develop online course

10 Things Instructors Overlook When Creating Content for an Online Course

Teaching Trends and Best Practices

When you delve into content creation for your courses, you’re looking to make a masterpiece. This requires careful construction to make a worthwhile course that students would be happy to recommend to others. When you develop online course for your students, you tend to forget their needs and requirements. Here’s a list of 10 things that you typically overlook when creating course content. It may help you remain careful next time when you work on your content:

1.Attention to the needs of your students

Let’s admit it. You ignore what your students want to learn. Instead you create content thinking what you want to teach and cover in your course. Irony! This is one of the biggest reasons why you find it difficult to engage your students. What should you do? Pay attention to their needs. Obviously!

When you look at your course outline, is it something that would be intriguing to you if you were seeing it for the first time? Show your course content to an outside observer, such as a person you know who has expressed interest in your course’s content. He or she can help you identify areas in which you can use more information to make your course more valuable.

2.Complexity of the content

Remember, your aim is to simplify things for your learners. If they themselves could deal with the complexity, they wouldn’t be looking for instructors online. The content of your course is another area where getting a friend or colleague to test your course can help you.

It needs to be clear and easy to understand — even for people who have not worked in this area before. If you find areas where your content is too technical, work to break it down into the simplest terms. Does it contain advanced content that needs more background and explanation? Decide whether to provide those background materials or whether this individual lesson belongs in an advanced course instead.

3.Structure of the content

Can learner objectives be at the end of the chapter? No. Can you ask them to solve problems before explaining the concept? No. The structure of your course content plays a crucial role in shaping learner experience.

Find if there are there better ways to present the content in your course? Don’t just rely on large blocks of text. Use graphs, infographics, videos, audio content, checklists and other formats when appropriate. By using an assortment of formats while creating content, you make your course more engaging for your students and your material more memorable. Make sure that the material is presented in a way that students can build up their knowledge over time.


Most instructors underestimate the importance of repeating and reinforcing the learning. Like learning curve, there’s a forgetting curve. According to this theory, unless information is reinforced, we forget it in one week. To ensure that your students come away with all of the most vital points in your course, make sure that you reiterate what is most important. Use checklists, subject reviews and other tools to reinforce your lessons.


You look for a conclusion when you hear a story. Isn’t it. This is how you learn. So, why not conclude your lessons? The structure of your lessons is important. Provide conclusions at the end of each lesson and at the end of the course. Lessons that end abruptly may feel unfinished or as if they were put together without care. End each lesson with a review of the most important points to ensure that your students retain the information.

6.Detailed course menu

How many times do you need to refer back when you read or learn something? Frequently, right? But what if when you are unable to find it easily? You feel frustrated. Chances are you abandon the course. It is same here also.

It should be easy for your students to refer back to any part of your course easily. Use your course outline as the basis of a detailed menu for your course. Allow students to navigate directly to the information that they need. This makes your course more satisfying and useful for the people who take it.

7.Opportunities for student interactions

Often, we learn best when we are learning from the people with whom we are studying. We get more practice time with a skill and the opportunity to collaborate with others. But instructors tend to forget this at times and end up creating a dry course.

The best practice is to ‘participate and learn’. Student interaction can also lead to valuable networking opportunities for your students. Your class should include a discussion board to which everyone can post and contribute. If possible, also incorporate group projects so that your students can work together to increase their knowledge.

8.Not dividing the course into smaller lessons with incremental deadlines

No one enjoys a long slog with few breaks. A course that is all one project is likely to cause students to lose interest before they are finished. Short lessons with associated projects or quizzes give students a sense of accomplishment and momentum.

Additionally, students need smaller deadlines to continue to drive them forward. Allot reasonable deadlines so that students will continue their progress through your course. It may be valuable to have a few volunteer course testers let you know how long it took them to complete a lesson. This information can be used to set adequate deadlines for your learners.

9.Same old course content

Creating a course is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. Each time a group of students moves through your course, you should learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t. Make note when students ask for help or clarification and see where your course content could be easier or more comprehensive. You should also ask students to complete an evaluation when they are finished with your course. This will allow you to continue to revise and update the course so that it works better for your students.

In many industries, the latest tools and best practices continue to develop. If you reference anything that cannot be considered evergreen in your course, do more research to find out whether your recommendations are up to date. This can keep your content fresh and useful to the people who sign up for your class.

10.No research when creating content

If your students only come away with information that they could have found themselves through a Google search, they are not going to be happy. Instead, when you develop online course content, incorporate deep research to present information that they could not have found themselves. Pull on your own life experiences. Interview professionals in the field. The more unique and useful the information you present, the better-reviewed your course will be.

No course is perfect in its first iteration. Be willing to do the work to make your course as useful and engaging as possible for the people who take it. By always trying to improve, you can thrill your students and make them more likely to take another of your classes or recommend your course to others.

Amanjot Kaur

A marketer by profession and an explorer by nature. I love to read, learn, travel, experiment with new music and food, and have a good laugh.

9 thoughts on “10 Things Instructors Overlook When Creating Content for an Online Course

  1. Hi Amanjot,

    Thanks for sharing this post. This will surely help newbie course creators to make user-centric content.

    According to me, using the right eLearning platform is also an important factor which needs to be taken into consideration when developing online courses. The reason is simple. Your training content is of no use if it fails to impact the learners. I am in favor of using an online learning management system because it allows teachers to create, deliver, and manage their content, as well as monitor participation and assess performance among learners.

    Hence, I would say that the success of an online course also depends on the eLearning platform you have chosen.

  2. Excellent article. I have spent nearly 50 years in IT teaching and being taught and these things all ring true. The ‘repetition’ and ‘modularisation’ is very true. I use the former in books and articles I write; at first it was a mistake but then I realised that it was useful especially if the repeat coverage offered a different perspective in case people didn’t catch on first time. The latter point was brought home to me after I attended a one week engineering and scientific computing course which was 5 days of 12 hours intensive work. I had forgotten everything after 1 week.
    Re the variation on visuals, I can’t really argue but there are some topics which must have them. Network courses and articles should be heavily diagram oriented as it is almost impossible to understand by reading text alone. I now refuse to read articles on IT networks which do not have a diagram in them, and there are many. Pure ex saying for example, ‘the data passes along line 1,through the router, where it is verified and then onto switch A. It then …’. This is impenetrable to a novice.
    Dr Terry Critchley retired IT warrior

    1. Thanks Dr. Terry. Happy to know that you found it useful. True, repetition is important to reinforce learning. Learners tend to forget about 90% of the things they learnt within the first week after the class is over. Secondly, visuals play a critical role in learning. You’re right network courses must have diagrams to make it easy for learners to understand the concept.

  3. This article was informative and to the point. Thank you for sharing these tips! I will keep them in mind as I create my first online course.

    1. Wow!! Really happy to know you’re putting together your first online course. Wish you success. Feel free to write to us, should you need any help in creating your course. Cheers!

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