The use of electronic gadgets is on a continuous rise, and for an educator, it’s crucial to match pace with this rapid slew of technological advancement. Fortunately, today’s tools have made it incredibly simple for even the least tech-savvy professionals to leverage technology and provide a superior learning experience.
This post will provide some quick tips to help educators make the most out of one of these technological tools: online courses.
4 tips to create awesome online courses
Online courses are highly flexible tools; they can be as simple or complicated as the educator wants to make them. However, after analyzing thousands of online courses, we’ve noticed that by just doing these four things, creators can significantly increase the quality and value of their courses.
1. Planning your online course: Less is more.
When planning to teach online, course structure becomes the deciding factor. It’s important for the course creator to follow a pyramid-like structure, wherein the core information is presented first, followed by the most advanced information. This would ensure that the course is helpful for both the beginner as well as an advanced student. Also, it may help advanced students brush up on their basics or quickly jump directly to more in-depth topics. However, if you realize later on that most of your students are skipping the most basic topics, it might be time to revisit the curriculum and possibly create two separate courses to target beginners and advanced students separately.
Another important element to consider during the planning phase is the length of the course curriculum. In our experience, the best results regarding student satisfaction correspond to online courses with 11 to 50 lectures in total:
These numbers may sound counterintuitive to some people—those who tend to believe the value that an online course delivers to a student is correlated to the amount of content included in it. However, we’ve found the opposite to be true.
- Students enjoy courses that are a shortcut to an outcome, allowing them to attain a sizeable amount of knowledge in a fraction of the time it would take to do the same through reading a textbook.
- Shorter courses also give students the impression that they’re making significant progress as they complete lectures. In the opposite scenario, the task of completing a lot of lectures can result discouraging to the student.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of a compelling name
Naming is an activity that’s often overlooked and performed almost as an afterthought. However, we believe that education is as much about motivating your students to learn as it is about imparting knowledge. The name of an online course is the student’s first contact with the content that’s in it and, as such, can have a great impact on the student’s disposition towards it.
An excellent online course name results of answering these three questions:
- Who is this course for? What are the typical student’s challenges? The course name should focus on addressing the student’s concern.
- What valuable outcome can the student expect from the course? We like to call these outcomes “transformations” to put an emphasis on the before-after aspect of the benefit.
- Can the benefit/outcome of the course be quantified? People tend to respond better to quantitative benefits than to qualitative ones. That’s why we suggest that, whenever possible, the course name should link the outcome to a numeric value.
There is obviously an important element to keep in mind when naming an online course: clarity. It’s important for the student to understand what the course is about clearly. If you were to teach basic English grammar, then your students should know about it. Rather than choosing a name which is hard to come by, choosing one that is easy to recall, is bound to attract a lot more students.
3. Pre-recorded content can be made with little budget and time investment
Upon facing the task of creating content for an online course, many can feel overwhelmed or intimidated. However, today’s every-day technology makes it easy to create high-quality content for an online course in a short period and with barely any need for investment in software or equipment.
In particular, we recommend online course creators to create video content. Video lectures are highly recommended as they make the content easier to consume for students.
Fortunately, today’s smartphones and computers have cameras that can capture high-definition video content that can be easily turned into an online course. When recording content, these tips can make a big difference:
- Position yourself near a window to take advantage of a natural source of light.
- Use a tripod when using a phone to record the content. If you’re using a webcam instead, try to elevate the laptop or webcam to face level.
- Leverage screen recording software to create transitions between video from the camera and the content in your computer. This helps prevent monotony and increase attention and engagement with the course content.
Online courses with pre-recorded lectures allow the instructor to automate the delivery of baseline content (which students can consume on their own) and focus instead on 1-on-1 mentoring and counseling.
4. Create interactive lectures
Adding elements of interactivity to online courses can also dramatically increase engagement and completion rates. These are the most common ways to provide interactivity in online courses:
- Hold live sessions alongside the pre-recorded content to give students the opportunity to ask questions and interact remotely with the instructor as they go through the course.
- Include short quizzes to encourage students to pay attention to the content as opposed to consuming it passively. It has also been proven that quizzes can help with knowledge retention in online courses.
- Promote discussion using forums and comments. This is an excellent way to let students help each other learn by starting conversations about the topic covered in the lectures. You can also asynchronously jump into the discussion occasionally to provide feedback.
The benefits of using online courses
When an educator decides to teach online, many questions can pop up in his/her mind, the most prominent one being: “What is there to gain from it?” Well, the benefits are many; but here are just a few of them:
1. Timing could be set based on the teacher’s discretion
Once the course is created, it can free the teacher to engage in discussions and provide answers to questions pitted by his students, while also focusing on highly-valuable activities such as research or mentoring.
2. It provides the educators with a wider scope for learning
When compared to traditional classes, which are usually restricted in batch size; the scope of online courses is immense. It lets the instructor reach an audience that may number in the thousands; with so many students to teach, they are bound to come across questions that would have them brainstorming for answers. This provides an on-going learning process, which isn’t constricted by a similar type of questions every day.
3. It could turn into a full-time activity
When an educator plans to teach online through online courses, he may find that he now has more time for himself. This time is saved from the commute that he may need to do to and from his place of work. Now, all this extra time could be devoted to additional research, or learning a hobby that the educator must have always wanted to learn!
About the Author
Eduardo Yi is the lead content marketer at Teachable, a leading e-learning platform that allows everyone, from individual entrepreneurs to established educational institutions, to easily create, sell, and manage their own professional online courses.