How to Create Courses That Keep Your Audience Engaged
What if I told you that you had the ability to lead an amazing training program? That you could create courses that won you loyal fans? That you already had the keys to being seen as mentor, guide, and coach to your audience?
The secret to creating educational content that helps you build your tribe, share your passion, and own your expertise is to put the needs of your audience at the center of your course creation process.
What does this mean you ask? What I am going to say might sound kind of radical, but it can make such a powerful shift in your training development process. When we start designing content, we often begin by making an outline and developing a list of topics. But the truth is, this is not really the best way to design materials that are going to resonate with your audience.
In order to really connect with your learners, you have to shift your focus away from being all about the information, and towards being fanatically committed to the learner experience.
Of course, I am not saying that the information you include in your course doesn’t matter. Your expertise and knowledge are essential parts of why your learners come to you for training, coaching, and guidance. The point is that it does not matter how great your content is if you don’t adequately consider the experiences of the people who are taking your course (same goes for webinars or other educational programming).
So how can you get started learner centered course development? I’ve outlined a few basic steps to get you started with approaching course creation like an instructional designer:
1. Start by Getting to Know Your Learner
Think carefully about who is taking your course. When are they logging in? What are their goals and aspirations? What do they value? The more you know about your learner, the more you'll be able to tailor your course to their needs. One helpful strategy is to imagine your typical learner in the moments before they sign up for your program. How did they land on your page? What's going on in their lives or businesses that inspired them to make this purchase?
2- Identify Clear, Tangible Pain Points:
Once you've thought through who it is that's buying your course, you're ready to drill down into what the specific drivers are for them seeking education in your subject area. Ask yourself questions like:
What does your learner need to know about your subject?
What's getting in their way of success with your topic?
Knowing the specific pain points for your audience is a tool for creating a course that has a real, meaningful impact on their lives.
3- Write Learning Objectives that Clearly Align with those Pain Points:
A learning objective is basically a statement of what your learners will be able to do upon completion of your course. Once you have these, you're ready to start designing a course that will align with the needs of your audience.
Learning objectives are most effective when they are concrete and specific.
After developing learning objectives, make sure to maintain focus on them throughout your course. Consider making a mind map for each objective that outlines the processes, skills, and terms that your learner needs to understand in order to master that topic. This will help you know what you need to include in each lesson.
4- Organize Your Course with Purpose:
When organizing your course materials, start by thinking about the overall objective of your course. Are you trying to teach your students a process? Or a set of skills that logically build on one another? When ordering materials, it’s important to think through how your learners will use the knowledge they gain in real life, as this will help you build your course in a way that makes retaining what they learn easier.
5- Design Skills-Focused Activities:
Incorporating interesting and varied activities throughout your course is a great strategy for helping learners stay focused on your materials. Incorporating real world skills into those exercises can take learner engagement to a whole new level. This goes back to the concept of relevancy- learners want to know how they will use the content in their work or daily lives. By having them utilize the skills they’ve learned in their training, you’re not only showing them that your content is super relevant to them, you’re also helping them gain confidence with your content (plus they are much more likely to remember something they’ve actually implemented!).
6- Make Meaningful Engagement Central to Your Course:
The more engaged learners are in your course the more they are going to retain. But maintaining engagement is not always easy. This is especially true with online learning in the age of 20 chrome tabs and Twitter and Instagram and who knows what other distractions.
Engagement is a big topic, but no matter what format your training is in, you want to make engagement central to the learning activities in your course.
Here are some examples:
If you are leading a small live session, try a video conference service like Zoom that allows you to see everyone’s faces.
Ask meaningful questions throughout a live training to encourage discussion
Change the pace every 7 minutes or so in recorded content. This can help snap your viewers back to attention.
Create opportunities for community, such as through private facebook groups and group activities
Be available to answer learner questions and make sure your learners feel like they have support throughout the process
Show genuine excitement about your content- this one works no matter what format your course is in.
7- Gather Feedback and Adapt and Respond to your Audience:
Especially when you are first launching a product, or when a product has not been updated in 12-18 months (possibly earlier depending on your topic), it’s important to pay close attention to learner feedback and be willing to adapt your product accordingly. Listening to your learners is perhaps the best way to make your product even better.
How have you tried to focus on your learners during course development? Have you tried any of these strategies? Let us know in the comments section!
I’m an instructional designer providing eCourse solutions for creative entrepreneurs. My focus is on helping you learn how to talk to your audience and validate your programs to take the uncertainty out of launching.
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