How to get started creating your online course

January 10, 2015
megan harrison how to get started online course

How to get started creating your online course

How many times have you had an idea for an amazing product that you wanted to create but when you sat down to actually start bringing this idea to life overwhelm got the best of you? You had so many ideas running through your head and pulling you in different directions that finding a way to focus, gain clarity and actually make progress seemed nearly impossible.

Trust me, I know the feeling, I’ve been there. I repeatedly see this problem arise with my clients as well. The antidote for this all too common problem is to start with a systematized way to organize your content planning.

Throughout this article I am going to share with you the four tools I use to systematize my planning process for creating amazing e-Courses. These tools will allow you to get everything out of your head and into an organized format that will help you visualize your entire course from beginning to end.



1. to form (parts or elements of something) into a structured whole; coordinate

2. (transitive) to arrange methodically or in order

The goal of this post is to help you avoid the extremely prevalent pitfall of using every organizational tool that’s out there. There seems like there is a new organizational app that comes out every other day and if you aren’t careful, in your attempt to become the most organized person on the planet you actually achieve the exact opposite. Instead of having your ideas “arranged into a structured whole”, you will end up with 25 different tools and your course planning and content will be scattered in 25 different places.

So without further adieu, let’s set it up!!

Using four different organizational tools may seem like overkill but this process has worked very well for me because each tool compliments a different stage in the planning process.

1. Mindmeister – Mind Mapping 

What it is – Mindmapping is freaking awesome. In a Mind Map, information is structured in a way that mirrors exactly how the brain functions – in a radiant rather than linear manner. It provides a powerful tool for managing information overload. You can also mindmap with pen and paper. I love writing things out by hand but the benefit of having a digital format is that you can refer back to it later and ensure it doesn’t get lost.

When to use it for your e-Course – I suggest starting here and completing a brain dump. We really can’t move forward when our head feels like it is going to burst because we have so many ideas, questions and thoughts so this is a great way to get everything out of your head and onto paper.  In the center of your mind map put the name of your course. Create a new leg for any sub-topics that come to mind. There is no right or wrong way to do this…put down anything that comes to mind such as ideas, to-do list items, course sections ect.

Here is a short example of a mind map for a fitness e-Course (when you do this yourself yours will end up being much bigger but this is just an example I did in a couple minutes):

megan harrison mind mapping


2. Trello- very useful for visualizing the flow of your content.

What it is – Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into “boards”. Within each board you create “lists” and each list has “cards”.

When to use it for your e-Course – After you complete your mindmap create two boards in Trello, one for your course outline and one for each stage in the planning process.

Trello allows you to easily visualize the entire outline of the course and move subtopics around very quickly. Within Trello I create a board for the course and a list for each main topic. I then create a card for each subtopic and within the card you can attach any type of document, create checklists, and add comments. Everything is drag and drop so you can drag sub-topics to different sections of your course if you think it fits better there. Trello also has an amazing app for your phone that is just as easy to use.

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 10.47.59 AM

3. Evernote-

What it is – Evernote is the ultimate notetaking and archiving tool for the web.

When to use it for your e-Course – So why use both Evernote and Trello? For me, Trello works best for visualizing the structure of a course and planning. Evernote however, is excellent for gathering market research, competitive research, and all your detective work because of the web clipping feature.

Here are two powerful ways to use Evernote for your e-Course planning

1. You want to do a ton of marketing detective work when creating your course. I always advise my clients to join online communities, like Facebook groups, where they believe their target customer would spend time. You should use these groups to “listen” to your target customers comments, questions and concerns. This allows you to understand your customers problem in their own words. When you come across these facebook posts or discussions use the web clipper to take a screen shot of it and file it in Evernote under “Detective work” 🙂

2. Like I said before, I love writing things out by hand and I know many of you do too. Eight times out of ten when I am at a restaurant I end up writing an idea that came to mind on a napkin (crazy, I know). Instead of throwing this napkin in your purse or pocket take a picture of it and file it in Evernote! Do the same thing with any other notes you already have.

4. Google Drive

What it is – Google drive is a cloud storage service that you can store your documents, photos, music, videos, etc. all in one place.

When to use it for your e-Course – I set this up just like I set up my Trello boards but Google Drive is where you can create Google spreadsheets and documents for your in-depth research and planning.

Create a folder in Google Drive for your online course. Within this folder you will have a separate folder for each module or course topic. This is also where you should save everything for your course. For example if you have downloadable PDF’s for your course modules save that PDF in the folder for that specific course section.

megan harrison google drive


So I know thats a lot of info and it may seem like a lot of work but don’t skip over the organizational process! Its often the key transforming your idea into reality. I hope this helped to set you up for success!

If you want to learn more tips and tricks on creating e-Courses sign up here!