Content Structure Is Destiny

Online learning programs are a great way to stay current with what’s going on in your field. I’ve been helping companies set up platforms for their online trainings since 2013.

What drove me towards building my own company was seeing how much ease of use and functionality platforms like WordPress were providing so I decided to jump into the marketplace and get more people on board.

When I’m working with my clients, a core issue that comes up in learning system design is getting the employees to successfully complete their trainings. From the management’s perspective they need to be able to track and measure how each participant in the course is doing.

Ideally we want to be able to provide accountability on how much they are learning and applying the information.

Having the right structure to your online content is important because we’re often fairly distracted when we’re on our computers. We have other applications open, incoming emails, or perhaps one of your tweets has gone viral. When there’s an easy to navigate structure in place for your course you can get back on track when you need to.  
When it comes to crafting the structure for your own online courses here’s some of my best advice.

Structuring Your Content

Everything starts with the content and it’s a good idea to do some version of storyboarding. You can go simple and use Microsoft Word or Powerpoint if you want, but do some form of planning.

You should have one objective for your entire course as well as objectives for each lesson that build up to that overall course objective. As you storyboard from the top down it will become more clear what each objective should be. From there you can find ways to measure and structure the actual content around them.

Create Micro-content

The more you can chunk down your content blocks the better. If you can create short bits of micro-content that are still impactful, then you will be able to give the learner a nice burst of easy wins that go a long way to keeping them on track.  

Linear Or Multi-Path

Although it’s common to see courses that use a linear progression path that’s not the only strategy available. You can use a format where after getting started with the basics, course members can go through follow up lessons in any order they like.

Just make sure they have a solid foundation before you open up the learning paths. Keep the initial modules simpler, but once they are acclimatized to the content, feel free to ramp it up in complexity and length.

It may make sense for your content to put up a barrier around further content until members complete the earlier phases. This is all case dependent but just know that it’s a viable option.

Create A Community

It’s easy to get lonely when doing an online course. If you can create a community around the content where your learners can connect with one another then they are going to stick around longer. Encourage learners on your course to interact with other members right off the bat within the actual course.  
There is no one model for a successful online course, any of these options can work together in concert to create a successful online learning environment.

Action Steps

  1. Storyboard out your course structure using Word or Powerpoint.
  2. Have one objective for your course and one objective per lesson.
  3. Break down your content into Micro-content that still gives an impactful win.
  4. Decide on whether you will have a linear progression or allow for multiple paths through the content.
  5. Create a community around your content and actively encourage participation within the course.


Result You Will Achieve

An online course that is structured in a way to achieve your objectives for your members.

Mentor: Justin Ferriman

Co-founder and CEO of LearnDash. Justin has made a career as an e-learning consultant where he has implemented global training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.