How I Use Edvo to Build and Run Online Courses

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Hannah Frankman

Contributed by Hannah Frankman | @hannahfrankman

I’ve been teaching courses and building curriculum since 2016, and I’ve been working full-time in the education world since 2018.

In that time, I’ve built all different types of courses: in-person courses, month-long cohort-based courses, stand-alone workshops, and everything in between.

My area of specialty (and my favorite thing to build) is the cohort-based course (if you’re curious, you can check out my most recent projects here and here). I teach online courses multiple times a year, and I’ve built a pretty solid system for managing each project.

For my most recent course, I used Edvo to outline, build, and run my course -- and I was amazed by how well it streamlined my process.

In this post, I’ll show you how I used Edvo to build and run my most recent course -- and how you can use the tool to organize and manage your own projects.

The first phase of any good project is research

A good course is an amalgamation of my own thoughts and ideas, other people’s quotes, example stories, live exercises, and other resources.

Typically when I start working on a course, I begin with a couple different documents:

  • A brain dump document, where I’m brainstorming ideas for the course
  • A collection of resources, quotes, stories, etc. I want to reference

Every course creator I know (or content creator of any kind!) references other people’s content and ideas in their work. It’s part of what makes a great course. 

Every time I came across an article, an email, a tweet, a podcast episode, etc. that was relevant to my course, I saved it with the tag associated with my course, so it auto-saved to my course workspace.

When it came time to work on my course, I could see everything I’d saved all at once. It expanded my surface area for thinking and allowed me to synthesize all of this information into a cohesive outline.

You can see some of the items I saved to my workspace here:

The hardest part of creating a course is figuring out how to organize all the disparate ideas and resources into one neat, clean, and linear flow of information. Seeing it all in one place makes that process much faster.

Even better, each resource or webpage I tagged was saved as its own card, and cards can be moved around, grouped, and ordered, meaning I could drag-and-drop these resources as I started to compile an outline.

Once I’ve collected all the resources I’m using, the first real step is to create a course outline

When I’m outlining a course, I need to have multiple documents open at once. I used to use a second monitor and have split screens on both, but that felt clunky -- it required a lot of clicking back and forth.

When I’m working, I want to minimize clicking around as much as possible. One of the hardest parts about organizing information is having to look at it linearly -- only seeing one thing at a time. The better I can see all the information I’m working with at once, the easier it is for me to draw the right connections and assemble it in the right order. 

In Edvo, I was able to pull everything I was using into one workspace, and look at it at a glance.

  • My course braindump/resources
  • All the resources and links I’ve saved
  • My actual course outline master doc

I had a google doc open in my Edvo workspace to hold my outline draft, and I was able to write my outline directly in my workspace, with all my reference documents open around it. No more clicking back and forth through tabs (and wasting time, and even worse, getting distracted)!

You can see my workspace at the beginning of the drafting process here:

Here’s how I’m using this workspace:

  • I have my outline document open and ready to go on the right side of the screen.
  • To the left, I have all the external resources I was planning to reference in this section of the outline.
  • As I worked, I was able to pull other resource cards in and out of my main workspace, so everything I needed was at my fingertips -- but nothing was cluttering my focus or distracting me.

Look at how nice and clean this is!

Once I’ve created a master outline, I also create micro-outlines for each segment of the course -- each live lesson (or even subsections of a live lesson), recorded videos, etc. (Think of creating a novel outline, then a chapter-by-chapter summary.) Edvo allowed me to have both documents open at the same time -- my master outline and the micro-outline I was working on -- so I could easily cross-reference.

Even better: I also love using whiteboards as part of my outlining process. I usually create a few when I’m working on a new project -- there’s something about writing things down by hand and seeing my ideas mapped out visually that helps clarify my thinking. With Edvo, I can have my Microsoft Whiteboard account open right in my workspace!

