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Want to design your first online course? Here’s where to start.

If your eyes glaze over after researching the best way to go about creating an online course, you’re not alone!

Being in the learning business means I get approximately 9,812,024 emails a day informing me on the latest trends in education technology. I can click to get tips on fancy software to help me build courses, explore learning management systems with elaborate features, and read endless articles on the most engaging instructional design models. The inevitable overwhelm ensues! For those just starting out on their eLearning journey- a Google search can be mind-boggling.

Let’s step back and break it down.

Before you build your training program, ask yourself these questions:

What is the goal of my course?

Start with the end in mind. Determine your desired results and build backwards asking yourself the question, “In order for learners to achieve this result, what must they complete in order to accomplish it?”

Pro Tip: Clearly identify your audience and the intended outcome. Map out the content areas learners should be proficient in after course completion and identify any required prerequisite knowledge. Decide what you want your learners to achieve at the end of the course, whether knowledge gain, applied skills, or certification. Now you have organized both your end goal and a framework for your curriculum!

Have I done market research to support the need?

Are you a solution in search of a problem? Does someone actually need and want what you plan to create, and do they want it now? Make sure your ‘why’ is strong enough before you invest too much effort.

Pro Tip: Start with research! Spend time in the market exploring competing products. If you find similar courses are flooding the learning landscape, you will need to find your competitive edge. That could be price, CE credits, advanced design and technology, ease of use, or advantage of completion- like a certificate program. In a sea of information, develop something unique enough so your course stands out.

What type of course will best suit my target audience?

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all journey. Since you already decided to create an online course, you know enough about your audience to understand they prefer learning virtually and at their own pace. The devil is in the details, so make the right decisions regarding course model and design.

Pro Tip: Start with considering course length and how to break it up. If you are catering to busy professionals, try chunking your content into 15-minute modules. When choosing course style, while a fully interactive experience may be great for audience engagement, it may feel overly cumbersome for others wanting to read content quickly and test it out. Make sure you perform due diligence in mapping out the best style for your target learner. These details will help you create a course that is user centric.

What course authoring tool should I use?

An authoring tool is a piece of software that enables the creation of digital content, but you don’t have to be an instructional design ninja to create a beautiful course!

Pro Tip: Your first step is to investigate the online platform that will host your course and determine what file types will be supported. Most learning management systems can support PowerPoint, SCORM, videos, recorded webinars, audio files, internet links, and documents. If you want to create a more interactive course, you can check out programs like Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline 360, Lectora, Easygenerator, or Camtasia. Pssst, there’s lots more out there- have fun!

How will I know my course is doing well?

Don’t fall in love with your own work! If you are blinded by what you create, you will generate a course that you admire but no one uses. What matters is the result generated for the end user.

Pro Tip: Creating a course evaluation for your participants is key. But don’t let that data sit! Perform an audit of your evaluations within the first month of your course launch to see if there are any quick fixes needed to improve your course. Even better? Send a super brief survey to those who purchased your course at the one, six, and twelve-month touch points to gather data and ensure your course is hitting the mark.


The ADDIE Model

We know diving into eLearning design can be daunting, but by setting a design path, you can structure the process and duplicate over and over! While there are many approaches, a common model you can follow is ADDIE, which stands for different aspects of course development:

  1. Analyze;

  2. Design;

  3. Develop;

  4. Implement; and

  5. Evaluate.

Explore how you can use this method on your next course with our ADDIE Checklist!

The ADDIE Checklist
Download PDF • 239KB


Schedule a free consult session with our team! We can help you assess your current educational offerings and provide recommendations to elevate your content.

Contact us today! E: T: +1 (952) 377-8806

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