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Asking the Right Question

Thoughts and options head with arrows

The entire planet is in the midst of one of the most globally destabilizing times in history, where the foundations of how we function and interact on every level of our lives have been shaken.

We've all been pushed out of our comfort zone. That’s a situation that serves as the impetus for tremendous learning and growth.

As systems grow and change, there is a push and pull between stability and growth. We need stability in order to function effectively, and we need growth in order to keep moving forward. 

New systems and structures are starting to emerge from the chaos wreaked by the pandemic… new ways of learning, connecting, and finding meaning in our lives. While many of us are still struggling to establish a stable foothold in this new reality, the ongoing human need for growth is present as well.

A  friend and fellow entrepreneur shared an interesting experience the other day. She mentioned that she had been feeling stuck about how to move forward in her business, until someone asked her the right question. 

Once the right question was asked, the answers to what she needed to do to grow her business, became clear.

Answers that had been eluding her suddenly came to her easily. Processes started unfolding organically and naturally. The barriers to growth in her online business had been removed.

What was this magical question that released such profound and positive change?

It was:

 “How are your customers feeling?

How can you reassure them that what they want to achieve is do-able?”

Which reminds me: how are YOU feeling?

How can I reassure you that what you want to achieve in building your online course, is do-able?

Book with heart love shape

I’ll share how that plays out for my business, and would love to hear how it works for yours.

My students, clients, colleagues, and customers are mission-driven innovators who are passionate about sharing their unique expertise online. 

They want to create an online course (or courses) as a way of reaching more people than they could in person.

They want to share the solutions they’ve created to important issues, in transformative ways and with a global audience.

Many experts who fit the above profile feel overwhelmed by their own expertise when it comes time to turn it into an effective and engaging online course. 

Having 360 degree vision on your topic is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because you have such profound awareness in your area of expertise, but that makes it challenging to figure out where to start and how to share what you know with learners who don’t share your level of expertise. 

 IF everything you know is connected to everything else you know, where do you start explaining it all to someone who does not yet know anything about the subject?

Digital Human Brain Covered with Networks
Don't serve a whole cow: learn how to divide up your expertise into digestible portions for online learning

Most people who are creating online courses start by trying to include everything they know, in one course.

That soon starts to feel overwhelming to themselves, and also to their future course participants.

Trying to TEACH ALL THE THINGS in one course is what I call “serving a whole cow” (when all people want and can digest is a single, well-seasoned and marinated steak). 

I’ve got a free course that helps you think about how to divide up your subject matter into smaller portions to make it easier to both teach and learn.

The next mistake people make is not having a clear target audience in mind for their course. 

We can’t teach all the things (in one course) and we also can’t reach ALL THE PEOPLE.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to structure your course, you first need to determine who the ideal learner that you’d love to have more of, in your class, would be.

Go out and talk to some real life examples of that ideal learner, to find out what they want and need to learn from you, and what their starting point is with respect to what you want to teach. (I’ve got a mini course that can help you do all that).

Course landing page screenshot from Action Plan A: Before You Begin

Make sure you have a clear starting point that resonates with the people you want to serve.

The next challenge is to figure out where those ideal learners of yours want to end up with respect to the subject you want to teach.

What’s the problem THEY (not you) are trying to solve?

You’ve already solved the problem... that’s what your expertise is about.

Now, how can you APPLY that solution in ways that make life better for others?

Point of view, looking up ladder sticking through hole in ceiling revealing blue sky

Our purpose in teaching online is not just to put everything we know  out there in digital form. 

That’s not teaching, it’s just exposing people to information.

In order to teach effectively we need to tune in to the challenges and pain points that others are facing,  

and provide actionable solutions that help them make those real life issues better.  

The Course Design Formula® Master Course is designed to take away the stress and overwhelm that experts feel when creating an online course. 

But it’s much more than that.

The Master Course is designed to turn the computer screen that stands between online teachers and their course participants, transparent... so that you are looking at your learners (and they are looking at you) as if the screen were not even there.

It’s designed to make you as comfortable teaching online as in  a physical classroom, so that you can be a powerfully transformational  teacher in any setting.

I’ve had my online students tell me that they learned things in my course that made their classroom and workshop based teaching better, too.

Join the January 2021 cohort

of the Course Design Formula® Master Course

Space is limited.

Enrollment is via private interview only.

I’m not here to tell you how to create a digital information product so you can make money. 

I’m here to help you discover how to recreate YOURSELF as a global education leader, so you can make a difference. 

Once you know how to do that, your own business will unfold organically as well.

Making money is something we all want and need to do.

 If a business is solving a real problem that people urgently need help with, they will be happy to pay for the solution you provide.

 But what they will really remember you for is that you made a profound and positive difference in their lives.

