Ultimate Guide to Outlining an Audio Course

Outlining your class is the best way to ensure your audio course is well-organized and engaging.

Outlining your class is a great way to ensure your audio lessons are well-organized and engaging. The outlining process can also help you think through the details of course production.

Each audio lesson that you create should be a step toward the end goal your students had in mind when they began your course. Here are some tips for organizing your course:

Bite-sized Lessons

Think of lessons as milestones

Each lesson should be a practical step towards learning the new skill or subject that you’re teaching. Think about how each lesson will push your student toward mastering this new skill or subject. If it's not essential or valuable, it probably shouldn't be included.

Determine the required content and order

Consider making a checklist of skills or knowledge that your students need to learn during your course to be successful. What’s essential?

Create a course outline of these items or milestones. Many of these will become lessons.

Let this order evolve as you create your course. You may find that you forgot something and need to add it in later. Or you may need to reorder things to make the course work better.

Don’t forget the high-level basics. Are there any baseline skills, concepts, or knowledge that your students need to learn to progress through your course? Do you need to give them any useful definitions or background details early on to prime them for the rest of the course material?

Shorter lessons are better

Limit each lesson to one important concept. Don’t try to cover too much ground in one lesson. Break up any longer recordings so you don’t overwhelm your students. We think 2-8 minutes is a good target lesson length for solo instruction.

From a student’s point of view, it’s rare that lectures are too short. It’s much more common for lectures to be too long and drawn out. Audio courses and online courses generally are attractive because they provide a short and sweet way to learn new things and acquire new skills. Audio learners generally want to move quickly. Be efficient with your time (and theirs) and get to the point!

Add action items

While this is an audio-only course, practical exercises are helpful to the learning experience. You don’t need to include these in every lesson, but giving your students a way to put their new skills into action is a great way to show them they’re making progress. Include prompts in the audio or lesson notes.

Bullet Points over a Script

Some instructors prefer to write out a full script for each lesson. But unless you’ve done this before, reading from a script on audio generally sounds robotic.  Your goal is to sound like your speaking conversationally.

We recommend instructors create bullet points for each section and will talk through it organically, making sure they hit on each point. This way you cover the requisite material, but you still want to sound natural.

Bullet points will help you talk through your lessons more organically, while still making sure you cover every important point.

If you stumble or say the wrong thing, don't worry. Just start over. You can always fix it in the edit.

Lesson titles - Sell your course

Students will browse the contents of your course before enrolling, so titling your courses well is also a marketing tactic. Make sure you choose clear titles that show you’re providing value, but also title your lessons so that potential students will want to listen.

Structure Course

Audio courses are a brand-new learning format and we are still constantly experimenting to figure out what works best. The following guidelines are based on past Avocado courses and are not intended to be prescriptive.

Key elements

  • Intro music
  • Host open and hook, including "Why you should listen."
  • Introduce yourself and other experts involved
  • Two-way interview with a guest or expert with direct-to-listener tips and first-person narration
  • Additional audio elements for depth, including transitions, history, pacing, brevity, surprise, etc.
  • Host outro/back announce to guest or expert
  • Lesson summary and key takeaways

Example Audio Course Structure (1-3 hours)

The format of short-form audio courses varies depending on the subject matter. It might call for many brief lessons or a few longer lessons. There's no rigid standard. In general, we recommend the following format:

Course Introduction (~7 minutes)

The introduction should be short and sweet, but it should get your students excited to learn. Provide a warm welcome to your students and give them a quick overview of the course and how it works. To make a good impression, consider adding a personal touch. The introduction usually includes:

  • A hook that catches the listener’s attention (~30-60 seconds)
  • “I’m your host/teacher/guide… My background is…” (~1-2 minutes)
  • About this course… (~1 minute)
  • Address who this course is (and isn’t) for. Are there any prerequisites?
  • Keep things high-level, light, and inspirational.
  • Explain how the course will work, the format and flow of lessons, etc.
  • Why you should care about learning this skill/subject. (~2-3 minutes)
  • Include statistics/examples as proof points for why this is important to know. Remember to include emotional as well as rational impacts your student can attain.
  • Goal of this course. What you’ll learn. (~3-4 minutes)
  • Preview a few of the questions this course will answer. You might use clips from future lessons and/or interviews with guests/experts to do this.
  • Final summary of what your students will walk away with: “By the end of this course, you’ll be able to…”
  • Reminder of any extras outside the audio lessons plus a preview of the next lesson. (~1 minute)
  • Are there any resources aside from audio lessons, like lesson summaries and/or exercises, that your students should know about?
  • Are there action items following the lessons? If so, explain where students can find those and how to use them.

Middle Lessons (~2-8 minutes)

This is the bulk of your content and instruction. The lessons should cover one topic and explain what you’ll be covering in the start of the lesson.

You probably have many ideas about what lessons you can include in your first audio course. Break down those ideas even more. Then, bundle them into theme. Put all those topics in a logical order and make a list.

An example of this would be:

Course Subject: Creating an Audio Course

  • Main topic 1: Pick Your Topic
  • Subtopic: Expert
  • Subtopic: Demand
  • Subtopic: Competition
  • Main topic 2: Outlining Your Course
  • Subtopic: Process
  • Subtopic: Structure
  • Main topic 3: Recording Your Course
  • Subtopic: Gear
  • Subtopic: Recording

Teaching Solo: Lessons are typically taught by one instructor. The benefit of teaching solo is that you don’t need to rely on anyone else to record your lessons, and you’re building a reputation as the authority on your subject.

Teaching with a Co-Host: You could teach along with a friend. If you have the right co-host, you have someone to debate, and bounce ideas back and forth. The variety can provide a great listing experience.

Guest Instructor Lesson (10-30 minutes)

Occasionally you may want to bring on additional experts to add more variety to your audio course. This is great way to “borrow” expertise and prestige for your course. Talking with your heroes is shockingly easy with podcasts and audio courses. If you ask nicely, you can often get your expert to share the course with their following when it’s live for an added boost.

This is more structured and polished then a traditional interview podcast.

  • Host lesson open; interactive feature/ways a listener can stay engaged. (~3-4 minutes)
  • Host intro to lesson or guest/expert you’ll be interviewing. (~2-3 minutes)
  • Guest/expert direct to listener; two-way host/guest interview; first-person narrative. Format can vary depending on material. (~5-20 minutes)
  • Host or co-host recites lesson summary and key takeaways. (~3-5 minutes)
  • Host delivers activity/call-to-action. (~1-2 minutes)
  • Host previews next lesson. (~1-2 minutes)

Course Conclusion (~8-10 minutes)

In the last lesson, congratulate the student on finishing the course. Remind them what they’ve learned on this journey, and explain what they should do now that they’ve finished your course. The format here is up to you:

Instead of lesson summaries and call-to-actions being restated at the end of each lesson, they may be aggregated here at the end of the course. This will depend on how you want to present the material.

The content of your final lesson may vary depending on your course’s length. This may not be a standalone lesson like it would be in many long-form courses but instead occur after teaching the final milestone.

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