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How to make your first online course as a creator-educator

Are you an educator who has a depth of expertise in a specific area AND knows how to help your student get from point A to point B to experience a personal transformation?

Maybe you are a:

  • A math specialist who can help kids with dyscalculia learn how to pass their Geometry class?

  • An English teacher who can help a student write a knock-out admissions essay or convince a local company to hire them as a summer intern?

  • A PE teacher who knows how to help students set individualized fitness goals an prepare for the leap to college athletics?

Whatever your area of expertise, if you've been able to teach a class full of students how to do these things, then with a little effort and focus, creating your first online course will be a piece of cake. 🍰

Step 1: Identify your ideal student and how you will help them

The first step is to zone in on your ideal student and how you will help them.

Here are the preliminary questions you can ask yourself to start gaining clarity on your ideal student and what transformation you can offer them.

What is a broad topic I know extremely well?
What's a niche I know even better?
Who do you help in that sub-niche?

If you are struggling to answer these questions, check out mine as an example:

What is a broad topic I know extremely well?

Executive function skills

What's a niche I know even better?

Online executive function coaching

Who do you help in that sub-niche?

Parents who are tired of being their student's task manager

If you are not sure about what your area of expertise is, ask yourself:

Where do I have an unfair advantage over other people?

For example, because I have a Masters in Special Education and classroom experience as a public school teacher, I have an unfair advantage in creating a course to help students over someone who just wants to do it but doesn't have a background in education.

Does that make sense? And if so, where do you have an unfair advantage?

Step 2: Establish your expertise as a "guide" by creating your backstory

People will be more likely to commit to your course if you have an inspiring and engaging back story that resonates. There is an easy way to build your back story and it starts by answering the following questions:

What was your problem or challenge?
What were your internal struggles?
What were your external struggles?
What was your change event?
What was the spark?
Who was your guide?
What was the result?

My backstory

If you are not sure how to answer those questions, check out mine as an example.

What was your problem or challenge?

I found myself stuck in a school system that focused more on content than actual meaningful life skills that would be needed to achieve independence and success

What were your internal struggles?

I didn't know there was a whole community of parents and educators working to support kids to develop EF skills or even that there was language to describe these critical life skills

What were your external struggles?

I had a growing family and needed to make ends meet, so making the leap into EF coaching was scary and unsure

What was your change event?

I reached out to local educational psychologists and ADHD therapists to share my vision of helping kids with organizational skills

What was the spark?

Dylan and Silva connected me with clients who could use my energy, expertise, and enthusiam to teach EF skills

Who was your guide?

Dylan let me know that there were a lot of families who would need my help if I was willing to continue with this work.

What was the result?

I never looked back. Word spread like wildfire and I built EFS, EFCA, and UpSkill Specialists.

Once you establish your backstory, you can show you understand where your ideal student is starting and show them that you are prepared to guide them through the transformation process.

Step 3: Chart out the steps in the transformation journey

The next step is to chart out the steps in the transformation journey for your ideal student.

Ideally, you should have three to five steps your ideal student can take to make the transformation they desire.

For example, if they want to apply for a job they are dreaming about, maybe the steps are:

  1. Identify their ideal job

  2. Write a detailed cover letter explaining why they are a good fit

  3. Establish a connection with a member of the leadership

  4. Schedule an interview

  5. Follow up with a thank you note

Remember, your focus can be smaller than you think. Sometimes, less is more!

Step 4: Break each step into clear learning modules

In step four, you want to think about HOW you can help your student take each key step.

If we are using the example above, perhaps in module one they brainstorm a list of 5-10 ideal jobs, then choose their top three.

Once they have their top three, they do some research on the earning potential, lifestyle, and availability of that job in their area.

Does that make sense?

A few tips for creating clear learning modules:

  • Make the process you use in each module repeatable (Introduction, Mini-lesson, activity, Q and A time)

  • Share a survey at the end of each module called the bridge which includes their top takeaway, any questions they have, and what they would like to learn more about)

  • Keep it fun and engaging!

Step 5: Launch your course!

Once you have a clear outline for the transformation, it's time to launch your course.

This is where you test out your framework and see if it delivers the transformation your students were hoping for.

The worst case scenario is that you learn more about the best way to teach your students and you relaunch in the future with your new knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What platform should I use to create my course?

I use Thinkific for all my course creation needs. You can also explore using one of the following platforms:

  • Teachable

  • Udemy


Launching your first course can feel daunting, but by taking action around the concrete steps provided above, you can do it.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments below!

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online EF coaching business that guides students to overcome procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a coaching organization dedicated to supporting adults in enhancing their EF skills to create rewarding careers.

He founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.

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