This is our second episode in the 6 part series all about Thinkific. Thinkific is a hosted learning management system. And if you haven’t already listened to the first episode in this series, it was with Rob Balasabas who is one of the employees at Thinkific. He gives a fantastic overview of the platform.
Today’s episode is with bassist Ariane cap. Ariane teaches how to play the bass. It is absolutely imperative how she’s using the platform and how we’ve extended the platform. Why do I say this? Because I have actually worked with her on her Thinkific course and other pieces of her business. And what’s most important in this episode, if I do say so myself, is how Ari took the platform and made her own decisions. Her story is fabulous. It is inspiring!
I am so so excited to kind of share Ari’s Thinkific journey with the audience as part of this series. As I said before, I have worked with Ari on her Thinkific course and other aspects of her business. She shared this, “It’s fun to be on the podcast with you. And you’ve been a big part of my success.” At the time of recording this podcast it had been at least a year since we had worked together. It has been about a year and a half since Ari and I first started working on her Thinkific site together.
But before we go any further, I’d like for you to get to know a little more about Ari.
Ari is a bass player. She’s a musician, a performer, and composer. She has been teaching for a very long time as well. She loves being an educator. And she loves working with people. Ever since technology hit the scene, she’s been exploring ways of integrating that into the work she does.
It all started with a book that she wrote and self published in 2015, that became very successful.
And on the heels of that she noticed, especially if you do something so visual, like learning an instrument, that it’s really helpful to have video. So the first thing she did with the book was she created about 900 videos that explained some of the concepts that she had in the book. And she put those on YouTube. She thought to herself, “Well, everybody who is looking at those videos, that’s somebody who’s already interested in my material and is aware of me.”
She also had the advantage that she was a fairly well known player.
A lot of people in the scene knew her already. She also had the chance to study with some very well known bass players such as Victor Wooten and such. So a lot of people were already aware of her or knew the name.
But she thought, “Well, if all these people are looking at looking at my videos for the book, maybe there’s more I can do.” And she started getting videos from people who said, “You know, your book is really great, but it would be so great to have some support going through it. Or can you show me some examples.”
And she knows from teaching all her students for so many years, one on one, that there’s this plethora of exercises that she could put them through, that would lend themselves really well for a course.
So she thought, “Well, I got the book, and I got the 89 free videos that go with the book. And people keep asking for more. So why don’t I put together a course?” She went on to explain,“And you know how it is when you have to self motivate yourself to do something. For example, the book, I wrote the book on writing retreats, because it takes a ton of discipline to get yourself to sit down and actually do this. So… Click To Tweet
And so she started with just giving herself a deadline, put out a PayPal link, and told people there will be this course.
She told them it’ll start on this and this date. She woke up the next morning to surprisingly large amount of money in the bank by doing that, putting it out there.
At the same time, she had started to do blogging. She had started to do some seminars with some other educators who were kind enough to see talent or meet me and liked what she did. They invited her into their platforms and encouraged her to go forward with what I you know, she was sort of had a loose concept of wanting to do. They were all very encouraging. And that made a huge difference.
So she woke up that morning and had all this money in the bank. And she thought, “Wow, I haven’t even created that course yet. But I have a deadline. So now I have to!” And so it ensued. She had about two months and half of that month was figuring out the tech and back end. And she didn’t know anything about Thinkific. She didn’t know anything about much at all except a little WordPress because that is how she did her blog.
But then she decided she wanted to do the course on HER OWN platform.
She created this very in depth, huge 20 years course that really goes in depth. And she just wanted over deliver and give people a ton of value. She was excited because it was all fresh and new. And she just wanted to go all in. And it turned into so much more work than she could have ever imagined.
Then the tech was buggy and the launch went wrong, because the coupons weren’t right. And the email got clogged up. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. So it was an extremely emotional and stressful period. But to make a long story short, the course did become a huge success. And lots of people signed up.
She also had this idea that she didn’t want to give them all the content at once. She wanted to drip out the content so that people didn’t jump ahead. Why? Because she knew how people learn. And I know how technology can either enhance that or how technology can slow that learning down and become an obstacle because technology lends itself to distraction. We know that from social media.
She wanted to make sure she did what she could to keep people focused on the material. And so that’s how she approached it.
So she wanted the content to be addressed. And she wanted to come in every week. She wanted to go through the books. And she wanted to instruct her students to read those pages, watch those free videos, and then here are seven more areas where you can learn. She wanted it to be all nicely structured. There were these options and it worked really surprisingly well.
Ari shared that course creators are being told to keep it simple at first and make a short course. And that’s probably all good advice. Especially when she think about about her mental state back then. But she would also say that if you have a vision, and if you know what works then listen to that. She had a pretty good hunch this drip once a week would work. And so she followed that gut instinct and sent the tech to do what sheI needed to do. And it worked really, really well.
