Starting to teach your expertise and passion online is an incredibly exciting thing. There are many online learners out there that are actively seeking out courses that will help them learn something new, or advance their level in a particular topic. 

In fact, the global eLearning market is expected to be worth approximately $325 billion in 2025. That’s a massive market size, and it’s a great sign for online teachers. A bigger market means more people are actively interested in learning online. But it also means that online instructors have more competition. So, how do you stand out from the crowd? 

In this post, we’ll share how to outline your online course using best practices, structure content within your course, and market the program efficiently. 

In this article: 

  • Outlining Courses: An Overview
  • Choosing a Course Format 
    • Step by Step Courses
    • Week by Week Courses
    • Reference Courses
  • Tips for Structuring & Outlining Your Course and its Content
    • Start with the End
    • Use the ‘What? How? Why?’ Education Tactics
    • Organize Your Lessons 
    • Use Tools to Help You Outline Your Course

Outlining Courses: An Overview

Many instructors and freelancers may feel that their courses don’t need as much planning because they know their subject matter really well. But the truth is that every course requires a well-thought-out structure. A solid course outline helps learners understand the flow of the training program with no room for ambiguity. 

The bottom line? A course outline shows students their learning experience roadmap. 

Course outlines help your students feel like their progressing through a well-layered learning program that starts with the fundamentals and levels up to an intermediate, and later, an expert level. It also gives learners the ability to see a clear start and end, which prompts a feeling of motivation.  

course outline

Choosing a Course Format 

Before beginning your course outline, take some time to choose your preferred course format. There are three main course formats, and each has its own features and benefits: 

1. Step by Step Courses

This is the most common type of course format, and it works well for instructors who want to show a clear pathway from start to finish. 

How it works: 

Each step is designed to build based on the previous one. This type of learning is progressive and logical so that a learner knows exactly where they are at and where they’re going at any given time. 

Top tip: For a short course, try to focus on having between three and five main steps. Each step can be seen as a module, and you can add lessons to each module.  

Step by Step Courses

2. Week by Week Courses

This has the same basic concept as a step-by-step course, but the difference here is that week-by-week courses are paced according to a particular time scale. 

How it works: 

New training content is available each week. For example, an eight-week yoga class will have eight sessions, with one lesson released to students once a week. 

Top tip: This is an excellent method for teaching a process that takes a specific time to learn, such as musical instrument lessons. Each week, students can learn and then spend the rest of the week practicing what they’ve learned in the last lesson.   

Week by Week Courses

3. Reference Courses

This refers to any other course that doesn’t fit into either of the two course formats above. 

How it works: 

A reference course is basically a course containing a collection of well-organized learning materials.

Top tip: This is a good option if you’re looking to offer a series of tutorials or tips available to learners once they purchase the course.

Reference Courses

Tips for Structuring & Outlining Your Course and its Content

Start with the End

Begin with your teaching solution, and work backward from the goal. Ask yourself these questions when trying to complete this step: 

  • What does my training solve?
  • What do I want my students to take away from this course?
  • What change will the training provide to my learners? 

The answers to these questions will help you get a clear understanding of your learning goals. Use these goals as a reference while outlining your course – and stick to them! This way, your roadmap always has a solid structure and clear path. 

Use the ‘What? How? Why?’ Education Tactics

This widespread teaching tactic helps learners understand exactly what they can expect to gain from the course. The ‘What, How, Why’ education style is based on three basic questions: 

  • What is it?
  • How will you introduce it to your learners?
  • Why should we use or learn it? 

This WHW (What, How, Why) method prompts you to think through a particular area of the course content and test if the content is valid in this space or if it should be moved, edited, or deleted. 

This method is designed to help you outline your course so that it tells a story and answers the fundamental WHW questions for your students. 

What? How? Why?

Organize Your Lessons

Try to structure your content in a way that it can be delivered in as few steps as possible to learners. This may be tough at first, but by chunking out your content into digestible sizes and a few steps, learners are more likely to retain the information better. 

You can achieve this by organizing your lessons into a logical order and ensuring that one course topic flows into the next. Aim for between three and eight lessons per module unless your subjects need to be expanded further. 

Remember, smaller chunks of content released more frequently are more effective than one long lesson. 

Organize Your LessonsEach lesson should have the following information: 

  • Introduction – an explanation of what the goal is for this lesson. 
  • Content – a story and explanation of the learning material. 
  • Summary – a wrap-up of what you’ve learned. 

Use Tools to Help You Outline Your Course

Premium online course builder platforms can help you build and structure your courses with these best practices in mind. You can upload, reorder, rank, and limit content as you wish. Before choosing your online teaching software, ensure that the platform doesn’t restrict your content hosting abilities. Your platform should allow you to: 

  • Upload and manage content. 
  • Host videos, text, and documents within the platform. 
  • Sell additional products like digital downloads and physical products. 
  • Market your course via text and email campaigns. 

Mastera: Equipping You with a Premium Online Course Builder

There are many facets to outlining your course effectively. As you can see, it can be a time-consuming task. But it’s definitely one that is worth the time and effort. After all, a well-structured training program will attract customers and impress them while they’re learning – so they hopefully come back for more courses with you. 

Here at Mastera, we believe in equipping instructors with all the tools to create exceptional learning experiences for their students. If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help you, chat with us.

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