Are you annoyed that too many students drop out of your courses and you are doubting your ability to teach? Turns out, you are not alone.
Because amidst the ever-blooming eLearning market of the world, the current completion rate of online courses is less than 7%. And this sad number is a direct reflection of the failure of online education community. But, every adversity has a solution and so does this.
The best way to turn around this situation is ignite interest in students. And that can be done by changing the ways of education we’re following like a holy book’s sermons. And to overhaul the course content to make it more interactive, compatible and accommodating of different students’ needs is your only way out.
Do not worry if you do not know where to start because, by the end of this guide, you will know your first to the last step to creating content that will hold your students’ attention till the end.
Creating Content – The 5 Stages
No matter how much we try, coming up with a course content that makes a learner stick to it seems next to impossible. Especially while dealing with online students who are on their own and the only key to making them work is self-motivation.
But the one thing we can do is give them reasons to be self-motivated, which sounds difficult but really is not. All we have to do it to remember not to throw heaps of text at them to read and interpret on their own. Thus, creating an online course content that figuratively ‘talks’ to them is the task at hand.
Content creation is a meticulous process that requires planning and analysing before jumping right into the process of writing. The best-proven approach to the creation of a learning or training module is the ADDIE model.
We will modify the principles of this model to form a definitive guideline for the creation of intuitive course content.
This model consists of the following 5 stages of the process:
Analysis is the basis of any study. In order to create good content for an online course, we need to first Analyse the need, the target audience, and the learning goal of the course.
- Need Analysis: The need here is the huge gap being created between the present quality and the desired quality of course content.
- Target Audience Analysis: This is an important step because here, we classify our learners based on their behavioral qualities to match their aptitude for learning.
Learners are well classified as confident, motivated, emotional, unmotivated and dependant. These qualities dictate the way the course content needs to customised because these 5 behavioral qualities control the way they learn.
For instance, a dependant learner will constantly ask for help. Similarly, a motivated learner will thrive on seeing the progress he is making and will be self-motivated throughout the course.
- Learning Goals and topic analysis: Learning goals are the bigger goals that set the objective of the entire online course. For instance, the course objective can be the gain of understanding of a particular topic or subject. These goals should focus on the participation benefits to students.
The topic analysis aims to identify the course content and the content elements. This comprises of Breaking down the learning goal into smaller elements. For instance, the course is “understanding the impact of Global Warming”, then the topics can be as following:
- What are Global warming and Climate change?
- Impacts of Global warming on climate
These topics can then be further divided into elements to target specific information and create content and other learning exercises around it.
The analysis will make two things clear – the objective of creating this content and the approach to designing it. Now, the next stage, design, will help you in making a definite structure of the course.
For the ease of understanding, the Design stage is divided into 3 simpler steps.
- Designing the learning objectives: The learning objectives are defined in direct relation with the earlier defined Learning goals. The difference is that Learning objectives outline the result or outcome of every content element.
For instance, defining the action for a content element – Will the students only learn a topic in theory or will they perform it practically?
In simpler words, a learning objective consists of an action verb like, do, write, explain, distinguish, etc. and learning content, such as the “main objective of understanding the impacts of global warming”.
This data can be used to create a syllabus matrix and help in tracking the measurable learning objectives.
|Understand the major impacts of global warming||After understanding the concept of GW, Identify the main drivers of GW.||Explore the cause of GW in your locality.|
Students can use this matrix to keep a track of their performance and progress and this will help them in staying motivated to complete their assigned tasks.
- Determining the content sequence: Creating the Content sequence is one of the most crucial steps of content designing.
Sequencing can be done by organising concepts in a way that is proven to provide maximum knowledge retention, like:
- Starting a topic with the most basic information and then moving forward to the more complex concepts
- Creating a real-life subject relation with the help of examples before giving the definition
- Describing the properties and characteristics of a concept before describing its parts.
- The course curriculum can strategise the revisit to the basic concepts and ideas at different points throughout its length.
- Creating an instructional strategy: Using the Expository, Interactive and Collaborative ways to create an instructional strategy.
- Expository: In this strategy, the teacher or instructor explains a concept directly with the help of lectures, presentations, videos or textbooks.
- Interactive: This strategy involves an activity-based approach to learning. For instance, the use of simulations, games, research work, etc.
- Collaborative: In this approach, two or more teachers or instructors collaborate and work together to plan, teach and evaluate a batch of students. Or peers come together to learn a concept in the form of group discussions, question/answers sessions, peer tutoring or debates
After analysing and designing the course content structure, now comes the most critical part of online learning – the content development.
Keeping in mind the current student dropout rate from the online course, creating a highly effective course content is crucial to the success of any online curriculum.
