August 28th, 2017 Instructional Design

Creating an online course is easy. Creating a good online course is a different story.

Everyone wants people to like the courses they make, but not every course is created equal. You can have two courses on the exact same subject yet one is preferred over the other. Why?

When it is all said and done the best courses deliver on their objectives and do so in a way that helps people remember. I have written plenty about making engaging content. It’s something that every course creator needs to be thinking about.

If you are struggling in building out a flow for your course then you aren’t alone. Despite having models like ADDIE or SAMR to guide the course creation process it isn’t uncommon to still question the best way to present the content.

A Simple Guide

Having a framework for reference as you build your course is a great way to build momentum. Below is a formula that you can use to get started. This is a format that I have personally used when consulting Fortune 500 companies on their training program.


Tell the learner who the course is for and what it is they will be learning. It’s possible that someone taking the course may realize that it’s not for them – let them know upfront. If the course has keywords or other jorgon that will be used then you can define it here.


Outline the way things work “today” at a high-level. Include high-level process flows where necessary but don’t get too granular into the details. The assumption is that the audience (that you defined in the baseline) already knows how things work today, but it never hurts to have a quick reminder.


Define the future state. Specifically, what changes will occur after they finish the course. This is where you make the case for why “life is better” after taking your course.


Now that you have defined the future state it’s time to get the learner from the current state to that future. This is where you start presenting your material. The number of lessons or modules is up to you.


Use relevant case studies and examples to show the application of the material you presented. Make characters and scenarios something that learners can relate to.


Take a moment to address common questions. You can provide a form in your online course (or a forum) for people to submit questions and then you can answer them via email or webinars.


Once material and case studies have been thoroughly presented and questions have been answered then it’s time for learners to practice what they learned. This is done with mock-simulations and assignments.


Give feedback on the practice scenarios to further drive home the main points of the course. Improve your course based on where learners struggled.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


4 responses

Leave a Comment


I ALWAYS read your emails/posts–they’re always succinct and to the point. But this time I have to write a comment to tell you that this particular post is VERY valuable to me!

Within a five-minute read, you have given me (and all of your other followers) a wonderful way to develop our courses. How to develop a course has been a sticking point with me, but with this post you have given me a whole lot more traction–I’ll be using this method on my very next course! Thank your for taking the time to write this, and please, keep the posts coming–I know you will ;>)

Avatar Hans

Thank you so much Hans! I’m glad that you found this article useful. 🙂

Very nice article Justin

Avatar Vajid Mulla

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