Online courses are a great way to not only shift the traditional educational environment into the digital world, but also to create a more effective experience that is actually superior to traditional learning in a host of ways. However, it’s very likely to fall victim of bad or wrong practices when trying to determine how to create eLearning content. And then there are a few common mistakes that you end up making time and again.
Designing the wrong type of course or creating the wrong type of content has essentially the opposite effect. This is why it is always important to keep a number of key things in mind before you begin with creating content for an online course.
So, how to avoid these mistakes and create elearning content that best suits the needs of learners?
One, you need to know about them. Two, you don’t make those mistakes. Third, know what to do instead.
Let’s begin with taking a note of these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Complexity of Content
Perhaps the biggest mistake that individuals make involves allowing content itself to get too complex in the first place. This causes a course to lose its ultimate focus, resulting in a target audience that feels overwhelmed from the start. Eventually, it makes learners lose motivation before they’ve had a chance to really embrace what you’re trying to say in the first place.
It’s quite easy to see why this particular mistake is such a common one. From an instructor’s perspective, a far-reaching, comprehensive and vast course naturally seems more “valuable” than a smaller and more intimately focused one for a number of reasons. From content creator’s point-of-view, it’s a very natural choice in pursuit of offering more to your target audience.
What to do instead:
1. Here, it is important to not lose sight of the idea that the course itself is not the experience that people are after – the knowledge they gain and the way they are taught matter the most. If you make the beginning of the journey difficult for participants, they are never going to reach the destination.
2. Instead of letting the scope of a course get too overwhelming for your users, always fall back on a specific core focus that feeds into the ultimate idea of the course in general. Never stray too far from that central idea or you run the risk of creating something that nobody can actually utilize in the way it was intended. The tip is to present the content in the simplest possible manner.
Also, we have come up with a checklist to help you identify whether the content of your online course is complex or not. Answer these question and check the complexity level of the content.
Mistake #2: Content Not Challenging Enough
First things first – avoid mixing this with the first point or else you’ll fall prey to confusion. Simplicity is opposite of complexity. A piece of content can be simple and challenging at the same time.
It is to remember that your course is supposed to be more than just a series of reference documents. Learners should be able to discover answers through engaging material rather than just being shown them. The entire learning needs to be structured in such a way that they are able to discover answers for their questions themselves. It must be thought-provoking, motivating them to dive deep.
In short, lack of content that actually challenges the learner in question is one of the biggest blunders that you make.
To illustrate this, consider the example of an online course that is populated with lengthy videos designed to simulate a real-world learning environment as much as possible. Though videos are a tremendous asset to eLearning – and when used properly, they can be incredibly effective. However, the problem is that a video by its very nature is a passive experience. The user watches the video and attempts to digest the information inside. There’s no challenge for the learners. This kind of video works well only when you need to explain a concept.
What to do instead:
1. The process of discovery is integral. Provide learners with enough challenges and then tools, resources and supportive environment too.
2. Develop exercises that really challenge learners. Let them hit, try and discover.
In many ways, it’s a bit like the old saying “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” It’s not about you elevating learners – it’s about giving them the tools they need to elevate themselves.
Quickly refer to this checklist to find whether your course content is challenging enough.
Mistake #3: Too Much Theory or Text-Based Content
If you think back to just about every traditional course you’ve ever taken, you probably think of the papers, books and other items you were required to read alongside other theory-based content. What you may fail to realize is that this content worked in these settings BECAUSE classes were taking place in a real-world environment. You had the power of social interaction as an ally throughout this time – you could always turn to other students or even an instructor in a face-to-face setting to break up the monotony, to help digest or expand on new ideas, to supplement your learning experience and more.
If you rely too much on theory or text-based content in an eLearning environment, your students will have none of these advantages. The mistake that you’ve made essentially involves taking a real-world course and just moving it into the digital world, rather than taking the ideas at the heart of that course and shaping them for a bold new medium.
What to do instead:
1. To avoid this mistake, consider switching up not the message of content but the delivery mechanism as much as possible. Studies have shown that people would rather watch a video than read a document, even if they’re both communicating the exact same message. But then, even a video has to be short. A long video is not seen in its entirety.
2. Also, make use of the online learning tools that you now have available to you like wikis, forums and more to compliment the virtual space, not try to take the benefits inherent in online learning and cram them back into a real-world mold.
Ask yourself these questions to get an idea if you are on the right track.
Mistake #4: Not Explaining Deliverables
Think back to your high school days when your teachers would just start teaching an alien-like concept without even telling you how it would be useful for you. It would be an ordeal to sit through those lectures.
Are you making the same mistake? Yes, if you haven’t really identified what you would be delivering to your learners and what knowledge they gain at the end of each session. Failure to explain deliverables leads to a loss of focus leaving learners feeling overwhelmed and ultimately disengaged.
However, before you even identify the course deliverables, let’s understand what they are at the first place. At its most basic concept, a deliverable is a tangible benefit or object that you as an instructor will provide your learners as a result of the eLearning process. It’s a promise to them made at the beginning of your course or lecture regarding what they’re going to learn and how they’re going to learn it.
What to do Instead:
1. A syllabus will be a tremendous asset to you as you work to accomplish this goal. It should communicate exactly what you’re going to cover and what learners will gain and how it would be useful to them. And of course, the journey that you will all collectively take in order to accomplish a well-defined set of goals.
Asking these questions will help a great deal.
If the answers to all these questions are in affirmation, you are good to go.
Mistake #5: Not Considering the Requirements or Perspectives of the Learners
Have you ever wondered why courses are broken down based on ideas like the skill sets and the experiences of students? A high school doesn’t just have one math class – it has several based on the aptitude of the students being dealt with at any given moment. A beginner student might take a beginner’s math class, while a more advanced student may be moved onto “Trigonometry” and beyond at a much faster pace.
Why? To allow the placement of students in an environment that best fits their requirements or perspectives, which in turn creates a more ideal learning situation for everyone involved.
Are you considering the specific needs of your learners? If not, this is most terrible mistake you’re making when creating content for an online course.
What to do instead:
1. Even before you begin creating the course content, you need to consider the specific people you’re targeting. Ask yourself whether you are designing a course with beginners in mind, or hoping to attract the attention of experts? You can still cover the same topics and ultimately reach the same destination, but you’ll have to take two very different paths to get there based on the learners themselves.
2. Trying to service all of these groups at one time ultimately only creates a course that nobody can benefit from, which is the biggest disservice to the idea of learning of all. Consider targeting one segment at a time.
Understand the learner’s point-of-view.
Use these checklists to avoid common mistakes. You’ll be well on your way to creating valuable eLearning content for your target audience.