Want to create the outline for your online course, but you’re standing on the corner of struggle street and what-the-hell-do I do now? Have you sat at your desk start edtyping your outline in a doc and feel like the words and the course structure is effortlessly flowing out of your head onto the keyboard as if you’re playing the keyboard piano? Only to look up at the screen and your outline has suddenly before 6 pages long. Ummmm, what?


Maybe the opposite has happened and you know what you want to say – but your fingers freeze over the keyboard and you don’t know what to write of think ‘where do I start? ‘


So, to drown your sorrows you  head to Facebook or YouTube to see what the rest of the world is up to. No judgement here, I do the exactly the same thing when i’m procrastinating too. But because writing your course outline has turned into a true pain in your booty you and structure makes you want to rebel. You decide to wait until inspiration strikes again and put it off for another month. If you’re struggling to get back on the course creation horse – I talk about creation fatigue in this video as well.

Listen, here’s the deal. The fact that you’re reading this post means you’re not alone and you’ve probably typed….

‘How to outline an online course’


‘Structure an online course’

into your website BFF (that’s Google BTW) and this post showed up. Which means that you’ve landed in the right place. So let’s get into it and let me show you how to create the outline for your online course BABY. In this post i’m going to show you:

  • A 5 step process to structure and outline your online course
  • As well as a super powerful interview technique to help you get your idea out of your head and down on digi paper.

Grab an online course outline template. Oooh Yes, please.

If you want to skip all the fun, you can grab yourself a FREE plug and play template to help you outline your online course in less than 30mins!

How to create the outline for your online course

I deep dive into the process in the video below but I also map out the 6 steps below. Before we get started here’s what you need to remember while you read this post.  Imagine you’re taking your ideal customer or buyer by the hand and leading them step by step to the outcome or their desired transformation.

Honestly close your eyes and breath this in – it’s pretty powerful.

The key to getting started is thinking less about what YOU want to put in the course, but what your ideal buyer or customers needs. 

If you want to bybass this blog post you can watch the video. But I provide me detail in the post so keep reading.


 Step 1: Define your ideal buyer/customer

The first thing that you need to do is to define WHO the ideal customer or buyer is for your course. This is similar to defining the ideal persona or personas for your business or offers, but in this case your defining an idea buyer for your course. Here are some things to think about:

  • Who are they? ie Who’s the person that’s going to be buying
  • What do they want?
  •  Where are they emotionally before seeking a solution to their problem?

The key is to get really clear on who that person is, because when it come to selling your course speaking to that 1 specific person or demographic will make it easier to sell – because everyone wants something that’s been created especially for them, right?


Step 2: What problem to they have?

You may find when you start defining your ideal buyer that you may naturally transition into this step. Now it’s time to identify. Where they are right now? I can’t stress enough how important understanding where they are emotionally and the problems they have will help with creating the outline for your course.

  •  Where are they at in their life right now?
  • What problems are they coming up against that they need your solution to their problem?
  • What are their struggles,
  •  What concerns do they have,
  • What deep fears or doubts to they have
  • What things are driving them absolutely crazy

Even if you think you know your ideal customer really well, you’ll be surprised at the things that come up when you do a little customer research, surveys or getting on the old dog and bone (phone). Have a conversation to see WHAT they’re struggling with?

Write a list of all the problems that showing up for them in their lives right now that’s prompting them to find a solution to their problem. BONUS tip, if you’re able to write a few scenarios that highlight exactly what they go through on a daily basis, this will serve you enormously, just like I did at the beginning of this post. You can use this throughout your marketing and promotion of your course. Here’s that scenario example again. I was able to create this as I understand my ideal buyer and the problems they have really well.

Have you sat at your desk thinking right…… started typing your outline in a doc and feel like the words and the course structure is effortlessly flowing out of your head onto the keyboard as if you’re playing the keyboard piano. Only to look up at the screen and your outline has suddenly before 6 pages long. Ummmm?


Step 3: Define the Course Outcome

Let’s take a breather and take a look at what we’ve covered. We’ve defined WHO you’re creating your course for in Step 1 and then in step 2 identifying the problem they’re having.

Now we want to transition to understand what outcome, transformation or tangible result they will get as a result of going through your online course.

This is SO, so important. Creating an online course is all about creating a transformation and making an impact on someones life. No one wants to learn just for the sake of learning. Ain’t nobody got time for that *insert finger scap* .Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Where are they going to be (at the end of the course)
  • What are they going to be able to do, feel, experience at the end of your course?
  • What struggle will they overcome? (here’s where you want to think back to original problem you defined in Step2)

Without clarity around this it’ll make it really hard for your course to come together – which may be one of the reasons why you may be struggling with putting your course together.

