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What is Beta Testing? (+ How to Beta Test Your Online Course)

  • Matthew TurnerMatthew Turner

Updated by Tara Malone

Do you know one of the biggest mistakes new course creators make?

They forget to beta test their course!

Beta testing your courses is one of the most important steps in the whole process. Anyone can come up with a good idea. If you’re experienced in your industry, you’ll likely be good at teaching your course material.

Yet none of this matters unless you create a course your audience needs.

On your own, it’s difficult to do this. You’ll always leave a few gaps here and there. That’s why beta testing is so important – it helps align the course you create with those you’re creating it for.

Whether you’re creating your first online course or you’ve already gone through this process before, you cannot skip this step if you want your course to be successful.

In this post, we’re going to talk all about beta testing – what it is, why it’s important, and how to go about beta testing your course.

Let’s get started!

What is Beta Testing?

You often hear software developers or inventors talk about beta testing.

In beta testing, you create a minimal version of your product and share it with a select group of people to test it for flaws, issues, and anything else they may find (good or bad). The same applies to beta testing courses because whatever you create will not be perfect.

You will forget something, miss something, or leave something important out.

It could be as small as a misspelled word or as large as a lesson you forgot to upload.

You are not perfect, and neither is the course you build. Creating a beta test allows you to hand your course over to other people who bring fresh eyes to the situation.

Yet it isn’t just obvious errors that your beta testers help you find.

In fact, your beta testers may play a large role in your overall marketing strategy.

Why Beta Testing is Important

There are several reasons why beta testing courses matters, but the three biggest are:

1. Beta Testing Lets You Troubleshoot Your Course Material

As mentioned above, having a group of people beta test your course allows you to spot potential issues, errors, or missing links. These errors could crop up anywhere:

  • A misspelled word
  • A broken URL link
  • A faulty video or audio file
  • A missing PDF or workbook
  • An out-of-place lesson

Yet it isn’t just the obvious errors your beta testers spot, but also more subjective matters around how clear your material is or whether your marketing makes sense.

On your own, you can only do so much.

You’re the creator so of course it makes sense to you.

What matters is if it makes sense to everyone else.

Beta testing a course helps ensure this because it brings an outside perspective and feedback you won’t get if you try and do everything yourself.

2. Beta Testing Helps You Know Your Target Audience Better

As we often talk about here at Mirasee, knowing your Customer Profile is a vital part of the process. It’s almost impossible to create a successful online course unless you know who you serve.

But it isn’t enough to just know them… you need to understand them on a deep level.

You need to comprehend their pain, the problems they face, and the solution they need.

As you’ll see in the next section of this guide, you spend a lot of time with your beta testers. You work with them one-on-one and in small groups. You get to know them, not only providing them with a greater service but learning how you can better help your future students.

This can involve improving your actual course material, but also your marketing, sales, and customer support. The better you know who your customer is, the better the experience you’ll create for them.

This is how you build a successful course that develops into a long-term career.

Beta testing a course isn’t the only way to do this, but it does play a vital role.

3. Beta Testing Helps You Gather Testimonials and Case Studies

Social proof is so important.

Your prospective students will ask: why you?

They’ll want proof as to why you and your course are what they need. You telling them isn’t enough. They need to see how it’s already impacted other people. The problem is, how can you do this before you launch it?

Through beta testing!

Beta testing courses helps you gather feedback, testimonials, and case studies that you can use in future marketing.

Don’t underestimate the power of social proof. It can be the difference between a highly successful course and one that falls short of your goals.

How to Conduct Beta Testing for an Online Course

No matter what course you’re building, you should look to soft launch it with a beta test.

Here’s the process we recommend for beta testing your online course.

1. Define Your Goals

You need to know where you’re going before you set off. As such, you must create a set of measurable goals like you would with any other launch.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does success look like?
  • How many beta testers do I need?
  • How will I measure their feedback?
  • What does a good beta test actually look like?

Your goals are unique to you. Those you set depend on your industry, authority, experience, and more. You may wish to bring in a certain number of beta testers to validate your course.

Or you may choose to focus on their feedback and testimonials.

You make the rules. So long as your goals have meaning, they will help you determine how successful your beta test is later. The point is that you need goals before you do anything else.

Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting your time throughout your beta test, reaching the end of it with twice as many questions as when you began.