She was super thrilled.
And she had the course up for about two years on my her website. It was basically a membership plugin that she used. Ari shard that thing that’s always so surprising, for course creators, is when you create something and you put it out, you think you’re done right now I’m going to lean back. That’s just customer email. It’s like that’s just the beginning. Because then things start going wrong. And the payment portal doesn’t connect and installment payments don’t work.
And after about a year and a half, she saw that she was outgrowing my own platform. It was also slowing down my her website because it was huge. The course had so many videos/ They were all hosted on Vimeo, but still there was so much content on there. She figured she needed to move.
And then she started looking for a different platform.
And I looked at a lot of them. She looked at Kajabi. And she looked at a Teachable. She looked in depth. And she kept cycling back to Thinkific because they had a bulk import. That was huge for her, because she had so many videos. She didn’t want to have to do these all manually. So she liked the bulk import, the layout, and the customer service. And she found somebody who could help me. And that process alone took about six months because the course was so big.
She still kept it running on the old platform during that time. She kept telling people that new stuff was coming. And another thing was she wanted to have the ability to bookmark videos. She wanted people to be able to see what they had already seen. She wanted them to be able to slow down or speed up videos. And she wanted quizzes. The ability to have these things was a big one for her that I couldn’t do on my membership site.
And then she also wanted to do trainings as a coach.
She wanted to bring in some coaching. Thinkific has this option where you can put in modules. And then so she would use that really heavily. You could get reward emails when you finish a module. Or you would get reminders to login and things like that. So that was all stuff that Thinkific could do and she couldn’t do. She really wanted all the discussions as well. And that’s when she moved.
And as she was moving to Thinkific and that’s when I came on the scene and had more ideas. Thinkific and their customer support is wonderful. When Ari wondered about certain things she may be able to do on the platform they said, “Well, you know, you could, but you probably have to know code.” And while she was pretty good at learning things, coding was always the one place she drew the line.
So I was on one of the few on one of the sites of a recommended tech personnel. And that vetted everybody very carefully and then Ari decided to work with me because it seemed I had the most to do with technology. Ari contacted me and I came up with even more ideas. I was like, “Well, you could actually put all this and then you can do that.” So in Ari’s eyes I had exactly the right ideas for her . So that’s when we started collaborating.
I have to say I love this story.
Seriously, I really love the story, because what Ari just said is that she came to the platform with something fully developed. And there were places that it was stretching her and her team beyond what felt comfortable/ She didn’t want them to have to deal with failed payments. And she didn’t have to deal with lost passwords and things of that nature. So she used that framework in mind as she was looking for a platform. And to sweeten the pot, the bulk import was important. It was so important.
So it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never created a course before or if you’ve got a full blown course. You find different reasons to gravitate to one platform or another. And so now that Ari is on Thinkific she’s doing all these other things.
I know that one of the projects that she and I worked on was developing this whole drip schedule.
We had to make it so that it made sense because what she wanted to do wasn’t natively available within Thinkific. So we then we had bed. Yeah, I remember that. Oh, my goodness. So what we did is we took her 20 modules course and created 20 courses.That’s right, we created 20 courses so that we would be able to do the drip in the way that she wanted it to be able to drip it. We also did a few other bits and pieces.
I built a Zapier. I did all sorts of Zapier stuff/ I integrated her with Convert Kit so that everything worked smoothly with that. And then she was able to import all of her users over. Everyone was able to kind of come in where they needed to be. So if people were brand new purchasers, they’d come into module one. If they already had the content, we’ve made it available so that was an easy transition for them. We had to just do some digging in behind the scenes to make some of that stuff work.
Not everybody is going to draw the line at no coding, some people may draw the line earlier on.
There are going to be people that say, “I don’t want to configure this thing. And I just want to create my content.” That’s really pretty cool. But for Ari, in this journey of creating all these online resources, she all in. She likes to use scheduling for her one on one teaching. And she uses zoom. She now has a three camera set up which allows her to show people where her fingers are and all that. But she never thought how much the technology would,in some ways, lead her into thinking
“Oh, it’s possible to integrate this with this? Well, that would mean that while they are studying their technique, we could give them a little video here. It’s just that the power of the technology for the user experience does something I had never really thought about…how much this can make or break the students sticking with the content.” – Ariane Cap
Here is why Ari thinks that Thinkific is so great.
There are ways to easily find things very quickly/ You can now you can mark what you’ve already watched. And you can easily see because her content is so huge. Think about it in terms of a book. We use a book marker or fold over a page corner to mark where we leave off. Ari and her students are able to do something similar to this inside Thinkific. They are able to easily go back to content they have seen if they get stuck. And they are able to pick up right where they left off. All while Ari can see where people are inside of these courses. It has been really helpful.
