How to Create an Online Course Description that Gets Sign-ups (+ Examples & Template)

It’s no wonder that online courses are more popular than ever. Online course creation and launch consume 90% less energy than face-to-face training.

Let’s say you’ve just created an excellent online course. It’s interactive and engaging, and everything is ready to get new students and sell a great learning experience.

Or maybe you haven’t picked the right online course platform or made your course yet. At some point, you’ll have to write a course description. And it better be one that makes people want to take your online course.

Writing a course description can be tricky. Often, you’ll have a limited number of words to convince your audience. And you also have to explain what your course will teach them at the same time!

The answer is easy though: The best way to write your course description is by adopting already successful course description examples. 

In this piece, we’ll:

  • Outline what a course description is and how to write one.
  • Describe how to nail the tone of your course description.
  • Offer course description templates and examples you can use right away.

Once you learn how to write a great course description, you can create a course description template for all your courses. This will make the process even easier in the future! 

Let’s get started.

What Is a Course Description?

A course description is a summary of what students will learn from following an online course. A good course description comes in a few variant lengths, to use in different channels it is published. A course description has three main goals:

  • Attract the attention of your student/participant.
  • Explain who the course is for. 
  • Describing what’s in there and how you’ll teach the course.

Your course description is always a deciding factor in whether they sign up for your course. So focus your course description on the points that matter most to your potential customers. 

How to write a Course Description

There is a deceivingly simple process for writing a killer course description:

  1. Write down your course outline
  2. Nail tone and structure
  3. Describe your ideal audience (who the course is for)
  4. Spotlight the progress your students will make
  5. Special attention to benefits

It definitely helps if you have some inspiring course description examples, that fit with the way you’d like your training to feel. 

How to Write a Course Description Based on an Outline

The best way to create your course description is from a course outline. Your course outline is a list of your course content section by section. It can be as simple or as detailed as you like. 

The more detailed your course outline, the easier it is to create a course description template. A snappy outline has all the important points of your course. Use it to pull the main topics for your course description sample. 

Here’s part of a course outline example.
Feel free to use this when you’re thinking about how to write your course outline:

Online Course Outline Example

When you have your outline detailed, you can create a course description of any length. One of the biggest challenges in writing a good course description is attracting and informing your right audience in the space you have.

For example:

  • In a big list of courses, you might only have the title and three short lines of text.
  • In a syllabus, you’d have two paragraphs.
  • On a landing page and on your own site, you have carte blanche to write and format your course description as you want.  

If you’re selling online courses via a course marketplace, you are at the mercy of the MOOC, or massive open online course platform. Udemy, for example, requires 200 words minimum to meet their course description templates. You have more freedom hosting your content on an online course platform like Teachery.

So how to create a course description that will work in all contexts? Boil down the most critical information, and create different formats for each kind. You can start by defining the tone of your course description.

Here is a course description example that you could write from the above outline:

In Digital Agility, you’ll learn key digital marketing fundamentals that will empower you to create your own digital strategy regardless of what you sell. By the end of the course, you will understand SEO, and how to implement your own keyword research to reach the first page of Google. 

It is a snippet, but a good example of how elements from your outline create a great course description. 

Get the Tone and Structure right (With Course Description Examples)

The tone and structure of your course description make the difference in whether customers will sign up for your course. Look at course description templates for the best ways to write yours. There are a few different things you’ll need to include:

Describe the Content of the Course
Start by describing the content that you’ll cover in the course.

Who is this course for?
When you’re creating your online course description, it has to be clear who you created the course for. A course description must cover:

  • If it is a beginner or advanced course.
  • If you need prior knowledge or prerequisites. 
  • How this course will solve certain problems your audience might have. 

When your ideal student reads your course description, they should know it’s the right course for them. There’s nothing worse than signing up for a course that’s for a beginner when you’re advanced, and vice-versa.

Use a Conversational Tone
Look at other course description examples that are like your course. What is the tone they use for their course descriptions?

