Before the first ATM came out, people had to actually stand in a line and wait to get cash from the bank. It seems a “no duh” fact, but we rarely think about the convenience of simply going to a machine simply because we’re used to handling our money through a single click.
In a similar fashion, not many years ago you’d have to gather learners in one room, in one day, at a specific timeframe and actually hold a face-to-face lesson in order to call yourself an instructor.
What’s the connection between ATMs and online courses? Well, they can both run on automation!
A self-paced course is a perfect medium to teach online but can seem a little stale without a response from the learning management system (LMS) or the instructor. That’s why automation is here to do important stuff such as giving out badges for completing a task or automatically enrolling users in courses.
Mastering course automation in 4 simple steps
Think of it like a machine: it does the tedious work for you so you get to concentrate on creating courses. As long as you set it up beforehand, there’s no need for you to always be connected and available.
Here’s what you need to know before you automate your courses, from the moment learners sign in to completion:
Step 1: Build the course automation flow
Trust me, this sounds more complicated than it really is — in fact, you decide which actions to automate from the start. To map out what happens once learners enroll in a course, all you have to do is to answer a few questions:
Q: What happens when they enroll?
A: They get a custom welcome notification.
Q: What happens if they’re inactive for 30 days?
A: The learner is removed from the course automatically.
You see where I’m going with this. The idea is to have a plan and stick with it, be it in a Word document, a spreadsheet, or add rules directly on your platform. What are rules, you might ask? Read on to find out.
Step 2: Adding rules
Building an automated course flow means knowing how to add rules.
Rules are the commands you give to the system so that certain events are triggered once an action happens. They usually follow the “If the learner does this, then X happens” formula. For example, if a learner passes a quiz, they automatically receive 10 points, which count towards a course game. If a learner finishes the entire course, they get a completion certificate with their name on it.
Rules are usually already defined within a platform; all you have to do is to select them from a list.
Step 3: Mapping out your rules
Here are some guidelines to use when adding rules to your course:
- Choose the number of points you give for an action, such as 5 points for taking a survey, 10 points for completing an easy quiz, 20 points for a harder quiz
- All the points you give should add up to a maximum number of points that will count towards a course game — just don’t make it too easy or too hard to gain them
- Give badges for learners’ progress, but make sure that they’ve earned (i.e don’t give a badge for every single completed lesson but do give out one for completing an entire module)
- Add rules for the entire course, a module and subsections such as lessons and assignments to make things more interactive
- Send custom notifications to encourage learners to make more progress or even for completing a milestone such as finishing half the course
- Asking learners to unlock modules by finishing tasks, automatically giving coupon codes (discounts) and points can all motivate them to learn more
Plus, don’t add many rules per item! Sometimes less is more when automating your course, and learners appreciate it more when they’ve earned points or discounts for their progress if they don’t come by them at every step of the way.
Step 4: Testing the final result
Even if you think the automation part works perfectly, there might always be something you’ve forgotten to add or doesn’t work how it’s supposed to. Experiencing your course as a learner is not only an effective way of testing how your content works, it’s about seeing the navigation process through their eyes.
Maybe you’ve added rules that are too strict, such as locking a module when learners finish it and you’d like for them to be able to go back whenever they want to. Maybe you’ve made the course game too easy and they should work harder to get points or badges.
That’s why creating a learner account and taking it for a test drive during or after adding rules ensures that everything works smoothly.
Trust me, you’ll never regret taking an hour max to configure all the automated settings and rules for your course. It saves time and makes the course more engaging for learners. On top of this, course automation will become even more advanced in the future.
After all, that’s what your LMS should do: work for you!
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and INDIE. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.