The development of an online course consists of several phases. You need to find a suitable online course idea, the idea needs to be tested and then further elaborated. Planning the content of the online course is not easy. What should you take into account? How do you prevent an online course from becoming too broad or too superficial? How do you avoid a large number of questions from students, for example, through unclear content? In this article, we give you an answer to the question: how do you plan the content of your online course?
Before you start planning the content of a course, it’s smart to look at how you come up with good online course ideas. Also, look at our page about testing an online course idea.
Make a flower around your main subject
Planning the content in an online course starts with thinking out suitable topics. A flower can help you with this! Normally, a flower consists of a core, which is surrounded by leaves. At the core of the flower, you write the main topic of your online course. Then use the leaves to name several topics. These topics will soon form the basis of your final course. By using a flower, you prevent the course from quickly becoming far too wide. After all, a flower has only a limited number of leaves.
Funnel method as an alternative to a flower
Do you still find it difficult to determine which topics you want to discuss in the course? In that case, the funnel method may also be interesting. This method is used at the time when the coherence between subjects is lacking. Write all the topics you find with the main theme fit on a sheet of paper. Then try to cluster the different topics. What topics have a relationship with each other? Deviate from the main topic and come up with different sub-themes.
Then try to reconnect the clusters. The goal is to cover an increasingly limited number of topics. One of the three or four clusters may not fit the rest. These subjects thus fall off. Use the subjects that eventually come out of the funnel to work out the previously described flower.
Tip: use post-its! This makes it very easy to cluster different topics.
Look at a student’s needs
You want to make sure that a course fits the needs of a student. Why would a student specifically choose your course? Does he want to increase his knowledge of a subject? Does the student want to see practical examples in which knowledge on a well-known theme is applied? Try to take a good look at the type of person your course would buy. You can do this by looking at the reviews at similar courses. Is it about people taking the course because of their hobby? Are they businesspeople from the financial world? Is it probably technicians?
Set learning goals for your audience
Following on from determining the target group and the knowledge they want to gain, it is smart to work out learning goals. These learning goals will soon also come in handy on the course page! An interested person immediately sees what he or she has learned after taking the online course. The learning goals form the basis of the structure of your final course.
Link subjects to the different learning goals
Now it is important to link the subjects found to the different learning goals. What topics guide students towards achieving a specific learning goal? Bundle the different topics and learning goals into chapters. Based on this structure, you can get started working out the content. When working out content, it is important to ask yourself if the learning goal has been achieved after each chapter. What question did you answer in the chapter?
Tip: don’t make the chapters too long! It should be manageable for students who may be taking the online course alongside their jobs. Take a look at our page about the ideal length of an online course.
Decide which content types are appropriate
Part of working out the content is determining the type of content you’re going to offer. There are several ways to share information with students. For example, opt for short videos, in which you discuss the topics of your course. Making these videos takes a lot of time. This may be a reason to combine the videos with plain text. Besides, it is nice for students to be able to read back information. In the text, you can include images that clarify difficult matters. For example, have an infographic designed, in which you summarize the text by arrows, short statements, and so on.
Tip: Also, use PDF files! A PDF file is interesting when you want to offer a model to students. A student can print the file and get started with the model immediately.
Spoken texts often less attractive than videos
For students, it can be nice when they see you as a trainer. An alternative to short videos is the recording of sound fragments. Often it turns out to be difficult to concentrate for a long time when there is only talk. Have you tried this yourself? For example, listen to the radio for a while and decide for yourself if you remembered all the songs. In a video, you can show things during a presentation. It makes it easier for students to focus on the content.
Online course with pilot testing
Have you finished the first version of your online course? In that case, you can organize a pilot. In a pilot, a small number of students participate in an often slimmed-down form of the online course. You can offer the pilot for free or at a low price. The aim of the pilot is to get feedback from the target audience of your final online course.
- Make a flower around your main subject
- Look at a student’s needs
- Link subjects to the different learning goals
- Decide which content types are appropriate
- Online course with pilot testing