In certain catalogs, you’ll find more formal texts. But for most purposes, a conversational tone is the way to go. Keep it approachable and accessible. Don’t refer to your customers as “students or participants” in the third person. Use the second person (eg “you”) and write with a more human touch. This will make it easy for them to imagine themselves in your course or training. Here are two online course description examples: 

Formal (not so appealing):
“In this course, participants will become proficient in methodologies of using digital marketing strategies. They will examine and practice strategies found in typical employment opportunities of the digital era, and create their own brand marketing strategies for evaluation throughout this course.”

Conversational (much better): 
“In this course, you’ll learn key digital marketing strategies and practical application of it.  We’ll go through 5 very successful examples and unpack how you can use their tactics yourself. By the end of this course, you’ll know how to plan, implement, and execute a digital marketing strategy from start to finish. And will be applying it to your own strategy in this course.”

Which course would you rather sign up for? Both descriptions said the same thing. By being more conversational, you open up your course description. Conversational tones make it more accessible to a wider audience. 

Spotlight participants’ progress

Progress is an important part of any educational experience. By adding details about progress measurement your course gets an instant boost in trust. Here’s how the online course platform Thinkific displays student progress for different courses.

Student dashboard Thinkific online course platform

How will you measure that progress?  Will your course offer a certificate or some sort of incentive for completion? Will completing it unlock a more advanced and detailed course in the future?

Look at other sample course description examples and see how they benchmark progress. If your course is prestigious, a certificate may be the best incentive. If not, you may have to focus on the practical benefits of what your customers will be able to achieve with your course.

Course benchmarks you can add:

  • A certificate of completion (this will be more powerful the more authority you have on the topic). 
  • An actual letter or numbered grades for participation or assignments.  
  • An exam that measures if a participant has learned what’s most important in the course.

Focus on the Benefits, Avoid Negativity

All courses exist to benefit the students in some way, so how does yours do that? Your course description is how you’ll sell your course. Make sure it highlights exactly how it’ll improve your customers’ lives. 

It’s important to avoid negative sales tactics in your course description. You can use FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when you’re writing promotional material. But in your course description, focus on the benefits that you’ve already outlined in your course description.

Don’t tell them what they’d lose by skipping this course, focus on what they gain by completing it. Using positive reinforcement is more powerful and will lead to more sales.

For example, if you feel tempted to use a negative consequence, think of a way to turn it into a positive benefit. Here are a few common examples you can use:

Negative ConsequencePositive Benefit
Miss out on insightsLearn how to impress others with clear insights
Do something wrongDo it in the most effective / best / enjoyable way
Losing time without this courseAdding more time to your busy schedule
Leaving money on the tableEarning more money because this course helps you optimize/cut costs

How to Write a Long-Form Course Description for a Syllabus 

If you want to write a Long-Form Course Description look no further than syllabus writing best practices. You’ll want to write a course description for the beginning of the syllabus that gives your customers:

  • A general overview of the course. 
  • The expectations for course work. 
  • The benchmarks they’ll need to hit to measure their success. 

A course description in a syllabus is typically more long-form. But you don’t need to be exhaustive and mention all the content of your course. Optimize your layout to prioritize the most important information first. 

Here’s a great training course description template and breakdown for a syllabus:

  • Intro: Start with a short introduction, about 2-3 sentences. Provide a general summary of what your course is about. 
  • Subtitle: When you have a longer course description, use formatting to attract interest. Use a subtitle that is not your catchy course title, but a secondary title attracts attention. Make it actionable and snappy. 
  • Short bullet list: Next, outline what your customers can expect to learn. You want your longer course description to be skimmable. Use this part to highlight the benefits of your course. 
  • Context: Next, include a short paragraph that includes the context around your course. Why is it unique? What’s the history of creating this course? How is it relevant? Try to include any real-life examples. Short teasers can keep your customer interested. 
  • Methodology: Include a short paragraph that outlines how you’ll teach the course.  Include how your customers’ progress will be measured. You should mention the level of interactivity they can expect, and so on. 

