6 elements of a killer online course

Home Course planning tips 6 elements of a killer online course

The online course industry is booming as more people recognise the value in lifelong learning and up-skilling.

You can find an online course on just about any topic these days! Free or paid.

But the problem is that not all online courses are created equal! In fact, many people selling online courses have no teaching or learning background.

There’s a limited amount of quality online courses which actually teach. Online learning should show, not tell!

Here’s my personal example…

Last year, I decided to learn about food photography. I researched, practiced, watched videos and of course I bought an online beginner photography course. Except that it wasn’t an online course.

It was a 175 page E-book. And I paid 100 bucks for it. Not even best sellers cost that much.

I felt totally ripped off and furious!

Clearly the blogger didn’t have any understanding of what an online course is!

So why should you listen to me?

I’ve been working as a course designer and college teacher in the vocational education industry in Australia for over 7 years. I create online courses for colleges and small businesses using instructional design and learning principles.

Prior to moving to Australia, I lived in London and worked as a financial supervisor for Thomson Reuters and Moneyline Telerate for a total of 7 years too. A large part of my role was employee training and development. And naturally I had to write short courses, manuals and how-to documents. This was before online courses existed!

The problem with traditional online courses

Universities and colleges were the first adopters of online learning. They took their existing offline materials and simply uploaded them onto an online platform and called it ONLINE LEARNING!

Students then accessed their course content online and worked through the materials. Exercises and assignments followed and they passed or failed.

The problem with this method of learning is that:

  • it’s boring
  • it’s lonely
  • it’s passive
  • and it requires a lot of self-motivation

Online learning today

Today, the world of professional and personal online education is skyrocketing.  Thousands of businesses, bloggers, coaches and professionals are selling short online courses consisting of videos, podcasts, webinars and forums.

E-learning has become an industry and course design a profession. However, you don’t need any qualifications to create and sell an online course. And therein lies the danger!

Too many mediocre online courses are being sold. And too many poor souls are being ripped off!

So what does a quality online course look like?

#1 It has clear goals

The outcome should be a no brainer. The goal of the course should be clear and easy to understand. It should address your need and help you to solve a problem.

#2 Directs you through the learning process

Your course should be easy to follow and should take you on a logical learning journey starting from A to Z. Lessons must be manageable and contain relevant content and information.

#3 Is engaging and interactive

A well designed course will get you thinking, encourage you to take action or motivate you. It won’t bore you or put you to sleep.

#4 Offers you choice of engagement

Course designers know that everyone learns differently. A good course will offer you video’s, slides, workbooks or downloads so that you have choice over how you want to learn. An online course shoudl not be a one size fits all!

#5 Includes activities

Including activities or exercises gives your student an incentive to actually do something. It forces them to take action and to get results, even if it means just scribbling down a few notes. For this reason, information only courses have a higher drop out and refund rate because interaction is so limited.

#6 Gives you feedback

All online courses must have a support mechanism. These days this is largely done by private Facebook groups but there’s no reason why you can’t have an online forum or discussion page. As the teacher, it’s your job to answer questions and to provide feedback along the way.

Now it’s over to you! How does your course stack up against the 6 elements?




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