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how to write course description
Emily Joy

How to Write a Course Description that Sells (with Examples)

Last updated: November 14, 2022

There’s never been a better time to sell online courses. Online courses are in high demand and cover a wide range of topics. Congratulations on doing the hard parts! You’ve chosen your topic, conducted your research, outlined the course content, and written the curriculum. Now there’s one more step before you’re ready to sell your online course: writing the course description.

A course description is one of the most important aspects that you’ll need to nail when launching your online course. This is what your prospective students will see before making a decision on whether or not to purchase your online course.

It’s an introduction to you and your online course, so you want to put your best foot forward. In this article, we’ll be providing an overview of the importance of course descriptions and how you can successfully write one to support your product.

Here’s a quick list of topics that we will be covering:

What Is A Course Description?

A course description is a brief summary of your subject, course content, and learning objectives. Potential learners will read your course description and then make an assessment as to whether or not yours is the right course for them. A course description should run no longer than one hundred words, and be written in clear, focused language.

Why Do You Need to Write a Good Course Description?

course description example

Think of a course description as a small advertisement for your product. Simply put, a well-written course description means that more potential students will be moved to purchase your course. But what does a “good” course description mean?

A good course description is interesting.

Just like an effective ad or commercial, a good course description will grab the attention of the reader. Avoid using dull or repetitive language. If a potential learner is bored while reading the course description, they will assume your course content will be uninteresting.

A good course description is accurate.

Your summary should give potential students an accurate idea of what to expect while taking your course. You will need to balance the interesting/inspiring aspects of your course description with a realistic communication of what the learning objectives are.

A good course description uses proper spelling and grammar.

This one is critical. If there are spelling or grammatical errors in your course description, potential students are not going to trust your expertise. Have someone else read your course description to check for mistakes, or run it through a free online editing check.

A good course description uses the present tense and active voice

This is a simple way of drawing the reader in by eliminating unnecessary words and information. (If you find this tip confusing, don’t worry; the examples below will clarify.)

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Course Description

write course description

Before you start to write your course description, you should take some time to gather and organize your thoughts about your course content. The description is meant to inspire potential learners to buy your course. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you sit down to write your course description (jot down your answers in point form):

Why am I interested in this topic?

Perhaps acquiring this particular knowledge has been logistically useful in your day-to-day life. Perhaps it’s been a calming hobby and good for your mental health. Try to remember why you got involved in this topic to begin with, since that will help you understand how to sell it.

Why would other people be interested in this topic?

Imagine you are talking to a friend about this topic and telling them why you found it useful/interesting/healthy/helpful. What would you say? How would you inspire them to take an interest? What if you had to argue with them a little bit, and insist that this topic was worth their time?

What do you want your students to know/understand/have by the end of your course?

This will be easier to answer if you’ve already completed your course outline. What are the major points of knowledge/skill that you hope your students will acquire? Do you aim for them to leave your course with something concrete like a poem, quilt, or action plan?

How do you intend to teach them?

This is specific. What modes of teaching do you mean to employ? Will your content primarily be taught in a lecture format? Will your assignments be practical and hands-on? Is there a final project?

Once you’ve spent some time thinking about these questions, you’re ready to move on to the step-by-step guide.

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How to Write a Course Description (Step-by-Step Instructions)

1. Decide on a course title

Your course title is important. It should be clear, while also compelling the reader to move on to the full course description content. Try to be specific. Ask yourself what kind of tone you want to convey. Is your course academic and research-oriented? Is it meant to appeal to casual students looking for a hobby? (If you are offering a series of courses, include a class code if applicable.)

Here are some examples:

  • The Basics of Bookkeeping
  • Crafting the Quilt: Fundamentals of Quiltmaking
  • Taking Essay-writing to The Next Level
  • Ultimate Graphic Design Training: From Beginner to Professional

You’ll notice that the course titles above provide some indications of a specific skill as well as the prospective students’ skill level.

2. Introduce why students should take your course

You want to begin your paragraph with one or two sentences that appeal to your reader’s needs, passions or curiosities. What is the number one reason someone is seeking out your course to begin with? What problems are you trying to solve in their lives? What kinds of desired transformations would they be able to achieve after taking your course? Once you figure that out, you can connect with them on that point.

Sometimes it’s helpful to begin with a question. For example, if you are teaching a course on how to frame a photograph, you might begin by asking, “What makes a photograph interesting?” or “Why does the framing of a photograph impact our emotional response?”

Other times, it might be more appropriate to begin with a statement that piques the reader’s interest. Perhaps there’s a historical point to be made about your topic, or a general consensus that is interesting to think about. For example, if you are teaching a course entitled LOOK UP: BIRDWATCHING FOR BEGINNERS, you might begin by saying, “Whether it’s their colorful plumage, distinct voices, or curious behavior, birds have always been interesting to humans.”

