8 Reasons Beta Testing Helps Your Certification Program
Wondering if you can skip the beta testing phase of your certification program? Here’s why you shouldn’t.
If you've ever run an online course before, you probably know first-hand the kind of difficulties that can arise. Learners have trouble accessing course material, someone sends you panicked emails the day of an important deadline claiming to have problems submitting an assignment, an unhappy customer leaves a review claiming the course wasn't what they expected—etc. etc.
It's a headache, and it can be disheartening to see such a negative response to your hard work. Fortunately, while you'll probably never overcome all complaints, there is a way you can get ahead of most of them. A beta test can help you try your course out on an early audience, allowing you to adjust your course based on their feedback before you unveil your course to the general public.
In fact, a beta test can save you numerous headaches, even if this isn't your first time. But for those of you still on the fence, here are 9 benefits to beta testing your course.
1. Clarify course objectives.
It's easy to miscommunicate the objectives or outcome of a program. You may say one thing, but your learners hear another. Or you may find the scope of your course was too broad, or not comprehensive enough. Fortunately, a beta test can help you learn from your testers exactly what they expected to get out of the program, and whether or not your course delivered.
2. Define your target audience.
Sometimes you create a course thinking it will be useful for one group of people, and attract a different group instead. It's hard to predict the group of people who need your course most, and finding an unexpected audience for your program can be a pleasant surprise. Beta testing can help you hone in on your core group, which will allow you to reach them more effectively in your marketing.
3. Grow your understanding of your audience.
Similarly, once you know who your core audience is, a beta test can give you a closer look at how they interact with your course. Maybe your testers log on to your course most frequently over their lunch break. In that case, you could structure the lessons to take no more than twenty minutes. Or perhaps your testers prefer audio content they can listen to on a commute over video content. A beta test gives you time to adjust your course accordingly.
4. Troubleshoot technical flaws in course delivery.
So much can go wrong in a course, when it does, it causes problems for you and your learners alike. A beta test can help you spot problems like broken links, forms that deliver to the wrong location, or tests that are hard to navigate. Technical problems are especially important online, where some learners might be working through their first e-learning experience. A beta test can help ensure it's a good one, and encourage them to come back for more.
5. Fix holes in the pacing and structure of the course.
One of the biggest challenges an instructor faces when designing a course is to put themselves in the shoes of their learners and remember what the course content was like at a previous knowledge level. Once you understand a concept, it's easy to forget how much time it took you to learn it in the first place. Or you may forget an important component, assuming your learners already know about it. A beta test shows you what areas need more attention, and where your program might be missing the mark.
6. Establish time commitment per student for the instructor.
You may think you know how much work your course will take, but the results of a beta test might surprise you. Depending on the structure of your program, you may find you have to spend several hours a week responding to feedback or reviewing coursework. If that's the case, a beta test can show you places where you can improve your course efficiency. Or you may learn that you need to adjust the pricing of the course to make up for the extra time, or limit the course size so you're not overwhelmed.
7. Build testimonials and case studies.
A beta test is a great place to gather testimonials from your testing group. Since most beta testers will already have agreed to talk to you as part of the testing experience, it's easy to add in a few questions about their objectives, what they gained from the course, and whether they would recommend the course to others. You may even find that your beta testers, from having worked with you early on in the course, area some of your most enthusiastic learners.
8. Nip negative feedback in the bud.
An unhappy beta tester is a lot easier to contend with than an unhappy customer. After all, your beta testers are probably taking your course for free, or at least at a discounted rate. They may have problems with it, but they won't feel ripped off, and they know in advance that they should expect some glitches—that's what they're there to help you find, after all.
Beta testing is worth the effort.
It's definitely an extra commitment to beta test a course, and if you're eager to launch your program it can be tempting to set it aside till later. However, the reality is that you either beta test your course on an early audience of learners who are primed to expect problems and willing to give you constructive feedback on how to fix them, or you beta test on a group of paying customers who expect a frictionless learning experience.
It might seem like qualified beta testers are hard to come by, but so are paying customers. And it's usually much easier to sell a course at a discount to a beta tester (who will then give you valuable market feedback and hopefully a positive testimonial) than to a new customer who will be paying full price and may never come back if their experience is bad.
So, despite the extra time, beta testing usually pays off. Better to learn early when something isn't working than to discover after it's damaged your reputation.
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