Learn How To Create Online Content
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Learn How To Create Amazing Online Content

You’re about to invest a lot of time and energy into creating courses so make sure you follow these 5 simple steps to make the whole process easy and quick, while at the same time ensuring that your learning sticks in the brains of your learners!

1. Define Your Learning Outcomes

This one might sound almost too simple, but skip it and you’re guaranteed to waste a lot of time and money!

In fact, if you feel like you want to skip Step 1, don’t bother to read the rest of this article because I can’t help you, and you’re gonna set yourself up for failure no matter how well you complete the rest of the steps. You see, no matter how experienced people are in creating courses, I often see them just jumping into creating content or throwing everything together without a clear plan. They plug away for days, weeks, or even months and usually realize that the lack of planning in Step 1 means they have to rewind back to earlier stages, or completely start over again. They’ve then wasted important time and money. And, no matter how much you think you need the course right now or have built content before, Step 1 deserves the same time and attention for every single course you will ever build.

So, let’s get started and ask ourselves 2 critical questions:

Question 1:

  • Why do your learners need this course from a commercial perspective? Look past what they need to learn and think deeply about why they need to learn it.
  • Are they receiving training on business-critical processes, procedures, or important upskilling in leadership or sales? And, how will that help them with their jobs and, thus, the business?

A great technique to use here is the 5 Whys. Basically, ask yourself "why" 5 times to really drill down on the answers.

Essentially, we need to know what specific tasks or activities they’ll be able to complete after finishing the course or courses and what will your learners get out of this. This will make sure that we have clarity when it comes to evaluating what content we need later on in the process. As well as helping to avoid any unnecessary content that is not adding meaningful value to what you’re creating or to what someone is taking the time to learn. And, it will make sure that you can prepare some sort of evaluation or exercise questions in order to demonstrate the objectives that have been achieved. (Your boss will love you for this!)

Question 2:

  • Why is this information important/of interest to your learners?
  • How does this information help your learners? Does it make their job easier? Does it help them avoid mistakes, which causes them to redo work? Does it help them boost their sales or even feel less anxiety about making errors and getting in trouble, etc.?

A key benefit of Question 2 is that it allows us to work toward a critical principle of adult learning. You see, most learners need to see and understand the value of taking the course or learning that information. This will help us make sure we can clearly communicate the value of this course and how it will help the learner. I can guarantee that failing to do this step will mean your course adoption and completion rates will suffer without you needing to be very involved. In this step, don’t be afraid to just straight out ask and engage them about what you want them to learn. After all, it is for them, isn’t it?

We may have the power to compel learners in our organizations and have them complete the learning, but you will find substantially higher levels of engagement when we can clearly articulate this information to our learners.

So, don’t be afraid to start your courses and tell users:

  • How the course is relevant
  • How this course will help them meet their needs
  • What and how they will learn the content
  • What might happen if they don’t complete the course

2. Define Who The Learning Is For

Generally, when we create things, it’s easy and alluring to create them in a way that we think will achieve our desired learning objectives. But in 99.9% of cases, the people we are creating the content for aren’t like us at all. They have a different knowledge level, background, and a different way they retain information. And, because of this, we can often miss the mark for the target audience and not have the desired learning outcomes we want.

So once we’ve boiled our learning objectives in Step 1, we want to make sure that everything we create in future steps is tailored to our learners. And, this isn’t just with the information provided to them but also with things like the language we use, or the level of sophistication we might build into our Learning Management System. Many people still don’t even use computers very often, so we need to consider these details before we proceed to our next step. Have you ever noticed how some people say they need to write things down, hear things out loud, or even just get hands-on with whatever they’re learning?

Well, your learners are no different as everyone has a different modality—a fancy way of saying "style of learning"—so you need to make sure that you craft your content to meet that. So, you might make sure you have a mix of video content, text or pictures that touch on the visual and auditory modalities. You can have some content where the learner needs to explain the concepts back or even have them actually execute the tasks themselves and then provide some proof of their activities (i.e. getting their hands dirty, so to speak for our kinesthetically inclined learners).

By making sure you provide a range of elements in your learning, you make sure that you can cater to different learning styles.

So, ask yourself these questions to define who your learning is for:

  • What is the level of education my learners have going through this course?
  • What is their general level of comfort with technology?
  • Have they completed eLearning before?
    • And, if they have, what did they learn and through what elements?
    • What did they enjoy about their past eLearning experiences and what did they not like?
  • How have they learned in the past (i.e. university or technical training, etc.)?
  • What is their level of understanding or experience with the learning objectives from Step 1?
    • Do they know some of the language or terminology that is being taught?
    • What is their level of application of those principles to their jobs or lives?
  • When they’re learning, do they prefer to write things down, practice the things they’ve learned, or are they happy to just listen and absorb the information?

Once you’ve asked these questions, you should have an idea of who your course is for and what content and approach will appeal to them most.

3. Map Out Your Content

Ever go on a road trip somewhere you’ve never been without a map or some sort of directions? Probably not, if your goal is to get to the destination within a reasonable amount of time. Creating content is exactly the same. We need a map of the steps along the road from start to finish. One of the biggest mistakes I see is that clients just jump right into creating content, repurposing content, or start whacking it into courses without a framework or overall vision for how all those pieces will come together.

