Don’t create a “firehose” experience during the first 1-3 weeks of your course in your community

Welcome to the “What NOT to Do When Building an Online Community!”  In this article, we talk about a very simple concept, but one that seems to come up way too often because it's way too easy to fall into the trap of doing it:
Don't create a “firehose” experience during the first 1-3 weeks of your course in your community.
Before we start, let's be clear on one major point: there is no condemnation or embarrassment for anyone who has done this for their courses.  Yes, this material is based on real-life situations and existing courses, and there are real people who have either tried to do it, or have done it.  We won't give names and we won't cause them to be embarrassed.  With that in mind, please don't share names of people or companies who have made this decision, and please don't ask who we know have done this kind of work.
You may wonder why we talk about what NOT to do.  If you've played sports, or worked on a hobby, or have tried to master a skill, sometimes it's more instructive to see how NOT to do something before you attempt to do it the right way.  It's an effective approach to eliminate a poorly executed skill before you even start to try to do it.  And that's why we talk about what NOT to do – because we don't want you to even consider doing it in the first place!
So what do I mean by describing a “firehose” experience?  If you know about the analogy of “drinking out of a firehose,” you probably understand that we're talking about overwhelming someone to the point that they feel like they're drowning in their thoughts and comprehension.  If you tried to get a drink out of a firehose that is releasing water at a rate which would literally knock you off your feet, the usefulness of the experience becomes virtually non-existent.  Yes, you are receiving water, but are you actually drinking it?  Probably not, because you literally wouldn't be able to breathe, see, hear or smell anything.  Instead, you would be trying to survive the experience.
Unfortunately, that's what a lot of instructors do with their courses.  They try to give their students “great value” by presenting deep content in huge quantities at the beginning of their courses.  The problem they create is that they make it so hard to understand what is being taught because it is so long, so deep, and so complex.  It's not just overwhelming when the instructor is speaking for the first time to his or her audience – either live or on recorded video.  It's overwhelming when you watch the recording.  And that's just not a good approach.
It's like looking for treasure.  Instead of students taking something important and powerful out of the content, the students are actively trying to gather the “good stuff” because they perceive signs of it – and then they can't grab hold of anything meaningful out of what's there.  The reason?  There's too much “treasure” there and it's hard to fully process what is most beneficial and useful.  The “good stuff” requires too much work to get it, clarify it, process it and then implement it for excellent benefits.  It feels impossible to master anything that has been presented.
What results in these situations is a bunch of students who feel like they actually have to filter what they want and what they don't want, instead of comprehending all that is being presented.  The long-term effect on the students is that they begin to disengage with the instructor to the point that they can unconsciously stop listening to key areas of the content – and they end up forgetting most, if not all, of the material being presented in the first place.  And if this is happening at the beginning of the course, you can easily see that the end of the course has a lot of students who are simply unable to explain what they've gained by taking the course – because they don't have anything of great value which they are actively implementing from the course.
There is a famous pastor who does a lot of public speaking which has caught my attention for years for his effectiveness in his presentation.  His sermons and presentations are simple, but profoundly clear.  His reasoning is simple: he wants you to remember what he says, even if it's ten years from now.   He doesn't really concern himself with the idea that the listener needs to agree with what he says, but if you can actually remember what he said – because he figures you'll end up agreeing with him.  This is how he explains his strategy every time: “if you don't remember anything I said today, except for one thing, this is it . . .”  And he tells people that he really focuses on the opportunity to present one thing.  Not five things.  Not three things.  One.  Thing.  Every.  Time.
Why not take the same approach?  Keep it clear.  Keep it simple.  And keep it consumable.
Need help on making your experience a transformation one for your community?  We'd love to help and we have some excellent resources.  Email us at questions@OnlineAdvisor.com.  We'll be honored to help you.

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