Select The BEST Format for Your Digital Course & Business

Digital courses are a big deal, not only because they can be highly lucrative, but because there are lots of details to consider, plan and execute in order to ensure a quality digital product.

And if you are just getting started or you are about to launch something new, it's understandable to want your ROI to be lucrative.

Plus, no one wants to publish a mediocre digital course!

In this article I talk about simplifying the digital course planning process, and how to get started with the right digital course format for you and your business. 

Here’s a preview of what we will cover: 

  • Top 3 Digital Course Formats on the Market Now

  • Why Format Matters and How it Can Earn you More Money

  • How to Select The BEST Format for Your Digital Course & Business

Let’s get started!

Top 3 Digital Learning Formats on the Market Now!

When it comes to digital courses and programs, there may be one format that stands out in your mind. But in reality, there are more than a few ways to offer a digital course!

Self-study: One of the most popular digital course formats is a self-study course that is fully automated with videos instead of (or in addition to a book or handouts). Typically, these courses are shorter in length - no more than 6 modules - and are hosted on a learning management system. 

Digital programs and progressive courses: A digital program or progressive course is slightly different from a digital course in that it usually includes live instruction, office hours or coaching calls, and possibly even a membership area where the current members have access to all the resources. This type of course is much more comprehensive than the self-study course, usually a minimum of 12 modules and may even provide students a virtual library of materials (video, text, etc.) It is also taught using a website or learning management system. 

Memberships: Memberships are a lot like Laboratories where students of with similar or dissimilar goals can access trainings and resources on a variety of subjects. They can be used as standalone “courses” or paired with courses and programs (even in-person ones) to provide added value and support. 

Now, you might be thinking that there are more formats out there, but most likely they fit into one of these three categories.

Some variations on these formats include the course length, the amount of automation and whether the course is taught live (as with most programs) or asynchronously (as with most courses) where the instructor is not present. 

Evergreen courses are a great example of this, as they are taught asynchronously and are fully automated. 

They can be as short as a webinar or more lengthy, depending on the desired goals and outcomes. 

Why Format Matters and How it Can Earn you More Money

The format of your digital course is incredibly important, especially when it comes to filling seats and making a return on your investment. 

It is a key factor in attracting the right students, and it even plays a decisive role in which technology and tools you will use to teach.

When you understand the impact that each format can have on your audience, you will be able to make even more money with your courses and programs.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's have a look at which format is best for your course and business.

Select The BEST Format for Your Digital Course & Business

Now that you know your options when it comes to formatting, let's take a look at what each one is being used to do.

There is no shortage of options and many people are choosing to even combine elements from one format with another in order to build out their product suite and make a bigger impact.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. First, you're going to need a simple plan of action, like the one that I help students to  create when we work 1:1. 

Some questions to ask yourself, include:

  • What role will this digital course play in my business?

  • Who is this course for?

  • How will they pay for it?

  • How will this course be used?

  • How quickly do students want results? 

  • Will I be certifying anything with my course?

  • What, if anything do I *not* want this course to do?

    With this information in mind, you will start to notice whether or not the course should be long or short, target a specific audience or just a specific problem, on-going and always on sale vs. launched and sold on special to a targeted audience. 

You will gain clarity on any additional preparations you might need to make in order to achieve the desired outcome. 

If students will pay out of pocket vs. acquire funding from outside sources, such as employers or grants, this would influence your payment planning and sales system. 

In the case of offering certification, there are potentially 3rd parties who need to be informed or endorsements that require additional time. 

On-demand income, plus reduce the time you trade for money

Self-study courses are a great place to start if you are wanting to create on-demand income potential. 

You can do so simply by repurposing your expertise as a course, for example, on the #1 problem you solve or a very specific solution to a problem your audience can relate to.   

Self-study courses can be sold similarly to digital products (even though they are educational) and they can serve as a (paid) lead generation tool that converts satisfied students into paying clients or referral machines. 

They can be set up in an evergreen fashion and fully automated for ease. 

When your ideal student is looking to acquire a skill or get fast results, self study courses are a great option provided they are also self-motivated and able to learn on their own. 

A few things to remember are that self-study courses need to solve a specific problem. 

It is important to build in quick wins so that students get beyond the first 10% of the course content (the typical drop-out zone) and stay motivated. 

Otherwise it may be difficult to get the social proof you need to brag about students’ results, earn testimonials or referrals, and achieve go-to expert status.

Recurring income machine

Memberships are notorious for producing recurring income and reducing the time we trade for money. 

They can be as simple as a library of content, or they can include a variety of materials to support its members. 

The nice thing about memberships is that they are incredibly flexible forums that can house almost any type of content. 

In fact, it is fairly common to see memberships paired with programs as a “value add” or learning portal. 

Lots of times memberships will include trainings (live or pre-recorded), as well as hot seat coaching and community support. They can also include recipes, workouts, or other supplemental materials. 

If you are a professional who has a ton of resources (or you love to create content), then a membership could make a lot of sense!

Memberships can be offered at a variety of price points, depending on the transformation and content they provide. 

Master competency and transformation over time

Certain types of transformation take longer than others, and programs are the perfect place to help students master their competency and take charge of their transformative process.

Programs are typically longer, more high-touch, and require the presence of an instructor, which is why they are offered at a higher price point. 

However, the ability to streamline 1:1 coaching into a group does amazing things for cash flow and time freedom. 

What I absolutely LOVE about programs, though, is the potential to build community and lasting personal and professional relationships. 

For certification, programs are the typical choice, although memberships and self-study courses can also be paired with certificates. 

But this is more of a course design question than a formatting one, and usually the course materials will make the decision for you. 

Which course format works best for you? \

If you have read through this article and are still wondering - which digital course format is best for me? - because you just don’t know how you would even offer a course online - I am here for you!

Gain clarity and fast traction with your courses & programs with a 90-minute intensive with me so we can:

  • Plan your digital course from start to finish, from technology and formatting to objectives and outline.

  • Identify the gaps in your current sales system and learn how to close more 1:1 coaching packages so you can pay for the development of your digital course. 

  • Develop a content marketing plan and map out ALL your content for the quarter!

You name it, and we can do it (or at least get started) in 90 minutes!

PLUS I  will gift you ELITE access to my on-demand consulting services for the entire week following our call so that implementation is a breeze. 

Get on my schedule before it's too late!


Julie Raich Diémé, M.A. is a Digital Course Scaling Strategist and Educator. She helps health & wellness businesses scale to 6/7 figures with digital courses and programs so you can enjoy the freedom you dreamed of when you first began.

Julie is a language and travel enthusiast. She has spent significant time in South America, Europe and Africa, in countries such as Chile, Brazil, France, Belgium, and Senegal. Currently, she lives in Arcata, California. When she is not in the office, she enjoys going on bike rides, gardening and baking with her 3-year old son and husband.

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Julie Raich Dieme