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Staggering Engagement (Ian Roberts)

  • Episode #18

Ian Roberts has created a number of successful online courses using instructional methods developed over his many years of teaching in-person workshops. He starts off with what he calls “insanely simple” steps and gives students enough time to assimilate new skills, building confidence and momentum. Those ingredients, combined with super-focused subjects and deep interaction with students over the years significantly contribute to Ian’s high success in engagement and completion rates.

This episode of Course Lab is densely packed with helpful information for course creators. Ian describes his creative solutions for growing sales while reducing his own personal involvement and preserving the quality of his courses. In the post-interview debrief, Danny and Abe dive deep into deconstructing the various elements of Ian’s courses that make them so successful.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The importance of having a strong foundation in what you’re teaching.
  • The benefit of narrowly focused topics.
  • Ways to scale up sales and scale back your time commitment.
  • How small wins keep students engaged.
  • Types of courses that create a long-term impact.
  • How peer feedback can be a powerful learning tool when guided by the instructor.
  • Danny and Abe’s debrief.
“If you want to learn to juggle, you don’t start off with eight bowling pins…you learn to throw a ball so that you’re not looking at it, and it lands in your hands.”

Ian Roberts

Guest Bio: Ian Robert’s father was a landscape painter. Ian accompanied his father on painting trips from the time he was ten years old, painting small 8”X10” oil paintings. Later, Ian attended the New School of Art and the Ontario College of Art, both in Toronto. For the past 35 years, Ian has been a professional painter, showing in the U.S., Canada and Europe. For 25 years, Ian has offered plein air painting workshops in Provence, France and venues in the U.S. and Canada through his school, Atelier Saint-Luc, named after the patron saint of painters.

He is the author of two books, Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision and Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting, published by North Light books, and which have sold over 50,000 copies worldwide. He has produced several videos, including Plein Air Painting, shot in Provence, France and Mastering  Composition. Two years ago, Ian began teaching online courses on Mastering Composition and began a weekly YouTube series that currently has over 60,000 subscribers. He shows at the Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara, California, and the Wiscasset Bay Gallery in Wiscasset, Maine. Ian lives in West LA with painter Anne Ward.

Resources or websites mentioned in this episode:


  • Guest: Ian Roberts
  • Hosts: Danny Iny & Abe Crystal 
  • Producer: Cynthia Lamb 
  • Executive producer: Danny Iny
  • Assembled by: Geoff Govertsen
  • Audio Post Supervisor: Evan Miles, Christopher Martin
  • Audio Post Production: Post Office Sound
  • Music soundscape: Chad Michael Snavely

If you don’t want to miss future episodes of Course Lab, please subscribe to Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you’re listening right now. And if you liked the show, please leave us a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people.

Music and SFX credits: 

Track Title: Bossa BB
Artist Name(s): Marie
Writer Name: Chelsea McGough

Track Title: GraceArtist Name(s): Shimmer
Writer Name: Matthew Wigton

Track Title: Carousel Lights
Artist Name(s): Chelsea McGough
Writer Name: Chelsea McGough
Writer Name: Matthew Wigton

Track Title: Coo Coos
Artist Name(s): Dresden, The Flamingo
Writer Name: Matthew Wigton


Course Lab

Ever wondered how online courses could be even better? What would that next level look like? Those are the questions driving online course experts Danny Iny (founder of Mirasee) and Abe Crystal (co-founder of Ruzuku) in Course Lab. In each episode, they bring on an innovative course creator and deconstruct what makes their course (and course business) work for them and their students.