Developing Online Courses
Building an online course involves having a plan, and the resources to build, just like you do when building your house. Every house first has to have a plan, for which we employ an architect. For online learning this will usually involve someone with Instructional Design skills.
Onlearn provides services to develop training material for you, working with your subject matter experts, or to train you on the job to get you underway in the right way right from the start.
To find out more about what we can do, and to see some examples of our work, please contact us.
The design process will develop a framework that fulfils at least these basic requirements:
- Clearly articulated objectives and expectations
- An easily navigable web site
- A course structure that facilitates collaborative learning
- Assignments and activities that facilitate participation and communication among students
- Timely feedback for students from the Instructor
- An appropriate use of technologies to enhance learning
- A discussion space for learners to talk openly about the course (expectations, uncertainty, what they like, dislike, their participation, progress etc.)
Instructional Designers design courses that will effectively teach specific skills. Instructional Designers create both instructor-led courses as well as Web-based courses.
The purpose of instruction is to help users overcome a deficiency in their job skills or knowledge. Instructional Design is the systematic process of developing instructional systems. Creating effective training to fill this need calls for the application of Instructional Design skills along with processes that produce authentic, well-organized, and engaging materials.
computer and ID Instructional Designers -- Instructional Design focuses on what the instruction should be like, including look, feel, organization and functionality. Instructional Designers work much like architects, drawing up specifications and blueprints for a course before actual construction begins. Sometimes Instructional Designers also build what they design; in this instance, they are also the Course Developer.
A typical course development process includes the following steps:
1. Training needs assessment
2. Task analysis
3. Instructional design
4. Graphic/page layout design
5. Production of training materials
6. Course evaluation
ADDIE is one of the oldest and most popular models for Instructional Design. ADDIE is used by both business and education because it provides a systematic process for designing training materials. Each letter of the ADDIE acronym represents a separate phase of the training development process.
The Who, What, Where, When, Why and By Whom of the design process
Creating the blueprint or structure for the training
Applying the blueprint and creating the training product
Deliver the training
An end of the project phase, but also a part of each ADDIE model phase
Instructional Designer Role
Online courses, particularly in the corporate arena, require a team effort.
The Subject Matter Expert (SME) is generally an engineer, programmer, developer, owner, business analyst, or trainer. The SME is well versed on the subject matter, and offers an outline of subjects that should be covered, but rarely creates the course.
Managers and supervisors are members of the team; these folks are responsible for alloting resources, assigning personnel, and tracking the project, but do not actually assist with course-building tasks. Because online courses can take months to complete and test, various other stakeholders will belong to the Project Team and have input regarding course content and presentation.
Instructional Designers are a core member of the course development team, and may be expected to perform any or all of the following tasks:
- Manage the training and documentation process
- Maintain an open door policy to answer questions from SMEs as necessary
- Establish and maintain schedules and deliverable deadlines
- Communicate concerns or issues to management
- Participate in 1:1s with SMEs or 2:1s with SMEs and technical writers as needed to verify processes
- Come prepared to meetings to make the most efficient use of the Project Team’s time
- Meet with content experts and the training specialist on a regular basis
- Gather background and supplemental information as needed
- Understand processes and procedures completely
- Ask questions of the content expert and the training specialist as needed
- Hold regular meetings with the training specialist and SMEs to:
- Give status updates
- Address concerns
- Meet project deadlines
- Ensure accurate, correct documentation according to rules, styles, and templates established by the Training group
- Attend design reviews and demos
- Update course information due to changes in the business processes
- Obtain document feedback and make updates as needed
- Meet with the SME or other primary stakeholder on a regular basis
- Revise course text as necessary
- Schedule and perform usability tests with content experts and the training specialist
Usability refers to how well users can learn to use a product or concept, how easily they can achieve their learning goals, and how satisfied they are with the learning process. According to ISO 9241-11: "Usability refers to the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of user."
Usability can sometimes be replaced with "user-friendly." Usability is a combination of factors and considerations, including:
- Ease of learning
- Efficienty of use
- Page and screen design
- Information architecture
- Interaction design
- Error frequency and severity
- Subjective satisfaction
User-centered design applies to websites as well as computer-based or Web-based training. If a website is not useful, or easy to navigate, it will not be visited, and if online training is not constructed with the user in mind, the training will not serve its ultimate purpose: to teach processes, procedures and skills to employees or clients. User-centered design considers how users think the website or training module should work. Taking the time to carefully plan online training before the building process begins will save much time in the end. Rebuilding training modules because users don't like it creates much extra work for everyone involved in the process (business analysts, SMEs, developers, instructional designers, writers, etc.) Considering usability factors ahead of time saves time, money and resources.
Follow these steps before, during and after building a website or online training:
- Test and Refine
Building on online course requires an environment in which to build - this is what we refer to as a Learning Management System, or LMS.
The process of building also requires a set of tools, whcih we will cover in the next section.
The LMS ( Moodle etc ) contains many tools to develop course elements. Click here for more details.
You can employ external tools to create discrete learning modules. The most common format is the SCORM Standard developed by the US Military. There are also various quiz formats such as Hot Potatoes that can be imported into the LMS.
Tools you may wish to evaluate are:
A suite of tools to create SCORM and Flash based learning modules, presentations, and assessments.
A tool to perform screen records with narration and video editing.
A tool to perform screen records with narration and other e-Learning capability.
A free online tool for creating SCORM based learning modules
Deployment of your online learning course will require loading into your LMS such as Moodle.
For details on how to do this you will need to consult the documentation for each LMS type, and also the Site Administrator responsible for managing your online learning site.