The job of an online course creator is not easy. It involves combining learning concepts backed by decades of research with the latest technology. You also have to stick to a rigid process of instructional design. No matter how strict that process may be, there are still ways for course development process optimization, which can make life a tad easier for course creators.
For those new to online course creation, we’ll first quickly go over the basic phases in the online course development process. And from there, we’ll discuss a tip or two for each step, and how it can help move the process forward more smoothly.
The Online Course Development Process
An instructional designer usually follows four steps in the online training course development process. While there may be different versions of this approach, the four phases below should be able to cover the most critical aspects of online course development.
Phase 1: The Initial Meeting
The first phase involves the initial meeting: a step that is somewhat similar to the analysis phase of the training and development cycle. This step involves conducting a comprehensive needs analysis of the audience’s learning needs.
It also includes identifying course resources and requirements, setting learning objectives, and allocating resources.
Tip: Clearly define training goals
Clearly defining training goals and understanding the targeted learners are two of the most important aspects of creating online courses. First, these two elements define what outcomes are expected through learning objectives; thus associating the course with producing business results. Second, they also establish the relevance of the course to its intended audience. Knowing the context of your intended audience also makes the course relevant to your learners, and more effective.
While this tip might seem very obvious, you’ll be surprised at how often it gets overlooked by even the most experienced instructional designers. Having clear-cut objectives and knowing your audience are two of the most critical aspects in online course development process optimization.
Once you have your training objectives set, everything on the training program development process should go along a little more smoothly.
Phase 2: The Planning Phase
The second phase involves reviewing current content and planning the needed resources for the upcoming course.
Tip: Organize your current content
There is a saying: “organize or agonize.” And this also holds true for any type of training program development process. Before starting any new course creation project, it’s always best to do an assessment of your current resources and content. Regularly assessing and organizing content will greatly help in online course development process optimization.
This will give you an overview of what pre-existing content can be reused for your new course. To add, assessing your current content also gives you an idea of what content, multimedia or otherwise, you need to create or outsource.
Doing this will not only save you time and money. Consistent assessment and organization of your content keep your libraries updated. This, in turn, makes it easier for the course creators to find content and access it.
Phase 3: Building Phase
Phase three involves building the course itself. Storyboarding, creating course content, and creating multimedia content all fall under this phase. This step also includes uploading the course and configuring the learning management system or the course itself in preparation for launch.
Tip: Create an outline of your course
You can’t really avoid everyone’s excitement to start working on the course’s slides, multimedia elements, and the content right away. One of the things that get missed, though, is making sure that these elements are all coherent and will actually be used on the course itself.
You might have all this great content – video, images, text, and documents. But mid-development, you still need to figure out where to squeeze them in the course. Now, that isn’t a very efficient and productive way of creating courses.
Creating an outline (even just a simple, text-based one) will greatly help in online course development process optimization. Not only will it break down the course elements on a per-slide basis, but it will also make sure that the entire course creation team is on the same page. This outline will serve as a roadmap (or at least a backbone) for the entire course creation process.
Tip: Simplify course delivery through your LMS
Your learning management system can also play a big part in online course development process optimization. Not only does the LMS contain your courses, but it is also used for course delivery. Most learning systems have some features that can also help you in the management of the course development process.
Giving better access to learners is one of the best ways to simplify your course delivery. For example, having an LMS that provides quick user registration and easy enrollment will help both the course facilitators and the learners.
Automated certificates, rewards, and badges also make course delivery more engaging. Some learning management systems have these options available, so you might want to check out if yours has them, too.
More importantly, creating courses that have a story to tell while having some elements of interactivity will make great content.
Phase 4: Test, Review, and Revise
The fourth step calls for course review and quality assurance – fixing bugs, glitches, and errors/mistakes before final deployment. In order to do this, you need a pilot run of the course. This testing phase is usually done by the course designers, facilitators, and a few learners as the alpha testers.
Tip: Do a pilot run, solicit feedback, and revise
Part of the employee training course development process involves a phase where feedback from the learners is solicited in order to improve the course. This, of course, comes as a standard part of evaluating the training and development process.
This is where the importance of a pilot run comes in. It helps avoid tech mishaps, embarrassing glitches, and mistakes in spelling and grammar before the actual launch. Feedback from the pilot group will also be solicited regarding the look, feel, and content of the course. For running the pilot, make sure you also include a few of your targeted learners (outside of the development team) to test the course out.
You might think that the management of course development process is a tough undertaking. While it may seem that most of the steps are carved in stone, there are other ways that can make online course creation less taxing for the instructional designer and the course creation team. A few tweaks within the approach itself can go a long way when it comes to online course development process optimization.
There are more ways to further optimize the process. Just remember that the key is getting the foundations right, then focus on how to further improve the process based on the course creators’ and the learners’ needs.