Let's take some time to walk through the starting points of putting together and organizing your content.
- Select readings and resources
Starting with choosing resources for your course allows you to write your content around them, creating alignment between the various course components and reducing the amount of writing you need to do. If possible, try to provide learners with a variety of formats here (e.g., using a combination of online readings, infographics, and videos). This helps accommodate learner preferences and enhances engagement and motivation.
- Write Your Introduction, Conclusion, and Core Content
After you’ve selected your resources, the next step is to write content that summarizes key takeaways and fills in any gaps for learners. Since online learning is self-directed, you want to make sure that you’re providing enough context to tell the full story, without repeating what's included in the external resources. There are a few reasons that you want to avoid doing this, each of which is outlined in more detail below.
- Reduced Workload. Why reinvent the wheel? If the resources you've found do a fantastic job of explaining a concept to your learners, you're just adding additional work for yourself by restating it in your content.
- Less Redundancy. A benefit of online learning is that learners can take in content in a self-paced manner and revisit content when they need to. For this reason, it's not necessary to include repetition of sections of content. In fact, redundancy can have a negative impact on the learner experience, as learners could become bored or disengaged if content is repeated.
- More Learner Engagement. Going beyond trying to keep things concise to reduce disengagement, expanding on the content you've curated instead of repeating it gives you the opportunity to pull in more applied examples and add additional context that can increase learner motivation and the desire to actively engage with the novel content included in your course.
Some other considerations when writing for online are writing in full sentences, using a narrative tone, and incorporating anecdotes and applied examples. Taking this approach to writing content will provide learners with the context they need to understand the content, increase learner engagement, make content more memorable, and enhance the connection that the learners feel with you as the instructor.
- Create activities and assessments
A huge advantage of the online environment is the ability to create interactive and engaging activities that allow learners to practice and self-assess as they're moving through content. This gives learners the chance to test their knowledge and see where they’re doing well, and which areas they may need to improve on.
Ideally, you want to build in frequent activities and assessments in your course. This benefits learners, as it helps them stay on track and reinforces learning. As with the course components discussed earlier, you’ll want to make sure that activities and assessments are aligned with the course learning objectives and core content so that they’re relevant for what learners should get out of the course.