Ari and I also integrated the forums for her course.
This was something that Ari came to me saying, “I’d really love to have a forum. I’m having a cohort.” At the beginning of 2019, Ari was going to have a cohort of new users who were going to go through her course. They were all going to start at the same time. And she wanted to have a place for them to communicate with each other, to talk to her, to submit their assignments, etc . So we determined the best option was to do a standalone forum.
So we built a forum on her hosting company. It was just on another sub-domain. So she had her Thinkific sub-domain and her forums on another sub-domain. With the magic of Zapier, when someone signs up for Thinkific, we automatically created them a user inside your forum. All they had to do was set up a password. So we didn’t go all the way to single sign on, which is a functionality that is a higher level entity. But we made it so that it was super easy. All they had to do was go in and add a password and then get started.
The whole idea of a forum and a place for people to communicate outside of the course is huge.
I know even just recently over the summer, one of my friends and a past guest on the podcast actually asked what helps people get through their courses. And I think that’s it! Community and forums and a place to connect is absolutely 100%, one of those facets!
So why did Ari decide to go with a forum?
Around the New Year, everybody’s talking about New Year’s resolutions. And she knows so many people sign up for courses and go in there with the best intentions. But she does know that also from what she does or learned as a coach, is that it usually works until the second week of January. And then we fall off the wagon. But research shows us that we have a much higher success rate, if we have peer support and accountability. We have more success if we know people are watching us.
And she just kept thinking about how she could help people through this course.
Here’s another thing that’s great about thinking big. Ari can spy on her students. She can see how much they’re doing. And because she knew that it was going to be easier for them if they had support since they had this fresh new year energy. So she thought, “Why don’t I create a version of the course, everybody who signs up between today and in three weeks will be added to this cohort, and you will be going through the course together.”
This version of the course would be automated and really low key. Because if you ask too much, people are going to drop off. So we made it really really low key. People in this version of the course would have one week to pick an assignment that they really like. And then they would have one week to practice it. Then on that next Sunday, they were going to submit it as a video.
And that’s another thing I helped her with.
Because recording a video, putting it in an iPhone, getting it on a computer and then uploading it in a Dropbox is a headache, right? I helped Ari implement this one click Record right into the browser. Every other week, they’re submitting their homework. And we have a wonderful YouTube that’s hidden from the world. So maybe we can get in there and see those submissions. And we can see what people are doing. We can even give them feedback.
But this whole idea of accountability, that’s where the forum was so great!
Because in the forum with everybody, all their peers are watching, we’re going to to commit and say, “I’m going to do exercise number three, and maybe number five is I get to it.” And then on Sunday, they have to submit that. They can submit it privately or that can submitted for everybody to see and critique and cheer them on. But it has just made a huge difference.
And Ari had a lot of people to drop off of this version of the course which is to be expected. That’s just normal human nature. But Ari had a diehard group of people who were sticking with it. A group of people who were panicking if they’re a day late. And a group of people who are submitting and improving. Ari shared that it’s just such a joy to see they’re working hard. And it’s just amazing to see their success. That was in beta. And at the time of this recording we’re in August. So they’ve been at it since January. For Ari that is just amazing.
Ari and her students also do monthly Q and A’s.
W alsoe do special cohort Q and A’s. In the forum, they have all these questions floating about the bustling energy. And it’s fantastic. And on the morning of this recording, she invited everybody into the forum. So the forum is now public. It has public places, but it also has cohort places. And those are private. This is for the cohort only.
This first round was in beta, but she’s definitely going to be offering this again and maybe make small groups so that people really start getting to know each other. And the energy in there is just phenomenal. So she couldn’t be more pleased! She and her students do it like a 20 unit course. They do it every other week. So that’s 40 weeks! Ari is a music teacher. She knows she can make a difference in 40 weeks. Nobody wants to talk about 40 weeks They want something that they can play like a hero in a weekend or maybe a 12 week course. But 40 weeks? She knows that she can do a before and after assessment with those people that is mind blowing.
I want the listeners to hear this right now. If you know your audience, and you know what you can do, there is no limit!
You don’t have to have “Learn How to Build a Website in a Weekend” course. That’s a course that I have never been interested in creating. But the idea of, learn how to play the bass so that you can actually jam and feel confident and have expert eyes on your fingering. But it’s gonna take you this full year. It’s going to be a one year process. You set your New Year’s resolution, and next year, you’re going to have achieved it if you stick to the plan. There’s no reason not to go big if it makes sense with what you offer and how you offer it.
Let’s talk about using the Thinkific platform vs.a membership site on WordPress.
Ari was importing over the course. And she was just looking at all these different types of lessons that were there. At first when she imported it over, she would have the videos and some text embedded in the same lesson. But then she changed that because she really wanted to know how much people are watching the videos, where they drop off, and if they do drop off what she can do to tweak that. And that’s something you can only do if you put the video as a separate lesson. So she rearranged the course so many times. And have we mentioned that her course is huge? That’s 20 units.
