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How to Design a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back with Emily Walker

How to Create a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back with Emily Walker

Wondering how to make your online courses actually get your students results that will make them want to come back for more?

Maybe you have all these great ideas, but you’re not an educator by nature. Where do you start and how can you ensure that your course actually gives value to your people?

How to Design a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back - design an online course, create and sell an amazing online course #onlinecourse #digitalproduct #coursesales Rebel Boss Ladies

Making an online course is a huge undertaking.

You want it to be great because if it’s great, then your customers get results. And if they get results, they’re going to come back for more and they’re going to rave about you to all their friends.

So how do you make that happen? We’ve got an absolute course whiz on the show today who is going to share with you exactly how to make your online course a transformative experience for your audience.

Emily Walker is a leader, learning designer and workshop facilitator. She’s the founder of the Modern Leaders Collective, where she helps heart-centered entrepreneurs design incredible online programs so that they can overcome the creation overwhelm, step into confidence and scale their business while delivering incredible results to their people.

Emily uses her signature framework to work with a diverse range of clients, from life changing business coaches to seven figure mindset queens.

In today’s episode, Emily breaks down the exact steps you can take and strategies you can employ to ensure that the students who enroll in your course get the best, most transformative results possible.

Emily Walker: From Educator to Online Entrepreneur

Emily says that she ended up in the online entrepreneur space, or “magical Narnia” as she calls it, by falling into a Pinterest vortex. She had no idea that she wanted to start her own business until she discovered that there were so many options online.

“When I started out on my path, I think I fell into that same trap that we all fall into, which is I only have a set amount of options. What I go to university for leads me to a specific type of job, which leads me to a specific type of ladder that I can climb… And when I realized, I was like, ‘I don’t really like this.’”

Emily was on track to become a teacher. But even though she loved education, she didn’t like the idea of working for someone else and having to follow such a strict schedule.

She came across a lot of different options online and loved the thought of working for herself, building a business, and finding something that truly aligned with her passions.

“I just started looking at things that I love, things I love doing and I loved education. I loved helping people kind of take their ideas and simplify it and pull it to a structure. And that’s how I kind of face planted into the world of learning design.”

Do You Need a Background in Education to Make an Online Course?

How to Design a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back - design an online course, create and sell an amazing online course #onlinecourse #digitalproduct #coursesales Rebel Boss Ladies

Emily says that even though it can be helpful, you definitely don’t need to have a background in education to create an online course.

However, knowing your subject matter really well is one thing, but figuring out how to teach and share it with other people is something completely different. Having a little bit of understanding about teaching strategies and education can help you take your course from good to great.  

This is why it can be really helpful to sit down with someone that has an education background (like Emily!) who can help you work through teaching your area of expertise to other people.

Step 1 in Designing Your Online Course: Thinking about Transformation

So you have an idea for your online course, but you want to make sure that it’s meaningful for the people who actually purchase and go through your material.

Emily explains that the first step to creating a course that your audience will rave about is thinking about the transformation you’re going to be taking your customer through.

She says that instead of starting with the transformation, many people often start with the content. The problem with starting with content is that you lose the intentionality that is essential for online course creation. You might add too much, or put things in the wrong order.

“When you start with the transformation, you start thinking about ‘where are my people now and where do I want to get them to with this course?

“It allows you to look with a little bit more of a discernment through what you know and what you’re passionate about, the content you have to say, how do I take these as building blocks and put them together to build this bridge for my people to get these huge results?’”

As an example, if you’re designing a course on DIY-cleaning products for new moms, who are afraid of their infants inhaling toxic chemicals, you may want the outcome of your course to be the ability of these moms to create eco cleaning products. But that isn’t necessarily the transformation.

The transformation comes with a change. Once the mom knows how to create her own nontoxic products, she’ll be able to do what? Perhaps be guilt-free, or feel confident in her child’s safety.

This is the transformation. It’s also what you’re ultimately trying to sell, so emphasizing this will help you be intentional in how you get to your final product.

Why is it Important to Create Transformational Courses?

