Build a course to address student needs, not to feed your ego

Innovation & Technology Guests Various

Guest post by By Nilakanta Srinivasan (Neil)

Innovation & technology


I’m delighted to welcome Nilakanta Srinivasan to share his thoughts with us.


Neil is one of the  presenters for our Building your Teaching Business Online course. We invited him to share his business expertise with us, as online teaching has a business side to it that we teachers need to learn more about.

His presentation was a real eye opener and he delivered it with a beautiful slide show that you’ll see below.

His interesting title above reminds us that we may THINK that as teachers we always KNOW what our students want, but maybe it’s better to keep an open mind and truly listen to their needs.

He shares a fascinating story with us to illustrate the point that we can tap into learner needs and markets by paying attention to the world around us.

I love the combination of psychology & business weaved into  story format. Hope you will too:)


Take it away, Neil.

As a teacher or subject matter expert, building an online course isn’t really difficult because you have all the content packed in your head. In fact that is true for any one skilled professional. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee success when it comes establishing your online teaching business.

Students are consumers of your service and they will choose or recommend courses that best address their needs. Here’s an interesting real life story of a Jewish immigrant couple trying to meet their ends. In this process they end up building a business empire. I read this story in the book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ by Malcolm Gladwell.


Louis and Regina Borgenicht landed in America in the year 1889 as immigrants. Louis was struggling to feed his family of four. He tried various odd jobs with little or no success. He was desperate and was about to quit.

 Here’s an extract from the book:


“The answer came to him after five long days of walking
up and down the streets of the Lower East Side, just as
he was about to give up hope. He was sitting on an overturned
box, eating a late lunch of the sandwiches Regina
had made for him. It was clothes. Everywhere around
him stores were opening—suits, dresses, overalls, shirts,
skirts, blouses, trousers, all made and ready to be worn.

Borgenicht took out a small notebook. Everywhere he
went, he wrote down what people were wearing and what
was for sale—mens wear, women’s wear, children’s wear. He
wanted to find a “novel” item, something that people would
wear that was not being sold in the stores. For four more
days he walked the streets. On the evening of the final day
as he walked toward home, he saw a half dozen girls playing
hopscotch. One of the girls was wearing a tiny embroidered
apron over her dress, cut low in the front with a tie in the
back, and it struck him, suddenly, that in his previous days
of relentlessly inventorying the clothing shops of the Lower
East Side, he had never seen one of those aprons for sale.”

The rest of it is a rag to riches story. The couple built a thriving business and a niche for women and kids apparels.

This lesson of success hasn’t changed with time. If you want to be the Borgenicht of online teaching, then decide and design your course in the following manner:

  • Define your market and target audience. Decide who will buy your course and who will not;
  • Interview a sample of target students to understand their current pain points and needs;
  • Observe, observe and observe; you will find out more than what you know;
  • Build your course to address student needs, not to feed your ego
  • Ensure you address the basic needs of your students but certainly delight them with one Wow factor.

For more information on ‘Deciding on the Course and its objectives visit:


About the Author:

Neil started Canopus Business Management Group in 2009.

He helps a range of large enterprises in services and manufacturing, with particular emphasis on execution of business & functional strategies, customer experience & process transformation. He has worked with banking, outsourcing, IT, discrete manufacturing & telecom business processes. He draws on extensive experience (17 years) in Hoshin Kanri, Blue Ocean Strategy, Lean, Six Sigma, Outsourcing, Change Management and Touch point Management to deliver composite solutions that put client’s business in an Advantageous & Profitable position.

Client engagements aim at eliminating the barriers for seamless execution of strategies, carpet bombing customer touch points, diagnostic interventions on customer churn & retention and implementation of transformational projects.

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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