Instructional Design: The Secret of Successful Online Courses

How to right a killer course with the right instructional design techniques.

Don’t bore your students. Use the right instructional design techniques to write a killer course.

Online learning is more popular than ever. If you want to learn about something, chances are pretty good you can take a course on it – on your own schedule and at your own pace. Online courses are perfect for training remote employees, teaching customers about your products and gaining new customers. They’re convenient and cost-effective. With the right instructional design techniques, online courses can be transformative. 

First, it’s important to remember that adults learn differently than children. Usually, adults make a voluntary choice to take a course. Even if they’re required to complete a course for their job, they’re willing because they know it benefits.

Second, when taking an online course, the potential distractions are endless. From social media to emails, to online shopping – just about anything could lead them away

For this reason, if your course doesn’t serve their purpose, you’ll lose your students.

That’s why if you’re creating online courses, you must avoid common pitfalls that could steal them away or make them lose interest. 

With this in mind, let’s look at a few proven instructional design techniques that will keep your students actively engaged in your course. If you’re writing your first course or If you already have courses online, check them to make sure they include these elements.

Instructional Design Technique #1 – Understand Your Audience

Who is your ideal student? Who exactly are you teaching? You must thoroughly understand your ideal customer’s struggles and desires. What does this person want most?

It’s important to realize adults have a lot of life experience and past knowledge. When learning something new, they draw upon their backgrounds. This can be both good and bad. As a result, students will bring different perceptions, different expectations, and their own biases to your course. That’s why your course needs to allow for these differences. For example, some people may tend to avoid traditional classroom learning. With this in mind, they may need more time to learn by doing. That’s why defining your audience or ideal student is key. When you completely understand your audience, you can consider differences in educational levels, socioeconomic levels, culture and other important factors. Therefore, you’ll employ the right instructional design techniques with specific needs in mind. As a result, you’ll avoid student frustration and those unwanted negative reviews.

Instructional Design Technique #2 – Involve The Left Side Of The Brain

One of the best instructional design techniques is to involve both sides of the brain. Each side of the brain serves a different purpose:

The left side of the brain is logical. It uses analytical thinking and step by step instructions. Make sure to provide:

  • A logical and sequential organization of your topics
  • Information that is broken down into step by step processes
  • Statistics, facts, and quotes
  • Topics in a lecture format
  • Minimal distractions
  • Orderly content
  • Independent study

Instructional Design Technique #3 – Involve The Right Side Of The Brain

In contrast, the right side of the brain is more visual. It uses creative and conceptual processes. Make sure to include elements that allow students to use this type of thinking. Here are some instructional design techniques that will help:

  • Encourage thinking outside the boundaries of your course.
  • Provide ways for students to apply the concepts to other areas of their lives.
  • Facilitate creative ideas and innovation.
  • Present a variety of perspectives.
  • Include visual images, color, and shapes.
  • Involve the senses. Allow them to read, write, listen and think at the same time.
  • Provide a handout with an area for note taking. 
  • Create opportunities for open discussion and group projects.
  • Include creative problem-solving activities.

In essence, when you engage both sides of the brain, you’re far less likely to have students turn off your course and far more likely to receive rave reviews.

Ultimately, the right instructional design techniques help your course become a transforming experience that leads to true change for your students. 

Online Courses As Part of a Content Marketing Strategy

Online courses can be a perfect addition to your content marketing mix. If you’re a subject matter authority, or if you have experience in a subject area, chances are you’re further along on that journey than many other people. Think about the expertise you offer or a skill that others may want to learn. An online course can help you get your message out to the market and establish you as an authority in your industry. If you have a special talent or skill, you can share it with the world. If you have mastery or knowledge of a subject, you can teach it.

Once your course is complete, you’ll need to decide how students will access your course. There are a number of choices available today. You could choose to launch your course on a learning marketplace platform such as Udemy, or you could choose to market it on your own website. In either case, an online course can go a long way toward helping you establish your brand’s online reputation.

If you’re looking to take your content to the next level, an online course may be just the right choice. If you’d like to learn more about how to use the right instructional design techniques, get the step-by-step guide in Sandra’s book, The Step by Step Guide To Copywriting: Online Learning and Course Design.

Need help writing an online course? Let us help you get your course out into the world. We have professional copywriters who specialize in instructional design. Shop our online course writing service here.

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