Whether you’re an old pro at creating online courses, or this is the first time that you will tackle a project like this - there is always something to learn in the ever-changing environment that is online education. With differing learning styles, teaching styles, and vast resources available to fill an online course, it is important to keep a few things in mind when planning your content, publishing, throughout the creation process. We have put together a few different pointers and tips to keep in mind before launching your next online course.
Keep each learning module short and focus on one main point.
What is the most important thing you want a student or employee to learn as a part of each lesson? If using a powerpoint presentation, it is simple to communicate one central message or takeaway to remember on each slide. Nowadays with so many different things vying for learners attention, it has been found that most learning modules are too long to engage the learner for the entire time. Throughout all our time in the education system, we were deceived into believing that those seeking education will sustain attention for longer than 45 minutes at a time. Maybe that is true in a classroom setting, although we’re betting against that, instead in a online setting - students have the option to simply “turn-off” their class the second they are no longer paying attention. We suggest a fifteen minute target to aim for when planning your modules. If the content is engaging enough, 15 minutes will not disengage a student but any longer and you stand to lose them. While some of your modules will be a little longer, and others, a little shorter - the takeaway is to break up your content into smaller portions to allow for the most engagement of the users.
Try out video lessons.
Most videos that we see produced today for online courses is a powerpoint presentation with a voiceover and while this is an effective means to demonstrate walking through a process on software or the steps a user needs to take to produce results - it can become dull as the course drags on. Think of different ways in which you can engage your learners and how you would best learn. If the content you produce is too much talking “at” a learner instead of engaging the learner in a conversation, they are more likely to disengage. Try filming yourself or colleagues to show students that you are talking to them and that the information you are presenting is important.
Simplicity is key.
Similar to our point about keeping each point succinct and clear within each learning module - don’t underestimate the value of simplicity when filming or creating content to fill out your online course. It is easy to get bogged down with flashy content, or over produced but that is not always necessary to make a point and teach effectively. Simply trying different variations of content could create enough engagement throughout the course even if it is not produced by the most professional videographer. Don’t let the fear of better produced content elsewhere deter you from producing your content that will connect with a student and engage.
Use Interactive Elements.
Most learning management systems include tools to help facilitate enhanced interactivity. By including engagement tactics like quizzes, you can gauge the level of engagement and most importantly, learning, from each of the students enrolled in the course. One suggestion is to place one or two multiple choice questions at the end of each module to keep students on their toes while working through the content. This increases the level of participation with the content and the amount of information a student retains. Each time you give the learner something to do within the content, you are giving a them a reason to remain engaged and continue learning. Many LMSs have enhanced the ability for gamification within their platforms because this has shown to engage learners beyond just a sit-and-watch lesson with a test at the end to measure what the student learned. Another effective way to produce and engaging learning environment within an online course is through discussion boards. This allows the learners to talk with their peers that are also going through the learning at the same time. Through thought-provoking questions and robust dialogue, you can help decrease the amount of isolation students feel when taking a course online and instead open them up to the varying opinions of other students, thus facilitating a deeper level of learning. Lastly, automated messages and auto-responders: if someone has not logged into their platform for several days, is close to not making the time limit for course completion, or any other number of notifications that can be scheduled and sent for your class. This is a nice nudge for learners to understand that they will be held accountable even outside a traditional learning environment where instructors typically notice those that are not paying attention or risk failure.
Unclutter Your Content.
Too many different formats represented within a learning module can cause your students to lose what they are supposed to learn of the important subject matter. Varying your formats is important to keep students engaged, but each learning module does not need every type of format to ensure proper learning. Steer students toward the most important subject matter to learn by strategically using the most informational resources you have available. If you add multiple formats within each module you risk having your students use the information they most like to learn from which may not be the most important knowledge within the module.
Creating online courses can be fun, challenging, rewarding, and ultimately can benefit your organization in very impactful ways. From increasing the training, to compliance, accountability and increased engagement across the board - online courses can unify your agency or business. Take into account some of these tips while improving your courses and don’t forget to take a look at the analytics that course completion gives - this can help determine how the employees at your place of work best learn, what can be different to help success, and how their learning evolves over time.