Once I’ve finished an outline, the next step is to create course collateral

When I’m running a course, I create slides, handouts, exercises, and a landing page -- as a bare minimum. Course creators build all kinds of collateral: videos (for which they’ll need checklists, scripts, and edits), pre-readings, student forums, resource banks … you name it.

Each piece of collateral you create requires referencing your outline (and sometimes your resources). Really, when I’m creating a handout or a slide deck, I’m pulling excerpts from my outline, then either refining them or expanding on them to build the finished product.

So obviously, I want to have everything on one screen. It speeds up the process significantly.

In my workspace, I opened up my outline, and my session-by-session breakdown. Then I opened up the documents I was actually creating (in this case, a handout draft in Google Docs and a slide deck for a live session).

Then I cross-referenced back and forth between my outline and my collateral drafts while I worked.

You can see here what that looked like as I was building my slide deck:

I have my outline document open on the left, and I’m able to build a slide deck in google slides right in my workspace.

Even better, I’m able to zoom in and out of my workspace in Edvo -- so I actually had multiple workstations going as I got deeper into my project. Here’s a zoomed-out view of my workspace as I got deeper into the process. You can see multiple stations around my screen -- for creating different types of outlines and collateral.

Once I finish my outline, I go into full-on marketing mode

This may be the most stressful (and exhilarating) part of course creation. Once you’ve built an amazing product, you have to show the world what you’ve created -- and convince them that they absolutely have to have what you’ve built.

On the flip side, you also need to get enough registrants to fill up your course and make it worth running.

Every single course creator I’ve ever talked to describes this as the most terrifying part of the course creation process. When you open up course sales, you have no idea what to expect (10 registrants? 200?). You want to do everything in your power to market this thing you’ve built.

Much of my own marketing happens via social media. Once I’ve finished an outline and a landing page, I go all-in on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Instagram to promote what I’ve built. My marketing strategy is very conversation based. I like sharing:

The more teasers I can have in this content, the better, so being able to draw from my prep materials makes this process easy.

Here’s a screengrab of my copywriting drafts in my workspace. I was able to pull right from my outline document (on the right), to make my course teasers (on the left) as specific as possible:

Even better, you can have social media open right in your workspace -- so you never even have to leave your workspace to outline, draft, and publish a marketing post. You can write marketing emails and social media copy, track engagement and interest (because spreadsheets work in your workspace too!), log waitlist signups, and everything else right in Edvo.

Once the course is live, I can also use Edvo to help me run my in-course database

All the courses I run are live, cohort-based courses -- which means I’m interacting with students all the time.

During each live session, I like to take notes as I engage with my students. I want to jot down and remember questions they’ve asked me, areas of interest unique to different individuals, topics I’d like to bring up based on those interests, and reminders to myself to follow up with various people.

Part of what makes a great live course is the personal connection -- and the more I can build an experience that’s unique to the people involved, the stronger the overall course experience will be.

Once I start running my course, I’ll create a card in my Edvo workspace to track in-session notes. You can see below an example of my workspace during a live session: my session outline (my slide deck is pulled up for screen sharing on my second monitor), and the card where I’m tracking my student’s areas of interests.

Here’s my workspace all ready to go for the second live session of my course:

When I’m running the live session, I’ll have my slide deck open on a second screen, so I can screenshare on the Zoom call -- but I like having my deck open in my workspace as well, in case I want a cheat sheet for which slides are coming next.

I also have my session outline open (with all my notes and points I want to hit), and my document with student notes.

There are so many different things i can use my workspace for in real time: tracking attendance, logging assignments, noting for improvement for the next cohort, and documenting other observations in real time -- either by using cards in my workspace, adding a google doc to my workspace, or adding notes into a spreadsheet. 

Using Edvo has dramatically accelerated my process as a course creator

Having everything in one place has sharpened and streamlined my thinking (I can see everything at once -- and often see connections I otherwise would’ve missed). It’s significantly sped up my drafting process (it’s amazing how much time we waste clicking between things). And honestly, it’s made course creation more fun.

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