This format course description sample also works for online course platforms. It’s also well-adapted to independent landing pages. Equip your customers with more information. Make the most important aspects scannable. It will be easier to convince customers to take your course. 

Start with this course description template and the work forward. Create smaller, more brief descriptions as you need them. This way,  you can always prioritize the information that’s most important. 

7 Course Description Examples to Steal

1. Short-form formal:

Art History 101: A critical view of art within a historical context; the impacts of war and economy on art; a guide through different ages of art; artistic concepts as a means of expression.

Note how this course description example explains exactly what customers can expect. It covers quite a bit of ground in a mere 34 words. Cover the most ground possible, even if you have a small amount of space for your course description. 

2. Short-form informal:

Art History 101: Learn the historical context behind well-known and prolific art pieces; better understand how war and the economy impact artistic expression, and learn to correctly identify the age of different art pieces. 

This course description example achieves the same things as the formal version. It uses more of an approachable and conversational tone. This makes your course seem more accessible for your potential customers. 

3. Mid-length formal:

Social Media Marketing: This course will cover key concepts to marketing using a variety of social media networks. Participants will learn how to create, plan, and execute a social media marketing strategy for the purposes of promotion. By the end of this course, participants will understand which engagement metrics to follow, how to cultivate an engaged social following, and how to appropriately curate content and engage with followers on social platforms. 

A mid-length course description example allows you to give more context for your course, while still highlighting the most important aspects. 

4. Mid-length informal:

Social Media Marketing: In this course, you’ll learn key concepts for using a variety of social media networks successfully. You’ll learn how to create a social media marketing strategy, and then how to use that strategy to promote your brand. By the end of the course, you’ll know exactly which metrics matter the most, how to organically earn new followers, and how to create and repurpose content for your social accounts. 

The mid-length format is an ideal example of a course description. You have the space to add more value than you’ll bring to your potential customers. 

5. Long form formal:

Digital Agility: Introduction to Digital Marketing

Digital Agility will cover the fundamentals of digital marketing and equip participants with the skills necessary to completely implement a digital strategy. Participants will be introduced to critical strategies and practical skills necessary to create and execute a full digital marketing plan. 

Learn Practical Digital Marketing Skills Fit for the Industry

In this course, participants will learn:

  • How to strategize with digital marketing from the base concept of a company or service, across a variety of industries. 
  • How to perform accurate keyword research, and implement keywords into content across different digital platforms. 
  • How to create a content marketing strategy that accompanies search engine optimization research. 
  • How to appropriately use social networks to promote a brand, and how to incorporate socials into a digital strategy. 
  • How to build an email list for digital marketing, and how to use email to earn more conversions. 

Benefits Participants Can Expect from this Course

Marketing courses focus on brand theory built on a foundation of traditional marketing. While brand theory is relevant for understanding marketing basics, the fiber of marketing has changed in the digital age. With digital formats and channels taking prominence in the past decade, traditional tactics are ill-adapted to today’s practical marketing needs. This course aims to instruct participants in practical applications of digital marketing strategies that can be applied immediately. 

How Participants Skills Will Be Assessed

This course will be three hours long, with half the course period dedicated to lecture. The second half of the course will be dedicated to practical application of the skills learned in class. Participants will be assigned to groups and maintain the group format for the duration of instruction. Assessment will be based on projects completed within these groups on a weekly basis. At the end of the course, participants will be expected to present a final, cohesive digital marketing strategy that compiles the totality of all projects completed throughout the semester. 

The long-form course description example gives you the freedom to dive deeper into the context of your course and how your customers’ success will be measured. 

6. Long form informal:

Digital Agility: Introduction to Digital Marketing

Digital Agility aims to cover the fundamentals of digital marketing and will equip you with the skills you need to put your own digital strategy in place. You’ll be introduced to a variety of different critical strategies necessary for basic digital marketing comprehension. 

