October 27th, 2022 Tips & Tricks

Creating an online course is more of an art than a science. There isn’t a strict formula for success—but there are a few elements that most successful courses share in common. One of those elements is a course outline. 

A clear, engaging content outline serves both you and your learners as you start mapping out a new course. Creating an outline can also help ensure your course content aligns with your goals for your students.

Wondering how to get started compiling your outline? In this post, we’ll walk you through all the steps to create a winning course outline.

What is a course outline?

A course outline quite literally outlines the content of your course. It provides the game plan as you begin mapping out the sections, lessons, quizzes, and other content you plan to include in your course.

It can be tempting to skip the outline and dive right into creating content for your course—but resist that urge. A course outline will help ensure you’re compiling a solid course before you get too deep in the process.

A step-by-step course outline guide

Getting started is the hardest part of any new endeavor. Luckily, you don’t have to spin your wheels on your course outline. These simple, actionable steps will take you from course concept to course outline in no time.

1. Identify your learners and their goals.

Start out by centering your focus and identifying your end-users—the students who will be taking your course.

Some questions to consider: 

  • Who are your learners? 
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • What are they struggling with? 
  • How will your course help them achieve their goals? 

Asking yourself these simple questions will sharpen your focus and keep you on track as you create an outline tailored to your audience.

2. Create a roadmap to the desired outcome.

Now that you’ve identified your learners and their motivations, it’s time to create a framework for how they’ll reach their goals. Maybe their goal is to know a few conversational phrases in Italian by the end of the course; maybe the goal is to earn a professional certification.

Think of the roadmap as a bare-bones first draft of your outline. It simply plots out the route from the beginning to the end of your course.

Related post: How to Structure an Online Course

Your starting point should be a simple introduction. No matter your course topic, every course should begin with an introduction of key concepts. Remember: Your learners may not all start from the same place. Some students may need a quick overview before diving into course content.

Use scaffolding strategies as you identify the subsequent sections in your course roadmap. As you go, be mindful of the course progression. Your sections should serve as building blocks that start simple and move toward more complex ideas. Don’t introduce a complicated topic or idea too early in the course; work your way up to the big takeaways.

3. Reinforce learning.

After each step in your content roadmap, you’ll want to feature an element that helps make learning stick for your students.

What does this look like? It could mean designating a review at the end of each section with links out to additional reading materials, videos, or resources. Or it could mean quizzing students after each section to test their understanding. You could also close each section with an essay question where students can put concepts into practice.

4. Start putting the pieces together.

Once you’ve sketched out a roadmap for your course, it’s time to flesh out your course outline with detailed sections and lesson titles.

For each section of your course, consider the following:

  • What is the medium? Will the section be presented as text, a video, or a combination of mediums?
  • What are your talking points for each lesson? What information do you need to convey?
  • How does this section build upon the previous sections? How does it segue into the following section?
  • How does this section tie back to the learners’ goals?

By now, you’ll have a thorough content outline for your course. All that’s left is the final step: Building your course.

Take your course from outline to published with LearnDash

With a completed outline in-hand, you’re ready to start creating your course in LearnDash. If you’re not already using LearnDash, try out a free demo to take us for a test drive. Whether you need a simple way to create a course website from scratch, or you’re looking to create a course on your existing WordPress site, LearnDash has a solution for every course and every course creator.

Lauren Sternecky photo

Posted in

Your course could already be online!

We offer a 15 day money-back guarantee and have a world class community to help you get your course online today!

See LearnDash in action. Online Demo

Join Our Next Webinar!

LearnDash webinars are designed to teach you how to build, grow, and scale your course-building business. Join our team in one of our next live webinars.