How to design an effective online course?


Everyone loves eLearning nowadays, but it’s considerably different from traditional learning environments. Even if you’re incredibly well versed in the art of face-to-face learning, that may not mean anything for your ability to create a great online course.

A lot of things are different when you remove the in-person elements from a classroom situation. The information is being presented in a drastically different medium, and your material needs to be adapted to fit it. Forget everything you know about the old way – we’re moving into a virtual future that has a lot to offer.

Create clear focus goals

In order to write meaningful material, you’ll need to layer your goals. This involves long term achievements, short term achievements, and goals pertaining to skills you want to help your learners master. Goals should have deadlines, and in an ideal plan, many of them will overlap. Use ambitious goals as a starting point. What do you ultimately want your learners to master by the end of your course? All of your small goals should be woven together to create your desired end result.

Provide video and graphic content

The majority of people are visual learners, so focusing on text content isn’t going to take you as far as you may expect. If you want your learners to remain engaged, you’ll need to provide them with a myriad of mixed content. While you can and should use text content, you need to supplement it with things like infographics and videos. You don’t necessarily have to learn to create this content from the ground up – there are plenty of free and low cost tools geared towards educators and professionals that offer easy self-service customization for these things.

Craft engaging projects

Activity based, personalized projects and assignments seem like a hassle, but they’re ultimately worth it. When you’re teaching online, one of the biggest pitfalls you may run into is student, who takes advantage of the opportunity to cheat. When they’re already on their laptop or mobile phone, they can look up information without having to recall it. While you may not be able to prevent that from happening, creating assignments that are activity based that involve open discussions and largely original work will help make sure the information sinks into your learners’ minds.

Promote communication

Your learners will notice the large absence of communication in eLearning. In a normal classroom environment, organic interactions and observations allow people to connect with each other. In eLearning, this isn’t the case. You’ll need to go out of your way to facilitate communication, not only between yourself and your learners, but between your learners themselves. Icebreaker games, video chats, and open threads will take care of most of the work – just make sure you check in often enough.

Use appropriate visual design

Designing an effective eLearning course relies a lot on the actual design of the course itself. There’s web design, complicated coding, and a lot of behind-the-scenes technical stuff to do if you want to get the ball rolling. You may not be able to do everything yourself. Focus on the actual content, and let someone else do the heavy lifting. Look on sites like Gumtree for professional designers to handle the hard stuff for you.

The preference for eLearning lies mainly with everything that can be accomplished through this versatile, interactive medium. A well designed course has the potential to do great things, as long as you are fostering the proper environment and writing valuable course material.


Hanna Dickins is part of the team behind With a huge interest in technology and startup industry, she works as a Community Manager. She’s keen on new helpful online tools and productivity hacks.