My clients often come to me with an outline for a course that I know will put their students to sleep and leave them unlearned. That’s when I reveal this industry secret and watch their eyes go wide…
Have you seen those online Masterclass courses? For less than $25 a month, you can learn acting from Natalie Portman and cooking from Wolfgang Puck. Awesome deal, right? Nunh-unh.
They aren’t online courses – they’re videos that you watch passively. They’re not actually teaching you anything.
The same can be said for TED Talks and cheap online courses that are sold on platforms such as Udemy. Most of them are nothing more than collections of videos, checklists and step-by-step guides.
“What’s wrong with that, Lisa?” I hear you ask. “I learn a lot from videos!”
Do you, though? Or do you get bored and start to think about what’s for dinner or whether you unplugged the iron after a few minutes?
Think about the last TED Talk or YouTube cooking video you watched and tell me honestly whether you watched it till the end. And if you did watch the whole thing, do you remember any solid, practical information from it? If you did, did you put that information into action in your actual life? I’m guessing not.
The secret ingredient needed for true learning to occur
If you want your students to retain the information you’re trying to teach them, you have to involve them in the learning process rather than just talking at them.
This is known as active learning and it’s errythang, according to Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation.
When a client asks me to create an online course for them, it’s my job to ensure that their students will be actively engaged in the learning process rather than being passive spectators.
For example, a client recently asked me to build a course that consisted of a weekly 45-minute video 😲 SOUND THE ALARM BELLS! There was no way the poor bastards who were taking this course would remember ANY information from the beginning of the video by the time they reached the end of it.
So, I asked her if she could break down her videos into more manageable chunks and she agreed that she could split each one into 10-minute segments. Hooray!
I then took each one of her videos and followed it up with a few slides of written information and an engaging activity designed to solidify her students’ learning. One activity involved reading a case study and answering a question about it. Another required students to create a template using the skills they’d just learnt.
By using various modes of learning in each online course I design, I activate multiple neural pathways in students’ brains at the same time. And neuroscience tells us that this drastically improves student outcomes such as memory retention and recall. YASSSS.
But wait, there’s more….
The last step was to set up students’ expectations at the beginning of each module. At the start of module one, I explained that there would be three lessons in the module and that each one would consist of a 10-minute video followed by some slides of written information and an activity to complete. I told students that each lesson would take them about 20 minutes.
This might seem unnecessary, but explaining to adult students what they’re learning, why they’re learning it and how they’re learning it is a super-important part of the process. It helps them get their heads around what’s to come and plan their learning.
When I showed my client the result, she was gobsmacked. “Oh, wow! This is so much better than watching 45-minute videos!” she said. “My course is so much more interesting and engaging than I could have ever imagined.”
And that, my friends, is why I do what I do. I’m so passionate about helping people take their online courses to the next level. I want each student who follows a course I designed to walk away with valuable knowledge that’s been imprinted in their brain.
Want to chat about how I can help you build an incredible online course? Book a call with me 😊
Lisa Sparkle ✨
Sidebar: if you want to watch a really solid review on Masterclass (not by me) - check it out here
Want to know how I go about building an online course for a client? Of course you do! Let me walk you through the creative and technical aspects of the process…
My legions of fans (*cough* mostly my friends and family) often ask me, “Lisa, how DO you build an online course?!” To which I respond, “Chris Hemsworth (*cough* Aunty Thelma), it’ll be my pleasure to explain the various stages and steps to you.” I figured it was time to put all that juicy info in a blog post, so here we are.
There are three stages in the e-learning course development process: design, build and deliver. Here’s a breakdown of what each stage involves…
Stage 1: Design
During the design stage, I pick my clients’ brains, demand materials from them (I’m not afraid to crack the whip!), create a first draft of their course and ask for two rounds of feedback.
Step 1: Deep-dive session
The initial strategy session usually takes between one and two hours. We discuss my client’s target audience (who their students will be), their students’ goals, the structure of the course, the hierarchy of the modules, the materials they already have and the ones they (or I) need to create. Then, I set tight deadlines for them to deliver those materials. Time is money, baby!