You are here to make a difference in the world, and  I am here to help you make that happen.

My students and clients are out there doing that every day, and I am so honored and thankful to be able to work with them.

Businessman looking at coiled and tangled rope

So...instead of focusing on our own challenges as online educators and entrepreneurs, if we turn our focus to the challenges faced by those we are here to serve, it becomes easier to see what next steps we need to take to achieve that.

Business is about building relationships that help us serve others by solving specific problems. 

What problems do your online course and online business solve for the people you are here to serve?

I’d love to hear about it… you are welcome to write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com, share in the Facebook group, or join us on Saturdays for the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting to discuss these critical ideas in person.

Meanwhile, how are  YOU feeling? 

Are you struggling to find an even footing in these challenging times, looking for ways to grow, or some combination of the two?

As my colleague so eloquently put it, each of us in our own sphere as online educators, is here to help others know that what they want to achieve is do-able.

How will you make that happen for your clients and customers?

Let's talk about it!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Overcoming barriers to online learning

cartoon showing people sitting at a bus stop. One of the waiting passengers explains to the other,

The delightful bus stop cartoon that is this week's featured image, is the original creation of community member Matt Champlin.

Matt is an engineer and cartoonist, and led us in a fascinating group exercise last Saturday called the Lightning Decision Jam.

The purpose of the Lightning Decision Jam is to help a group quickly discover the main thing holding them back from achieving a particular goal, and then work collaboratively to find solutions to that problem.

At last Saturday's meeting, we used the activity to explore the following question:

"What's holding us back from our goal of transformational online teaching helping us survive and thrive during these challenging times?"

And the answer that the group arrived at was a powerful one. 

We discovered that what's holding us back in our online teaching

 is the very thing we rely on

 to engage in online teaching to begin with.

What's holding us back is


Frustrated cartoon woman pulling her hair out

Talk about a Catch 22...or as I like to put it:

"Technology! Can't live with it, can't hurl it out the window."

Technology is not new.  The Online Etymology Dictionary gives us the Indo-European root “teks” relating to weaving, fabrication, and the creating of useful implements.

Related words include text,textile, texture, architect, and context.

People have been using tools, creating textiles, fabricating things, and building buildings for thousands of years, and they've always used the technology of their time to do it.

Technology has always been part of education too. An educated person in the time of Hammurabi would need to be able to manage the technology needed to write cuneiform on clay tablets... and we're pretty much back to that now with our use of emojis, but I digress.

While technology per se is not new, the pace of its development has accelerated so rapidly in our lifetimes that people of different generations living in the same household no longer know how to use the same tools.

For some comic relief on this subject, take a look at this video showing how young people growing up with cell phones, reacted when asked to dial a rotary phone.

One reason this video is so charming is that it's a reversal of the situation most of us older folks find ourselves in today.

In the words of  Marc Prensky's seminal 2001 article,we are "digital immigrants" in a high-tech world where people younger than us are "digital natives"... and that in itself poses a challenge for educators who are trying to teach tech-savvy  younger generations using tools that the teachers themselves often find challenging.

Young adult angry woman sitting in an office and holding speech bubble above her head, screaming at the camera.

In his wonderful book, The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman points out that when objects are poorly designed and don't work right, the people using those objects often tend to blame THEMSELVES rather than the object.

We often jump right to "Why can't I do anything right?!" rather than thinking, "Why is this object so poorly designed that it doesn't work the way it should, for me or anyone else?"

But even if an online course is designed and built right, everything in it is not always going to work right for every learner. 

One of the things that happens when you launch an online course, is tech support calls from learners needing help with everything from logins to passwords to navigation to links not working.

As an online course creator, you must EXPECT that to happen and be prepared for it. All of that navigation and all of those links may work perfectly for YOU, but your learners are located in various locations, with different types of internet service, different bandwidth, using different types of devices, different browsers, having varied skill levels, and so on.

Links and connections that work beautifully in some contexts, or even most, may nevertheless malfunction for some users in some locations on some devices under some conditions.

The key to creating a great learning experience for your course participants is to make sure they know how to reach you (or your support team) for help if they need it, and be sure to create a culture of always asking for and responding to feedback from your course participants.

So what's the solution?

The solution to the tech support calls, is to be prepared for them, and adopt an attitude of service and a philosophy of providing excellent support. If your course is small enough, you can do that all yourself, but if you start to have a large number of students enrolled, some kind of help desk might be needed. The important thing is for each customer to feel heard and supported and be able to get their needs met.

If  technology is working right, but people don't know how to use it,

 the solution is to

 train people on the technology BEFORE expecting them to use it.

This is where implementing the steps needed to effectively teach "how-to" skills, comes in.

 (I explain these steps in my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.)

