3 Mistakes To Avoid With Advice To Craft Better Online Courses

Bla… bla… bla… Have you ever attended a course where the expert just talks and talks and talks…? Do you remember how that made you feel? What was your takeaway? 

Suppose you relate to this type of experience. Then you probably agree to the fact that making an online course with real impact requires much more than just sharing your knowledge.

This article will share how to avoid common mistakes that often contribute to the dreadful bla… bla… bla… experience. I will also share what you can do instead to craft better online courses every time.

First, let me give a couple of examples to illustrate some of the most common mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Reading For Too Long From Boring Text Heavy Slides

Have you ever experienced a course where the instructor just read all the information typed on his slides aloud? I know I have. One experience that stands out in my mind was a course on corporate strategy. The subject itself was fascinating. We had read stimulating material throughout the semester. An entire Saturday on strategy ahead. I was excited. The instructor had sent the slides to everyone beforehand. There were at least 200 slides in the slide pack. All text, no visuals. Then Saturday arrived. The instructor talked and talked and talked. We just sat there listening. For hours…: “bla… bla… bla…”. 

Sure, there was valuable information given during the presentation. The instructor highlighted some of the key points from the readings. But the problem was that it was uninspiring, and it clearly went on for far too long. I found it so boring and unengaging that I had to keep snacking to stay awake.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

If you have, you are not alone. Research shows that the average adult has a maximum attention span of about 20 minutes, which means that after 20 minutes, most people need a break to refocus. This is important to keep in mind when you create the content for your online course. Break your content into smaller pieces to allow the learner to stay focused.

Mistake #2 – Not Tailoring The Content to The Learner

During my many years of experience as a teacher trainer, I have seen many examples of this second mistake of not tailoring the level of complexity to the learner’s understanding. I have seen many inexperienced instructors lecture from their own level of understanding: “bla… bla… bla….” They miss engaging the audience to check if the learner understands. 

Just take a moment to think about something you are really good at today. Rewind the tape in your mind. Think back to when you were a newbie. Think about what you were able to understand and the type of guidance you needed when you were new in the subject matter. And then think about the kind of guidance you could use when your understanding was intermediate. Finally, think about the type of guidance you are looking for today as your understanding has reached an expert level. 

Interesting right?

I found it very eye-opening once I realized that the different stages in the learning process reveal different levels of understanding. And the different levels of proficiency require different types of guidance. The point is to guide and check if the students are following along in the learning process. 

When creating your online course, it is essential to consider the level of understanding of your typical learner. These questions will help you reflect on the level of knowledge within your target audience: 

  1. Are they beginners, intermediate, or experts? 
  2. How can you tailor your content to the learner? 
  3. Can you think of different tracks to best serve the various segments within your target audience?

Mistake #3 – Not Having A Clear Focus On The Intended Learning Outcome

When planning your online course, a common mistake is to focus on the expert knowledge you want to convey singularly.

Thinking the audience needs to know this, this, and this.

I have spoken with several clients who have fascinating in-depth knowledge they are passionate about sharing. But when I ask them: “What is it that the student will be able to do in a new way after taking your course.” They need some time to think. 

Let me give an example of how this mistake shows up.

I recently had a client thinking about making an online course about his unique approach to coaching. During our discovery call, he showed me the process that he wanted to share in his course. He was very excited about it. He had developed this process over many years of practical experience in executive coaching. He said: “I’m not going to talk about positive psychology. You find a lot of coaches who just share a theory. I’m different. I want my course to share my approach to coaching because I know from experience that it works in real life.” 

Then he asked me about my process to help him create his online course. “Your idea is great. Sharing a practical approach based on experience can be a powerful and life-changing experience to the learner,” I told him. “Here is how you can make sure that your course will make a real difference to your audience.” 

“It is all in the mindset of your online course.” I continued. 

“Your focus needs to be on what the learner will get out of taking your course. That is the intended learning outcome.” 

To clarify the intended learning outcome, you can ask yourself these questions. They will also help you see the content from the learner’s perspective. 

  1. What will the learner be able to do or know after taking your course that he or she could not do before?
  2. What steps are needed to bring the learner to this new impactful state of insight? What will they need to know first to give them a foundation? Then what comes next? 
  3. What questions and exercises can you include in your online course to help the learners check their understanding? What will help them practice and integrate the new insights?

I suggest you ask yourself these questions when you plan your online course. The questions will help you keep your focus on the learning experience and increase the impact of your course.

Put Yourself In Your Learners’ Shoes

When you make your course student-centered, you put the learner in the center of attention. Not your expert knowledge. 

To recap the common mistakes as mentioned above and what you can do instead to keep your course student-centered:

  1. Define the intended learning outcome
  2. Let the outline and your lessons guide your students towards a well-defined learning outcome.
  3. Adjust your content to the level of understanding of your target audience. See your content through the eyes of the learner.
  4. Include exercises to allow the students to check their understanding and practice what they still need to learn and integrate. 
  5. Keep your videos under 20 minutes to adjust for the average attention span of an adult.
  6. Don’t just read the slides. Tell stories about the practical applications.
  7. Include visuals, if possible, to enhance the learning experience.

Remember, a well-crafted online course takes the learner by their hand.

As a bonus, you can offer an upsell with a coaching track to guide the students individually. Individual coaching gives the learner the full opportunity to check their level of understanding and receive tailored feedback.

If you have found the information in this article helpful and want to create your online course. Here is what you can do next:

  • If you want to learn more about what I do. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow my blog.
  • Schedule a free 30-minute call to learn about how I can help you create your online course. 

About Sophie Higgins, MA, MBA, MBC: I help experts create life-changing online courses with real impact. Online courses should be a well-crafted, empowering experience. So, your unique wisdom can make a real difference in the learners’ life. 


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