1st steps to plan your online learning course

Stop! Don’t type another word!

The first step in creating an online training programme is to close your computer and go fetch a cup of coffee. A top quality, unique training course evolves from your head and your heart.

  • Don’t be tempted to open a tool like PowerPoint to set up an outline.
  • Avoid the internet – once you have seen what other lecturers have said about the topic on SlideShare, you’ll struggle to find your own personal approach.
  • Ignore lists of content you used in the past, text book chapter headings or a high-level curriculum.

With old-fashioned pen and paper, use bullet points or diagrams to sketch out answer to these 5 questions. Draw squares, hierarchies, mindmap or doodle – it’s an easy  trick to boost creative ideas!

1.  What are your measurable Performance Goals?

What do you want learners to remember from your course in 2 years?

Can you quantify what impact this training will have on employees in their daily work life? If you want training to be allocated executive time and budget, you need to prove your value at a business level. Examples include:

  • a 30% increase in sales
  • a 50% reduction in complaints, waste or time taken
  • be able to accomplish a specific task

2.     What are your 5-9 essential key concepts?

What must learners understand, and be able to do for themselves after finishing your course? This goal affects WHAT you teach – the content of the course. This often identifies irrelevant topics and “pet interests” that have crept into a programme over time.  any topic that starts “The History of…” should probably go!

3.     What about non-content learning?

Do you want your learners to develop and practice thinking skills like problem-solving or improve the way they deal with people, computers and words? Are there changes in attitude required to modify how staff think and feel about this topic, task or activity?  These goals strongly affect HOW you teach.

  • Can you quantify what you will achieve?
  • Can you tie the improvements to a corporate goal?

4.     Who are your learners?

You don’t need to go into a 2 day session on personas.

  • What are their existing level of understanding about this topic?
  • What challenges might they face in terms of language, computer skills, physical disabilities, or prior knowledge that is different from what is now being taught.
  • Could learners be influenced by personal issues like lack of confidence, work stress, seniority, extroversion/introversion, youth/age, cultural norms or gender?

5.     How does this course fit into the larger discipline of your subject?

Is there another course that must prepare the way for this subject, and what will your learners study next. This provides context and ensures you present a streamlined and sequential learning experience.

Course Objectives

Expand each course goal to include objectives and tactics – Word and PowerPoint are time-saving tools at this point but continually refer back to your handwritten notes to stay on track. Your course objectives can be categorized many ways, but the following outline might help to structure your thinking. Many courses do not expect all five levels of learning.

1.     Knowledge

Facts that must be memorized, recognized or recalled.

2.     Comprehension

Learners must summarize, rephrase, compare, contrast or combine ideas and theories.

3.     Application

Learners must apply rules, concepts and principles to solve a problem, or be able to apply their knowledge to a new, specific situation.

4.     Analysis and Integration

Learners must identify relationships between concepts (cause and effect) and draw conclusions. They must be able to support their opinion with examples from their own experience.

5.     Evaluation

Learners must critically assess the principles learned. In what situations should these rules and theories apply (or NOT apply). Learners should recognize the strengths and weaknesses of any new techniques, and how to fill gaps in their knowledge with further study.

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