The solution to the deeper problem of technology as a barrier to,

rather than promoter of, online learning,

 is one we need to explore collaboratively in greater depth.

 That's what we'll be talking about at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, September 19th.

There are many tech barriers that prevent people from learning online. The most serious is complete lack of access to technology to begin with, a factor that relates to social and economic inequalities within societies and around the world.

And there are many other factors beyond that, that prevent people from learning through technology, online.

One of the ways that many people are ABLE to survive and thrive during the pandemic, is THROUGH technology.

But what if that isn't working for them in any of a huge number of possible ways?

a group of people looking surprised

Are you surprised that many people experience technology as a barrier to learning? I was.

I'm used to looking at technology in terms of how it SUPPORTS and PROMOTES online learning (which it also does).

But it's important for all of us as online educators to be aware of how technology can get in the way of learning, so that we can best support our students, clients, and customers in persisting past the challenges they will inevitably encounter along the transformational learning route.

Come to the community meeting on Saturday 

as we continue to work collectively

 to explore this critical issue.

How do YOU feel about technology --do you find that it helps, or hinders, your learning more often than not?

  • Do you like learning how to use new technologies? 
  • Do you enjoy solving tech problems and overcoming tech challenges?
  • Or is that not something you enjoy at all?

Share your experiences, insights and opinions at next week's meeting, in the Facebook group, or by writing to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

I once considered myself a non-techy person... but over the years I've come to enjoy learning how to use different tech tools.

I'll write another blog post about the relationship between mindset and technology...which is in itself a major topic as humans go up against bots.  

And remember, the solution to many tech problems is the same one that works for humans when we need to take time out to reboot, recharge, and sleep on it: 

to quote the hilarious TV show, "The IT Crowd":

Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?

Come talk about it at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, September 19th or  in the Facebook group!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, September 19th,  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Teaching in Alignment

Group of people joining hands over an iPad frame

There are two types of alignment that are important to consider in setting up your online course and the business that supports it. 

It's critical to be aligned "vertically", with our higher purpose...our mission, vision, values, and purpose for teaching online.

And it's also critical to be aligned "horizontally", with our ideal customers... the people we are here to serve.

Your course exists at the intersection of those two alignments, at the sweet spot where your vision of the difference you want to make in the world meets the people who want to achieve that transformation, with your guidance and help.

Where does your vision for the transformation you want to deliver meet up with the people who want to achieve that transformation, with your help?

In order to reach those future customers, we need to use the tools provided by digital marketing.  For some online course creators, marketing comes easily. But for many others, it doesn't. 

Many people who are drawn to teaching, are "people people", rather than numbers/data/algorithm people. But digital marketing works by skillfully using numbers, data, and algorithms to bring our ideal future course participants to us.

"People people" thrive in face-to-face teaching situations, where they get real-time interaction with and feedback directly from the people they are here to serve. For extroverts, for example, getting up in front of a live crowd can feel energizing as the audience's responsiveness flows back towards them.

But what happens to those same "people people" in an online teaching situation?

The technology itself can feel like an opaque wall rather than a transparent window, blocking the instructor's view of their online learners. The solution to that is fairly simple, fortunately: practice with the technology you'll be using, in a safe low-stakes situation, until you feel comfortable.

But how do we reach the people who haven't even shown up yet, for our online course, in order to make them aware of the course to begin with? There are many wonderful programs out there that teach digital marketing for online course creators, and we can learn from all of them. We can learn techniques and skills and methods of digital marketing.

What's harder to learn, though, is the mindset shift that has to happen in order to reach out to people we've never met, and bring them into our sphere of influence where our products and services can work for them.

For many of us in the Learn and Get Smarter community, our primary motivation for teaching online is to be of service. But how do we find the people we want to serve, especially when there is so much emphasis in the digital marketing space on making lots and lots and lots of money... on seeing our potential customers in terms of what they can give US, rather than on how we can serve THEM?

young woman using laptop PC and various pictures. internet streaming service concept.

Many people in the Learn and Get Smarter community struggle with these questions. I know I certainly do. That's why I'm so thankful that my path crossed with Korrie Olszewski, who focuses on digital marketing for service-oriented coaches and entrepreneurs.

Korrie joined us at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on August 8th and shared her vision for creating alignment between our highest purpose and our practical goals of serving our customers.  Many of us found her approach to  digital marketing harmonious and in alignment with the way we want to present ourselves online. 

I am very much looking forward to learning more from her! Check out Korrie's website to learn more about her work and her unique perspective on digital marketing.

How do YOU feel about reaching out to your future potential customers? 

Does that come easily to you?

Or do you struggle with it?

