Online Course Development: Learn The Right Process
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It's Not What You Develop, But How You Develop It

Online course development can be very fun at times, but also extremely messy and complicated. One of my most recent projects involved an online course developed in 6 months, which should have required about 12 months to complete. Right from the start, I was looking for ways to pour my heart into this thing and still be able to rapidly get it done in time. That's when the idea of the onion came to mind.

Tackling course development in layers that can be manipulated, polished and templated can help with rapid course development and still have that high-quality feel and an effective learning environment. This article will hopefully help you tackle your next project in an efficient and speedy manner.

The Outer Layer (Or The Overall Look And Feel)

Some onions are shiny and pretty while others are not. The same can go for eCourse design. The outer layer is like the part of the course that learners will interact with first. It's got a rough exterior and will need to be peeled back in order to get to the good stuff. This layer can include things like menus, gamification, and the framework that catches the learner's eye and makes them glad they bought your course.

This layer can (and should) take a lot of thought and careful planning. Making that sexy top-level menu and neatly animated effects will really put the icing on the cake. Spending a good amount of your course development time on this layer will definitely help bring up the quality of the look and feel of the course and help bring the learners to your training.

The Slimy Inside Layer (Or The Necessities That Every Course Can't Do Without)

This layer is sometimes hard to define, but very much necessary. This includes all of the bits and pieces that make the online course work—variables, course completion, progress, etc. But nestled within these otherwise mundane features is an opportunity to really shift your course into high gear. Use the variables to store your users' points and display them throughout the course. Track badges earned through variables and form submission features. Access hidden levels and features using logic and built-in variables. The possibilities are really endless here and will make your course shine.

Gamification is important and fun, but the real push here is getting students to keep coming back to your course to complete it. Use this layer to be proactive in reaching your students by looking ahead and examining the students' potential. Karla Guitierrez suggests that an important question to consider is the value you're adding to the learner (2017).

The Crunchy Edible Layers (Or The Reason We Buy The Onion In The First Place)

This is the layer that we really want. That crunchy, savory taste that adds such a delectable taste to everything we cook and eat. This is the content of the course—the actual "stuff" that the learners want to learn. The beauty of this layer is that it can easily be templated because it's what the learner is going to get from the content, not the other way around. You can quickly produce these content presentations in order to speed up the process. You do, however, want to spend a little time on the actual template, to make sure that it matches your overall design and to make sure that the User Experience is superb.

This layer is the most important as it delivers the learning. We peel it back, chop it up, sautée it, mix it with other stuff, etc. Keep in mind that your learners will spend most of their time in the course on this layer, so the user-interaction design needs to be top-notch. Spending time on the template will do you a lot of good, be sure to focus on comprehension of the content (2019).

Putting It All Together

Designing eCourses like an onion may not be the most straightforward thing in the world, so it will be good to summarize. The outermost layer is the crunchy layer that everyone peels back—this is the external sight, sound and smell of the eCourse that draws your learner in and makes them purchase it in the first place. The inner thin membrane of a layer is like the nuts and bolts of the eCourse—the variables, gamification, rewards, etc. that keep your learner coming back for more. And finally, we have the crunchy and juicy inside that we sautée, caramelize, and use for so many things—the actual content of the course where the participant does the learning and gains valuable skills and knowledge.

No matter how you develop eCourses, make sure you put some passion into the project. Different parts will take different amounts of time to develop, naturally, but I believe that if you focus on the right parts, then you can make something truly unforgettable.

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