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Creating online courses a step by step guide

How to create an online course: a step by step guide

Online course creation is an inalienable part of online learning implementation and development. It takes a lot of time and effort, so mistakes are costly. However, novices and seasoned online course developers still make a lot of mistakes during the process. In this post, we will explore online course creation step-by-step guide to help you craft the course that is relevant, engaging, and as a result - successful.

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Head of Sales and Marketing, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has significant expertise as an eLearning and Marketing expert since 2012. He brings his experience into play to help RG customers to keep pace with the changing dynamics in the Learning indust

How to create an online course: a step by step guide

This guide presents specific course-building activities to assist instructors with course development, organization, and evaluation by emphasizing foundational theory and best practices.

There are many instructional system design models, most of which are based on popular ones, such as the ADDIE model.
Using the RACI Matrix, we will describe each step from the needed roles and responsibilities perspective and give you the estimated time frames for each stage based on our online course development costs estimator.

ADDIE Model: The process, Roles and Responsibilities

The primary explanation of the ADDIE model is described in the infographic below. In this article, we will dive deeper into each of these stages.
ADDIE Model: Explained

The ADDIE model includes five steps:

1. ANALYZE:

Needs - analyze the essentials for your eLearning course.

Target audience - analyze your learners and gather as much information as you can on them.

Goals - analyze your broad goals for the course. 

2. DESIGN:

Learning objectives - identify what specific skills and knowledge do you wish students to obtain.

Sequence - design the course sequence of the course content.

Instructional strategy - combine the content and the various resources, tools, and evaluation methods into one system.

3. DEVELOP:

Content - what media and resources will be used to support the eLearning efforts.

4. IMPLEMENT:

LMS - How will you organize your course delivery?

Course content delivery tools - What communication tools will you use to support your eLearning activities?

5. EVALUATE - Measure and evaluate your success

To perform the ADDIE model activities, you should coordinate your course development team and set the leading roles and responsibilities. We highly recommend using a RACI matrix to simplify this process and indicate prominent team roles and workforces.

RACI matrix for roles of ADDIE model

R - Responsible - is the person who performs the task. There should be at least one responsible per task.

A - Accountable is the person who is ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task and the one who delegates the work to those responsible.

C - Consulters are those whose opinions are sought, typically the subject matter experts (SME)

I - Informed persons are kept up-to-date on progress; generally, they are involved only in completing the task or deliverables.

Role Analyze Design Develop Implement Evaluate
Instructional designer R R C C R
Subject Matter Expert C C C    
Technical Developer   I R C  
Translator     C C  
Media Creator   I   R  
Technical Support Specialist   C C C  
Course Administrator A A A A A
LMS site administrator   I I C  
Instructor   C C C  

Let’s explore the peculiarities of these roles in more detail.

The instructional designer (ID) is responsible for the overall instructional strategy. During the analysis and course design, the ID works with the Subject Matter Experts (SME) to define which skills and knowledge need to be covered in the course, choose the appropriate instructional strategy and support the team in defining the delivery and evaluation strategies. 

The Instructional designer also plays a significant role in the media production as the ID manages and validates the assets and deliverables for the design and development stages.

Subject Matter Expert (SME) contributes to the knowledge and information required for each course. SME collaborates with the ID to design the course and define evaluation strategies. Depending on the course developed, the SME may supply the texts for the eLearning lessons.

Media Creator is responsible for the creation of media content for the eLearning course. 

Technical Developer (TD) is responsible for the technical implementation of the online course content (or online course media) delivery. Therefore, TD is expected to work in close liaison with media creators.

Translator (optional). The translation is a part of the localization of the online course. The TD does the localization with the contribution of the translator. Translators may also be used to produce translated text for narration or scripts for video clips.

The technical Support Specialist (TSS) is responsible for ensuring that the necessary software tools are working correctly and assist producers and users of the online course at every stage of the process.

Course Administrator is the Product Owner and individual that manages an online course and its users. The course administrator either enrolls trainees in the course or validates requests to enroll in the course.

LMS Site Administrator is a staff member responsible for managing the eLearning platform, providing daily support, and keeping the ongoing operations of the eLearning platform LMS stable. The LMS Site Administrator creates the area on the platform for the eLearning course and may assist with publishing your courses to the platform.

The instructor is a trainer for the course. In the case of blended learning, they play an essential role in the course support. Whereas in self-paced learning, the position is more oriented towards providing answers to the learners through the communication channels (email exchange, discussion forum, etc.).

The ADDIE Model Navigation Board displayed below will help you to better orient in the online course creation process.

