Welcome to part two of our guide on course design. If you haven’t read the first part yet, you can check it out here.
Last time, we covered the basics of creating a course, such as goal setting, creating an outline, and how to make navigation more intuitive. We established that a good course design starts with the learners’ needs in mind. We also discussed how to choose the format based on your target audience’s preferences and aligning everything with your learning objectives.
Keep this in mind as you read the next tips on structuring the actual learning content. The final goal is designing a great learning experience that enables your learners to gain new skills and easily retain new information.
Curating learning content
Curating learning content is the most important thing you will do for your learners. Your learners could find a lot of information online, for free. However, they are taking your course because in this gilded age of “content”, it can be hard to sift through all of that information to get to what is actually helpful to them.
This applies to all the information that you will include in your own content and the resources that you will recommend to them. It also helps if you frequently ask yourself: is this relevant or is it just to fill some space? Cut unnecessary fluff or edit to make information “flow”.
Module overviews and summaries
Module overviews are great for introducing the new unit of your course. Overviews can be placed in a simple content page in your course or a short video explaining what they are going to learn.
Module overviews let you explain the meaning of each concept before delving into the details. This concept familiarity helps them remember and assimilate information faster. For example, if you dedicate an entire module to procrastination, you can explain what it means and why it is important to stop procrastinating.
At the end, you can include summaries with the main ideas of the module. You can even follow up with a quiz to see how much learners remember after completing this segment.
Lessons are subsets of modules. How you structure lessons largely depends on the type of content: video, text, audio, and so on. For example, for text-based content, it is better to:
- Make it look clean and simple
- Use paragraphs to make it easy to read
- Clearly separate headings from text
- Use legible fonts
- Choose a color scheme and use it throughout
- Align elements properly
- Add bullet lists when needed
- Always embed videos
Tips and tricks boxes
Tips and tricks boxes are optional. However, for some type of courses, they might work wonders for information retention. The golden rule is: don’t cram all types of information in there. Choose only the most helpful tips and tricks. To do this, think about what could be really useful for them, or what helped you personally, highlight a definition etc.
You can also do this for video content. Adding boxes on the screen helps you put emphasis on an idea, add supporting evidence for your statements, and more.
Most courses have additional learning resources. As I mentioned above, they must be carefully curated. For example, if you link to a news article, make sure that it is from a reputable source. You can also link to studies, videos, or attach presentations and other files. To organize them better, add them in the same area as a lesson, preferably at the end, instead of creating a large folder with a mishmash of files or links.
You should also pay attention to copyright for online courses, whether you want to use other people’s work or copyright your own.
As with most creative projects, preparation is key. Beginning with a clear idea of how you are going to structure the learning content is essential. You can find the best resources and information so your learners will get the most out of the course. Add overviews and summaries to help them retain information. Better yet, make sure that any additional materials are well organized when adding them to your course.
Designing a course is fun. You are part artist, part scientist, measuring every lesson and designing every element to make sure that your learners get the best experience when taking the course.
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.