There are a lot of reasons to create transformational, impactful, life-changing courses for your audience. Aside from the obvious, like the fact that you care about your customer, there are also a lot of benefits to you as an entrepreneur for selling a good product.

One of the absolute best marketing strategies you can have is getting a good product out there. If you create something that people rave about, they’ll tell their friends.

People are more likely to trust the word of their friends, so the best marketing is marketing that is done for you by other people. 

Not only that, but when people get big results and come out of your course able to take action, they’ll be willing to share their success. Whether it’s a behavior or a mindset shift, they’ll be able provide evidence to support your product.

Step 2: Thinking about the Transformative End Result for your Online Course and How to Get There

How to Design a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back - design an online course, create and sell an amazing online course #onlinecourse #digitalproduct #coursesales Rebel Boss Ladies

Once you think through the transformation you want to help your clients have, Emily says you should start thinking about your end results and getting crystal clear about what that means for your customer.

“The more specific you can get, the better. So thinking about what does your people’s life look like right now? What does their business look like? What do they if they had a backpack that was filled with knowledge and skills? What’s already in there and what’s missing?”

From there, think about what you want things to look like for those people at the end of the course experience. How do you want them to feel and what do you want them to be able to do?

Use the answers to these questions to establish a very concrete end goal, which you can use to develop your course. Using the example described above, if you’re that course creator designing a course on DIY cleaning products, your outcome may be the fact that you want your people to be able to make those cleaning products.

Step 3: Reverse Engineer Your Steps to Get to Your Ultimate Online Course Goal

When you know your final goal, it’s time to think through the steps that your audience will need to take to get there. At this point, you should have already thought through where they are currently, and where you want them to get.

“Ask yourself, ‘what actions do my people need to take to get to that result that I set out for them?’ and let action be your guide,” says Emily.

She recommends creating action statements, by taking an action word and writing out everything your people need to do to be able to transform. This can be helpful because it lets you design with intention, be practical, and ensure that the steps in your course are actionable.

It’ll also help you as the product seller. “It’s going to make you feel so crystal clear when you’re putting together your sales page, you’re putting together your launch strategy, all those things, because you can say with definitively these are the actions you’ll be taking, this is what you’ll be able to do and this is the results you’ll get if you take these actions.”

Thinking about the DIY-cleaning product example above, Emily says that the next step, after deciding the transformation and the goal, is to think through the action steps to get there.

If the outcome is to be able to make the cleaning products, there are a lot of little sub actions beneath that. Your customer needs the supplies, she’ll probably need to go shopping, maybe make a schedule or a plan for when she’ll make the products. Now, how can you teach those different steps?

Emily says that by breaking down all of the major actions so specifically, you’ll be able to clearly design the modules of the course around your learner. It’ll also help you hone in on the topics that are necessary for you to include in the course and what isn’t as important.

“When you get down into the nitty gritty, that’s when you can start to see how much action is a good amount to take at any given time,” says Emily. She says sometimes course creators can fall into the trap of not including enough information, which makes people give up on completing the course because they haven’t been set up to succeed.

Your goal should be to create modules “where it breaks it into such an easy bite-sized piece that people just go, ‘oh, that was so easy.’”

Quality Over Quantity: How Long Does Your Course Need to Be?

How to Design a Transformational Online Course Experience so Students Keep Coming Back - design an online course, create and sell an amazing online course #onlinecourse #digitalproduct #coursesales Rebel Boss Ladies

Emily says that as long as your course creates transformative results, it doesn’t need to be really long. In fact, creating shorter courses that offer powerful, actionable transformations can be preferable to customers.

Along with that, having a lengthy course with hundreds of hours of video and tons of materials doesn’t necessarily mean your course is worth more.

According to Emily, “the value comes from that transformation… It depends on her needs and what she’s looking for. But most people want something short and sweet and fast and actionable.”

By focusing on the content that leads to a transformation, and allows your student to take action, you’re taking the pressure off of you as a teacher. You’re also creating something your customer will love and actually use, because it’s much more manageable for them.

That being said, there may be topics or ideas that you need to explore in a longer course. Or maybe you’re creating a product for a customer that wants more information. The best strategy is of course, to design your course around the needs of your client.