Step 2: Storyboard design
This step is the core of the creative process. The storyboard I design is essentially a rough first draft of the course, so I put a lot of time and effort into nailing the colour scheme, look and feel, structure, written content, activities, quizzes, resources (PDFs and workbooks), and video content.
Step 3: Feedback cycle 1
I send the storyboard to my client and ask them to provide feedback within three to five days. I expect them to ask for any major structural changes at this stage and to let me know what they think of the voice, language, flow, structure and activities included in the course. I make all their changes within a day or two and add in more activities and quizzes if needed.
Step 4: Feedback cycle 2
This is the final approval stage and there are usually only minor changes to be made. After this stage is completed, I charge an hourly rate for further content changes.
Stage 2: Build
During stage two, I bust my butt developing the course. My co-workers know I’m in stage two when I have my headphones permanently stuck in my ears and I refuse to make eye contact.
Step 1: Put all the content on the platform
I start by designing a landing page within the online course platform (if necessary) and putting all the course content into modules and lessons. I input all the quizzes and assessments, organise voice-overs if they’re needed, and upload all the videos and resources.
Step 2: Feedback cycle 1
As in stage 1, I expect any important changes to be flagged now. Adjustments generally relate to how the course is structured rather than the wording or content at this point.
Step 3: Feedback cycle 2
I ask my clients to make any final changes now or expect a hefty hourly rate later! This helps the client keep on track and their course development moving forward rather than spending weeks procrastinating and the project stalling. I love decisive clients!
Stage 3: Test the course
The schmancy term for this stage is “user acceptance testing”. Two testers take the course and give me feedback on the design and text. I also get them to test all the videos and resources on various devices (mobile, tablet and laptop). Once I’ve made any necessary adjustments, I send the course to my client and ask them to test it. They might want to make some small changes, but my clients mostly have questions for me at this stage on how to use the platform and change their course in the future (if they need to). I can also show them how to make any final tweaks by themselves if they want to get a feel for the platform.
Stage 4: Deliver
Woohoo – the course is good to go! It’s time to hand the reins over to my client.
Step 1: Handover creation
I send a handover email to my client with all the login information, guides, documents and files they need. If training is included in their package, I also send them personalised videos demonstrating how to use the platform and the course.
Step 2: Ongoing support
I offer ongoing support to my clients for an hourly fee if they need it.
Voila! Now you know what a month (or so) in my life looks like. Each course is a labour of love and I always send my handover email off with a mix of elation and sadness.
Do you have any questions about building an online course? Book a chat with me 😊
Lisa Sparkle ✨
Confused by the overwhelming selection of learning management systems that are available to help you build your online course? Here are the pros and cons of my three favourites…
Have you been toying with the idea of creating an online course? You’re not alone. According to a recent report by IBISWorld, online education grew by an average of 8.5 percent per year between 2015 and 2020 – and that number doesn’t take into account the recent boom in the industry.
Rather than being negatively impacted by COVID-19, e-learning has received a boost from the pandemic. Australians are either taking online courses to upskill and stay relevant during these shifting times or creating them as new business opportunities. So, what are you waiting for? Get that awesome online course out of your brain and onto the internet!
While I’d strongly recommend that you get me to build your online course because I’m a profeshonal, I understand that you might prefer to do it yourself. I can also teach you how to use your preferred online course platform (known in the industry as a “learning management system”) to help you get the most out of it and maximise your returns. Cha-ching!
Not sure which platform to choose? Here’s my review of the three learning management systems I use most…
Teachable is one of most popular platforms because it’s super user-friendly and creates beautiful courses.
I can train you to use Teachable to build your own online course or build it from scratch for you.
LearnDash is an affordable Wordpress plugin that’s a great option for those who already have a Wordpress website.
I can train you on how to use LearnDash or build your course for you.
I LOVE this New Zealand-based company and I want to use their platform more often to create courses for clients.
If you want more information about how I can help you with this amazing platform, drop me a line.
