Smart Ideas for Online Course Design


What is a good way to design an online course? Suppose you want to turn a day of face-to-face training into a series of short online ‘lessons’. What is the best way to organise and deliver your content so you get maximum positive feedback from your learners?

  1. Break the course up into short - aim for 15 minutes - activities or ‘lessons’. Really focus on organising your content in a nice, linear way.

  2. Provide a short, clear overview of the course - include the list of activities - at the start. Include some tips for effective online learning.

  3. Be very clear about learning objectives - overall objectives for the whole course and the objectives for each activity or lesson.

  4. Don’t ignore branding. Branding on the course overview page and each lesson page should look consistent and professional.

  5. Create some structure for each 15 minute activity or lesson.
    • Start with a short introductory paragraph that sets out the objectives.
    • A 10 minute video - make this the meat of the lesson. With a little effort and practise you can create very polished videos. Slides with audio, animations and other graphics will add more polish.
    • Encourage reflection and self assessment with a short online quiz after the video.

  6. Include links to further reading. That could depend on your subject, but it’s another way to encourage more engagement with the subject.

  7. Try something different. For example, can you build in some kind of collaborative activity based around a shared Google Doc? Or what about using a shared Google Sheet as part of an activity? Again, a lot depends on your subject material.

  8. Consider adding in an online discussion. That’s probably going to work best at course level (you’ll need a critical mass of contributors to make the discussion work).

  9. Consider adding an end of course assessment. That could be another, longer online quiz.

  10. Ask your learners for honest feedback and use it to refine and improve the course.

  11. Encourage happy learners to share their positive experience of your course on social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

It might not be possible to build an online course without specialist elearning software if you need to track learner engagement, deliver more formal assessments or restrict access to people that have paid for the course. The ideas though are still relevant - 15 minute lessons, video, short quizzes and collaboration.