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How to create an online course curriculum

How to Create an Online Course Curriculum

If it’s your first year as a teacher or trainer, you might be struggling to develop an online course curriculum, even if you are well versed in the subject you are teaching. Thankfully, creating an online course is not that hard, but it is extremely important. This is because it gives the learners a bird’s eye view of what they can expect to learn and achieve by the end of the course. For your ease and convenience, we have broken down the process of creating an online course curriculum into easy steps so that you can make a curriculum that is super easy to follow.

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

How to Create an Online Course Curriculum

Determine the Outcome for the Online Course

If you think about it, eLearning courses are all meant to achieve the desired outcome more quickly. You educate and provide your learners with the learning resources that they need to succeed in their area of work or develop a deep understanding of their subject matter.

Your audience or learners have specific pain points. When you’ve identified them, your aim should be to solve problems for your audience through the online course. That’s the desired outcome that you need to identify as the first step. If your online course curriculum fails to address those pain points, it isn’t going to be successful.

Here is how you can determine the outcome:

Study Your Targeted Learners

To be able to design an online course that blows your audience's minds, you need to determine who your targeted learners are. Ask yourself, “what group do I understand the most?” 

Think of a community that can truly benefit from your expertise and knowledge. Ideally, you should choose a group that you deeply know about.

If you think your audience is digital marketers, dig a little deeper to know whether any digital marketer will benefit from your course or a specific segment within them.

You’ll perhaps find out that not all digital marketers are your target market, but for instance, only social media marketers in the e-commerce industry. 

Alternatively, if you already know who makes your target audience, you may directly ask them who they are and what they value. One great strategy is to develop a relevant survey and send it out to your email list. The aim of the survey should be to understand the pain points of your target audience or what they are struggling with.

Let’s take a look at an example. Suppose you are developing a survey for social media marketers. Through the survey, you need to ask about their goals for implementing a social media strategy, ways in which they are monetizing their social media efforts, the earnings they generate from work and things they struggle with, etc.

To sort through outliers, you need to ask demographic questions. However, do give your audience a chance to answer questions anonymously if they want. That should help obtain more honest results.

Besides email, there are many other ways to identify the struggles of your audience. You can create a poll on Instagram Stories, share a high-quality and relevant blog post with a CTA to share the issues they face, include questions in your Instagram story captions, share posts on Facebook groups, conduct discovery calls with the most relevant audience members, post in subreddits that your audience hangs out on, etc.

Once you’ve obtained answers from your audience, identify patterns and trends. List down the consistencies and common themes of the pain points experienced by the audience. Then, narrow them down to 2 to 3 most popular issues.

Determine the Outcome

Once you have the most important pain points of your audience at your disposal, decide which of them you would be most interested in addressing. This will help you define the outcome.

Suppose that the biggest challenge of your target audience is to convert their freelancing work into a full-time earning potential. They are able to earn a few hundred dollars through social media marketing for clients, but they wish to generate more income from their work. 

Using those insights, you may decide that you must teach the learners to earn 5 times more than they're earning now. Since you've done this yourself, you know what social media strategies work for marketers to boost their revenue. Hence, you are confident that this is possible.

In other words, list down the things you want your course takers to learn and achieve by the end of the course. Define clear objectives including what knowledge and skills your learners will acquire. These objectives will not only help you prepare the course curriculum, but they will also help you evaluate students after course delivery.

Create a Curriculum Tailored to Meet the Outcome

Create a Curriculum Tailored to Meet the Outcome

Now that you’re aware of your outcome, you’re in a great position to craft a curriculum that is sure to work for the learners. It should offer the same level of success to learners as you have had. Here are some steps to develop a solid curriculum:

Gather Teaching Materials and Resources

Collect all the resources you have, including the instructional materials and content you have researched and previously taught materials online and offline. Organize them in order of relevance and importance and store them in a USB drive, online or in your PC, so that you can easily access them when required.

You may be tempted to skip this step, but organizing the resources and materials can save you a lot of time when the time comes to use them for creating your curriculum. 

The material might include syllabi from related college courses, textbooks, notes, worksheets, quizzes, assignments, exams, articles, online resources, etc. Ask your colleagues or subject matter experts to provide valuable resources on the subject. Simple course lessons or curriculum templates can easily get you started. 

