Formats for online courses are as varied as their instructors. The determining factors boil down to budget and what your audience expects.
Remember that there’s good, fast and cheap – and you can only pick two of the three. If you’re going to invest time in developing online course content, do it the right way. Invest in as high a quality production as you can.
If your audience loves video, your course needs to be video. If your audience loves to read, your course should be text-based. Most of the time, audiences will be mixed in the kinds of modality they prefer – education professionals use that term to refer to whether learners listen, watch, read or interact with content.
This decision will also impact the budget and timeline for the course production. Let your Instructional Designer help you with this decision as you discuss your audience in detail with them.
This is a great place to start thinking about format. This list is by no means exhaustive:
- Video: For visual, “just show me” content. The things learners are supposed to get from your material is best shown to them. This includes skills and things that cannot be adequately described in text. Videos can be “talking head” shots of you presenting, or can be animated explainer videos. Many online courses rely on video content.
- The downside: High-quality video production can be expensive.
- The upside: Video production can be fast to help you capture the market.
- PDF: This is similar to selling an e-book, but the e-book is more like a workbook with homework to be completed by the learner. This is great for coaching material, self-reflection and for skills that can be adequately described in text and diagrams.
- The downside: This requires you to create an initial manuscript and work with a copyeditor before a graphic designer lays out your course. It can be a long process.
- The upside: The PDF can be delivered as a single file or broken up chapter by chapter and dripped out as learners finish the previous chapter.
- Interactive modules: These are multimedia presentations that can be like a “pick your own adventure” experience. Learners click, drag, sequence and interact with the content in a media-rich elearning experience.
- The downside: Good interactive modules take time to develop, and require regular input from the client.
- The upside: Interactive modules look and feel professional, are designed to hold learner’s attention and bring polish to your content in a way you never dreamed.
- Email: This approach works best if you’ve already worked to cultivate your email list. Use your email provider to set up campaigns with purchased elearning content.
- The downside: You may need to upgrade your account to provide auto-responder capabilities for this kind of campaign.
- The upside: Converting your content to bite sized chunks appropriate for an email campaign takes willingness to think about your material in a very different way.
- Mixed: You can mix and match formats above to achieve the perfect elearning course for you and for your audience.
The point here is not that you make a perfect choice – making a perfect choice can sometimes delay the fact that you just need to start somewhere. Get used to the idea that your first version of the course will not likely be the version of the course that becomes a hit.
Just start somewhere. You’ve got great content. You’ve got great ideas about how it can look and function. Let Instruction Intelligence help you make that reality. We live to see people become successful with their elearning ventures.