There are plenty of courses out there on the Internet. So how can you make sure you design a good online course? And what makes a good course anyway?
Let’s keep this really simple: a good course is one that meets its objectives. If I wanted to learn how to build a website, any course on basic web design should show me how to do that. A good online course would enable me to go away and build my own website. So a good course is not just about delivering content, it’s about what the student can actually do when they’ve finished the course. In other words, its about results.
If you’re selling your course then results become even more important. Great results will bring your students/clients back for more and get them talking about you to their friends. Great results make good business sense.
Unfortunately, many online courses are set up as a one-way transfer of information from the teacher’s brain to the student’s brain. This isn’t very effective because the learning process is a cycle:
(This image is based on Kolb’s Learning Cycle.)
If you want to design a good course, make sure you include features that encourage your students to move through this cycle. Adding questions, worksheets, simple quizzes and asking students to think about their own experience will all make your course much more effective than a series of videos alone because they encourage testing, reflection and the development of ideas.
For even better results you need to include the support of a coach or tutor. A tutor will make sure that the client/student really is reflecting on what they’ve learnt – rather than just glancing over a worksheet but not working through it, or working through the worksheet but still not understanding what they’ve been taught. A coach or tutor can also assess the student’s progress, stopping her from moving ahead until she has fully grasped what she’s working on now.
This has cost implications if you’re selling courses as a business, though. So you’ll need to weigh up whether to have a more effective but relatively expensive course or a cheaper (but potentially less effective) course. A cheaper course may be an easier sell and accessible to more people, but a more expensive course may have more committed students because they’ve invested more in the course.
By the way, you can choose to deliver my done-for-you courses either with coaching or as a self-study course. Or you can offer both, it’s up to you.
There’s been an explosion of online courses lately and I’ve taken some that are excellent as well as some that are awful. That’s to be expected because this type of technology was only available to highly skilled professionals a few years ago. People with no teaching or training experience are now making online courses, which is absolutely fine (as long as they aren’t ripping people off) and I’m sure the good quality ones will rise to the surface and the bad ones will sink. The trick is to improve your course design so your courses are the risers and not the sinkers!
What do you feel makes a good online course? Are you including these features in your courses?