How to make an e-course (using MailChimp)

I just launched an e-course version of DIY Writing Retreat–Your DIY Writing Retreat–and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve taught before and I’ve taken online ecourses before–both emailed and not–so I had a pretty good idea of what I should make it look like. But actually making this course took longer than expected.How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyes

I thought I’d share a quick guide to how to make an e-course using MailChimp, my automated email service of choice.

If you follow these steps and add your own content, you’ll have an e-course that works like this:

  • People sign up to take your e-course on a MailChimp sign-up form (in other words, by joining a MailChimp list).
  • They receive an email that starts the course. Emails = lessons.
  • By clicking or waiting a certain amount of time, they get another email lesson.
  • The course sends automatically whenever someone joins the list.

If you’ve ever signed up to get a free mini-course from someone’s website, this is likely what you got–automated emails in a sequence that makes sense.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1. Outline your e-course by breaking up an idea or a lesson into roughly half-page-long chunks. If you’ve ever planned out a syllabus or a lesson plan unit, this is a lot like that. Think of each email as a lesson that gives the reader one thing to take away. For example, when I was working on Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made one day “Pick a date” and focused on how to find time to get away.

How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los ReyesStep 2. Add assignments to each day. For each day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I wanted there to be a clear takeaway. The best way to do this is make that takeaway into a concrete task. So, for example, on the “Go shopping” day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made a printable grocery shopping list and gave the reader the assignment of printing it out and buying the supplies on it.

Step 3. If you have a free MailChimp account, upgrade it. You only need to sign up for the cheapest level of service ($10/month) to get access to “Automation,” or the ability to make emails that send themselves.

Step 4. Make a MailChimp List for your e-course. You don’t want everyone on your regular email list (if you have one) How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyesto get your course–just the few who sign up (unless you’re making an intro-to-you course–then this list can be your newsletter list!). So, make a separate list for these folks and design a sign-up form.

Step 5. In MailChimp, go to “Automation” and click on the “Create Automation Workflow” button. Set it to send to the list you just created and choose the type of workflow that you want to send–I used “Educate Subscribers.” Your list should be empty, so this won’t actually send to anyone–yet.

Step 6. Design your first email, then click “Add new email” and design the next one. Repeat.

Step 7. Making any printables? Create them in the program of your choice and save them as PDFs. Then, upload to Dropbox (another free service–isn’t the Internet great?) and click on the “Share” button to get a link you can put in your emails/lessons.

Step 8. Decide on the trigger for each email. If you want the emails to send automatically (so that once someone signs up, they get one email per day or one email per week), then change the settings for each email so that it sends periodically after the last email has been sent (or opened). If you want the e-course to be self-paced (so that the reader controls when to get the next email), change the settings for each email so that it sends after the last email Capturehas been clicked. (You get to choose what they click–I made a button for each of mine that sent them to a page on my website that just says “Thanks for clicking! Your next lesson is on its way.”)

Step 9. Test the e-course! Add yourself to the list you made and make sure everything works: links, downloads, triggers. Look for typos. Have someone else try it out and ask them for feedback.

Step 10. Confirm! Add start sharing the sign-up form on your website. (Like this: Are you interested in running Your DIY Writing Retreat? Buy the course here!) If you want to offer it for sale, keep the link hidden and send the code to customers who buy it–if you buy my course, you’ll get the link in a spiffy PDF so you can sign up and take the course at your leisure.

Have you thought about making an e-course? Please share in the comments what’s stopping you if you have!

 

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Paper heart garland

I’m headed to a wedding this weekend. Is it just me, or is everyone getting married this weekend? I wanted to share a little project I made to decorate my bff bride’s pre-marriage party. I was inspired by this paper heart garland, even though I haven’t gone for the whole garland thing (I do like birds, though!). I don’t get the newspaper but I do get Cosmo–typing that made me feel like a terrible person–so I decided to cut up old magazines to make my garland. You can see the results here:

Heart garland made from cut out magazines and zig-zagged on a sewing machine.

 

 

Paper hearts are surprisingly easy to sew on a sewing machine. I used a zig-zag stitch, kept the needle going on medium speed, and just pushed each one through. It was fun to pick out the next heart and try not to get a dozen orange ones in a row or a bunch all the same size right next to each other.

close up of zig-zagged magazine heart

 

To transport the garland to MO, I wound the hearts around an empty toilet paper roll. Piece o’cake!

magazine heart garland wound around empty toilet paper roll

 

I’m going to hang them up in the doorway or around the table like you would streamers, but it would be fun to hang them down in a doorway like a 60s beaded curtain, too!

 

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Artist trading cards/crafty business cards

When I was making this website and designing the survey, I kept trying to think of ways to make a crafty connection to people. I wanted to give them something tangible, like a business card, that was also crafty. I also happened to have a ton of scraps left over from a quilt project, some place mat making, and my good old addiction to Jo-Ann’s. So, I decided to sew up scrappy business cards. I’ll be giving them out at the Portsmouth Open Market this Sunday. Can’t wait!

Here’s how I made them:

First, gather your scraps of fabric. I like to use a mix of different textures: corduroy, calico, denim, linen…

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Then, dig up some InterFuse, which is thick, double-sided interfacing. You could also use plain fusible interfacing and glue it to both sides of a piece of thin cardboard. Find some plain fabric for the back, where your information will go.

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Turn over the solid fabric so that the right side is touching your work surface. Lay the InterFuse on top (both sides are fusible). Then, lay out a fabric collage on top of the interfacing, making sure that all of the fusible stuff gets covered up with your scraps. Overlap the scrap edges by at least a quarter inch.

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Iron the fabric-interfacing-fabric sandwich together on both sides.

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You now have business card material. Scrappy business cardstock, if you will.

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Next, hop on over to Design*Sponge’s sweet tutorial on how to put your information on everything using a customize-able stamp. I bought a stamp and stamp pad at Staples for around $25, and I plan to use it over and over and over…

Stamp the solid fabric side with your info, spaced about 1/2-3/4 of an inch apart. You could try different colors, but I just used plain black.

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Up close:

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While you’ve got the stamp out, stamp your/your blog/your company’s name on a few more scraps of plain, solid fabric. I stamped a tagline.

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To decorate your cards and keep all those little fabric scraps together, sew back and forth around the printed side on your sewing machine.

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Ta-da!

stamped business cards on fabric card stock outlined in black machine stitching

Finally, use a rotary cutter to slice the cards apart.

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Repeat for the tagline/short title stamped fabric. Glue the taglines to the scrappy side of each card.

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Fin!

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I made these when I was taking a survey of 500 craft bloggers… you can read the results here.  If you’d like to get updates about my other projects (like a guide to running your own DIY writing retreat!), please sign up here.

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