If you want to sell small courses through a sales funnel, this platform by the Catalysis Group could be a great option for you. It allows you to:
Lisa Sparkle ✨
It's safe to say that online education has been unavoidable for most of us during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Children are being homeschooled and face-2-face workshops are now delivered via Zoom. I have to say that I'm excited about this....why? Because when people ask me "what do you do?" I always say "I build online courses for companies and entrepreneurs" but the new response I receive is "Wow you must be busy now!" instead of "hmmm how does that work?".
Firstly, yes. I'm super mega busy right now. I have never been busier and I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled for several reasons. Finally, people understand what I do as a job and a passion. Saying "I create online courses for companies and entrepreneurs" is just the tip of the iceberg. I am helping many companies and people to convert their courses or workshops to online content right now. I'm teaching people to create their courses and how to use platforms like LearnDash and Teachable. I'm urgently editing videos and providing voice overs for not-for-profit organisations so they can keep up their good work within the community. This is just a tiny bit of what's been happening. It's been so wonderful to work with these people for many reasons but mainly because they are super smart...
These super-smart people understand the value of online learning. They are quickly moving their content onto online platforms so they can continue working with their current clients and potentially reach an unlimited amount of national and international customers...as a side bonus!
Speaking of international customers, the majority of my clients did not consider their potential global reach BEFORE COVID-19. It came as a complete shock and absolute delight to these people that they will not only be able to educate their local community but expand their offering far and wide once their workshop or course is online.
Do you want to know The best part? The cost of creating their online course has no bearing on the geographical spread of their content. It works like this:
You see, if a locally delivered face to face course 'goes global' in an offline format, think of the cost that would incur. The course facilitator (or their customer) would need to pay for flights, food, accommodation, resources, etc. That is probably a 15-30k investment, right? An online course has NONE of these costs. If the facilitator wanted to provide a live learning environment for their students they could hold a Zoom class for a few hours - a significant reduction in time compared to the face-2-face overseas travel alternative. This is why online education is our present and future for both convenience and cost.
"The e-learning market in Europe is poised to grow by $24.23 bn during 2020-2024" says the TechNavio report released in May 2020. To people in the e-learning industry, this is not a shock. This is/was inevitable. E-learning or online learning or online education is the fastest and cheapest way to educate. Sure it will never replace (nor should it) classroom learning but it is both a fantastic complement, addition, and alternative. It's one of the best ways to educate adults as it can be delivered in a self-paced environment which is perfect for busy people.
So if you or someone you know has been thinking about converting their offline course into an online one then send them this blog and tell them to book a 15-minute free chat with me.
Director - Sparkle E-Learning
Did you know ~ design of language is critical to creating an online course. Knowing WHO your course is intended for is so important when finding the appropriate tone, language and length of text to use.
By profiling your target audience you are getting into their minds (as much as possible) to learn how they think, react and learn. There is no point providing paragraph after paragraph of text to a tired 30-40 year old parent who has worked all day, dealt with sick kids and then starts YOUR course at 11pm at night. A 2-5 min video plus a summary with numbered actionable steps is going to resonate with them so much more. It will also increase the chances of them actioning those steps. Which is what a course is all about right?!
When designing a course, the most important first step is to know who your audience, paying customers, or students are. Ask yourself these questions....
When you are creating your next course, profile your target audience. It will provide clarity around the language you should use and the words/length of words to avoid.
If you need help in this area, book some time with me. I'm always happy to help :)
Design is something that is very unique to each individual or organisation. Every time I create an online course it is TOTALLY DIFFERENT to every course I've ever created.
Why? Well there are a number of reasons.
So when I came across this blog by Freepik I thought to myself, ooooo let's see what's going to be different for 2020. What can I lean to help my customers?
The two trends that stood out to me were "Movement/Animation and Micro Interaction', and 'Accessibility'. Let me break it down.
Movement/Animation and Micro Interaction
Short cartoons and explainer videos are, as Paris Hilton would say "so hot right now". With software like Toonly creating animations has never been easier and more fun! Check out our little video using Toonly below
These 30 sec videos teach you something quickly and keep you entertained.
They are also perfect for the millennial crowd who are bombarded with information every second of the day and are filtering information at the speed of light.
Honestly, I was shocked to read this as designing for people who are impaired has been ingrained in the e-learning community for many years. It's something we all do!
