9 Critical Warning Signs To Avoid Being Scammed in The Online Course Creation Industry
***Online marketers are probably going to tear me apart for writing this whistle-blowing article***
We’ve all heard the statistics that the online learning industry is now worth BILLIONS of dollars.
This is amazing, but it sadly also means that the education industry is starting to see a flood of unethical internet marketers, trend-riders and opportunity-grabbers take advantage of the growing demand of people wanting to learn how to create their own courses.
Two years ago, I paid $25,000 for a ‘program’ to later find out it didn’t exist, I never got what I paid for and I was refused my money back.
It was a very expensive lesson in ‘doing my research’. I always thought that the education industry would be safe from unethical marketers, but I am devastated to find that with the recent boom it has seen, it’s turning into a shark tank where hundreds of thousands of people are being persuaded to hand over their hard-earned cash for sub-par training courses on online course creation, and it’s going to be devastating to the industry; not only because it risks being tainted with the dirty ‘bad marketers’ brush, but also because endless reams of bad quality courses will be created as a result, ruining the whole experience for well-intended course creators and their unsatisfied students.
I risk getting a million squashed tomatoes thrown at me by big influential marketers by writing this article – which is why I was too afraid to write it for a long time.
But I have been in the education industry for more than a decade and I refuse to stand for the unethical practices and scamming that I’m seeing take place upon my fellow course creators.
They can bring on their tomatoes, I will not allow anyone else to lose their house deposit to an unethical marketer, and although this article is a long one, i believe all good-willed course creators deserve this advice.
In this article I will tell you exactly what to look out for and what things you should check before you hand a cent over to someone who claims they can teach you quality course creation or conduct curriculum design services for you.
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So what’s wrong out there?
- I’m seeing marketers create their own (overpriced and inefficient) courseware website plugins and then claim to be able to teach you how to create courses (so they can sell you their software).
- I’m seeing random solopreneurs saying ‘I made a course once (my Filipino VA helped by copying a load of content off the internet) so I can teach you how to be an educator’.
- I’m seeing ‘experts’ who seem to have no particular expertise whatsoever (other than jumping from selling the nuts off of one hot trend to another over the years) claiming that because THEY have created and sold online courses that they are now qualified to teach curriculum design…..
“That’s like me saying ‘I’m a dentist because I know how to brush my teeth‘.”
Just because I have brushed my teeth for 30 years and have perfect white pearlies to show for it, does NOT mean that I am qualified to go about acting like I’m a dentist and getting my hands stuck into YOUR gnashers – and would you even want me to??
Yes, the internet marketer selling you his or her ‘amazing thousand dollar online course training program’ may have a GREAT track record of making money from their own online courses in the past (or so they tell you – have you seen their financials?). But this is a direct correlation to their ability to conduct marketing; to their ability to manipulate buyers into trusting them and handing over their hard-earned money – but NOT their ability to design training programs that meet the principles of quality curriculum design and effective adult learning.
‘But I took his/her marketers course and I liked it’…. Maybe, but are you a qualified curriculum developer? If you don’t know what the correct form should look like, how would you know if it was missing?
I am getting clients coming to me who have been RIPPED OFF thousands of dollars by these ‘industry boom surfers’ having got fooled by their marketing hype and ‘buy my shit now webinars’, and then they come to me deflated, exhausted, broke and upset to get the mess fixed up.
DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PAY ‘EXPERT’ COURSE CREATORS!!!
“Educational curriculum design and teacher training is a QUALIFIED PROFESSION.
It is an industry in its own right and encompasses a LOT more than just ‘throwing a bunch of research together’ into a Word document”.
Let’s just put this into perspective….
You wouldn’t get surgery from an unqualified doctor; you wouldn’t get a building designed by an unqualified architect – DO NOT get your courses, your IP and reputation, designed by unqualified curriculum developers, and DO NOT get ‘teacher trained’ by unqualified educators!!!
If you don’t check for this, don’t EXPECT your course to come back to any degree of quality, and certainly don’t expect your IP and reputation to be constructed in a way that’s going to bring you any long term credibility and value.
Don’t get scammed my fellow course creators. This is your IP, your business, your credibility, your money and your reputation we are talking about.
If you want to learn how to create engaging, transformational and profitable training, there are LOTS of qualified course creation experts out there with brilliant programs who can help.
To avoid any risk of giving your hard-earned money to the wrong person, make sure you check the following 9 possible course creation scam warning signs:
1.They will tell you that you won’t need to do any research
I saw a recent advert for a ‘create your own online course’ program (by an unqualified course creation marketer) who said that if you use their method to create an online course, you won’t even have to do any market research as they had a ‘shortcut’ to check if you have a marketable product!!!!! WHAT?!!