Ari is now offering confidence courses and training course. And she’s about to release core principles, which is a new course. She also has lots more in the pipeline. She loves the Thinkific platform because now she has the learning curve done. And it’s just easy peasy as far as Thinkific is concerned.
Ari was definitely surprised at how many things you can do.
For example, with the quizzes, she can put 50 questions in there and she can tell Thinkific to only give that students 10 of them. To Ari this is awesome because then she can tell her students that they can do it again and they will get different questions.
Ari was also suprise by how you upload files.
She liked how Thinkific integrates, because she has a lot of booklets, sound files, and extra PDFs that come with the lessons. So she can bundle those together and it’s a one click download at the end. And then you have the whole thing.
She liked how you can integrate the sound files.
For Ari they look really pretty. She just puts a SoundCloud link in there and it gets the player. She says that it looks really posh. It makes her old course look pretty shabby. Ari said it was all scroll city. You would have to scroll forever to find stuff. And you had to always go into different tabs.
I can really appreciate that! That just gave a really good visual the audience right now.
Because you know, that’s the thing about sharing about these technology platforms, in this podcast capacity. You don’t have the visual to go along with it. So I think that really helped everybody kind of get a really good idea of what it is with Thinkific and what I really wanted to do with this series. I think Ari is really helping to do that. Ari helped showcase how powerful it is, when you’re using a hosted platform that has so much support.
You’re not just buying a hosting platform. And you’re not just buying a blank slate. You’re buying a blank slate that you can do anything you want to do on it with an entire support system and an entire development team. These people want to help you succeed. That’s really what you’re getting with Thinkific.
And that’s why I love having clients on Thinkific as often as possible. Not every client makes sense for Thinkific. And we go through the one on one process to make sure that it is truly the right platform for them. But Ari has really shown and highlighted the power of choosing the hosted platform. And I really appreciate that it wasn’t even prompted.
This is where Ari tells us even MORE about what she likes about Thinkific.
She also likes all these integrations that Thinkific has set up. For example, she can use one tool and then go into Convert Kit. And Thinkific also helps you with the marketing. She shared one fun example of Thinkific helped her with marketing.
She likes to do early birds. And she likes to do specials. This is especially true when she is building a course. It’s helpful to have an idea up front about how interested are people going to be in that sort of thing. So she likes to do early bird pricing. There is a coupon that she gave people and they could use it and get 50% off or something.
She was thinking that when they would purchase, there would be a small icon indicating the person has a coupon. And they would have to click that and then put the coupon code in. Of course, what happens the first day? Half of her people didn’t see the coupon! She was getting angry emails!. So she went to Thinkific and asked for help in making that icon bigger! And they actually said don’t, because it’s about your course, it’s not about the coupon. People are just overlooking that field. So what ended up happening was that I just took a little screenshot and made a big pink arrow and showed people what they needed to do. She refunded everybody who overlooked it.
What Ari just highlighted there is the fact that Thinkific cares!
They really truly cared about what you were putting out there. I have some clients who have lower priced courses. hey have $10- $30 courses and they have coupons that they want people to use the coupon. So for a couple of my clients, we made it so that that link wasn’t hidden. We made it so that the coupon code field was visible. And we made it so that there was a field you didn’t even have to click them. And then on some of these clients, we even went so far as that “enter coupon code ABC XYZ here” to get the current price. Those are the kinds of things that you can do.
But I love the fact that Thinkific explained to Ari the rationale and they helped you do even better in your students eyes. Because then instead of just making it bigger for then to see, Ari took a picture of this icon and showed them that you are going the extra mile for them by showing them what they need to do. And that immediately put you in their good books. And then they already see that she cares about them. Then they are more apt to see what she’s providing in this course.
This has been so insightful.
Next week in episode 3 and 4 of this series, I have two really interesting interviews for you. They are with newer users of the Thinkific platform. So Ari was a great story of how someone’s used the platform successfully. Next week, we’re going to talk with two people who are using the platform for the very first time and don’t necessarily know everything that’s going to come, It’s a really great place. If you are thinking about starting with the platform, you have to listen to these episodes so that you can see yourself in their shoes.
Be sure if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the podcast in your podcast app. And episodes 3 and 4 of this series will drop next week. Thanks for listening to the Tech of Business podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe, share, rate, and review on Apple podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Overcast, or wherever you download your favorite shows.
Connect with Jaime:
- Instagram: @techofbusiness
- Twitter: @techofbusiness
- Facebook: @yourbiztech
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaimeslutzky/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with Ari:
To listen to the first episode in this series “Your Student Experience in Online Courses with Rob Balasabas” click here.