But what is it you say? design for accessibility is design for impaired people who need assistance using digital devices. This includes, designing graphics and colours that will not hinder a vision impaired persons learning or ensuring content can be read by a screen reader. The list is large but these are a few examples.
I'm so glad that accessibility is now becoming mainstream.
What are your intentions for design in 2020?
Blog 3 of 3 about why staff call in sick
Do your staff know WHY they come to work?
Is it to pay for their next trip to Bali or pay off their excessive mortgage?
As a business owner (and correct me if I’m wrong!) but your sole reason to come to work every day is to do one, some or all the following:
Your staff do not come to your workplace for these same reasons. Sorry, but it’s true.
You need to GIVE them a reason WHY they should come to work. Because paying them is apparently not enough.
Do your staff truly understand the PURPOSE of your organisation?
Do your staff hold a broad VIEW of your organisation’s strategy?
Do your staff CARE about the organisation and provide INNOVATIVE ideas?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you may not have provided the RIGHT kind of professional development to your staff which has caused them to become disengaged and dreaming about their next Bintang
Stay tuned because I'll release 5 ways you can TOTALLY CONTROL these issues.
2 of 3 Blogs on Why Staff Call In Sick
Yep, they are fully sick. And I don’t mean in the cool way.
Your staff are genuinely sick. Colds, flus, stomach bugs etc. You have heard it all!
But do you know what can cause these?
Low immune system and an un-healthy lifestyle.
Do you encourage your staff to look after themselves? YOU DON’T?? Why? Because that’s not your problem, right? WRONG. Mind blown right?
Encouraging your staff to get/stay healthy KEEPS YOU IN BUSINESS!
Healthy people turn up to work every day. They have energy and a clear mind to give their all for YOUR BUSINESS. They make you money, not waste it.
So, do you have a constant flow of sick people in your business?
Does ‘flu season’ roll around 4 times per year?
It is up to YOU to do something about it.
I'm going to share a few tips over the next week about how to keep your staff healthy. But the first thing you need to do is ensure you and your staff are working in a CLEAN ENVIRONMENT.
Here is a great page on healthy offices by Star Express Cleaning.
More information to come so stay tuned!
1 of 3 blogs about why staff call in sick
Are you like the other 159,000,000* people who have searched “Why do staff call in sick?” on Google? *Actual number!
According to Safe Work Australia, WORK-RELATED MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS are a “major concern” in Australian workplaces.
Do you want your staff to join the 7,200 other Australian’s each year claiming workers compensation due to mental health conditions caused in WORKPLACES JUST LIKE YOURS?
I’ll guess your answer is a fat NO.
Major, but COMMON, incidents in workplaces that result in sick days include:
Your staff may smile at you as you walk by their cubical each morning, but they might be EXTREMELY UNHAPPY with their working conditions...on the inside. THEY ARE JUST AFRAID TO TELL YOU.
Think about the staff you currently have in your office. Are any of them taking more sick days than normal? Ask yourself, do they fall into any of the dot point categories above?
Reason 2 of 3 will be posted tomorrow! After that I'll share the 5 ways you can COMBAT these sick days.
Don't you hate it when you have an awesome e-learning built for your company and then a link needs to be changed? Or a policy changes? Or your branding changes? It can be so frustrating!
Sometimes, we are all so busy that we forget to update previous e-learning courses and then WHAM! you get bombarded with emails from learners saying...."the link doesn't work" or worse...."your information is out of date".
Out of date information, old branding and broken links may not be at the top of your priority list but they do make your organisation appear unorganized and unprofessional. *GASP*
Of course you are neither of these things. You are just busy! But we can help you :)
Updating old e-learning courses is one of our specialties.
If you have e-learning files in any of the following authoring tools then we can amend them: Articulate Storyline 360, Lectora and Captivate.
Depending on the nature and size of the changes, the time it will take us to amend the courses for you could start from 1 hour!
For more information on the types of maintenance you should be considering for your e-learning courses, check out this nifty blog post by E-Learning Heros - E-Learning Maintenance Checklist.
As always, we are here to help!
Lisa Listama is the owner and e-learning developer of Sparkle E-Learning.