Creating an online course in a field where you hold expertise might seem simple. But, if you go in without any preparation or a plan, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed as you continue to add content to your online course.
It’s also important to remember that simple and straightforward lessons for an expert might be confusing for a beginner. You must ensure that you bring your experience to the uninitiated in a manner that lets them incorporate that knowledge aptly.
A great way of ensuring the above is to create a clear and engaging content outline for your online course.
With this in mind, in this article, we’ll cover the key considerations you need to keep in mind when creating a content outline for your online course. We’ll also explain step-by-step how to build a clear and engaging course outline.
Let’s put everything into context before we begin.
Why it’s important to create an outline for your course
A clear and engaging content outline is not only beneficial for prospective learners but acts as a great starting point for the course creator, as well.
Let’s quickly take a look at why it’s important to create a content outline:
It provides a roadmap
When you have a goal in mind, it is useful to write down all the steps that will be required to achieve it. Doing that helps you see all the steps learners must go through and develop a better understanding of how to guide them through it.
It also enables you to see the skills they will have to acquire and the order in which they will have to learn the different lessons to progress through the course.
Having an overview of all of this information enables you to better prepare for putting together the online course and defining its progression. The best part is that it can help you speed up online course creation.
It helps you set expectations.
Having a content outline is also valuable to potential course takers. They can quickly identify the course’s goal and the key aspects that will be a part of the course. In addition to this, they can see the order of the key aspects of the course and how they relate to each other.
Not only does it make it easy for a student to determine the right course for them, but having a clear sense of destination from the start also makes the journey easier for a beginner. In simple words, it sets the right expectations from the get-go.
Now that we know some of the potential benefits of creating a clear and engaging content outline let’s go over some key aspects that you need to consider to be effective.
4 considerations for creating a clear and engaging content outline
By now, you should know two things clearly: what your expertise is and how that expertise helps solve a particular problem. Your goal now is to communicate your expertise to others who have a similar problem and are looking to solve it.
#1: Identify the audience
First, it’s important to determine your audience demographics and preferences. This information will be vital to creating a clear and engaging content outline.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Who is trying to solve the problem you’re an expert on? Who would that knowledge be most valuable to?
#2: Conduct interviews
Once you’ve identified your audience, you should get more information about them. Learn what challenges they face to deduce better how learning from you can benefit them.
One way to do that is by conducting interviews or surveys. They can be simple, multiple-choice questions or Yes/No questions. Alternatively, you can have larger open-ended questions to collect detailed responses from prospective learners.
#3: Determine the overlap
After acquiring this data, the next step is identifying where most of the overlap is. Find out the things that are the most common. This is a good indicator of what the majority of people need help with and gives you a starting point for the content outline of your online course.
#4: Define the problem and its solution
Keeping in view all the data and analyzing it, you can now define the most common problems that are faced by your target audience. With a clear view of the problem, you are now set to tackle the challenge of creating a course that would benefit your target audience.
With all of this out of the way, we can now get to actually creating a clear and engaging content outline for your online course.
Building a course outline
With everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s now time to put it into action and start building a clear and engaging course outline. Here’s what you need to do:
Step #1: Start with the end in mind
For a well-designed course outline, you need to know the end goal of your course. Work backward from the end goal to determine what would give potential students the best starting point keeping in mind all the steps they will need to take to get to that end goal.
Step #2: Create a list of steps to create a natural progression
Creating a list from your end goal to where to begin will help you determine the essential building blocks of your course. These skills or information must be learned in a particular order to get to the end goal in the best way possible.
Once you’ve jotted down some well-defined essential blocks or modules for your course, you need to create a simple step progression that guides the learner seamlessly through each block and from one block to the next. Naturally, you would want the most introductory and simplest information in your first module or block and have the students work their way up systematically from there. These blocks will later become the different lessons in your online course.
Note: This will be individual to your given expertise and the problem you’re trying to solve with it. The general direction, however, will remain similar whether the course is on cooking, design, or photography.
Step #3: Provide learning resources
Additional learning resources, i.e., materials outside that course that complement the learning students are undergoing, are highly valuable for creating a clear and engaging content outline for your course.
Consuming information in different formats allows students the opportunity to absorb knowledge via different mediums, which can aid knowledge retention and context building.
Many different types of media can be used for this purpose, for example, downloadable PDFs, videos, infographics, audio, and other multimedia that fit your requirements and complement the course well.
Step #4: Provide tests for evaluation
Provide opportunities for learners’ self-evaluation through the course using practice activities. These can be tasks that test the knowledge or skill of the student that they have acquired so far by progressing through your course.
This helps students test and evaluate their knowledge and provides invaluable feedback to you as the course creator. You can see, based on your student’s performance if they are learning well through your course or if they are struggling with a particular aspect of it.
Step #5: Add quizzes and assignments
Quizzes are useful as they help the students learn and retain the most important bits of their learning through the course. They emphasize all the key aspects of the course and act as a guide for students throughout the course.
Assignments based on knowledge acquired from the course are also a good method of assessing how much students can put to use what they have learned. They are also a good indicator of how much conceptual understanding students are developing to be able to put their knowledge to use.
It is important for tests, quizzes, and assignments to be incorporated at the right spot throughout your course in order to create a clear and engaging content outline. You must determine what knowledge or skill level a student has at every given module to be able to move easily and seamlessly to the next one. That will be the threshold you will need to test.
To create a clear and engaging content outline for your course, it’s important to create a roadmap and set the right expectations. You have to identify your audience and conduct interviews or surveys to pinpoint the overlapping problem your target audience faces and create a course that solves that problem.
Once that’s done, create the outline with that end goal in mind with step-by-step modules that seamlessly guide students in a systematic manner through the online course. Provide relevant additional learning material and utilize tests, quizzes, and assignments to keep evaluating as the course progresses and to also keep it on track.
Check out our guide on How to Create a Successful Online Course (In 10 Easy Steps) for more information.
Do you have any questions about creating a clear and engaging content outline for your online course? Let us know in the comments section below.