Create your courses following these steps for high learning impact

When authors create courses, most people start by writing content and maybe adding a few types of questions at the end. The problem with this approach is that you wind up with “PowerPoint-like” courses that are neither engaging nor effective.

By Kasper Spiro on Jul 5th


While you are an expert in your own field, you don’t necessarily have a degree in teaching or e-learning design. That’s why we propose a practical alternative approach. Create courses by following these steps:

  1. Define a goal and learning objectives.
  2. Determine how to assess whether these objectives have been reached (create questions and activities).
  3. Add content that is relevant to your questions (helping your learners answer the questions).

Follow this procedure to make your courses shorter and more effective. This helps you as an author to focus only on sharing content that is truly relevant to the course or resource.

This three-step model sets boundaries and defines what is truly necessary.

Let’s take a closer look at each step:

1. Define your goal and objectives

Always start with the end in mind. Ask yourself this question: “What do I want my learners to know and/or be able to do after this course?” Define your goal (overall aim) and its underlying learning objectives (specific sub-goals).

Here’s an example to put things in context:

Goal: To train technicians so they can restore disrupted services on telecommunication towers and ensure business continuity after a natural disaster, such as a storm or earthquake.

Learning objectives:

After the course, technicians must be proficient in:

  • Evaluating affected zones and estimating the damage.
  • Identifying which equipment is impacted.
  • Replacing broken and damaged parts to ensure continuity of service.

2. Determine how to assess whether these objectives are reached

An assessment can be more than just checking the level of acquired knowledge. Many assessments ask learners to choose a “correct answer” from a limited number of choices (i.e. multiple choice), answer true/false questions or fill in the blanks. However, this approach is not entirely effective for adult learners, who are constantly looking for ways to apply new skills in realistic situations.

We recommend creating authentic assessment questions that simulate real work situations. This allows learners to apply and reflect on the knowledge they’ve gained. Think of all the tasks you expect your learners to be able to do after completing the course. This way, you give them a taste of real tasks and not just a knowledge-checking trivia game.

Below are examples of low-impact and high-impact assessment questions. Let’s use the same example of training technicians to handle outages:

Low impact (focuses on knowledge recall and retention):

Which of the following routers is compatible with our servers?

  • Option 1
  • Option 2

Questions like this help promote knowledge retention, but they do not encourage knowledge application. If the knowledge involves choosing between different options in real life, then learners would rather refer to a job aid/cheat sheet instead of having to recall all the details from memory.

High impact (stimulates reflection and critical thinking)

Following a major hurricane, most of the WiFi cabling has been damaged, requiring technicians to fix everything from signaling to cabling to setup. In which order should the following measures be taken?

  1. Option 1
  2. Option 2
  3. Option 3

During the assessment, let learners complete a challenging, realistic task, similar to the tasks they will face on the job.

3. Add content that is relevant to your questions

Identify the information that learners need to know to complete the assessments/activities – this is your course content. This keeps you focused on sharing only essential, useful content and not digressing into unnecessary details.

Here’s an example:

  • A cheat sheet or list of router specifications for technicians to refer to during emergencies
  • A detailed list of troubleshooting procedures

Read the next article as part of the e-learning best practices blog series: “Use variety in your courses to beat the forgetting curve

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About the author

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

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