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Why is transformation so hard?

Transformation of common lascar butterfly ( Pantoporia hordonia ) from caterpillar and chrysalis on twig

We all say we WANT transformation, right?

Online course creators NEED to focus on the transformation they want their course to deliver, if their course is going to actually DO anything and make a difference in the world.


BUT… here’s the dirty little secret of online course design that no one talks about (because it’s so hard and painful for all of us, as humans, to face).

We all WANT transformation. That’s why we sign up for online courses to begin with (and why we create them for our clients and customers).

But in order to ACHIEVE transformation, people have to actually CHANGE.


Frightened Woman

Change is hard, and people resist it. And they should.

And they… wait… WHAT??? They SHOULD?

 I thought we were focused on producing transformation here.

 We are.

 And in order for transformation to be real,

 it has to overcome the learner’s natural and instinctive resistance to change.

 

If there's no resistance, there's no (real) change!


Why do we resist change? Because change is hard, scary, and dangerous.

Many online courses DON’T produce real transformation… because they’re not designed to. 

That can happen because the course creator doesn’t know HOW to design a course to produce transformation. 

Or because no one really wants transformation to happen, to begin with.

Those are two separate use cases, so let’s explore them one at a time.

1) No one really wants transformation to happen, to begin with:

Sometimes, people like the IDEA of transformation, but don’t want to do the hard work needed to really make it happen. We’ve all been there at different times in our lives.
We buy the gym membership, but don’t actually go to the gym. 

We sign up for that class in accounting or yoga but never actually log on.

That’s from the learners’ side.

From the course creators’ side, a course that PROMISES transformation (but doesn’t actually deliver it) is fast and easy to create because it requires no learning design chops.

As long as you know how to ♨️SELL the sizzle♨️, you never need to actually cook the steak.

Plenty of people have gotten rich doing this.

All I have to say about that is… well... you know what they say about karma, so I won’t repeat it here.😱😱😱


2)  The course creator has excellent intentions, but doesn’t know how to design a course that actually produces transformation. 

I know that if you have read this far, use case #1 above does NOT apply to you, which means, you WANT your online course to produce real transformation.

The challenge then lies in understanding how to make that happen.

Here's what transformation looks like in each of the five domains of learning described by educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné.

In my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online, I share how to use Gagné’s research into the domains of learning to set up your course to produce real transformation.

What I want to explore here is, WHY do we need five different ways to produce transformation?

I mean, change is change is change, right?

Wrong!

The collage of faces of surprised people

Different kinds of change require different teaching strategies, because of the different ways we RESIST each kind of change.


Now let’s get a high-level view of how to set up a course that produces real transformation.

In order to overcome resistance, pretty much any kind of transformation works best when we approach it from the right mindset, so let’s start by exploring mindset change.

MINDSET CHANGE

Woman changing smileys on her face


Surprisingly, when you set out to produce mindset change (meaning, to help people change their attitude and the resulting behaviors), the first thing to do (based on Gagné’s research and what I’ve discovered works from helping hundreds of creative experts set up their own online courses) is to start by helping your learners understand WHAT DOESN’T WORK: the unhelpful attitudes they COULD adopt, or maintain, if they want to.

Depressed woman lying on couch in messy room isolated flat vector illustration. Cartoon lazy character resting on sofa at home and surfing internet on smartphone. Apathy and indifference concept


Why would you start a course that promotes positive mindset change, by focusing on what DOESN’T work?


Here’s why: mindset change is a CHOICE. 


If you want people to actually change their mindset and resulting behaviors (instead of just SAYING they’ve changed while continuing to do what they were doing before), they have to first realize they COULD just keep doing what doesn’t work… and understand the long-term consequences of NOT changing.

The resistance to mindset change comes from the natural tendency we all have to want to stay in our comfort zone. It’s only natural, right? Lounging on the couch scarfing down carbs is a lot easier than getting up early to train for that half marathon... at least, at first.


So to produce mindset change, people need to first understand that change is their choice, and see the long-term consequences of NOT choosing to change.

  • You can keep scarfing down carbs… and here’s what you ‘ll look and feel like in 50 years.
  • You can NOT work hard to learn that new thing... and here’s how not knowing it will impact your performance and promotions at work over the next 10 years
  • You can smoke a pack a day for the rest of your life, and here’s what your lungs will look like compared to the lungs of someone who chooses to quit smoking now
  • (and so on...)

Seeing the long-term negative consequences of NOT choosing to change, counteracts the natural tendency we all have to want to stay in our comfort zones.

That’s why the first thing to teach in a mindset change course is what doesn’t work.

Next, people have to know what does work, which is the heart of the course’s teaching content.

But knowing what does work is still not enough to produce real mindset transformation.

People need to see concrete examples of what positive mindset change looks like, in the form of role models or case studies.

 They need to be inspired and to see that making the choice to change is possible because others have successfully done it.

Young man standing in front of large superhero shadow on white background

So now we’re good to go with mindset change, right?

NOPE... that’s still not enough!

Because changing our mindset and resulting behaviors is really really hard.

Even:

  • knowing what doesn’t work
  •  learning what would work better, and
  • seeing how others have successfully made the change

are still not enough!

There are two more very important pieces to the mindset change puzzle.

People need help getting in touch with WHY they want to get out of their comfort zone to make this change. 

They need an immediate short term “why” (that motivates them to take immediate action so they can get some quick wins) and they need a deeply compelling long term “why” so they can keep going over time.

If your reason for changing your attitude about healthy eating is that you want to look great for your friend’s wedding in three months, you need a longer-term reason to keep at it once the wedding is over.

And finally, the MOST important aspect of mindset change is

 long term ongoing support,

which means that producing lasting mindset change is a great foundation for an online membership or a coaching practice.

Heart hands as a group of diverse people hands connected together shaped as a love symbol expressing the feeling of being happy and togetherness.

Is mindset change an important part of YOUR online teaching program?

To learn more about how to create mindset change that really sticks, read my book, 

3D book mockup including back cover

For a deeper dive into mindset change and how it impacts us as online course creators, check out my blog post,

 “Are you ready for a mindset make-over”,

which focuses on the mindset changes we may need to make OURSELVES as digital entrepreneurs in the online learning space.

Video call or conference concept with men and women working together. Virtual meeting

I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences in producing mindset change that really sticks… let’s talk!

Join us at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting

Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern, on Zoom,

where we focus on how to survive and thrive with online courses and online learning in these challenging times.

(These meetings are one of the ways  I provide long term ongoing support for all of us, as online course creators! 

It would be great to see you there!)

Come to the

Learn and Get Smarter Community Meeting

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

Saturdays

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern on Zoom