How To Map Out Your Content

The first part is to think broadly about how the content can be arranged to help you achieve Step 1 in accordance with Step 2. How might you do that? Good question! By looking at something like Bloom’s Taxonomy, it can give you a way to think about your teaching and a guide to arrange your content. Bloom’s Taxonomy gives us a structure of how to push our learning toward higher levels of thinking, which, ultimately, will ensure that our learners have the greatest level of comprehension and retention regarding the information we want them to have.

Another way to explain this to state that if the learner can apply the learning to actual situations or make and defend arguments about the learning, it is ultimately better than if they can just memorize definitions (i.e. creating thought-out answers is better than just watching a video or simply answering basic multiple-choice questions).

Next, we want to think about the best way to organize your content.

How To Organize Content

For this step, I suggest using a Word document or make sure you have a blank page. Here you can think about your course and content on 3 different levels.

The first line will be for the Header, which will be a group of topics clustered together based on content or learning objectives. The second is the Topic, which will house all of your elements and can be thought of like a chapter in a book. And lastly, your Elements, which are your videos, text fields, forums, multiple-choice questions, etc., which can help provide learning or validate that the learning has happened.

It might look something like this:

Header:

  • Topic
    • Element
    • Element
    • Element
  • Topic
    • Element
    • Element
    • Element

From here, and with Step 1 and Step 2 in mind, you can start to construct what you need to assemble.

Here’s how your content may be structured:

How To Create Killer Courses [Header]

  • How To Build Multiple-Choice Questions [Topic]
    • Text explanation of what a multiple-choice question is, the different types and when it should be used [Element]
    • Quick video on how to put the multiple-choice questions into the system and a run-through of how to select the different types [Element]
    • Picture example [Element]
    • Picture example [Element]
    • 3–4 multiple-choice questions related to the learning above [Element]
  • How To Use Long-Form Questions [Topic]
    • Text explanation of what it is and give a few different examples of when it might be used and the reasons behind selecting each one [Element]
    • A link to an article on the subject for further advanced reading [Element]
    • A video on how to put a long-form question into the system and a quick run-through of the functionality [Element]
    • Text examples to help give references to the learner [Element]
    • A long-form question with a scenario for the learner to create their own questions and explain why they might use that one [Element]

Don’t forget to keep asking yourselves the Questions from Step 1. Sometimes, once we start to map out the content, the answers might change. This allows you to make tweaks to your plans.

4. Start Building Your Content

Now, we get into the really fun stuff and the part that most people jump to when they create their courses—but not you though! Now you know what your content needs to convey, who it needs to be conveyed to, and a good skeleton of the types of content that will all come together in the right order to help you build the best courses possible! This step is highly creative and no two courses are identical, but we want to provide some suggestions and thoughts as to how you can best go about this process.

Walk Before We Run

Often when we work with clients, they have grand visions of videos everywhere, workbooks, custom pictures, animations, and so on and so forth. But in reality, they may only have word documents, a few older training videos, and some ideas on the multiple-choice questions they want to ask as a starting point. For every business, the initial course might be different, but I suggest to clients to use what they have and focus on developing what they absolutely need in order to get the course up and running. From there, and with all that time you’re saving on training, you can use it to reinvest back into creating new and highly engaging content to either swap out old content or continue to build upon your already existing/new courses.

Use Higher-Order Thinking

Very similar to Step 3, you want to continually make sure that you are engaging Bloom’s Taxonomy and working toward higher orders and levels of thinking through the creation and arrangement of content.

You might not get to the desired level right away, but it’s always important to have those principles in mind to ensure that your courses are providing an effective transfer of learning between the LMS and your learners.

Bring In Social Learning

Even though your learners may be learning on their own through the LMS system, it doesn’t mean that we cannot look at getting them together in a virtual environment to engage in some social learning. Because let’s face it, things are always done better together, right?

So look at using social media tools, forums, discussion boards, etc. to allow your learners to share experiences, insights, their own understanding, and takeaways from the lesson. These tools are also a wonderful way to gather feedback as learners might not feel comfortable providing learning comprehension feedback on their own, however, they might be more willing to share within a group. We always encourage administrators and trainers to keep an active eye on these groups and to join in on the conversation and encourage further discussion on certain topics.

5. Test/Seek Feedback/Revise

Phew, you’ve made it this far and you’re almost done. So far, we’ve looked at learning objectives, learners, mapped out courses, and built content and arranged courses. But alas, we’re not quite done yet. Because once you’ve built all your courses, you need to constantly make sure that your courses are achieving your expectations/objectives as developed in Step 1. You will also need to make sure that you are adapting to your learners as they, and their role, evolves. And, of course, take the time to ensure that you are building new and fresh content to help make sure everything is up to date and relevant.

How To Get Feedback And Revise Your Course

We encourage all clients to build surveys into courses as well as review the course every 3-6 months to make sure that everything is up to date.

Nothing is more frustrating to learners than information and content that isn’t relevant. So a few minutes every few months can go a long way to make sure that your courses are still packing the educational punch you intended it to. At the end of the day your learners, your courses, your trainers, your LMS are always evolving and growing.

What Next?

Now it’s practice time. Start creating your content. Thanks for reading!

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