Creating your own online courses
Offering online courses is an effective way to generate revenue, train employees or clients and to establish yourself as an expert in your field. There are plenty of options for people who want to create online courses, however it can become an overwhelming task once you start down this road. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that often the project doesn’t ever get off the ground.
FREE LMS (learning management systems) or training delivery systems sounds great in theory, but they often don’t deliver on what you need, so it’s important to do your homework before you start.
The process of creating your own online courses;
- Plan your course
- Write your course content
- Design your course
- Create your course
- Publish your course
- Promote your course
- Keep your course current and provide technical support
Having the expertise and resources to complete all of these tasks is unlikely for most, however there are ways you can outsource some of these elements so you can get the project underway.
Let's break it down . . .
Firstly, you need to know who is your audience and how/why are they going to access the training? Clearly establish what do you want them to gain by completing the training.
Before putting pen to paper, you need to identify what method of publishing and hosting the online course you are going to use. This will significantly impact what you can and can’t deliver in functionality, both with in the training and how the training is managed.
For example, some applications used to host online courses will not enable reporting, training allocation, recording of training passes or completions, provide certificates (or other rewards such as badges) and won’t allow the use of training engagement tools like quizzing. You will need to know the limitations and capacity of the tools you are using before the design and development phases.
Also consider if you want your online courses to be accessible on mobile devices and/or include videos, do you want to collect money for purchasing the online training and what your compliance requirements are (especially important for employee training).
Writing your online course content is something you should be doing because you are the expert.
Collect content you already have, such as PowerPoint presentations you use to facilitate workshops.
I like to use a mind-map to brainstorm the subject headings and then put them into an order that makes sense and creates a journey for the learners.
Once you have established a course structure, I recommend completing a validation exercise. If the training is for internal staff, talk to project stakeholders to see if you have missed anything or if your course outline needs tweaking (making lessons too long is a common mistake). If you plan on selling this online course, then talk to potential customers to see if there is a market for the product and seek their input about what they would like included and what they would be willing to pay for it.
Then you are ready to start writing the detail of your course content. PowerPoint is a good tool for this exercise. It will give you a feel for what the final product will look like and encourage you to break the information down into bite-sized sections. If you are outsourcing the design and/or the development of the online course, then this will help you communicate your vision.
If you are making videos for your course, create a storyboard to plan out the video and don’t make them too long. I also recommend adding captions to videos.
Designing your course means planning what it will look and feel like; how you are going to deliver the information to the learner. It can be anything from the colour theme to planning your interactive activities.
Plan the flow of the course and ways to make the training interesting, engaging and interactive. It is a mistake to make the course look like a PowerPoint presentation with slide after slide of text. This is not conducive to knowledge retention and it is a wasted opportunity.
Good course design reduces blocks of text; you don’t want the learner’s experience to be like reading a textbook. It should be engaging and interactive. Some suggestions on how to do this;
- Include exercises that refers the learner to an outside source. For example, they might need to go to the company intranet and access Policy materials and then return to the training and complete quiz questions.
- Use quizzes where the learner needs to consider the situation and come up with a solution themselves, rather than being spoon fed the information.
- Include videos, animations and images.
- Include graphs, infographs, charts and diagrams.
- Use scenarios and storytelling to engage through emotion and personalise your lessons. IE use actors/images that your learners can relate to.
- Typography and visuals like flow charts and mind maps.
- Interactive activities.
During the design phase, plan how the training will sit within the LMS. This will determine factors to how your course is built. IE what data needs to be recorded from the training? Completions or competencies?
If you are not experienced with building eLearning and learning management systems, it is important that you find someone who knows what they are doing to help you out. It will save a lot of time and they can give you ideas on how to maximise the benefits of using eLearning technology.
Creating your online course usually involves purchasing software. As mentioned, there is a large range of options available, so you need to choose one that suits your purposes. Be aware that no matter which product you use, it will be time consuming to create your online course.
This aspect of your build can be quite expensive because;
- It is time consuming
- You will usually need purchase eLearning authoring software if you want to create a product that is truly interactive and beneficial
- You will likely need to purchase access to resource libraries for commercially available images, videos and audio. You can make these yourself, but this is also an expensive exercise and can impact on the professionalism of the product (depending on your skill/experience). It is important that you use appropriately licensed images/videos/audio.
As an Instructional Designer, I spend thousands of dollars a year on technology, licenses and subscriptions so I can create online courses.
By now you have already selected the training delivery method for your online course, so it should be a simple task to publish your course. It is a good idea at this time to release the training to a small group of people to test the product (I do this before publishing as I have software that assists with collaboration on eLearning development projects). It is amazing how many spelling errors get through the initial testing and because people access the training on different devices and using different browsers, you can come across some technical issues that should be address prior to a full launch.
Now the hard works starts; you need to promote your online course and get people to use it/buy it.
The TANDI LMS makes selling and/or allocating training easy, though not all systems are the same. Do your homework before commencing on this journey.
Also remember that it is important to keep your training up to date, so having a system or resources available to do that is something that needs to be considered.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is to validate your concept at every step of the process, do your homework and collaborate wherever you can. AND enjoy the process!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to help with your next eLearning project.