woman planning for her course life cycle while sitting at a table

Making the Most of the Course Life Cycle for Your Course

When you have an evergreen course, one of the biggest challenges that NOBODY talks about is keeping your course takers engaged throughout the course so they actually finish. Because your course completion rate can either help or hurt your bottom line.

But how to best keep them engaged might differ from one point in the course to another.

That’s why it’s essential to understand the course life cycle when planning how to engage your course takers.

So let’s dive in to how you can make the most of the course life cycle for your course!

What is the course life cycle?

To understand how to use the life cycle, you have to know what it is.

The course life cycle shows the parts of a course process that a course taker goes through after purchasing the course. Those parts are Onboarding, In-Course, and Post-Course.

Here’s a graphic to show you exactly what I mean.

course life cycle graphic with onboarding, in-course, and post-course segments

While there are no hard and fast divisions between the different parts of the life cycle, here are some general guidelines to figure what part of the course life cycle you’re working on.


When you think of starting a course, onboarding is probably not a word that pops into your mind. It’s more often used when talking about starting a new job or taking on a new client.

But there are a lot of similarities when getting someone ready to take your course.

Course onboarding happens at the beginning of the course. It’s right after they’ve purchased and continues through the very beginning of the course. It might be the first 15-25% of the course.

The onboarding might include a welcome to the course and background information. It’s not where your course takers are doing the deep learning of whatever you’re teaching them.

The tone you set at the beginning of the course for engaging the audience is important in determining how engaged course takers are as they move further into the course life cycle.


The in-course section of the course life cycle includes the majority of the time that course takers are consuming course content. It includes the meat of the course where they’re learning all about the content you’re teaching them.

Depending on the length of the course, the course takers may spend a few hours in the in-course section or they may spend days, weeks, or months with your content.

Because this is where the learning actually happens, you want to make sure that this section works to keep your course takers engaged and moving forward in the content.

And, quite often, focusing on instructional design basics can be incredibly helpful as you move through this part of the course life cycle.

(Shameless plug—go to the post linked above and subscribe to get my instructional design basics workbook!)

Gif of woman saying, "Say yes now."

When your course takers stay engaged throughout the course, they’re much more likely to finish the course and get to the post-course section of the course life cycle.


The post-course section of the course comes as the course taker finishes the course and after. (Shocking, right?)

This is where you focus on how the course taker can move forward in their customer journey with you. You might highlight the next product that they need to further their learning. It might be where to continue their conversation with you. You might encourage them to become an affiliate or create a testimonial. It might be action steps that they can take to implement what they’ve learned.

All of these are post-course activities that help your course takers complete the course life cycle successfully.

why you want people to stay engaged

As a course creator, why you want your course takers to engage with the course will be different in each part of the life cycle.

During the onboarding process, you want to keep them excited about the course. This is often the easiest part of the course life cycle to keep your audience engaged. They’ve just bought the course and they’re excited to get started.

Each person who bought your course is motivated to achieve whatever your course promises. You want to use this motivation to get them into the course and help them develop the habit of engaging with your course.

As they move into the in-course section of the course life cycle, it’s essential that your course takers stay focused on progressing. You want them to continue to move forward through the course AND learning what you’re sharing with them.

Because, if your course takers are just consuming your content, they won’t be motivated to complete the course or implement what you’re teaching them!

With a solid strategy in place to engage your audience during the course, they’ll be ready to take action on what you’ve put in place for after the course finished.

The post-course section of the course life cycle is where your super fans are made. After they’ve successfully completed the course, they’re more likely to share a testimonial on how amazing your course is. They’re more likely to become a successful affiliate for your course because they’ve achieved the goal of the course.

And they’re more likely to buy your next product because they know and trust you. Plus, they understand how the next product can help them move forward with what they’ve learned from you.

But how can you engage your audience in each part of the course life cycle?

I’m so glad you asked!

How to engage in each part of the course life cycle

To help course creators successfully engage their course takers, I created my course success framework. This framework provides guidance that you can put in place throughout the course life cycle.

While I developed the course success framework to engage people through email, it can be used inside the course itself or even through private social media groups.

The course success framework spells SUCCESS.

  • Strategy for success – give your course takers a plan for course success
  • Understand the course taker – share extra advice that addresses your audience’s challenges
  • Check on their progress – find out how they’re doing and open a conversation
  • Celebrate the milestones – recognize and honor their progress through the course
  • Encourage during the hard times – when the work gets difficult, encourage them to keep going
  • Surprise them with generosity – while generosity is always appreciated, unexpected generosity can be very motivating
  • Share success stories – seeing how others have succeeded can inspire your course takers to keep going

Let’s look at how the course success framework might look throughout the course life cycle.

Course success framework at work in the course life cycle

Imagine that you’ve created a course all about how to engage your audience on social media. During each part of the course life cycle, you can use different elements of the course success framework to engage.

During the onboarding section, you can begin by giving them a Strategy for success (S). It might include the timeline for learning and implementing what they’ve learned. You might show you Understand the customer (U) by giving tips that can help them get started with engaging on social media.

Because usually someone who buys a course like this probably struggles with engaging on social media.

Gif of Viking saying, "Hey, that's me!"

As they move to the in-course section, you might Check-in with them (C) to see how things are progressing with a quick survey question or email asking for a reply. You might Celebrate the milestones (C) by giving them a specific post for social media, have them tag you, and then respond to their post.

You might Encourage them (E) by addressing some of the challenges that people face as they’re developing a habit of engaging on social media.

You can also Surprise them with generosity (S) by providing additional training on social media or a hashtag guide.

The final part of the course success framework is share success stories. While you might have stories of people whose accounts have grown by 1000% during the course, many people are inspired by less-dramatic testimonials about small wins. Maybe a person was able to develop a habit of posting a few days a week. Maybe someone gained 15 followers that are responding to their posts. Maybe someone closed a lead with someone who they connected with using your strategies.

The achievable wins are often what keeps people motivated to keep going.

When a course taker moves into the post-course section of the course, you might engage them with Surprising generosity (S) like inviting them to an exclusive call with you or a unique training you provide on how to plan content for social media. Or your approach might involve Strategy for success (S) by highlighting a complementary course that they could take. Or you could ask them to Share their success story by requesting a testimony or introducing your affiliate program.

All of these move them along in their customer journey with you and your products.

Next steps

You’re now ready to make the most out of the course life cycle for your course to engage your audience. Whether you’re just developing your course or you want to optimize your pre-existing, you can:

  1. Identify the different sections of the course life cycle in your course
  2. Make a strategic plan for how to engage your course takers throughout each section
  3. Get to work implementing your strategy

And feel free to reach out if you want to work together to make your course unquittable!