Do you feel that your course, and your business, are deeply aligned with your central mission and vision and values and purpose and goals?  Do you have a clear sense of the exact type of people you'd like your course to help, and exactly how you want it to make a difference in their lives?

It's important to get clear on all those things first, BEFORE starting to actually build your course.  Come on over to the  Facebook group and let's talk about it...or if you prefer, drop me a line at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these important topics that every course creator has to face. 

 NO community meeting this week! 

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

because a lot of us will be attending a conference

Not allowed sign

We'll be back to regular meetings

on Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Hope to see you then!

Your audience and what they need to learn from you

colorful target with stick figures representing your audience, at the center of it

The internet has made it possible for anyone to become a producer or publisher..without any gatekeepers. Instead of having to please a gatekeeper, now we have to speak directly to the needs of our target audience. How can we best do that?

The role of the teacher is not to pour knowledge into empty vessels, but rather to elicit from our learners the energies and abilities that reside within THEM. We are not here to fill others' heads with what WE know, but rather to support their process of developing what THEY know. How can we discover what they need to know, and what they most need to learn from us?

As a teacher, you have to have something of value to offer people... some energy differential that gives you the power/energy/flow to help your learners achieve a transformation.

What's the difference you're here to make in the world? You are the sun of your "solar system"... what's the PURPOSE of your system?

You may have a BIG transformation for your entire online business enterprise... which in a course-focused business, may equate to a whole online "school" rather than just a single course.

How can you understand the market, understand your customers, understand your own central mission and motivating purpose, and create a course (or courses) that not only accomodates the market but also brings in the level of crafstmanship that leads to deep learning?

Young femal e engineer concept. GUI (Graphical User Interface).

We need to deeply attune to our target audience's VALUES... the things that are important to them.

As heart-centered, service-oriented, mission-driven entrepreneurs, how can we connect to our target market with deep understanding of their motivations, values, and needs? 

At the meeting on Saturday, July 25th, 2020, community member Shirley Pordominsky gave a fascinating presentation about the LAB Profile (Language and Behavior Profile) which evolved from Neuro Linguistic Programming.

As a Life Coach, Shirley works with entrepreneurs who want to reinvent themselves, to discover who they really are, what they want, and how to get it, no matter their age or circumstances. Shirley has been practicing from 1998 to today as NLP Master Practitioner, a LAB Profile Trainer and Consultant, is a CoachU graduate. She is a Lifelong learner pursuing knowledge for personal development, and to be up to date and to offer it to her coaching clients.

At last week's community meeting, Shirley did a masterful job of making us aware of different factors that may motivate ourselves, and/or our students and customers, in various ways. She helped us understand that there are different patterns of motivation, such as those that lead people either TOWARD a goal or AWAY from a negative consequence. 

Some people, she explained, prefer to think about options, while others focus on procedures. Understanding your own preferences and those of your students, customers, or anyone else you interact with, adds depth and effectiveness to your interaction in a particular context.

Business is about relationships and serving people's needs. Who are the people whose needs you serve with your business and course? How can you learn more about them and what those needs are? 

You can explore the LAB profile for yourself here, and use it to gain nuanced contextual understanding

of yourself and others as you interact in various contexts and settings:


 One of the wonderful things about creating community is the synergy and empowerment we can all give to and gain from each other.A huge thank you to Shirley for her fascinating presentation, which helped us all learn and get smarter! 

THANK YOU! brush calligraphy banner

Back in the day when we used to be able to travel, I was fortunate enough to attend Digital Marketer's Traffic & Conversion conference. Ryan Deiss gave a mesmerizing keynote speech in which he said that the businesses that succeed long term going forward will be those that can not only make the initial sale, but take their customers through ALL the stages of the Customer Value Journey.

If your business is focused on delivering online learning, it's critical to  understand what it takes to help your customers get value from the products and services you deliver. An online course is a much more complex product than, say, a toothbrush. It's not enough to just put a course online.. you also need to nurture, support, and guide your course participants along the path from Point A to Point B that your course represents.

How will you do that for your customers? An important consideration is, how can you determine what their Point A, the starting point for their learning journey, is? If you're interested in exploring that in more depth, I've created a low-cost action plan (mini-course) to help you get to know your customers' learning needs, further.

Course landing page screenshot from Action Plan A: Before You Begin

The focus of this mini course is on getting to know your customer's learning needs in relation to what you want to teach. If you'd like to talk more about this important topic, come on over to the Course Design Formula® Community Facebook  group and let's keep the conversation going.

Better yet, join us for next week's community meeting on Saturday, August 8th as we continue our collaborative exploration of how to survive and thrive during these unprecedented times. I was honored this past week to meet Korrie Olszewski, who takes a soul-centered approach to digital marketing. I've invited Korrie to join us next week and share more about her unique approach to getting to know and reach  customers.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call