Stop what you are doing and listen up.
If ANYONE tells you that you can create a quality ANYTHING that is marketable without doing research, then RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
Any ACTUAL professional will tell you that no matter how much you think you know your market, extensive market research is absolutely CRITICAL if you want to actually sell anything, let alone something people will like, and creating online courses is absolutely no different.
Yes, research is hard work and a bit boring, but you want to sell your course and for people to love it, don’t you?
2.They are not qualified educators or curriculum developers
Check for qualifications to ensure they have the technical skills to design quality training; Curriculum developers and/or your teacher trainers should have a DEGREE in education at minimum, and at LEAST 5 years proven experience developing and delivering training to accredited standards – if you want to be taught how to develop quality training programs at least.
I’m not saying you have to be a qualified teacher to teach a course, NO.
I’m saying you have to be a qualified teacher to teach teacher training (because it’s a qualified profession). I’m not saying you have to be a qualified curriculum developer to write a course, NO. I’m saying you should be a qualified curriculum developer to teach curriculum design/course creation.
3.They have no historical background in the education industry, curriculum design and teacher training
Check for history in the marketplace to ensure they’re not a new industry ‘trend-hopper’, just jumping into the industry to make a buck.
Check all of their social media, their websites, their LinkedIn profiles – how long have they actually been teaching ‘teacher training’ and course creation for? And I don’t mean ‘how long have they been creating their own courses for (remember brushing your teeth doesn’t make you a dentist and doing home reno’s doesn’t make you a registered builder) – I mean, how long have they been TEACHING CURRICULUM DESIGN. If you cannot find substantial historical evidence of their dedication to this profession, you may want to question if it is indeed their ‘profession’.
Look towards the professionals who have been in the industry since way before it was sexy and profitable – you know those are the people who started in it for the love, not your money.
4.They have no evidence of their expertise in using national training frameworks and meeting regulatory standards in education design
Check that they have proof that they have developed compliance-approved training to Qualification Framework criteria to ensure that they can produce to regulatory body standards. If they don’t know what national training frameworks are, who your local regulatory bodies in training compliance are and can’t tell you what the principles, regulations, conditions and requirements of formal adult education programs must look like and must adhere to, then they are not real or professional curriculum developers and I’d suggest that they are lacking in the basic expertise required to create quality training.
They are charging you for access to a Facebook group
Really?! If an online program has been designed according to adult learning principles, then you shouldn’t need to go to a Facebook group to seek your course support, feedback, advice and communicate about your course progress.
There should be in-course discussion areas and constant opportunity to get direct feedback from your course teacher – isn’t this what you’re paying for?
If I paid an ‘expert’ for access to a course, I would expect to get their expert advice, not be palmed off into a Facebook group where it’s expected that ‘the community’ will help me.
If you look at this ‘offer’ from the eyes of an educator instead of a marketer, the learning community should be an intrinsic part of the learning process, not a substitute for teaching or another income stream for the ‘admin’.
There are literally THOUSANDS of Facebook groups out there – all free that are pretty much filled with all the same people anyway. Jeez, I have one that not only shares valuable learning DAILY, it’s FREE.
You don’t need to pay extra to be part of a community of like minded people and why should you be charged to access something that is not costing the supplier anything? If they convince you that you cannot do without this Facebook group as part of your course, then you ought to be questioning the thoroughness of the course.
6.They put high pressure on you to buy NOW
In one breath they’ll tell you that having an online course is the ultimate way to scale your business (true), but then they’ll say things like there are ‘limited spaces’, or ‘hurry up before the spots run out’ (hypocritical much?!) – get real. This is the internet. The reason course creation makes for a scalable business is because there is no ‘maximum capacity’, and in reality us course sellers want as many people as possible to buy.
By using this ‘scarcity’ approach, marketers force us to make rapid decisions, often leaving us wondering what happened when we see our bank account a few days later. If you’re being pressured to buy an online product RIGHT NOW (which can’t actually ‘run out’) then think twice before you buy.
7.They tell you that if you get it wrong, you’re ruined.
I recently saw an advert for an online course creation program that said if you get lost in your course creation then it will be impossible for you to recover, and reinforced that it’s something that you MUST get right ‘first time’.
Bullshit. We all get lost, stuck, overwhelmed and paralysed by stuff in our businesses every day – yet we still get through it. We all stuff up from time to time – yet we are still around and probably a better business person for our stuff-ups.
We all look back at our ‘first drafts’ of stuff we built, designed, went to market with and absolutely cringe at it (remember your first website?!). First drafts don’t make you fail!! First drafts are PROGRESS.
