How To Create An Online Course Following the ADDIE Model originally appeared on eLearning Industries as an editor’s choice!
Let’s talk about how to create an online course. Online courses often have a bad reputation. Many people expect boring, bulleted slide show presentations or recorded lectures. Those are examples of bad course design. How do you create an online course that stands out?
Great online courses use a blend of interactive learning materials to teach a concept or change a behavior. They are founded on adult learning theory, measurable learning objectives, and ample practice opportunities.
Many professional Instructional Designers use the ADDIE model. The ADDIE model is an excellent way to structure your online course. ADDIE is an acronym that stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. The best way to learn how to create an online course is by following the ADDIE model.
How to create an online course in 5 steps
Step 1: Analyze
This first step is all about gathering information. Don’t start planning your course until you understand your audience and the training needed. The goal is to ask questions that help you create training with the right audience and learning goal in mind.
There are a few main questions you should ask to get started. Most likely the answers to these will generate more questions. But don’t worry, that’s good! The more questions you ask, the more you ensure your training meets the right need.
Here are 3 key areas to focus on when you begin:
Who Is The Target Audience Of The Course?
- How much do they know about the subject?
- Are they new hires, experienced employees, or a mix of the two?
- What demographic information is available about your audience? Think about the age, gender, education level, and computer literacy level of your audience.
What Are The Desired Learning Outcomes?
What do you want learners to be able to do once they have completed the course?
You should be able to describe the goals of the course in ways that are measurable. For example, if you are writing about training for retail associates, you may have a goal to increase cross-selling. Your learning objective might sound something like this:
At the end of this course, learners will be able to demonstrate actions that lead to cross-selling.
When you think about how to create an online course, you’ll probably want an easy way to develop your learning objectives. Use the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (2001). The original Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) illustrated levels of cognitive goals, from simple to complex, in the shape of a pyramid. The revision attributes measurable verbs to each of these levels. These verbs will help you write learning objectives that are clearly aligned with the desired learning outcomes.
What Is The Timeline For Project Completion?
Most organizations want quick results, but creating great training takes time. Be sure to set realistic expectations.
One way to work around a tight deadline is to break up the topics into short courses. It is much easier to build a 5- to an 8-minute course than it is to build a 30-minute course. It is also much easier on your audience’s attention span.
Step 2: Design
The design (or lesson planning) phase is when you start creating an outline of what you are teaching. Many Instructional Designers choose to begin with the assessment and work their way backward. This is smart. It creates better objective alignment, making sure you teach what you test.
Other things to consider during the design phase:
- How much time will learners be able to dedicate to the online course?
- What tools are available for course development?
- Does the design of your course engage learners with strong visual and audio elements?
Design outlines can take a few different forms. Some Instructional Designers create a simple bulleted outline or mind map, but the most common type of outlines is a storyboard.
A storyboard is a slide-by-slide draft of the actual course. This includes graphics (or a description of graphics) or other multimedia elements. If voice over is required, then the storyboard will usually include a script. The more detailed you are in your design outline, the easier it will be to get through the development phase.
Be mindful of creating opportunities for learners to practice the desired skill or behavior. Try to create an environment that simulates the actual work. Let’s take again retail sales “cross-selling” as an example.
To teach cross-selling to retail employees, you might create a scenario between a customer and an associate. Then, have the learner select between phrases they would use to engage in cross-selling. To increase the engagement factor, have a character representing the customer. That character reacts to the response, simulating an actual dialog between the associate and the customer. This virtual scenario can then closely mimic the skills that the learner is expected to apply to the job.
Step 3: Development
Development is the building phase. This is when you finally get to dive into your favorite eLearning tool to create the course. eLearning tools can range from simple to complex, but the fancier software does not make for a better course. A bad design plan will bring down a course developed on the most expensive software.
As the name implies, the development stage is when you put your design into action. As you do, you may find that your design needs modification to be effective. That’s fine! This is the time to refine your content. And the best way to do that is by building out your design and doing user testing.
Testing your course is the most important part of the development phase. Have a peer review it. You want to ensure your scenarios are comprehensive and complete. After all, if your training scenarios aren’t accurate, they won’t hold any value. Peer review also helps ensure every possible interaction takes the learner to the right place.
Step 4: Implementation
Now that you know how to create an online course, it’s time to get your team trained! This is the most exciting phase. If you use an online course development tool or a Learning Management System (LMS), then your course is already where it needs to be. Just hit publish, invite learners via email, and track learner progress and results. A good LMS streamlines much of the work necessary to deliver your content, and track learner progress and results.
More and more learning via an LMS is self-directed: learners log in to the system to take the course you created without assistance from an instructor. However, if you do have instructors teaching the material, be sure your LMS allows you to manage instructors as well as learners. You also need to make sure your instructors are familiar with the content and course goals.
It’s also possible to do both self-directed and instructor-led learning using an LMS. You may have instructor-led sessions before, after, or in-between self-directed sessions. And with an LMS, you don’t need everyone in the same room for either type of session. Everyone can sign in from wherever they are and use built-in group chat or video to communicate during the training sessions.
Step 5: Evaluation
What will you do with all the great data your LMS collected? Analyze it, of course.
One of the first things you want to know is how many learners passed the course. It’s always exciting to see a high passing rate. But, you also want to understand why learners don’t pass the course.
Here are some things to consider:
Are There Gaps Or Misunderstandings?
Compare the audience that took your course to the audience you wrote it for. For example, a big point of contention is usually the computer and online education literacy. We assume younger learners are comfortable with computers and online courses, but this is not always true. Are there other things you may have assumed your learners knew?
Are There Glitches In Your Course That May Have Caused Learners To Miss Information?
Sometimes learners get a little click-happy. Limiting navigation options prevents learners from getting lost or moving on too quickly. If learners have to choose an option in a lesson, disable the “next” button until they make their choice. This will prevent learners from failing to submit answers.
Did You Try To Pack Too Much Into One Course?
Learners digest new information better in small chunks. Check out the Cognitive Overload Theory for more about this. Here’s one common problem when you first learn how to create an online course: trying to do too much in one course. If you packed too much into one course, consider breaking the course and assessment into smaller pieces. Learners will likely feel less overwhelmed and perform better.
Is There A Problem With Your Assessment?
Look at your assessment questions for patterns. This is another way to find out if there may be a flaw in your design. Did you use tricky question phrasing? Also, check to see that the material tested was adequately covered in the course.
Start all over. That’s right, now that you know how to create an online course, go back to step 1!
Once your course is live, you never stop Analyzing, Designing, Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating it. ADDIE is a cyclical model that encourages designers to continuously evaluate and refine their work. The more you learn about what works well,—and what doesn’t—the better your course will become.