Making the Experience Even Sweeter: Strategies to Create Courses Your Audience is Excited About

Emily says that once you create the building blocks of your course, you can implement some strategies to take your course from good to great. Going into planning your course with a lot of intentionality can help you premeditate any sort of blocks or issues that may come up.

First, once you get really clear and understand your ideal customer, you can think through what might act as a barrier for them to walk this journey that you’ve created.

Mind you, this is something you should have had in mind from the beginning. But after you’ve designed your course material, you can take it a step further and really target any issues or barriers they may have.

One example of a barrier could be time. Perhaps you’re marketing to moms and you know that your ideal customer might not have a lot of time to complete your course. What can you do to mitigate that problem? 

Creative solutions, like creating audio-only recordings or short, bite-sized videos, can reduce those barriers in participation.

If you think your customers may need extra encouragement to get through specific sections, include that encouragement in your pre-recorded videos or post that encouragement online if you’re running a live workshop.

Maybe you can even get creative. Emily has customers who run creative-minded businesses that include coloring sheets or bingo cards with their products that give a different kind of reward to people that finish the course.

Emily says, “those are the types of things that when you kind of design with that intention in the beginning, you can really mitigate a lot of that kind of lack of motivation throughout the course. And then for the product while it’s actually going on.”

This is when knowing your audience and knowing your medium is very important. Depending on what type of course it is and what you’re teaching, knowing the right way to engage your audience can help encourage them to be committed to your course.

Structure and Incentives: Why It’s Important Even When You’re Teaching Adults

If you have any experience teaching kids, you know that incentives, structure, step-by-step formulas and more are important to keeping them engaged. Emily says that a lot of these tactics are also really important for when you’re teaching adults as well.

A great example of this is Rebel Boss U, my online membership site which has an embedded curriculum. Initially, the lessons weren’t set in order and all of the information was available, which led to a lot of people feeling overwhelmed.

The minute I changed it to have a formula, with a calendar, worksheets, and a clear step-by-step path, there was a dramatic shift for my members. Everybody was more motivated, even though it was the same material just configured in a different way.

Emily has a lot of experience with this. “We forget, when it comes to adult-ed that as adults, we don’t like feeling like we don’t know what’s going on… When you’re selling them a course, they already know they don’t know what’s going on there.”

They’re buying your course because they need your help. But if your course isn’t clear, if it gives them more questions than answers or makes them feel uncomfortable because they feel overwhelmed, they won’t continue. 

So remember, structure is important. And it should be an essential part of your planning process from the very beginning of online course creation.

Emily’s Final Words of Advice for All Content Creators

Emily is incredibly passionate about creating teaching materials. She loves education and wants to emphasize:

“The biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone creating any sort of learning experience, whether it’s a course, it’s a workshop, it’s a webinar, even a podcast or blog post is really putting your people at the heart of what you create.”

She says that your intention shouldn’t be about you, even though you have the expertise. You should really be making your product for your people and giving them an action-focused transformative results.

“So they get big results, and then as a result, you’re going to get big results as well. You’re going to get more people, you’re going to get more sales, you’re going to get more testimonials. And it’s just this beautiful snowball effect of goodness.”

Emily’s Free Course-Creating Resource: The Journey Mapping Guide

If you’re interested in creating an online course, The first step of Emily’s signature process is available for free on her website. It’s the key to honing in on the transformation that you want to provide to your people.

The Journey Mapping Guide leads you through figuring out exactly where your people are so you can meet them with whatever they already have, where you want to take them and get crystal clear on that transformation.

At the end of the guide, you’ll have this really clear, high-level map of the transformation that you want to provide, which will make creating your program, your workshop, whatever it may be, so much easier.

Find the Journey Mapping Guide by heading to Emily’s website in the links below!


Visit Emily’s website – Modern Leaders Collective

Find Emily on Instagram at Modern Leaders Co

Get the journey map at

Want to learn more about creating an online course? Listen to episode 039 of the Rebel Boss Ladies Podcast, How to Create Video Content for Your Online Course with Holly Gillen.


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