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
Lisa Listama is the owner and e-learning developer of Sparkle E-Learning.