As you might expect, I get quite a lot of e-mails from people who want to start or grow an online education business. In nearly all of them, the focus is on what technologies to use for creating and selling courses. This focus is misdirected: as important as good, user-friendly technology is, it’s rarely going to be the element that makes or breaks your education business.
In fact, it probably isn’t even in the top ten.
A much better place to start, in my opinion, is with the quality of your lecture content.
By “lecture content,” I mean any part of your offering in which you or another subject matter expert speaks to deliver information that your audience members are intended to learn. Length doesn’t matter when I refer to something as a lecture: it could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes. And it doesn’t matter whether you use audio only or both audio and video. In almost all cases, lecture content can be improved, and improved quite dramatically, with a few relatively simple tweaks.
Indeed, lecture content is so universally bad that any number of people are now saying that the lecture is dead. That it is not really a viable model for delivering education, particularly adult education. This is hogwash, of course. There are very good reasons the lecture has survived as long as it has and will continue to be important in education products at least until we have data jacks installed into our brains. (For insights into the merits of lectures, check out my “How We Learn” interview with Professor Monisha Pasupathi.)
Still, many a lecture has left many a learner dazed, confused, and generally wondering about the value of the experience.
Therein lies an opportunity.
Consistently deliver lecture content that really “pops” and it won’t matter if you are delivering it on a Betamax tape or the latest whiz-bang, cloud-based, standards-compliant, deluxomatic video platform. (Okay, maybe a little too much hyperbole there, but you get the point.)
So, if you have been obsessing about the technology part of the equation, I’d encourage you to step back and focus more on how you might improve your lecture content. Naturally, this may require checking your ego at the door, but the effort is worth it.
To help you out, I’ve included below a lecture I delivered on – you guessed it – better lectures. (I’m not crazy enough to claim this is a perfect example of good lecturing – I have plenty to learn myself – but the tips come from wiser people than myself and are solid.) You can also get the slides on Slideshare.
Tweaking Lectures to Enhance Learning from Jeff Cobb on Vimeo.
If you want to go a bit further, I highly recommend Harold Stolovitch’s excellent book Telling Ain’t Training – and also my interview with Harold.
Finally, I’d welcome your thoughts on this topic. What have you done to improve the quality of your lecture content? What have you seen others do that was particularly effective? Please comment and share.
P.S. – For a continuing stream of resources related to growing your education business, follow me on Twitter.
2 thoughts on “The Secret to Killer Education Products?”
Great content Jeff. Lots of noise in the background as if this was being presented in the exhibit hall where the crowd was noisy and browning. This is content that I would like to see again in a quieter environment as it was difficult to hear the presentation well.
Thanks, Pauline – Your comment may inspire me to do a re-recording of this soon. At the time, I figured I should take my own advice (“everything is a production event”) and capture the content on the spot. – Jeff