Learn Practical Digital Marketing Skills You’ll Really Use

You will learn:

  • How to begin strategizing with digital marketing in-mind from the very concept of a company/service. 
  • Why search engine optimization is critical for your strategy, and how to perform accurate keyword research. 
  • The fundamentals for creating a content strategy built on that keyword research, how to create proper internal linking, and why you should try for backlinks.
  • How to share the content you create across social media, create ads for your social media, and retarget ads for your customers. 
  • The basics of email marketing, and how to use it to convert your customers. 

What Sets This Course Apart from Other Marketing Courses

Many marketing courses focus on theory built around traditional marketing. While those theories are still important for understanding the core goals behind marketing, in 2021, the focus has switched to digital formats. Unlike traditional marketing channels, digital marketing channels can be interconnected to create a unified, cohesive strategy. This course aims to teach you how to appropriately utilize each of these channels, with practical skills you can use immediately. 

How Your Growth Will Be Measured

The course will be three hours long, with an hour and a half dedicated to lecture. The second half of the course will be dedicated to putting your newly learned skills to practice. You’ll be split into groups and work with the same group on your collective digital strategy throughout the semester. You’ll be graded on the different weekly projects that you’ll complete to demonstrate your understanding of the skills learned in class. At the end of the course, you’ll present a final project, which will be the full demonstration of your combined digital marketing strategy that had been compiled throughout the semester. 

The informal version achieves the same things like the formal. The course description is a bit more of an informational, value-adding pitch. Using your course description as a soft-sell is fine as long as you’re not being too promotional. 

7. Course Description Template

Writing a course description can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here’s a course description template to help you create your own. 

Short-form course description content:

[Name of Course]
[Very brief introduction; 10-15 words] 
[Main benefit participants can expect; 10-15 words] 
[How you’ll assess participants; 10-15 words]

Short-form course description template:

In [Name of course], you’ll learn [brief description of a few things participants will learn. 10-15 words]. By the end of this course, you can expect to [know something, be able to do something, etc. 10-15 words or so]. Course participants will be assessed through [grades, assignments, exams, certifications, etc].

You don’t have a lot of space to achieve your goals. The most important aspect is outlining the benefits of the course. What can your customers expect to learn?  In some cases, you might sacrifice describing the assessment for listing more benefits.

3 Real Course Description Examples for Inspiration

We collected some real course description examples so you can see how experts write their course descriptions. Below you can find examples for different lengths and styles. And from different industries.

Product Marketing Alliance

This mid-form, informal course overview from the Product Marketing Alliance. is great. It clearly describes the topic of the course in the beginning. Then, it builds trust in the visitors with the promised outcome. Also, they nailed the casual tone by not going overboard.

Product marketing course description template

Sew It! Academy

Sew It! Academy went with a short, informal description for this course hosted on Thinkific. In a single sentence, they tell visitors about the length, topic, and host of the course. And they frame the promised outcome so it resonates with people who find commercial patterns confusing.

Real course description example about patterns

Content Marketing: Blogging for Growth

This course description clearly states the benefit and topic of the course. But the best part is how they build trust in the course by highlighting the achievements of the host. Got me hooked for sure.

Content marketing course description template

Key Takeaways

A great course description is built on a foundation of best practices. Use those foundational blocks to build out the real benefits your course offers. 

By highlighting those benefits, how your course stands apart from the crowd. You’ll be able to write attractive course description samples for any medium. 

Work on the tone of your course description. Make sure it’s clear who your course was created for. Outline how you’ll assess progress for your customers. If you follow these various course description templates, you’ll have customers signing up for your course in droves.

About Whitney Blankenship

Whitney Blankenship is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Oktopost, a social engagement platform built for B2B companies. When she's not writing about social and digital marketing, she can be found reading, cross-stitching, and immersed in a cheesy horror flick.

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