Course scenario:

Think about it this way. When you leave the house to go somewhere, you have a reason for getting up to leave the house i.e to go to work, pick the kids up from school, go to a meeting. In short you have a destination and an outcome you need to get to. Now take this same principle and apply it to your course idea. You know where they are now i.e standing in their house (step 2), now tell them where they’re going – the destination/outcome (step 3). We’re going to to cover the steps to get to that destination/outcome in the next step.


Step 4: Define Your Learning Outcomes

Now that you’re clear on the destination/outcome we can deep dive into this mini step which is defining the learning outcomes. You can think of these as specific mini topics for each module to help them get to the outcome:

  • What are they going to learn within this course, i.e
  • What are you teaching them

This article from Arizona State University – Teach Online walks you a few examples of before and after examples to help you learning outcomes . You want to provide your Student with a clear path to learning.

Another way to reframe this, if learning objectives sounds a bit too hardcore. You can also think of this as the benefits and features of your course. If you’ve ever had to write a sales page you know that you need to write a benefits to tell people about your offer, service or product. Digital Marketer explain it in  great detail  in this post. Essentially what you’re doing when writing your learning outcomes is also writing the benefits for your sales page. You’ll be suprised but everything you do has a learning outcome or objective. Take this blog post for instance. Here are the learning outcomes for this blog post:

  1. You’ll understand how to map out your online course – so that you don’t have to spend another minute re-writing your course idea

  2. An interview process to help you early get your course idea out of your head

In short, you can call them bullet points, mini outcomes – whatever really. But as you can see we use them everywhere.


Step 5: Bridge the gap & create the modules

We’ve looked at where you ideal buyer is now, the problems that they have, identified the overall outcomes and learning outcomes to help get to the desired  result.

Now you want to fill in the gaps and take them step by step to get to the outcome. Essentially you’ve chunking the content down which is method strangely enough used online learning professionals and instructional designers. This post from eLearning Industry says “content chunking is the strategy of breaking up content into shorter, bite-size pieces that are more manageable and easier to remember”.

Course outline scenario

With that quote in mind, let’s break this down. Imagine you are walking in your clients footsteps or you imagine they’re sitting in front of you right now. You know there problem and where they want to get to.

What’s the first thing/step you’ll tell them?
What’s that first step?

Another way to reframe this, imagine you’re taking their hand, what individual steps are going to show them to take you closer and closer to the outcome. If you’re struggling with this you may want to try this fabulous course outline interview technique that may help you with the outlining process. It’s genius – If I say so myself !


In a nutshell, here are the tips I mentioned:

Talk to a younger version of yourself If you’re walking through a process i.e a ‘How to Process’. Talk to yourself as if you’re a younger version of yourself explaining what you did and how. Most of all, make sure you record it so that you can go back and listen to the key points which will help you create the core modules for your course.

Get someone to interview you Get someone to interview you about the steps you took/take to achieve that outcome. Once again, make sure you record it. This will give you the basis for your course outline and what the modules should be.   Write down all of those steps down on a piece of paper, Trello or you can use the online course outline template to get a head start.

The key is to get clear on what those steps are.  

Don’t think about whether you should be including this topic or something else. Keep it really simple. Simple enough that you’re able to lead someone closer and closer to the outcome. The beauty of that is, those steps then become your modules. They are then the modules and steps you’re going to use to take someone through that transformation process.  

Inside of these core steps then think about the mini steps they’ll need to know associated with the module of step. In the Course Outline template I walk you through on of my favourite examples to help you map out your course modules and topics and deep dive into this whole process in my mini course Outline 1-2-3.


Step 6: Course Delivery

Once you’ve got your course modules and lessons nailed and your course outline generally nailed, it’s only at this point (when you’re at the end) that you can think about what the delivery of it’s going to be, not before. No, no. You don’t need to worry about this step before hand. Once you’re really clear about what the outcome of the course is, where that person is right now, what they’re struggling with and what they need. Then you’re ready to get on with the more exciting stuff like choosing how to deliver your course as well as choosing the best online course platform . Woohooo!

Important point to remember

Do what’s in the best interest of your ideal buyer/customer. Let me explain. If you’re doing a guided meditation, you’re not going to give your students an online training course delivered via video. In this instance you may want to consider providing them with audios instead, that they can download away from the computer. Which comes back to deeply understanding who your ideal client is like we identified in STEP 1.

Do you see, It’s really only at the end that you can actually define what that delivery platform is.   

That’s it my friends, that’s how you create the outline for your online course. Go through these steps to outline your online course and you’ll be off to the races no more writing and re-writing the same thing all over again and being cursed with the ever growing course outline of doom .

No one wants that. I’d love to know in the comments if this post has helped. If it has leave a YES in the comments!  


Last updated 16 May  2018