Again, this is an opportunity for you to connect with the reader on the very thing that inspired them to research a course on your topic.

3. Communicate what you will teach and how you will teach it

Next, you offer two or three sentences on how you intend to conduct the course, what methods will be used, and what learners should come away with. Will you primarily teach through lectures? Will there be articles and case studies? Are there hands-on, practical components? This is when you want to use present tense and active voice. This can be tricky if you’re used to writing in a passive voice. Here are some poor examples with corrections:

POOR EXAMPLE: “Well-known photos will be examined and discussed in order to learn about composition.”

CORRECTION: “Lectures examine and discuss the composition of well-known photos.”

POOR EXAMPLE: “In this course, birdwatching fundamentals will be learned through lectures, group discussions, and assignments.”

CORRECTION: Students examine birdwatching fundamentals through lectures and group discussions. Asynchronous birdwatching assignments encourage real world experience.

Tip: Payhip provides multiple lesson types including videos, text-based lessons, quizzes, surveys, assignments, embeds, and more. This allows you to create an engaging learning experience that would appeal to multiple types of learning styles.

4. Refine with details

  • Avoid using cliches like, “In this class we will…”
  • Avoid saying, “Students will learn,” since you can’t guarantee that they will learn everything you aim to teach. Instead, use words like examine, investigate, discuss, interrogate.
  • Think carefully about naming specific texts, media, or software, since that element of your course might change over time.
  • Avoid using jargon or terminology that your potential student might not understand, especially if it’s a course for beginners. Unless your course is for advanced students (and the prerequisites are clearly stated), you want your course descriptor to feel welcoming to students of all levels and experiences.
  • Remember your audience: a course description should center the student’s perspective.
  • Use gender-neutral language. When referring to your potential customers, you want to use general terms so that nobody feels excluded simply because of the language you choose. Consider the following options: students, participants, artists, group members.

Course Description Examples

THE LIFE OF THE SHORT STORY

Why is the short story so compelling? What makes short fiction uniquely poised to explore the human condition? Lectures explore classic and contemporary examples of short fiction, examining key craft elements pertaining to plot, voice, and character development. Students submit writing samples for critique and feedback, with the aim of a completed story outline and polished first paragraph.

INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP: BEYOND THE BUZZWORDS

Is inclusivity simply a box to check off? Can inclusive leadership actually be transformative? Through statistical and case study analysis, students examine how inclusive leadership affects corporate culture, morale and productivity. Participants investigate best practices and problem solving through role-playing real world examples. Special emphasis given to confidence building and conflict resolution.

COURTING THE PAST: GENEALOGY FOR BEGINNERS

Knowing who we are means knowing where we come from. Where do we start? A thriving genealogy industry means there’s never been more tools at our disposal.  Lectures explore research strategies and the benefit of different online genealogy archives. Students determine their own, personalised learning and research objective for the final project. One-on-one coaching sessions are optional.

Sell Online Courses with Payhip

signup on payhip

 

You can get started selling online courses on your own website by signing up on Payhip for free. Use Payhip’s store builder to create your online course landing page and input your course description there.

There are a couple of options about how to format your course description. It’s really about personal preference. Before you begin editing, your course homepage will look like this:

Course Sales Page Template

We recommend you use the space under “Course Title,” for your first sentence; the first to appeal to your reader’s passions and curiosity. The content under, “Example Text,” can be reserved for the rest of your information. Try different combinations until it looks right. Here’s an example of how you could format your course description on Payhip: (And of course you’ll want to use an image that makes sense for your content.)

course description examples

Again, there’s no one way to format your course description on your course page. Fiddle around with it until it looks right to you.

Advantages to selling your course on Payhip

how to sell online courses on payhip

  • Free Forever Pricing. You don’t pay anything until you begin to sell your course. Then, there’s just a 5% transaction fee. As your business grows, you can upgrade to a zero-transaction fee plan.
  • Diverse Lessons: The Payhip platform integrates text and video lessons with assignments, quizzes, embeds, and surveys. This makes for a more compelling learning experience.
  • Drip Content: You can choose to release certain course content at a later date.
  • Sell Your Courses With Other Product Types: Payhip customers can also sell subscriptions, coaching, and physical products (among others) which allows for a more streamlined learning experience and more revenue opportunities!
  • Fully Customizable Sales or Landing Page: Sellers can customize their course page using the store builder. This way, the look and feel of your page can better reflect your brand and product. You can also implement specific website sections that will increase the conversion from website visitors to paying students.
  • Variety of Pricing Options: You can offer multiple course pricing including one-time payments, subscriptions, or payment plans

Final Thoughts

Selling online courses can be a significant and fulfilling source of income. Once your online course is ready to go, it really is worth it to set some time aside in order to write a good course description. Your content deserves to be well represented in your summary to potential learners.

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