2. Recruit Your Beta Testers

Once you know what success looks like, you can then turn your attention toward your beta testers.

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they?
  • How will you reach them?

Again, much of this depends on you. If you already have an established audience, you may be able to recruit all your beta testers with a single email to your list. Alternatively, you may still be building your audience, having to find beta testers through ads, social media, and referrals.

There’s no right or wrong way to build your team of beta testers. What matters is the type of person you bring on board. It isn’t enough to simply create a group, but rather one that fits your ideal customer profile.

The last thing you want to do is test your course on people who are the opposite of those you wish to target. There has to be alignment. Keep this in mind when you recruit your beta testers. 

It isn’t just about quantity, but quality, too.

3. Develop Your Course Timeline

This is an important step for both you and your beta testers.

For starters, you need to create a timeline that maps out the entire course journey, including any marketing, sales, and onboarding. This allows you to use your time wisely, focusing on essential tasks when you need to.

Yet you also need to create a timeline for your beta testers.

  • How long will it take them to complete your course?
  • What commitments must they make each week/month?
  • What milestones are part of this journey?

Journey is the key word. You need to make one for your beta testers so they appreciate where they’re heading. This journey not only helps them but plays a huge role in your own accountability and organization.

4. Create a Pilot of Your Course

Once you have a roadmap for the journey ahead, you then have to create your actual course.

That said, whatever you create at this stage does not have to be perfect.

Your job is to create an early version of your course: providing your beta testers with enough content and context to succeed, but not so much that you complete the process.

This whole experience is like a collaboration. You’re working with your beta testers to create the best online course possible. You have a good idea of what each lesson looks like, but you cannot fill in the gaps until you work with this initial batch of students.

So instead of recording each lesson, maybe run it via Facebook Live…

Rather than create interactive workbooks, keep it in a simple Google doc…

Don’t spend all your time completing the lesson, instead give them 60% of what they need…

Your aim here is to spend as little time as possible on your content, giving your students just enough to keep the momentum building. This is how you turn good content into great content, and it minimizes how much time and money you waste.

5. Price and Launch Your Beta Course

Should your beta course be free?

For some courses, it makes sense for you to give it away to a select few. Oftentimes, it makes more sense to charge them something. How much this is depends on you, your audience, and your course.

What’s more important than the price at this stage is to ensure you actually launch.

It’s easy to procrastinate at this point in the journey. You have to fight this. All you need is:

That’s it. Get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect. 

Launch your beta course, onboard your beta testers, and deliver them what you promise. 

The sooner you begin, the sooner you gather their valuable feedback.

6. Gather Feedback from Your Beta Testers

This is the most important part of the whole process. The reason you run a beta test is so you can gather feedback from your beta testers.

  • What do they like and what don’t they like?
  • What issues/errors have they found?
  • And what do they think is missing?

You only ever know what you know and see what you see. Other people bring a fresh perspective. You don’t know what this will be, but I guarantee you’ll learn a lot during your beta test.

How you gather feedback is up to you. You may like to run in-person interviews, send surveys and questionnaires, have them fill out feedback forms, or all of the above. 

You can also gather invaluable feedback by simply observing your students: what they do and don’t do, and the questions they ask.

7. Track and Measure Results

In addition to gathering feedback, you must also track these results and measure them against your goals from step one.

This is where you realize how successful or unsuccessful your beta test is.

It doesn’t just provide important information for you now, but in the future when you tweak and iterate your course. Make sure you keep all the feedback you gather organized. Track it. Measure it against your goals. Make sure everything you need is at hand whenever you need it.

Gathering feedback is important, yet it’s worthless if you do nothing with it.

8. Analyze and Evaluate

Behind gathering feedback, this is possibly the most important step of the process. At some stage, you need to step back and analyze your beta test.

Consider what went right, what went wrong, and what you’ve learned along the way.

Some of these insights will come from actual data. Your beta testers will fill out questionnaires and you’ll get factual answers to your questions. Yet some of your insights may be more subjective, based on observations, discussions, and questions.

You have no idea what you’ll uncover in this stage until you go through the process. You will uncover some very important insights, though, and these insights will play a big role in what comes next.

Give yourself time to analyze and evaluate your beta test. Don’t rush this step or skip it. Take it seriously.

