You've figured out what you're doing to teach, so what's next? Outlining your online course content is the very next step. This is where your teaching style and content come together. It's putting together your plan - my favorite part of online course creation process.
If you've never created an online course before, outlining your course the answer to the panic inducing question... "OMG - where do I even start?" That totally blank white board can be intimidating but it doesn't have to be. Let's take a look.
Here's the process we've used to create our own online courses
Step 1. Identify Modules
You should have a pretty good handle on what the students' before and after looks like by now. Think of that as a transformation - your course helps students do/achieve/create ___ with their new knowledge. We like to break this transformation down into its individual parts and the process to get them from start to finish.
We're taking a look at this from a 30,000 foot view: what are the building blocks that one must stack to complete your course. Think of this as a step-by-step system or structure that serves as the foundation for great online courses, reviews and sales.
Potential students (and paying customers) are buying courses that demonstrate a clear, well-defined structure. Using this structure leads to a uniqueness in your process, formula and program that sets the tone for a great online course.
As archaic as it may sound, post-it notes and a blank wall make it easy for you to visualize and rearrange your sections.
Step 2. Create Core Steps for Each Module
You've identified your high-level sections. Within each section is a transformation; where the student starts and what do they have at the end of that module. These steps highlight the elements that you need to get someone from that before to the after.
Using our post-it note method, here's how your course looks now:
Step 3. Develop the Details
You've outlined your core steps for each module; now you're ready to start putting together the details.
This is a great time to brainstorm. Here are a few questions that help me stay on task as I work through each section:
When you do this activity that you teach, what are the steps and processes you follow to get it done?
What skills do you use while doing the actions that you're teaching?
What types of knowledge and facts (broad categories) do people need to know?
What concepts are critical to success in this topic?
How did you get from where you started to now being an instructor on this topic?
These questions prompt you to think about the what, the how and the why that should guide the students' transformation and the content you need to make that happen.
Each of us learns a bit differently. Being sure to include different types of information in your course is a fantastic way to make sure each learner feels empowered by your training, ready to take what they've learned and apply it to their own needs.
Step 4. Craft Your Outline
Looking through my brainstorm, I can start plotting these elements out on a detailed outline. This may seem a bit strenuous, but having a clear outline and knowing what materials I need to create BEFORE diving into course creation is a lifesaver.
I like to create an outline of what I think each lecture/lesson will be for each module. Here's an example of what this typically looks like:
Picking Your Topic
Picking Your Topic
This is where I'd write out the intro script. Hi, I'm Steve and today we're going to be talking about how to pick the best topic for your course. You might already have a topic in mind or you may be trying to figure out how to narrow things down a bit. No matter which spot you're in today, talking with your audience and identifying their needs is an important process. So let's get started!
Who Are My Students
This will help identify your topic
It helps narrow down the options
Know that you have an audience BEFORE investing your time in course creation
Figure out what the specific roadblocks or motivating goals are going to appeal to your future students.
You want prospective students to say "Absolutely. I need that. It must have been made for me."
In this Section
Here's what we're going to cover:
Visualize your "ideal student"
Listening for inspiration
Asking the essential questions
Advantages of being really focused - own your niche
Your Ideal Student
Create Student Persona
Create a description of your ideal student for this course; assign a photo or avatar to that student persona
You're an instructor, not a people pleaser. Don't try to teach everyone all at once.
Gear your materials to the student on their level
Here's a handout or activity sheet for the students. Who's the ideal student? What's their avatar?
Why would your student be interested in your topic?
How experienced is your student with your topic?
What are your students' goals?
What are the student's biggest roadblocks?
If you’re ready to start outlining, you can download this sample as a word doc here to help you get started
Step 4. Add Worksheets and Bonuses
The detailed outline is the perfect place to identify what your worksheets will be and any extra or supporting material that should go along with your course.
With your detailed outline put together, you're ready to put together your content - slides, text blocks, etc. If you're working with slides or creating a document, keep it simple! You'll have plenty of time to add the fancy graphics & design elements later but for now, you want to see how your course is going to flow.
Step 5. Get Feedback
If you've been teaching or doing the thing you're teaching, chances are you've worked with others or know some people who may be potential students. As a few to take a look at your outline to see what you may be missing. This is not a requirement but it never hurts to have someone who isn't so familiar with the content who can tell you that you're on the right track or what it may take to make your course even better.
Have you created an online course before? Is this your first time working on an online course? What's been the most challenging roadblock you've faced so far?