What makes an online course successful?

May 5, 2021
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Online courses are a great way to share knowledge and skills with people all over the world. There are many benefits of creating an online course.

But what makes an online course successful?

The key factor to a successful online course is to put the student first. A successful course addresses a student’s goals. It has a consistent structure that is well-paced and easy to consume. An effective course also provides an interactive platform that accommodates all learning styles.

In this article, I am going to share with you some of the ways that you can guarantee success for your online course and get your students the results they are looking for.

Build Your Course Around Your Student’s Goal

Goals written on a sheet of paper with a pen

When creating your online course, think about your student and their journey.

Where are they starting from?

By the end of your course, where would they want to be? 

Map out the course with their end goal in mind.

Try not to add unnecessary content; it can distract your students and make them go off-track. Highlight key concepts and make sure there is a clear way of progressing through the course. 

You should define the steps needed to get from one course objective to another. Give your students a clear picture of what success might look like for them after they go through your course. These “road signs” will keep your student from feeling lost or overwhelmed by too much information.

Successful online courses focus on what each student needs, their level of engagement, and how they can proceed through your content. It’s important not just to create a great one-time experience—make your course feels so personalized and engaging that your students will want to come back.

Make Each Lesson Clear and Concise

Push Pins on a Map

Your students are going on this journey, so providing a clear map is important. Think about the structure and flow of the course. You will want to outline your course before you begin recording so you know where to go and how to get there.

Each lesson should state what is expected of the student. Many courses do not define these incremental goals, and this can make the student feel like they are not making any progress.

The course should move at a steady pace. If the lectures meander or go off-topic, you will lose the student’s interest quickly.

Lessons should not be too long or short. Between 10-30 minutes in length is recommended so the student can listen without getting bored. This will also give them time to digest the information without feeling overloaded.

Also, make sure that each lesson has clear instructions of what is expected of the student so they know what is required. Many courses do not have any definite goal and this can make the student feel like they are not making any progress.

Create Easy Navigation for Your Course

Woman on Phone with Coffee and Notebook on Desk

After structuring your course, think about how your student will get around. Make it easy for your student to find relevant information so they don’t waste their time navigating your course instead of learning.

It is important to understand the different ways students learn: some might read an article on their phone while others might prefer watching videos on their computer and taking notes. The navigation of your course should accommodate these various learning styles.

Nowadays, many people use their mobile phones more than their computers, so it’s important to make your course mobile-friendly. This can be done by making sure that your course’s website is responsive and looks great on any screen size. The navigation menu should also stay consistent across all devices so it doesn’t disappear from smaller screens.

If you are using video content for your lessons, make sure videos will play smoothly no matter the speed connection. Videos that are constantly buffering or lagging can be distracting for students. 

Engage Students Throughout the Course

Two Students Taking an Online Course on the Computer

How can you make your course more effective? Successful online courses use gamification to make their content more interactive. 

Studies have shown that gamification makes it easier for students to remember information. By using gamification in your course, you can engage your students for longer periods.

A good example is a short quiz. This can be fun for students, and it also gives them feedback on what they have learned in your lesson.  

Reward students by giving them badges, points, or achievements. This will encourage them to continue with your online course.

Understand Different Learning Styles

Not everyone learns the same way. Knowing the differences can make your online course more effective for a broad range of students. Here are some types of students and the best ways they learn:

  • Visual Learners: pictures, visuals, and diagrams
  • Auditory Learners: listening to others talk or holding a conversation
  • Linguistic Learners: reading text or listening to lectures
  • Kinesthetic Learners: hands-on exercises
  • Logical Learners: reading, research, and thinking exercises
  • Social Learners: talking to others about topics or working as a group
  • Solitary Learners: reflection and self-analysis 

By understanding these types of learning styles, you can create courses that will help students of different learning styles.

Use a Range of Media Types to Keep Students Engaged in Your Course

Now that you know some different learning styles, it’s time to decide which types of media to include in your course. Here are some suggestions that can make your course more engaging for your students:

  • Text: Readers can process information at their own pace. By re-reading content, they have time to digest it.
  • Audio: This type of media is best for auditory learners and people with dyslexia or similar difficulties.
  • Video: This is one of the most common ways to deliver lectures and is useful for visual learners to process information.
  • Worksheets: This is great for kinesthetic learners. It doesn’t have the same distractions that are present in other types of media.
  • Quizzes: These help students memorize material and gauge how much they have learned.
  • Activities: This is especially helpful for kinesthetic learners. Activities allow them to make connections between the materials they are learning.
  • Data Information: Numbers and statistics are easy for visual learners to process.
  • Downloads: You can include extra material that is useful for your course, such as images, templates, or any other resource.

By having a range of media, you can successfully guide students through your online course.

Provide an Open Channel of Communication

People Communicating and Laughing in an Office

Finally, you will want to have some form of communication within your online course. Message boards, Q&A sessions with the teacher or other students, or a community forum where students can interact are different channels you can provide for your course.

The most successful courses I have taken online had at least some form of communication—whether it was an email address for questions and answers from the class instructor or chat rooms to allow students to help each other.

But there is also something special about having one-on-one time with that person who knows what they’re talking about. If you offer a way to interact with your students on a personal basis, then you will guarantee the success of your online course because the students will feel like they have someone who cares about them in their corner.

In Short: Always Keep Your Students in Mind!

If you want your online course to be successful, you need to structure it well and make sure it meets the needs of your individual student.

By having a well-paced course that is engaging, interactive, and provides a place where students feel like they can understand the information you are giving them, you will create a course that they can learn from and enjoy.

The key factor for a successful course is to keep your student’s experience in mind and make sure they do not feel bored or overwhelmed!

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