This ‘fear mongering’ is another marketing tactic to subtly force you into buying their product. It’s cruel and it’s wrong. Please don’t buy into it.
8.They tell you that you couldn’t possibly do it without them.
Short of doing myself out of work here, I have to say that too is complete codswallop. Think of all of the things you know how to do today that you didn’t know how to do 5 years ago. Us humans have an unparalleled ability to learn new things and with the array of information out there, believe me when i say that there is NOTHING that you can’t teach yourself. Yes, it will take you a LOT longer than getting a professional to teach you, yes, you will make a lot more mistakes and do things the slow and hard way when teaching yourself, yes it won’t get you qualified in anything, but the point I’m making is that you still can go out there on your own and create a course. So when you see this ‘you’re too stupid to do it without me’ marketing tactic being used with the intent to overwhelm and frighten you, remember that you do have a brain, and that you should think very carefully about giving your money to this person.
9.They don’t show you the curriculum in the sales process.
Now THIS is a big one! They will make a HUGE sales page going on about a whole load of vague idealistic outcomes you’ll experience by buying their course, eg:
Passive income, scalable business, ‘membership’ to something private, magic ‘blueprints’ (but don’t tell you what blueprints), that you’ll be ‘implementing and getting your hands dirty’ but don’t tell you HOW, they only show ‘part’ of the curriculum…. Blah blah blah…
Where is the full list of lessons you’re going to get? Where are the learning outcomes? (and learning outcomes, when written PROPERLY are clearly defined and MEASURABLE results, not cloudy promises of a 6 figure passive income business).
EVERY course MUST have a full, detailed curriculum plan that clearly outlines every single piece of content, learning outcome and lesson that will be taught. If one of these does not exist, the course has not been properly constructed, and certainly not by an ‘expert’ course creator. It would be like building a house without the blueprints.
In my bad experience, I had not seen a written curriculum outline. I paid for a program to later find out it didn’t exist. If you don’t know what you are buying, if you can’t see the FULL, itemised description, then please ask yourself what you are paying for!!!
Many marketers use the (unethical) ‘sell it before you’ve built it’ technique.
Meaning they get YOU to pay them for something that doesn’t yet exist.
All well and good if they actually do build something to give you, but as an experienced course creator, I can confidently tell you that a program usually evolves as you build it, and therefore doesn’t always end up identical to the original course plan (what they promised you).
If you are buying ANY kind of training, course or coaching program, ask to see the FULL curriculum and a sample of content from throughout the program (not just the first module) BEFORE you hand over a cent so that you know it actually exists. A list of each module title, lecture title and a little selection of the lectures is enough for you to know that there is a product ready for you to access the second you press the ‘pay now’ button. A provider that has a course ready to go that they are proud of and passionate about teaching (over just making money), will be delighted to do this for you.
9.They have no historical content or IP on course creation, teacher training or curriculum design
Someone who is TRULY invested in their area of expertise, will have dedicated hours upon hours upon hours to their art.
- Do they have a website or a blog? Does their blog contain substantial content demonstrating their expertise in the topic (in this case, online course creation)?.
- Do they have a YouTube channel? Does it contain substantial videos which demonstrate their expertise in course creation?
- Are they a sought after expert in course creation? ie – have they got articles published, are they a sought after keynote speaker, have they been interviewed on podcasts, do they have a book or ebook on course creation?
If someone is trying to convince you that they are an ‘expert’ in course creation, yet has not bothered to take the time to establish themselves as such by topic content creation, I would be inclined to believe that they were jumping on a trend to make money, rather than be a dedicated professional in that topic.
Before you give your money to a ‘expert course creator’ to learn how to build your course, or to design your course for you; remember that professional expertise goes far beyond being able to ‘sell’ a topic well.
It takes YEARS of working, living and breathing that industry, it requires formal and informal training, it requires years of practical experience and content curation in that topic – I know, I’ve been doing this for over a decade and it kills me to watch innocent course creators trying to better themselves for their business and their students getting hurt. Check this stuff out first.
This isn’t a post to say ‘choose me’. That’s not what this article is about.
There are LOTS of sensational curriculum developers out there, so shop around, google search, have strategy calls with them all to see who you click with, find who YOU like; but please please check these fundamentals so that you don’t get burned.
Being a course creator is one of the most the most exciting, rewarding and enjoyable experiences in the world. I hope that by sharing these warning signs with you that I can help ensure that your course creation and online teaching journey is nothing but a wonderful one as you go about spreading your message, creating your legacy and changing the world.
Have fun out there,
BA Ed / PGCE Adult Ed
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