How to plan your course content

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One of the most challenging parts of creating an online course is planning out your course content. Your course topic can be in high demand, but if you don’t present your content correctly, then the drop-off rate will increase. Online learners invest in eLearning to learn new skills fast. If your course content doesn’t have an effective structure, skips out on vital details, or contains useless information, then no one will bother to finish it.

The planning of your course content directly impacts the success of your online class. Strategic content planning will help you:

  • break down the entirety of what to include in your course and what to omit
  • organise your content and choose the order you’d like to present your information
  • identify which content types you’d like to use for each module
  • ensure that your course flows and is easy to navigate
  • determine the length of your course
  • ensure your course helps your students reach their desired outcome

Trying to figure out what to put in your course doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Here are the four main steps to planning your course content.

1. Determine your target audience

Before you start planning your course content, you need to determine who will actually be taking your online course once you’ve launched. Understanding your target audience inside and out will enable you to tailor your content specifically to them and provide the most valuable learning experience. Making assumptions about your audience is one of the most common mistakes online course creators make.

Your students might be total beginners, or they might already have some knowledge of the topic you’re presenting in your programme. It doesn’t matter what level of students you choose to serve, but knowing where they are at is essential so that your content is appropriately suited to them. Try to be specific about the level of the audience that you are targeting, either beginner, mid-level, or expert. Don’t try to fit everything into one course. You can always make multiple courses that serve different levels.

Next, you want to figure out what your audience’s specific pain points are. By understanding where people are struggling, you can position your course as the perfect thing to solve their problems. There are a variety of different ways you can find out your audiences’ pain points, including:

  • Researching common queries on forums like Reddit and Quora
  • Engaging with your audience on social media to ask where they are struggling
  • Polling your audience on social media to see what they would benefit from most

You can use this information to generate ideal customer personas, which will help you in the next steps of planning.

2. Build a simple, consistent course structure

Once you know the type of people who will likely be taking your course, you can start mapping out the structure. Even if your content is pure gold, if you deliver it in the wrong structure, then learners won’t benefit. You’ll need to cram as much information into your course as possible but do so in a way that’s easy to digest and not overwhelming. Simple is always better.

Each module of your course should have a similar structure. The design should be the same, with only the content itself changing. For example, suppose your class is on mastering vegan baked goods, your modules could start with an introduction to the recipe in text form, then have graphics of the ingredients broken down, followed by a tutorial video on how to make it.

Your course ought to be easy to navigate with an intuitive design and students should be able to find everything they need without much searching.

3. Implement the principles of microlearning

Students are motivated by instant gratification, which is essential to remember when planning your course content. They want to learn fast and large modules can make a programme drag on forever. Microlearning is proven to boost learning engagement by more than 50%. Presenting your content in small chunks, with frequent milestones, helps students digest and retain information better, plus boosts motivation levels. The more motivated they are to do your course, the more likely they are to finish it, refer people to you and leave a rocking testimonial.

4. Cater to different learning styles with various content types

Not everyone learns the same way. While you can niche down to cater to your audience’s skill level, you can’t only cater to one learning style. To be a great online educator you need to present your content in various formats so that regardless of learning style, your students can enjoy your eLearning programme. Utilizing multiple media formats will hugely decrease your dropout rates.

Visual learners

Visual learners thrive with content like videos, images, infographics, and text. But some visual learners retain text better, while others prefer videos. To cover all your bases, include various forms of visual content like:

  • Presentations
  • Infographics
  • Tutorial videos
  • Images
  • Text (using a variety of fonts, colours and sizes to draw visual attention)

Auditory learners

Auditory learners learn best by hearing information. Simply reading text and looking at an infographic will likely not be effective for them. In parts of your course with lots of text, consider recording yourself reading it or including a text-to-speech feature that will read it out for those who prefer it. Videos are also an excellent option to cater to everyone.

Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners are more hands-on and prefer interactive learning. They learn best by doing things and putting them into practice. Giving your students practical assignments and interactive quizzes is essential to address the learning needs of kinesthetic learners.

Effectively planning your online course content

Plan your online course content the right way, the first time by using these steps as a blueprint. Once you’ve got the formula down, you can use it to continue building amazing courses, sharing your expertise with the world, and creating some passive income while you’re at it. Planning the content for your programme can seem intimidating, but getting that structure right will make the whole process much more manageable.

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