February 4th, 2019 E-Learning

New year, new content: It’s time to re-examine your course from last year.

The new year is a natural time for most of us to take an overview of our e-learning business to see what we can learn from the last year and what we can improve for the year to come. There are many aspects of marketing and business management that can use a review, but when it comes to course management, content is the elephant in the room.

Every course can benefit from a periodic content update—yours included. And the truth is, if you want to stay competitive, your content probably needs an annual review if you don’t want to it to expire. Not only does this provide more genuine value to the learner, but even from a purely marketing standpoint, being able to mark you content with the current year is a powerful signal to learners that it’s as current as can be.

If you’re wondering how to keep your content up to date, here’s where to start.

1. Look up industry developments from the last year.

Some industries move faster than others, but no matter what your audience, it’s unlikely a whole year has gone by with no new developments. These can be anything from cutting edge technological advances to new regulatory standards. Either way, your course needs to stay up to date to stay relevant.

For instance, in 2018, developments in digital marketing included the introduction of GDPR in Europe, several Facebook algorithm updates in response to the ProPublica scandal, and the rebranding of AdWords to Google Ads. Any course on online marketing would be remiss if it did not mention these updates, and it’s likely 2019 will continue at much the same pace.

Even if your industry hasn’t undergone any radical transformations, you will probably find that your own knowledge level has grown in the past year. Reviewing your material, it’s likely you will find areas you will want to update based on your new experiences—new examples, new reference points, new insights, etc.

2. Dig into your e-learning metrics.

Not all content updates are driven by the industry—they can also be driven by interest. It’s hard to anticipate demand, and there are many ways in which those subjects you may have thought would be useful to your learners were less popular than other topics.

Fortunately, course metrics exist to help you understand learner behavior and interests. If your learners are engaging more with a certain course—or even a module within a course—that’s a sign you should expand that content to provide more value.

3. Find your most popular content from 2018.

If you spend the last year running a blog for your online course, then it’s likely you published quite a bit of content. Like your course content, you should have some good data from your published content about what was useful and informative for your learners. Take an audit of that content to see what performed best in the past year. If you notice a certain blog post or content topic that has received more activity, it could be a sign of something you should write more about in the future.

4. Send out a poll to your learners.

Want to know what content your learners are really hungry for? Ask them.

For many instructors, polling learners can seem intimidating. After all, what if they don’t respond? What if they feel annoyed that you asked? Running an effective survey is a delicate business. Ask too many questions, or make it difficult for them to complete the survey, and you may find you have a low response rate.

However, almost every course will have a group of learners who are anxious to lend their input when it comes to course material. After all, they signed up to your course in the first place because they believed you could satisfy a need. They’ve self-selected into a group that is more willing than not to give feedback. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that.

5. Research upcoming advancements.

Some course updates are about responding to the past, but just as many are about preparing for the future. Informing your learners about anticipated development is an important aspect of any education program. Doing so gives learners a reason to stay invested in upcoming courses, and can inspire them to sing up for a more advanced course.

Including information about new developments also signals that you yourself are on top of these advances, and can establish you an industry leader. Showing that you’re paying attention to these trends ads credibility to your course which can give you an edge over your competition.

6. Be ready to retire old courses.

At some point, even the best content loses relevance. When your content grows so old that it needs more of a complete overhaul than a simple refresh, it may be time to retire the course and start over. Doing so may take more work, but it will also rid you of legacy problems and help you start over with a clean slate.

Your course content is in constant need of renewal—and that’s a valuable opportunity.

Of course, many of us wish we could create a course once and be done with it. The process of revising and releasing new editions of our content every year seems exhausting. And yet, this is one of the main advantages of online content.

Compare this to releasing a new edition of a textbook, an exhaustive process that often takes years of revisions and proofreading. There is undeniably a benefit to be had from such an intensive review process. But the downside is that it leaves authors less able to respond quickly to changes. In some cases, by the time the new textbook edition is ready to be released, it’s already out of date.

Online courses can be updated instantly, and at substantially less cost. With such agility, course creators should take full advantage of their ability to keep content up to date.

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