ADDIE Model Navigation Board

Analyze Design Develop Implement Evaluate
Needs Learning objectives eLearning content LMS Course outcomes
Target audience Sequence Course content delivery tools
Goals Instructional strategy

ADDIE Stage 1: Analyze. Estimated timeframe (30-40 hours)

Needed roles for the Analyze stage

Responsible person Consultant person Accountable person
Instructional designer Subject Matter Expert Course administrator

Analyze Needs

In our case, the need analysis represents the gap between the current level of skill and knowledge and the desired level of performance the organization wants to achieve. After the needs analysis, you will have an excellent foundation for your learner persona.

Analyze Target audience

Every student is different, so it’s a good idea to make your course suitable for your target audience from a behavioral perspective. Shift LMS creators propose a classification of learners from a behavioral perspective.

Classification of learners from a behavioral perspective

Types of learners Personal characteristics Recommended attitude
Confident learners Believe they are capable of doing everything Encourage learners to earn more points for additional assessments
Emotional learners They want to be connected either with an instructor or course content Leverage social and collaboration tools
The storytelling approach may help you to connect with learners
Unmotivated learners Lack of enthusiasm, they are likely to drop the courses To use microlearning
To Use adaptive learning to increase engagement.
Design eLearning gamification
Implement mobile learning
Risk takers They enjoy exploring new ideas and discussing complex questions Encourage your students to create materials and content
Employ different collaboration tools; give them challenging group tasks
Depending learners They work diligently, frequently ask for help, and feel insecure about their answers Provide self-assessment tools for such learners. This may help them identify areas of weakness and seek resources and guidance
Motivated learners They have specific goals and are willing to work hard to overcome any difficulty Create a rewards system to ignite the competition

Formulate Goals

Goals are general statements about what you hope students will gain from your course and which “gaps” will be filled. Generally, a course goal is stated as “Students will gain an understanding of” or “Students will develop an appreciation of”. The nature, definition, and assessment of goals will vary depending on defined Gaps. As a result, there are several different ways goals can be articulated:

1. Focusing on benefits: You should define course goals broadly, focusing on the anticipated benefits to students from participation in a course program. For example, after finishing this course, students will get Critical thinking, Creative writing, Research skills, Communication skills, etc., depending on the learning discipline.

2. Focusing on the action: If you want to understand How to implement eLearning in an effective manner, you should keep in mind the subject of your courses and define a course goal. You should complete this phase by describing what students should and/or will be able to do by the end of the program. When your audience’s needs, personas, and course goal(s) are defined, you are ready to start the Design step.

ADDIE Stage 2: Design. Estimated timeframe (134-184 hours).

Needed roles for the Design stage 

Responsible person Consultant persons Accountable persons Informed persons
Instructional designer

Subject Matter Expert
Technical Support
Specialist Instructor

Course administrator Technical Developer
Media Creator
LMS site administrator

After the course analysis and design, you should start the content creation process.

But beforehand, you need to define How to structure your online course and what types of content you want to see at your online course. Clearly stated Learning Objectives come in handy at this stage.

How to formulate the Learning Objectives?

1. Setting Learning Objectives

Learning goals and learning objectives are directly connected. To understand the connection between them, consider the learning plan as a strategic category and the learning objective as a tactic category: What objectives should you set to reach the goal?

Learning Objectives are specific statements that include both an action verb and a content reference. Objectives are not broad, long-term goals such as "improving students’ ability to communicate." According to the Carnegie Mellon University, practical learning objectives should be compliant with the following statements:

  • Learning Objectives must be student-centered

  • Learning Objectives must be both observable and measurable

Learning objectives should be formulated in a way that helps the learner understand how it will help them reach their Learning Goal. Such learning objectives will motivate learners to move towards this goal.

Articulating your learning objectives can be challenging at first. Here are some resources to help:

When the online course goals are determined, you can move to the next step: create a course outline. This can be as simple as a topical outline or as detailed as a storyboard (or both).

2. Determine Sequence

Defined learning objectives are the basis for course structure and sequence. Different methods can be applied to design the best structure for your course. Course structuring methods depend on the learning goal(s).

ADDIE | Step 2 Design | The Outcome of Sequencing

In a job-oriented course, the content can be organized to follow the order of the actions in a natural job environment; this is the job-context principle.

In a non-job-oriented course, concepts can be organized according to their structural connections, such as by:

  • describing the characteristics of a class before describing its members;

  • providing examples first, then definitions;

  • starting with concrete information and then proceeding to abstract or complex concepts.

