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How to Structure Your Online Course Modules Like a Pro
Have you ever taken a course where the modules were… to put it politely… clear as mud? Where the course instructor just rambled around a topic for ages and you were not really sure what the hell you’re supposed to take away from it, or even how it fits in with the big picture?
Whether it’s at University, business courses or seminars, we’ve all had similar experiences with poorly structured content. And it can massively affect not only the students, but also the instructor.
Firstly, it calls into question the instructor’s own understanding and handle on the topic (and I know you want to be considered a total expert at what you do). And students might also struggle to get the learning objectives and outcomes. Which is a huge problem. If you’ve laid down an investment on a course or program, you want to get the outcome.
Of course, you want to avoid this with your own course right? You want to present your modules in a clear, structured way that’s easy for your students and that gets them their desired outcomes.
In this article, I’m going to share with you my technique for creating well-structured modules hassle-free. This is Stage 5 of my 7 Stages of Course Creation, and I think you’ll get a lot out of this simple approach to creating modules.
As a bonus, this process is super efficient – it allows you to sketch out all the modules in your course quickly and consistently. Because people love consistency. So, framing your modules this way will make your course stand out from a course that’s just a hot mess of information shoved into a series of videos.
And we all want to avoid that!
Framing your modules
This whole process is about creating a frame to hold all of your content.
Think of it like a building. You want to have solid foundations, pillars/frame for your walls, and finally a roof.
So that’s exactly the metaphor I’m running with in my infographic.
Each part of creating a module is included here and has a different function. I encourage you to frame every single module this way. And what you end up with is a beautifully solid, consistent, and well-structured piece of content – not only for each module but for your course overall.
Ready? Let’s start with the foundations.
Get the Foundations Right
Creating a winning structure for your modules starts with the foundations. As you can see in the diagram, our foundations are the learning objectives and outcome.
So, for each of your modules define:
- what you want your clients to learn and
- what the outcome is.
A key learning objective might be: know the key components of a brief.
The outcome could be: present a brief to a graphic designer.
Be really clear on how each learning objective and outcome fits in with the course as a whole as well.
When you’re presenting your material (much later) this stuff is essential because you’ll want to communicate to your students just how each module is key to the overall outcomes they’re wanting to achieve in the course. This helps them to understand why the content is relevant and what they need to get out of it!
Next, we build up our pillars. The pillars I recommend you think about are:
- Content bullet points (please don’t go writing full scripts)
- Checklist or top tips (e.g. Biggest Mistakes, Keys to Success, etc.)
- Learning exercises
- Statistics and research
- Case studies and stories
Not all of these pillars will apply for all topics, but it helps to ask the questions to get you thinking through the process logically.
When it comes to putting content down into scripts, and creating additional material like checklists or top tips, you’ll know exactly what needs to go into each module, be able to execute it quickly and painlessly.
Having this material to hand means you can stay on track as well. One of the many traps people fall into is trying to shove irrelevant stuff into their modules. For example, it might be tempting to go off on a tangent when you’re creating your slide deck. But, you know from your pillars that it’s not really relevant to the learning objectives and outcomes, so you can stick to the critical path.
I personally find that it helps to use a spreadsheet to lay this out, but whatever works for you!
To cap it all off and create a solid module, you can pop a suitable title onto your module.
There you have it, my easy, hassle free way to structure your modules so that you create clear, consistent content. This step helps you confidently present your course material in a way that screams “TOTAL EXPERT” to your students, PLUS, it means they will be clear on their outcomes and main takeaways from your modules.
Easy huh? Go forth and create beautifully structured modules!
Let me know what you think of this approach in the comments below! I’d also love to know if you try it, how did it work for you?
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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