9. Tweak and Improve Your Course

This is what it’s all about. The reason you run a beta test is so you can make your course better.

By the end of this process you’ll have everything you need to:

  • Complete your course materials
  • Fine-tune your marketing and sales materials
  • Improve your marketing strategy as a whole
  • Further define your customer profile
  • Create processes and onboarding sequences
  • Develop a plan to scale in the future

You’re ready to launch your course to the masses, only now you have greater confidence in what you’re selling. You have a group of beta testers ready to record testimonials, write a review, or be part of a case study. You may even find they want to refer people and be part of your launch team.

Beta testing courses is the difference between going into a launch blind or with your eyes wide open. It’s what successful course creators do, not only ensuring a successful launch but long-term success.

5 Tips for Beta Testing Online Courses

Before we bring this guide on beta testing courses to a close, let’s share a few tips that we often give our own students. As you can see from the above process, it’s something any course creator can do regardless of budget or industry.

Still, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this .

Following these tips will keep you on the right path.

1. Bring in Quality Beta Testers

One of the most important decisions you make throughout this whole process is who you let inside your beta group. You have to set high standards because this lays the foundation for everything else.

  • Are your beta testers aligned with your targeted customer profile?
  • Will they take this process seriously and provide good, honest feedback?
  • Do they have the time and resources to take this process seriously?
  • Are they committed to not just learning, but to also help you make this course the best it can be?

Done correctly, you’ll form a tight bond with your beta testers. They’ll become collaborators. They are your advocates for future students and may become your biggest fans. Bringing in the right kind of beta tester is vital, so don’t panic and let anyone become part of this group.

2. Regularly Communicate with Your Beta Testers 

It’s important you regularly communicate with your beta testers for two reasons:

  1. So you provide them with a superior service
  2. So you can gather greater feedback

Your beta testers won’t just give you the answers and feedback you need. Oftentimes, they won’t know what this is. You have to speak to them, interview them, and push them to go deeper.

Run regular Q&A Sessions. Grab one-on-one calls with them and get to know them as well as you can. The more trust you build, the greater the conversations you’ll have. In return, you’ll receive honest feedback that helps you take your course to the next level.

3. Offer Your Course at a Discounted Price

Should you offer your course for free?

We get asked this a lot. It’s a tough call, and sometimes it is better to provide your beta testers free access to your course material. However, most of the time, you should take payment.

The reason is that you want your beta testers to commit to the process.

They need to go through the whole course and do the work.

If they didn’t invest anything, why would they invest their time later? Often, they won’t and you’ll end up with people who don’t finish what they began. This is not good news!

This isn’t to say you should charge your beta testers full price. Provide them with a special discount. Give them other rewards for being part of this special group. Offer them greater one-on-one time with you, and other features that future students won’t get access to.

Reward them for completing the process!

Make the experience memorable, but above all make sure they’re invested in it.

4. Run More Than One Beta Test

There’s no rule that says you can only create one beta test for your course.

Run a second group. Or a third. Or a fifth.

The reality is that you won’t know how many beta tests your course needs until you’ve completed your first one. Maybe one is enough. Maybe not. Based on the feedback you receive, you’ll make your decision.

But don’t be afraid to run a second or third beta group if you feel it’s the right thing to do.

5. Start Before You Finish

This final tip is the most important of all… don’t wait!

The last thing you want to do is create every aspect of your course before you involve anyone else. Get your lessons to a good enough state and then release it to a group of beta testers. You don’t even need to have all your lessons ready when you launch your beta group.

In fact, it’s better if you don’t because the feedback you receive from early lessons will help you improve future ones. All you need to run a beta group is enough material to get your students started.

From there, create as you go along and release each lesson as soon as it’s good enough.

Not perfect. Not even great. Good enough is just fine.

It’s the whole point of running a beta group, after all…

Beta Testing Courses: Your Next Steps

Beta testing a course is one of the most important parts of creating a successful online course.

Those who do often find the most success.

While those that don’t often fall short.

Yes, it adds some extra steps to your course-building process, but this extra effort will pay off in the end.

So if you’re building an online course, be sure to set aside some time for beta testing your course.

It’s the single best way to ensure that your course is the one your students need and want, and is an important step on the path to online course success.

To learn more about the process of creating an online course, including beta testing, we encourage you to sign up for our FREE Course Builder’s Bootcamp.

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