A Guide To A Perfect Online Course Design

School, classes, learning – a significant amount of students associate those terms with weariness and incomprehensibly dragged-on time. That is a problem many teachers and coaches are facing these days. Luckily, we are coming to the rescue with a guide to a perfect online course design.

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Learning experience, coupled with the teaching strategies, determines specific learning outcomes. For instance, bare facts, presentation, and script reading will significantly reduce student engagement and, thereby, discourage them from deepening their nowledge.

Moreover, the times of the pandemic put educators in a difficult situation to quickly get used to various online platforms. Sadly, a significant number of them did not take a chance to provide a better quality learning experience and stuck with reading materials off of the presentation during a group video call.

The above examples paint a very detailed picture of how crucial a good course design is. It enriches students’ learning process and experience and creates a proper learning environment. In short, it ensures better education even for learning-resistant people.

By the end of this guide, you will know what steps make up a good course design – online course design in particular. We will cover:

  • Bloom’s taxonomy – theory of the best course design
  • Subsequent stages of online course design
  • Backward design
  • Common mistakes in online course design
  • The best platform to design online courses

So without further ado, let’s start the guide to the best and more engaging course design that will awaken a passion for your subject in your students.

An excellent online course design – Bloom’s taxonomy explained

Course design is the process and methodology of creating quality learning environments and experiences for students. Measurable learning outcomes, active learning, course materials, and proper pedagogy add to successful learning.

The main points of the course design are:

  • providing access to information and course materials
  • a considerate amount of interaction between students and a coach
  • stimulation of critical thinking and independent deepening of knowledge
  • creation of a friendly and supportive learning environment

In general, courses are the foundation of the educational process. In other words, the practical and well-thought course design equals students who are more prompt to learn, listen and think. Successful teaching strategy means achieving specific learning goals by students and, thereby, simultaneously fostering a positive learning experience.

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According to the chart above, proper course design coupled with the correct program identification results in exceptional students’ learning outcomes and achievements. Effective course design ensures a higher success rate of intended learning goals in a much larger number of students.

As explained in ‘A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning’ written by L. Dee Fink, the basis for course design is the analysis of the situational factors, the formulation of the learning goals, designing the feedback, and assessment procedures, and select the teaching/learning activities. He also highlights the importance of keeping the balance and relevance between the three main components of course design.

These components of course design are:

  • Teaching and learning activities
  • Learning outcome
  • Feedback and assessment

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‘What is distinctive about this model is that these components have been put together in a way that reveals and emphasizes their inter-relatedness.’ L. Dee Fink

The hidden theory behind all of those concepts is Bloom’s taxonomy.

But what is Bloom’s taxonomy?

According to the University of Kansas, Bloom’s taxonomy ‘is a classification of educators’ different objectives and skills for their students (learning objectives). The taxonomy was proposed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist at the University of Chicago. The terminology has been recently updated to include the six levels of learning. These six levels can be used to structure the learning objectives, lessons, and assessments of your course.’

These levels are subsequently:

  • Remembering: Recall and retrieve basic facts and knowledge from long-term memory

keywords: define, duplicate, memorize, list repeat

  • Understanding: Explain the meaning behind the relevant concepts and facts

keywords: explain, describe, discuss, classify, interpret, exemplify

  • Applying: Execute gathered knowledge in new and unknown situations

keywords: execute, implement, carry out, demonstrate, use, solve

  • Analyzing: Notice the relations and differences between the material parts and their relevance to the contextual concept.

keywords: organize, differentiate, compare, organize, distinguish, examine

  • Evaluating: Support your opinion or judgment using your knowledge

keywords: judge, argue, critique, justify, appraise, weigh

  • Creating: Design new, original work

keywords: produce, assemble, develop, construct, investigate

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Each level of Bloom’s taxonomy is based on the previous one and demands acquiring the knowledge and skills from the earlier levels.

This concept helps to determine and develop learning objectives about course goals. It divides the course content into smaller parts and describes the nature of each lesson objective. It is very crucial in the instructional design process, which is the basis for student learning.

The more modern and frequently used alternative for Bloom’s taxonomy is a simplified system used by numerous instructional designers called ADDIE.

What does ADDIE stand for?

Analysis – Design – Develop – Implement – Evaluate

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However, before you even move on to each of these stages, you need to consider situational factors. What do you want your course to teach the students? How does it fit into the broader aspect of education? It is suggested to use the concept of ‘Backward design’.

Backward design

Backward design is the process introduced in 2005 by Wiggins and McTighe. It is presented to help with designing a course, lesson, or unit. However, what’s unique about this method, is that it starts directly from the end – intended learning outcomes. That way, you, as a teacher or coach, can determine your teaching strategies, prepare course syllabus and create assignments and worksheets. The backward design allows you to focus on student learning and plan your course according to their needs.

This concept is divided into three steps. Starting from defining expected results, then some case studies, and planning learning experiences in the end. The University of Colorado describes each step very clearly:

‘Stage 1: Identify the desired results

What do you expect students to know or be able to do at the end of the class, unit, or course?’

This is the first step of the backward design method. You have to determine the course goals you want your students to achieve by the end of it. To do it more accessible, you can use the previously mentioned Bloom’s Taxonomy, which will help you highlight intended learning outcomes.

‘Stage 2 – Determining acceptable evidence

How will the students demonstrate they met the learning outcome?’

As the next step, you have to do a sort of a case study. You have to think about the audience you will have and how you will evaluate them. You need to consider a few aspects due to the diversity of each group of students and the different approaches they require. To assess all of them correctly, you will have to:

  • prepare an exact and detailed syllabus for your students to be oriented, what they have to achieve
  • give examples of good works and exercises to show the method
  • understand that each student is different in the aspects of culture and upbringing

‘Stage 3 – Plan learning experiences and instruction

How will students gain the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to meet the learning outcome?’

