What should you take into account before publishing an online course?
After creating the core content, you should consider a few factors that affect the learning experience. Finalizing an online course rarely involves lots of work, but you’ll need to focus on the right issues. The course introduction, exercises, visual appearance and technical usability often need special attention.
Clarify the goals and guidelines in the introduction
The introduction to an online course should include guidance on the course's general practices and study goals and should motivate the students. An introduction is the best opportunity to explain why it’s worth spending time on this particular course.
- The study goals should be stated clearly and understandably.
- Outline the general course practices (scheduling, delivery method)
- Remember motivation — highlight why the course is worth taking
Many authors also provide additional background on the subject and introduce the trainer (e.g. in a short introduction video). This will make the trainer’s face familiar, even if all the work is done online.
Interactivity and exercises support learning and motivate students
Tests, exercises and discussions often form an integral part of online courses. Exercises can both measure competencies and support learning. It is usually worth adding a lot of exercises, e.g. in the form of quick tests or advanced reflection exercises.
- The course includes enough learning support exercises
- Tests adequately measure the targeted competence levels
- Assignments are clear and understandable
Special attention should be paid to online course assignments because unclear assignments can easily cause confusion. It is also worth highlighting which aspects will be emphasized when the exercise is assessed.
A visually pleasing course tends to be regarded as higher quality
The visual appearance of an online course affects the perception of quality. Pay particular attention to the start of new modules and to course introductions, since they create the first impression of a course.
Subheadings will help the student to navigate the course and visualize the content structure. Likewise, various text elements, such as quotes and highlights, should be used to provide more structure for text-based content. Videos, pictures, and tasks bring variety to content.
- The course has enough visual elements, such as pictures
- The course content has a visually clear and easily understandable structure
- The key elements of the course can be found using the headings
It is often a good idea to add plenty of relevant, high-quality pictures. Use Internet image banks if you do not have a wide selection of pictures.
A technically user-friendly course provides a smooth learning experience
It is worth ensuring that an online course progresses smoothly in technical terms. Overdoing tricks and technical gimmicks can easily reduce students’ motivation and waste their time.
For the online course platform, ensure the following
- It is easy to use and participants have sufficient guidance
- It is compatible with the devices and browsers used by students
- Passwords can be easily reset
Course participants often find browser-based learning platforms easier than applications or software, because platforms do not require app installation on devices. For security reasons, many companies have restricted software installation on their devices, which may prevent the installation of third-party software altogether.
In addition to the learning platform, check the technical aspects of the exercises and videos in particular. A responsive learning platform, i.e. a learning environment that works on smartphones and other mobile devices, will ease the completion of exercises.
Regarding exercises, check that
- Completed exercises can be submitted with the devices used by the students
- Assignments, instructions and the necessary materials are easily accessible
- If a course is run on mobile devices, keep written exercises short
In the case of videos, check the following technical issues
- Sounds are audible and it is easy to understand speech
- The picture quality is good enough to make the video pleasant to watch
- The video works on different devices and browsers
Students do not need to download a large file to watch the video
Instructions on giving feedback and requesting help
You should draw up instructions on how to ask for help or guidance from the trainer, and how soon to expect a response. Encourage the students to give feedback and instruct them on how to do so, so that they find it easier to share their experiences.
- Instructions on requesting help (who, when, how) are easy to find
- Instructions on giving feedback are clear
Online courses are quick and easy to update — this often makes it easy to implement students’ ideas for improving a course.