Planning Online Group Programs

Updated: June 7, 2021

Online programs have become increasingly popular among health and wellness professionals, and for good reason! They not only help to reach more people but allow practitioners to grow their practices in a way that one-on-one private sessions don’t. With online programs, practitioners can coach multiple clients at once while still providing a high level of support and accountability. It’s a win-win!

If you aren’t familiar with what an online program is, think of it as an online course– a set of virtual teachings, resources, tools, and coaching experiences that will walk your participant through learning how to address a specific problem. Each program participant receives the same content and is taken through the same journey, however, you can also include additional options to add more personalized elements for an additional fee.

Online programs can all look a little different in terms of the length, type of content, and level of support provided. So where should you start? The first and most essential step is to create a successful program is to plan it out. This is where you’ll decide on the specific problem you’re going to address, map out the participant journey, determine your delivery format and structure and how you’ll measure success. Without having these elements in place ahead of time, you may find yourself feeling unorganized and unclear on your programs’ direction, which won’t allow you to get the best results for your participants.

Let’s jump into planning your program!

1. Map out the journey

When thinking about your participants’ journey in your program, it’s essential to first be clear on who you’re helping. What is their biggest problem or pain point? Your goal is to help a very specific participant address one distinct problem to achieve a measurable outcome.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help map out your online program:

        • What do the majority of my followers/clients need my help with?
        • What are the questions that I get asked over and over again?
        • Why haven’t my followers/clients been successful in the past?
        • What do my followers/clients like?
        • What are my participants’ goals?
        • What results am I confident I could deliver that they would feel good about?

Once you have a clear sense of the main problem you’ll be solving for your participants in your program, you can begin to break that down into topics that you’ll cover to address the main problem you’ve identified. These will become the stepping stones for your participants’ journey throughout your program. Which milestones do program participants need to hit to reach the planned outcome?

The above milestones can be sequential steps that build on one another, or can simply be different parts of a whole. You can then choose to divide the topics up into whatever timeline makes sense for your ideal participants and can always be modified in future iterations of your program.

2. Create the framework

The next step when planning your online program is to create the framework. This consists of the format and delivery. When creating the framework that will be your program there are a few key questions you can run through:

        • Will your program be led live by you or will participants be able to join at any time?
          For a live course, you can use the fixed-date program format which will start and end on a set date. Program participants will be working through the materials at the same time and pace, and you can host live calls to boost engagement. For a course that allows participants to work through at their own pace, this is your evergreen program format. This type of program will start whenever a participant registers and they will work through the content on their own timeline, meaning you will have participants all at various stages of your program.
        • How will you deliver your program content?
          Will content be delivered via a Facebook group, emails, e-course platform or from your EHR? The type of program materials that you can include in your program will also be dependent on the delivery system you choose. For example, a Facebook group is great for engagement and building community but doesn’t allow you to easily deliver and organize documents or resources. Using an e-course platform may make sense for delivery video content and handouts, however, you’ll need to direct your participants to a separate platform and it won’t be part of their health record if they turn into a client.
        • How frequently will you release content to your program participants?
          Will new content be dripped out over the course of your program or will all content be available at once for participants to work through? If you plan to drip your program content out to participants, will it be daily, weekly, bi-weekly? Daily may work for short programs/challenges, but can become overwhelming for programs that are longer than 7 days. The goal here is to find the balance between providing enough support and overwhelming participants.
        • How will you keep participants accountable?
          What can you do to ensure your participants are accountable not only to you, but to themselves? Consider setting clear tasks for your participants with due dates, or a weekly progress form or journal entry to keep them on track. Coaching calls are another great way to boost accountability, which can be done in a on-one-one or group format. In a group format, the accountability factor is even more elevated because there are more people who are expecting each participant to show up and participate.
        • How will you keep participants engaged and motivated?
          Will you have a place where participants of the same group (or different cohorts) can share wins and challenges? Will you ask participants to share their progress along the way? Will you offer check-in points? Participant engagement is generally easier for live programs that you’re leading, however, you can also get creative with your evergreen programs by including more video content or by setting up a group chat dedicated to supporting participants at any stage of your program.

3. Determine measurement and tracking

An important part of your online program is determining how you are going to measure and track your participants’ progress. It’s key to plan this ahead of time because you’ll not only want to set out some specific markers of progress to help map out the journey, but you’ll want to build in tools to track their success.

When considering what type of data to track, you can look at both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Qualitative are measurements that track the quality of something vs. the quantity and are more subjective. For example:

        • Is a participant feeling more energized, happier, or less stressed overall?
        • Do they have increased clarity of thought and less brain fog?
        • Are they experiencing a healthier and more positive relationship with food?
        • Does a participant have positive feedback on their experience with the program?

Quantitative data on the other hand tracks quantity, or numbers, and is more objective. For example:

        • How much weight did a participant lose?
        • How many more hours are they sleeping per day?
        • How many fewer headaches or days of bloating are they experiencing on average per week?
        • How many more glasses of water are they drinking?
        • How many new foods are they able to introduce back in without symptoms?
        • How many more times per week are they exercising on average?
        • How many participants completed each module, all worksheets, or engaged in the group (ex. number of posts or comments)?

Now that you’ve determined what you’re going to track, next decide how and when you’ll track it. What tools and format can you use to measure the qualitative and quantitative outcomes you chose? Some great options are:

        • Lab testing
        • Measurements
        • Journal entries
        • Worksheet responses
        • Weekly check-in calls
        • Wearable devices

Taking the time to create a clear plan for your online program is the first and most essential step. It may be tempting to dive in right away because you likely feel excited about your idea and just want to get moving but consider the planning phase as an investment in the overall success of your program – both for yourself and your participants. The planning phase will set you up for success at all stages, from promoting and selling, to running and facilitating. So dive into the key planning steps we’ve discussed above, and it will be sure to leave you with a strong framework and format for your program!

Read the next blog in our Group Program series, “Promoting Your Group Program“!

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