The last step of backward design is when you plan each lesson, prepare worksheets and assignments, and other learning activities, to create a good and practical learning experience. The previous case study will help you determine the approach and teaching strategies appropriate for a particular audience and guarantee to achieve set learning outcomes and course goals.

Common mistakes in online course design

The popularity of online courses is constantly rising, especially in the current time of pandemics. Sadly the quantity does not go along with the quality of online courses. Here is the list of the four most common mistakes creators make while designing an online course.

Not enough socializing

As a teacher, you have to acknowledge the essential role of face-to-face interaction between you and your students. Your online course should not be just dry theory and exercises, but a little bit of socializing and engaging in the community.

Usually, creators are focused on delivering just a course material and miss out on the very profitable educational aspects of communication and interaction. From time to time, grant your students access to any video chatting apps and see how morals and motivation amongst your community are rising.

Remember to provide your audience with the possibility to engage in the community of your course and let them participate in study groups and work as a team.

Too many quizzes

A lot of creators make the mistake of uploading too many quizzes. They want to seem more professional, but in reality, this type of online course does not help achieve intended learning goals. Remember that the number of quizzes does not determine the quality of the course.

However, we are not saying they are unnecessary, but they surely cannot be the main focus of your course material. The main goal of online courses is to make the learning experience as efficient and effective as possible.

Keep in mind – you do not have to give up on testing your students’ knowledge thoroughly. Consider the option of checking and evaluating their work, solved exercises, and worksheets. You can provide them with appropriate feedback and pieces of advice to improve their knowledge and skills.

Remember that the main course goal is to help define your audience’s absorption of the course content and achieve intended learning outcomes (summative assessment). You evaluate their progress and acquired knowledge (formative assessment).

Too little exercises

Setting measurable learning outcomes is crucial to a successful course design process. However, what is striking, numerous instructional designers forget to provide their audience with the description of expected learning outcomes.

You want clear and listed learning objectives to improve the quality of your online course. Online courses that lack directly set goals and learning outcomes tend to be not as valuable and efficient. In your course design process, keep in mind that writing a course syllabus will improve your students’ ability to meet the course goals. Provide them with a very detailed description of learning outcomes for every lesson. However, remember not to set too high expectations. Learning outcomes should be observable and measurable.

The example of well-established learning outcomes at the course level:

  • Create a design framework for a course
  • Fill in a design framework for a course
  • Develop a course from a design framework
  • Upload course content into the learning management system of your choice
  • Publish your course
  • Launch your course’
  • Review, evaluate, and revise your published course
  • The example of well-established learning outcomes at the lesson/unit level:
  • ‘By the end of this module, you (or substitute ‘learners’ for ’you’) will be able to: …
  • Generate a list of possible topics for your course
  • Analyze the possible topics for your course
  • Select a topic for your course and explain why you chose this particular topic
  • Identify a target audience for this course topic

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Being aware of and avoiding all those mistakes will make your online course top-notch, compared to the ones available on the internet. Keep our rules in the back of your head and consistently deliver high-quality content to your community.

Where to design the best online course?

In the era of online learning, choosing an appropriate online course design platform is crucial to your success in teaching. You need an intuitional layout, view your students’ achievements and progress or worksheets, and a face-to-face interaction solution. In short, you need GroupApp.

We know that creating an effective and engaging online course might seem a little bit complicated, and that is why we come to help you with our easy-to-use online course builder. GroupApp delivers all of the tools you will need to create a high-quality online course. It has all of the features you may need to reach and please your audience.

GroupApp enables you to create and publish online courses directly inside of your online community. You can unify your online community with your online course for better community support and improve the learning experience.

It also gives you an option to manage your community from an admin dashboard, where you can manage members, moderate the content and track engagement and subscriptions metrics. It works as an LMS (Learning Management system) – tracks, automates, reports, and documents your online course delivery.

One of GroupApp‘s advantages is accessibility. GroupApp offers a mobile-friendly experience for all devices, so you and your students can engage with the community from every device. It is available for all devices and platforms and both on iOS and Android.GroupApp allows you as well to connect with other platforms that will improve and automate your workflow.

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You also get a bunch of additional features such as:

  • Members Profile: ‘Community directory that allows members to discover and connect with each other.’
  • Activity Feed: ‘Community activity feed that allows members to share a post, leave comments, and follow topics.’
  • Posting Types: ‘Creators and members can write a post, upload photos, ask questions, and share videos.’
  • Notifications: ‘Send in-app and email notifications to your community members with a simple click of a button.’
  • Invite members: ‘Invite members to join your community with your community invite link and email invitation.’
  • Privacy Settings: ‘Share your community with the public or set your privacy setting to members only.’
  • Paid channels: ‘Share premium content in specific community channels and have members upgrade to access it.’
  • Export Data: ‘Own 100% of your member’s data and export it at any time without any restrictions. It all belongs to you.’
  • Custom Domain: ‘Maintain a consistent branding experience and drive community traffic to your website by using your custom domain with your community.’

As you can see, GroupApp delivers the best quality platform for you to design online courses. It has so many advantages and options that you will indeed find something fitting your teaching strategies.

Final thoughts

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In reference to the beginning of this article, a quality online course design is significantly more arduous than it seems. However, we hope this article helped you learn how to design your own engaging and interesting course and that the entire course design process does not seem so scary after all.

If you want to provide your students with high-quality online courses and fulfill all of your ideas, make sure you visit the GroupApp website and design the best online course!