The outcome of the sequencing is an accurate course structure where each element corresponds to a specific learning objective and contributes to the achievement of the overall course goal(s).

Once the course structure has been defined, the instructional designer must propose the best mix of methods and techniques in each online course structure segment.

3. Define Instructional strategy

An instructional strategy is a long-term, high-level plan of accomplishing course goal(s) through available learning resources (the methods, techniques, and devices used to instruct learners).

The Instructional designer should bind learning and design theory knowledge with accumulated information from learning goals, objectives, and target audience analysis to create the instructional strategy.

The instructional strategy states what instructional methods should be used in some particular online course. 

There are three types of instructional methods:

  • Expositive methods emphasize the “absorption” of new information. Expositive methods include presentations, case studies, worked examples, demonstrations.

  • Application methods emphasize the active processes learners use to perform principle-based tasks and build new knowledge. Application methods include demonstration-practice method, job aids, case-based or scenario-based exercises, role-play, simulations and serious games, guided research, project work.

  • Collaborative methods emphasize the social dimension of learning and engage learners in sharing knowledge and performing tasks in a coordinated way. They include online guided discussions, collaborative work, and peer tutoring.

Let’s recap what we need to have at the end of the Design stage:

  • Gaps in knowledge/skills are defined

  • Types of learners are defined, and a general approach to them is chosen

  • Online course goals are set according to Gaps and types of learners

  • Learning Objectives and online course structure are stated

  • An instructional strategy is chosen

Having all the above on your plate, you can move to actual content development.

ADDIE Stage 3: Content Development. Estimated timeframe (125-235 hours)

Needed roles for the Content development stage

Responsible person Consultant persons Accountable person Informed person
Technical Developer Subject Matter Expert
Instructional designer
Translator
Technical Support Specialist
Instructor 
Course administrator LMS site administrator

Using Learner's needs analysis, you can identify how your target audience will study better. ID guides you with an eLearning strategy, and you are almost ready to create excellent learning content. To succeed, you should use the best practices of the 70:20:10 model and develop course content and activities according to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

If you’re new to online course creation, consider Bloom’s Taxonomy as an approach to balancing your course activities while also engaging a diverse group of learning styles with one all-inclusive course curriculum. Traditional educators have been using Bloom’s Taxonomy since the late 1940s.

In the taxonomy, learners start at the base layer, or the “Remember” step, and work their way up as they master the content in the increasingly complex layers. The infographic includes a few suggested activities that apply to the experience of learning online.

But how can Bloom's taxonomy be used in content creation practice? It is directly connected with Course Outline and Learning Objectives:

  • Your course outline is a sequence of content materials aimed to reach your learning objectives.

  • Action Keywords represent your learners’ checkpoints that help them achieve Learning Objectives.

Use action keywords described above to create pieces of content that are most effective to reach some checkpoint on the way to the Learning Objective.

Below are some examples of how to choose applicable pieces of content for some real-world cases of online course creation:

Taxonomy Stage Comprehension level Action Keyword Applicable type of content
Remembering Students can recall and remember the information Recall In-video quiz; Infographic; “check yourself” quiz
Understanding Students can explain ideas or concepts Explain Explainer video; group task; group discussion
Applying Students can use information in a new way Use orkplace simulations; scenario-based game
Analyzing Students can distinguish between different course parts Distinguish Interactive Whiteboard; graph builder
Evaluating Students can justify a stand or decision Justify Case study; group discussion; scenario-based game
Creating Student can create own plan to solve final course project Create Project task; group project task

While creating your course content, leverage modern techniques of engaging students, such as Gamification,  VR,  Immersive Learning, and others.

70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development

Effective learning comes down to getting the mix between formal and informal learning just right with the 70:20:10 model. 70:20:10 is a ratio of McCall’s research which revealed that informal learning. 

70% experiential learning and 20% social learning are responsible for 90% of what learners know. Informal learning is usually less structured and more spontaneous than formal training.

The last 10% comes from learning where the content is based on theory and facts. Formal learning gives the facts, figures, and solid foundations to build the remaining 90% of students’ development.

The exact figures of the 70:20:10 model are not the “golden ratio” but are handy landmarks.

ADDIE | Step 3 Development |70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development

Experiential learning - 70%

A massive 70% of what students know is learned through hands-on experience, daily tasks, and challenges. You should think about how to create the best learning practices to improve your students’ skills in the real world. Virtual Reality and work simulation are great tools for modern learning and custom eLearning development. Using such tools, you can bring a fantastic learning experience in a safe virtual learning environment.