The proven, most effective model for creating a curriculum content is the 70:20:10 model by McCall. It states that students retain the most volume (90%) of knowledge through informal learning, i.e. 70% of experimentation and 20% social interaction. And only a small portion (10%) is actually built up with the help of the theoretical content of the course.
However, the ratio 70:20:10 is only to provide a landmark for the division of content.
Let us take a look at what the content should comprise for all these cases.
- Experimental learning – 70%
Hand-on experience has been proven to be the best learning source for all categories of students. Students best understand and retain the concepts when they learn something by doing it or watching a live example in operation.
- Social Learning – 20%
Learning through peer interaction also plays an important role in knowledge retention for students. That is why it is crucial to include activities like group discussions and peer tutoring in the course curriculum.
- Expository Learning – 10%
The lectures and textbook reading of the topic should be kept a minimal portion giving more importance to problem-solving exercises, quizzes, debates, etc.
The main goal of every exercise is that at the end of each topic, a student should be able to Remember>Understand>Apply>Analyse>Evaluate>Create.
What to do if the course material is already available?
Moving forward, even after a step by step breakdown of each task, the development of content can still be a difficult task to take up. However, it is highly likely that a set of material for some (or all) topics is already available, such as,
- Case studies or guides
- Presentations, images, illustrative material
- Lecture Notes
- Reference Material, etc.
In such a case, it is still not possible to use the available course material as it is and transform into eLearning course material. Because:
- Face-to-face training and learning differ highly from eLearning. eLearning requires specific and more controlled formats and tasks for a self-paced approach to learning. And it must be designed with care and must embed a sufficient amount of instructional support for the students.
- A Presentation or a Textbook made into a long article or PDF is not eLearning content. It is simply a text provided in a digital form and does not substitute for the examples, exercises, and explanations provided in a physical classroom.
Check out this infographic on how to repurpose your existing ordinary learning material into interesting eLearning content step-by-step:
In the end, for making use of the available content, it should be broken down into graspable portions and embedded with adequate exercises, questions, and examples. The only things that can be used without any changes are glossary, facts and certain descriptions.
The most important point to be noted is that a single e-lesson must not take over 30 minutes of learning time for students to maintain their focus and motivation.
Final notes for content development:
- Review the Set learning objectives before content development for each lesson. (Making a flow chart of the entire course outline helps)
- The tests and exercises in each lesson should be relevant to the contents of each topic as well as the Learning goal.
- Always include all the relevant facts and knowledge related to a topic even if you think it’s “obvious”. Remember that No information is basic or obvious when it comes to teaching.
- Categorise and include the examples familiar to students of all applicable demographics so that the maximum number of students can relate to it.
- Always classify the lessons in two major parts – A ‘must know’ part that is crucial to the overall understanding of a topic and a ‘also good to know’ part which is not imperative to the course but helps in developing a better understanding as well as interest.
- The best approaches to present eLearning content are storytelling, scenario-based and demonstration & practice.
- Avoid Jargon at all costs.
- Keep the sentences short, simple and direct. A thumb rule to follow here is that one sentence should not be longer than 25 words. Also, use compound sentences as less as possible.
- Always Keep the fact ‘English is not everyone’s first language’ in mind. Therefore, simple and informal language helps greatly in the overall understanding of a concept.
- Increase the reader’s involvement by using personal pronouns like ‘you’, ‘us’, ‘we’, etc. as much as possible.
- Use Passive voice only when necessary. Active voice works best when you command actions like in lesson exercises.
After creating the perfect online course content, the obvious next step is to implement a delivery system. While you must already have an online channel or website for the prospective students to access from, a parallel implementation of secondary tools can help in boosting the outcome of the course greatly.
Some of these tools might consist of chat services, interactive whiteboard softwares, audio and video conferences, online discussion forums, etc.
As we all know, the progress of everything depends on evaluation and feedback. So, in an eLearning course as well, it is paramount to strategise regular evaluation processes and feedback mechanisms. Because after all, the point of doing something is to measure the difference it is making.
One of the best Evaluation processes is to carry it on two levels:
- Evaluating a learner’s response to the learning program with the help of questionnaires and surveys. This will also help in tracking the learner’s level of participation throughout the course.
- Evaluation of learning by assessing the completion of all the learning objectives and their results.
It is also important to perform the Evaluation during the development cycle at regular intervals to monitor the success of the program and also immediately after the completion of the course of a summative evaluation.
Creating a successful online course can prove to be morally enhancing as well as an economically profitable idea. With the lack of engaging online courses, the students are can be greatly benefitted with the availability of a course that is flexible and compatible with their requirements. And at the same time, a successful acceptance and grapevine can easily help you in being an eLearning giant.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to online courses. There are numerous topics and demographics that need help with a self-help course content. Like stated earlier, the growth of the eLearning industry has been enormous over the last decade, which is proof enough that people are willing to learn on their own. The only thing missing is a course content that helps them in understanding and engrossing.