Establish Goals and a Timeframe

It takes time to design a quality course curriculum. To plan, design, and build an online course curriculum, you need to dedicate uninterrupted time into the process. Whether you are redesigning a curriculum or developing an entirely new curriculum, obligations, such as family and work, determine the time it will take to develop the curriculum.

Thus, you will need to set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself based on these factors. 

When establishing a timeline, you will also need to take into account the time it will take to deliver the course. If it’s an ongoing course with a series of online sessions, determine the time that has to be allocated to each session. 

List Down the Success Strategies

For creating an online course curriculum, think about what you did in the past to achieve success or reach this point. This will help you determine everything your learners need to know to achieve the outcomes you defined earlier. Work backward from where you stand today. List down the most important things you did during the earlier days of your career. 

Your strategies may include developing a large professional network on LinkedIn, building the follower count for your business profiles on Facebook and Twitter, joining relevant groups, developing a habit to study popular online marketing blogs, such as Moz, Search Engine Journal, Neil Patel, etc., approaching major influencers on different social media platforms, creating a lot of content on the subject, searching for social media marketing clients on those platforms, and helping them achieve their online marketing goals.

Once you have listed down the strategies, arrange them in actionable steps. 

Translate the Steps Into Online Lessons

Now that you have the key steps in order, group these steps into lessons. For instance, you can group developing a professional LinkedIn network, increasing follower count, and joining relevant groups on Twitter and Facebook into one lesson, 'Maximizing your social media reach' 

As you are grouping steps, don’t include too many lessons in a course. Keep in mind that many learners won’t complete the course in one go, while others may jump around the sections a lot. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you don’t make it too difficult to find specific lectures within the online course.

Use logic when arranging the lessons. Your curriculum should make sense. For instance, if you are making a social media marketing curriculum, it makes sense to start with the basics and then include the more difficult, time-consuming, and paid marketing strategies.

Splitting the Lessons Into Lectures

Split the Lessons Into Lectures

To further simplify course delivery and make lesson navigation easy for learners, break down the lessons into lectures in a logical way. Instead of stuffing a lot of information in a long 30-minute video, divide the lessons into multiple videos that don’t exceed 10 minutes. 

There is no hard and fast rule to keep the videos as short as 10 minutes. Training videos for certain skills, such as painting or cooking, can be longer than 30 minutes. In fact, learners wouldn’t like such training videos to be split into parts.

Hence, organize the lessons into lectures depending on your specific subject. Some courses tend to have pretty obvious organization. For others, you will need to use your knowledge, experience, and intuition.

Use Stories When Creating the Curriculum

When you are creating an online course curriculum, include stories as that fosters engagement, which leads to effective learning. Therefore, you must use them in your online courses. Keeping that in mind, your curriculum should include engaging story scripts to deliver concepts and ideas.

However, the scripts, images, or videos you use must be highly relevant to the targeted learners. They will only be able to captivate them if they happen to be something the learners can relate to. 

Plan for Assessments

Finally, don't forget to define how you're going to evaluate the learners in your online course curriculum. This will help determine whether the learners acquired the knowledge and skills that they set out to achieve.

This will in turn determine the success and value of the curriculum as well as the course format and delivery. For evaluation, you can use quizzes in between lessons, ask questions through the scenarios and stories used, take comprehensive tests at the end of the course. 

Remember: U-Turns are Allowed

As a first-year teacher, you may be creating an online course curriculum for the first time. While there are always exceptions, there is a high chance that you may not be able to perfect the curriculum the first time around. You may not even get there on your 2nd or 3rd try and that’s alright. 

Sometimes, a curriculum looks flawless, but it’s not, and one can only find out how effective a curriculum is once they implement it. 

Once you are done creating a curriculum, begin delivering the course, and analyze its performance. You will never know whether the content, stories, quizzes, and assessments are a good fit for the targeted learners until they are presented to them.

During the delivery, some aspects will work out perfectly, while others may not. This is part of curriculum development. Use the failures to refine the curriculum and create a better one next time around.

Final Word

By now, you should have developed a clear idea about how online course curriculums are designed. As long as you are an expert in the field you’re trying to train learners in, creating an online course curriculum should be easy for you. If you are new to it, don’t worry, you will learn over time. 

Once you’re done creating an online course curriculum for your eLearning course, get in touch with Raccoon Gang to translate it into course content!

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