Social learning - 20%

Learning doesn’t happen in isolation. McCall’s research discovered that students learn through their relationships by sharing knowledge and observing others. Social learning is another type of informal learning because it is usually self-directed, spontaneous, and less structured than formal learning. You can use social features to encourage your students and share the course content. For example, you could create chat rooms where organization staff can share their specialist knowledge and know-how with others and answer questions. All this collaboration and communication feeds into 20% of learning that comes from social interactions.

Formal learning - 10%

Formal learning is an essential part of any learning strategy. It forms the basis of successful learning.

Formal learning is a support frame and amplifier for learning. Whatever you create, you should make sure that this essential part of learning is engaging. This helps make the benefits and purpose of the training clear and shows learners why their development matters. Mobile learning technologies can deliver essential formal training wherever and whenever learners need it – straight to their smartphones. So, whenever students need help, they will have the proper training to hand.

Let’s recap what should be ready at the end of the Development stage:

  • Needs and audience are defined

  • The Learning Goal and the general approach to learners are defined

  • Learning Objectives and Online Course Outlines are ready

  • Instructional Strategy for each Learning Objective is chosen

  • Action Keyword for each Comprehension Level of each Learning Objective is chosen

  • Applicable pieces of content for each Action Keyword are planned

  • Course content is created using the 70:20:10 approach

The next step is to create an environment or online course infrastructure to deliver your content to learners - the “Implement” stage.

ADDIE Stage 4: Implement. (Estimated Timeframe 62-83 hrs)

Needed roles for the Implementation Stage

Responsible person Consultant persons Accountable person
Media Creator Instructional designer
Technical Developer
Translator
Technical Support Specialist
LMS site administrator
Instructor
Course administrator

The implementation phase is delivering the online course content to students. To do this, you need to create an infrastructure that includes the following elements:

A learning management system, or LMS, facilitates delivery and management of all learning offerings, including online, virtual classroom, and instructor-led courses. It automates the learning course and efficiently delivers training, manages learners, and keeps track of their progress and performance across training activities, which reduces administrative overhead.

There are two types of LMS:

  • Proprietary LMS is licensed under the exclusive legal right, restricted from modification, further distribution, reverse engineering, and other uses. They are closed-source with license costs per user. Some popular Proprietary LMS: TalentLMS, Litmos, iSpring, NEO LMS

  • Open-source LMS works under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The license is intended to guarantee the freedom to share and change the program and ensure it is free. Good examples of open-source LMS are eFront, Moodle, and the LMS we focus on - Open edX.

There are a lot of resources that can help you choose the LMS that would suit you best. Please Contact Us so we can help you understand whether Open edX is a way to go. 

Some LMSs have the necessary content delivery tools for content digitization, organizing online webinars, arranging files and video hosting, etc. 

However, many organizations use additional content delivery tools like chats, animations, eLearning authoring tools, etc.

ADDIE Stage 5: Evaluate

Responsible person Accountable person
Instructional designer Course administrator

What is the purpose of the evaluation? Evaluating your online course outcomes can give you a powerful impulse for further development. You can improve your content to increase engagement.

The best practice of learning course evaluation described in the Kirkpatrick model, which encompasses four levels: 

  • learners’ reactions

  • learning

  • behavior

  • results

Evaluating learners’ reactions means understanding how those who participate in the program react to the course. In facilitated online training, learners’ participation is monitored by the facilitator throughout the course period. It can be measured through questionnaires and surveys, usually submitted to learners at the end of the online course. 

Evaluation (or assessment) of learning measures the achievement of intended learning objectives. Depending on the type, this can imply that participants have increased knowledge, developed skills, and changed attitudes due to attending the course. Talking about corporate training is more effective to use ROI measurement techniques to estimate the expected outcomes of the training.

Evaluation can be done to accomplish specific evaluation purposes. First, you should decide if you want to evaluate the course during the development stage to improve it before it is finalized.  Otherwise, you can measure the effectiveness by the end of the course.

In other words, you may want to evaluate a course:

  • During the development stage, to improve instructional courses or products (formative evaluation);

  • During or immediately after the implementation stage, measure the effectiveness of education training and learning (summative evaluation).

Conclusion

Actual course creation can be tricky, but if you know your audience and core message, you will just need the right people for the corresponding roles - eLeanring specialists will do the rest when you're good with the basics.
After your first run through the five steps outlined in this post for online course creation, it will become increasingly easier to build future courses. 

Raccoon Gang has in-depth expertise in creating custom eLearning solutions for eLearning businesses in different domains. Our experts can consult you on an online courses creation. All you need to do is drop us a line, and our representative will contact you within 24-hours.

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