3-Step Process for Validating Online Course Ideas

The minute you finalize a great online course idea the very next step you should consider is ‘validating’ that idea.

Why is validation important? See you can’t throw someone in the water and ‘hope’ they won’t drown – you’ll have to make sure they know how to swim or have some sort of aid to keep them afloat.

In the same way if you launch an online course without testing if your audience really wants it then you’re making a mistake. Hence validation helps in collecting relevant data to gauge the interest of your audience before you make the big dive.

In this process you’ll be able to find out how your potential customer behaves, what their preferences and interests are, what challenges or opportunities come their way and what kind of solutions they are looking for.

Now the question is how do we validate a course idea? Here I’ll discuss a 3 step process that will answer this question for you.


The possible ways in which you can carry out a survey are phone calls, one-on-one interviews, focus groups or questionnaires.

If you have an email list, you can pick and choose the people that seem like your potential customers and email them a survey asking them their topics of interest – something they would like to learn about.

The questions you include in the survey should be ones that help you find out your audience’s goals, their learning aspirations, their problems and the solutions they’re looking for.

Try to keep your questions open ended so that they are able to express themselves freely. Once you uncover the problems your audience is facing, you’ll get closer to offering them something worthwhile.

In the latter part of the survey, you can include questions asking them about their preferred content and if they have purchased any online courses before.

This will reveal whether they are ones willing to spend some money on enhancing their knowledge or not.

The key is to get inside the minds of your potential customer and asking the right questions through the right platforms is the most effective way of doing that.

Evaluate Responses and Find Ideas

Once you’re done with the surveying process start reading all the responses you got.

Yes it will take you a lot of time but this is where you’ll find what you’re looking for – what your audience wants. You can compile all the responses in the form of a spreadsheet.

Notice the patterns within the answers. For example a quick search through the data will help you find some common terms for example if the term baking appears multiple times, it means people are looking to set up a baking business.

So maybe it would be a good idea to offer something on the lines of ‘how to set up a successful baking business from your home’.

Apart from the direct responses you get from these surveys, you’ll find a few subtle messages pointing in the direction of what they want.

These subtle messages are usually a result of letting your respondents explain their answers in detail in the survey.

So for example if someone says ‘I can’t find any opportunity that makes me feel good about me’ you can deduce that they are looking to explore new possibilities while quitting their job perhaps but more importantly they want something that fulfills them – something that is not just a means of making a living.

Here, a course on ‘How to make use of opportunities to live a fulfilling life’ can definitely work.

You can make a list of the top 10 topics people showed the most interest in and start writing down course names, thinking about the course content for each and creating a unique selling point (USP) for each as well.

Now you’ve successfully involved your audience in the course development process and figured out what they need. The next step is a pre-sale campaign.


This is a crucial part of the validation process. You may have spent a lot of time in analyzing the course idea and making sure you know what your audience wants but if no one is willing to buy your product at the end of the day, then what’s the point right?

Maybe your audience made you believe they want something but when it comes to buying the solution they don’t show interest so this is where pre-selling helps in bringing the truth out.

A good idea is to pre-sell your course at a discounted rate and see what the response is like – a simple way to find out if the community is ready to purchase the course once it’s actually launched. The discounted rate is not only a good incentive for the buyer but also a reward for someone trusting you before a product even exists.

The money you make from your pre-sales campaign can be used to finance some part of your course.

As much as validation may sound tricky it’s actually quite easy to develop through the use of free tools like Skype, Google Docs, and Survey Monkey etc.

If you have an online course idea in mind and validated it through your potential customer – congratulations, you’re in the right direction! But if you haven’t talked to your audience yet, don’t move on to the next step. There’s no use of creating something your customer won’t buy.

So here’s a quick checklist of what you need to do:

  • Write the questions that will give you answers from the audience that will point out their problems and needs.
  • Create a survey and promote it through email or your social media.
  • Record the answers that come in and analyze the results
  • Design a pre-sales campaign to see if your audience is willing to buy what you’re offering

Finalize a course topic based on your research i.e. a problem/opportunity that attracts your audience and they are willing to pay for the solution.

The 3–step process discussed here will help you in building your course idea from level 1 to a level you and your audience will both benefit from.

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