Online Course Ideas: Everything you need to know!


One of the first steps in developing an online course is to come up with a good idea. How do you come up with an idea for your online course? What are the best niches for online courses? Is there any demand for a course on your chosen subject?

In this article, we discuss how you can come up with online course ideas. After you find a suitable topic, you can test the idea for the online course. For example, you do this by having several friends, acquaintances, or family members participate in the first training session. Does the course appeal? Are there any points where you can improve them? Take a look at this article, where you can read more about it.

Coming to a good idea consists of several phases. Start by coming up with online course ideas and then selecting one of these ideas. Often choosing a good idea is more complicated than coming up with it! What makes one idea more interesting than the other?

Brainstorming with your partner or colleague

The best online course ideas can come from a brainstorming session. You may know it from meetings! Brainstorm together for an hour to come up with innovative ideas. The idea of your name gives inspiration to others. In this way, you come along to new insights, where you had never come alone. When brainstorming, it is crucial to take notes in the interim. If you end up stuck on a particular track, you can go back to an earlier step. Perhaps from there, you can go in a different direction to come up with good course ideas?

Tip: use a larger group of participants! Divide yourself into different groups and stick post-its on the wall or a sheet of paper. At the end of the session, you’ll discuss each other’s best ideas.

Identify opportunities and determine your direction in there

Determining opportunities are similar to a brainstorming session. Get together to determine where opportunities lie for an inspiring online course. Look at trends from the past period. What is currently little information about? What topic have you been collecting a lot of information about recently?

After you’ve determined four or five chances, you can determine the directions of these opportunities. Often an opportunity is far too wide for a separate online course. Focus on a particular element from an opportunity. As with a brainstorming session, post-its come in handy. It helps you establish the frameworks of an online course.

Online course ideas for 2020

Please note that trends can change quickly. Online course ideas for 2020 may no longer be relevant in 2021 and 2022. Try to estimate the durability of certain trends. Is it in line with expectations that a trend will follow up? Is this going to be a temporary trend? In the case of a temporary trend, the (time) investment in building a course is often greater than the yield of this. Reason enough to take this into account when identifying opportunities.

Look for bottlenecks in the workplace

In addition to opportunities, bottlenecks or problems can also be a source of inspiration. Look at bottlenecks in the workplace and try to turn them into a good idea for your online course. Are there any issues on which colleagues may want more information? Have you picked up topics that play within project groups? Bottlenecks among customers can also be excellent and profitable online course ideas. By offering an online course that provides more information about such a bottleneck, chances are you already have to catch the first customers! Besides your customer, the bottleneck may play out with many more parties.

Also, in this form of generating online course ideas, it is important to think about the durability of a topic. Is there a chance that a bottleneck will no longer occur in a month? Can you widen a bottleneck by looking for similar problems, for example? You want to prevent an online course from being irrelevant when you offer it.

Use the SCAMPER method

Have you ever heard of the SCAMPER method? This method is not only interesting for coming up with profitable online course ideas. Even when you are looking for opportunities for an innovative product, this method comes in handy!  SCAMPER stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to other uses
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

Look for opportunities to replace parts of an existing online course(substitute). This gives an existing course a whole new angle! It applies not only to parts of the course but also to the way of designing the course. Use instructional videos instead of long pieces of text. You can also search for several online courses that you will merge(combine).Please note that a course should not be too long. Take a look at our article on the length of an online course if you want to know more about it.

You may be looking for the best online course ideas focused on software. In this case, copying ideas from an existing course is interesting(adapt). Where the found course is about software package X, you take over the ideas for software package Y. Complementing this method is to modify an existing course. Can you add new information to the course on software package X? Or is it perhaps interesting to omit certain information(eliminate), so that the online course becomes clearer? 

The use of an existing course(put to other uses) for a completely different subject or turning it around(reverse )is, in this case, less relevant. However, for products, it can be interesting to look at this. 

Best online course ideas based on core concepts

You may have already come up with several key concepts for yourself. These may be topics you know a lot about. You would like to share the knowledge you have built with others. You prefer to earn something from it! With an online course, you have this possibility. From the core concepts, you can start drawing a flower. Put the core concept in the middle of the flower and try to write down associations on the other parts of it.

In fact, with this method, you already think about the classification of the course. What are good chapters for the course, based on the main theme associations? It helps you search for structure in the online course. When developing the flower, it may turn out that the number of topics surrounding the core concept is too limited. Conversely, it may also appear that a core concept is too broad.

Put yourself into a potential student

Do you already have some online course ideas on paper? In that case, you can try to move into a potential student. What information does a student want? Based on the knowledge of this student, what information is relevant? How do you keep an online course concise, but do you prevent it from becoming too simple? These are questions that you can work out further on paper. Just like drawing a flower, you can give a course direction. This way, you have a good basis to continue!

Also, see if the group of potential students is large enough. Can expanding the subject of your course lead to a larger audience, without the course becoming too broad? Pay attention to the best niches for online courses. In which niche are few online courses yet to be found?

Convergence and divergence around a theme

Previously, we discussed the key concepts you may already have. Apply convergence and divergence to come up with an idea for your online course based on a core concept. Convergence means leaving your core understanding. Write down topics that will move away from the initial idea. Logically, there must still be some connection between the core concept and the subjects you write down. After you’ve found some of these topics, the next step is divergence. Now you try to merge the devised topics into new online course ideas. You may come to new insights, which are slightly broader than your initial core understanding!

Funnel method as an alternative to divergence

Similar to the method already described for finding profitable online course ideas is the funnel method. Write down as many topics as possible, then draw lines between the subjects related to each other. There may also be connections between groups of subjects. Based on the different groups, you always try to find an overarching theme. In the end, one good idea for your online course comes out of the funnel. The different topics you have already identified can become parts of this course. After all, they all have a connection with your main theme! What validates the online course idea do you choose?

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