How to Choose a Winning Online Course Topic

Have you ever taken an online course?

While there are many community colleges and universities that offer exceptional training programs, many of us simply don’t have the time to dedicate an entire evening to class. Hence, the rise of the online self-directed course. With these, you can learn the material at your own pace without having to worry about long classes that you have to fit into your already-tight schedule.

Online courses offer an incredible opportunity to small business owners and other entrepreneurs who are looking to make a name for themselves as an expert in their field. On top of that, it’s a rapidly growing industry! Creating an online course might not be as tricky as you’d think, especially using platforms like Teachable, Skillshare, or even YouTube. But before you take your first steps into online academia, you need to figure out a winning online course topic!

What Kind of a Course Will You Offer?

Even before you come up with a topic, you should figure out the type of online course you are going to offer to your audience.

There are countless variations, but I’ll break it down into the five most popular:

Workshop Course

Workshop courses are like more comprehensive webinars. In them, you will be teaching your “students” about solutions to a problem they might have. You aren’t going in-depth here. Instead, you are providing your audience with knowledge and advice that could make an immediate difference in their lives. They are usually shorter, around 1 to 2 hours in length. 

[TWEET “Have you ever taken an online course? They can be the perfect way to position yourself as an expert online!”]

Starter Course

Think of a starter course kind of like “Online Course 101.” It’s where you provide your audience with the basics of your topic. Starters are foundational courses that will lay the groundwork for the more advanced courses that come later.

Focused Course

Once your audience is familiar with an overall topic, you can start drilling down into the details with a more focused course. You’re going to be talking about one specific area of your expertise here. This variety of course generally delivers a more limited audience, but you can also charge more, as it’s about one specialized topic.

Certification Course

While most online courses simply provide your audience with information, this course is an in-depth course that will deliver a certification of some kind at the end (provided they pass). Unlike the other courses on this list, a certification course could require you to meet some regulations to deliver a certification at the end of it.

Your Signature Course

Picture your website. You’d be mentioning your Signature Course at the very top of your homepage! This course is a comprehensive dive into your field of expertise. It can be a compilation of all of the courses that we talked about above, “Workshop, Starter, Focused, and Certification.” This is your premium-level content. 

How Do You Choose a Winning Topic?

Once you have figured out the kind of online course you want to create, it’s time to nail down your topic. 

Do Your Research

Before you figure out your topic, you need to learn what sells.

Take a look around some of the online course services out there. Teachable is a fantastic place to start! First, navigate to the section on your industry and bring up the most popular courses. Take notes about which courses are selling and which are not. The last thing you want is to spend hours and hours creating an online course that no one wants to take. 


Brainstorming is a fantastic way to generate new ideas and perspectives, and I always recommend doing it when you are trying to come up with any content, whether they be blogs, webinars, or online courses.

This is an area where I can be super helpful! We can schedule a call and bounce ideas off each other about what kind of online course would be best for you and your small business. We can talk about your own training, interests, hobbies, passions, and experiences teaching in the past.

Target An Audience

There are countless online courses out there with general topics like “Starting an Online Business” or “Becoming a Leader.” Those won’t sell because there are more exciting and focused sounding topics that will draw eyes.

When you’re coming up with your course topic, try to figure out what its unique selling position will be. If you’re targeting stay-at-home Moms, maybe try “Starting an Online Business While Juggling a Family.” It’s more specific and will attract the audience you want.

What Fits with the Topic?

Once you’ve figured out your course topic, you need to figure out which kind of online course will best fit with the subject matter. This can require you to do the research and make sure that you have enough material to fill an entire online course.

You might have a fantastic idea for an online course, but it might be too generalized a topic for a Focused Course. Or you might have dozens of things you want to talk about, so a Workshop or Starter Course might be too limited a vehicle for it. 

[TWEET “Are you ready to take a big step into the world of online courses? If so, I’m here to help!”]

Test Your Ideas

Market testing is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal when you’re developing a new product like an online course.

Use your already-existing audience to figure out what kind of online course would appeal to them. You could reach out to them with an online survey or simply ask directly in a phone call or email. Rather than asking them what kind of a course they would like to take, provide them with a list of options. This strategy could help you narrow down your focus to the topic that will appeal to the majority of people.

While an online course can be a fantastic product for your small business, it might not be your first stop. If you’ve never taught anything before, or simply aren’t experienced in presenting material/content, you might not want to jump to an Online Course right from the start. If you would like to “test the waters,” the best solution might be a Webinar. To help you get started, I breakdown all of the steps on how to create a Webinar in my free workbook, The Ultimate Webinar Launch Planner

But if you’re ready to jump into the world of online courses with both feet, I’m here for that too! Contact me today and we can start throwing around some ideas for your course, picking a topic that will win your audience over. And then, it’s time to do the research, write the content, design the graphics, and get everything up online. On top of that, I can assist in the product launch and making sure that it’s fully integrated into your website’s e-commerce solution. It’s going to be a lot of work, but trust me, it will be worth it!

About Jennie Lyon

Jennie Lyon is the founder of Jennie Lyon Virtual Assistant Services. Jennie specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs organize, manage, develop and promote their brand! She is devoted to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with social media, content creation, email marketing, client relations, website management, and administration services. If you are a small business owner, coach or self-employed entrepreneur struggling to find enough time in your day to focus on what you really love - schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Jennie.

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