. They’re easier to record and consume and it makes it easier to replace.

      As a stop-gap measure (if I’m not ready to re-record) I add an “update” message (written or video) as new content, then make a note under the original, telling them to check the update first.

      It’s an on-going challenge to keep technical information up-to-date!

      • Jeanette… great thoughts! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ˜€


  2. Loved your input, we are just beginning so every thought is a help to us. We thank you. Dr, Larry