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How to Guarantee an Inspiring and Effective Online Course | Great Online Teaching

Most online course creators make their first mistake by starting with a focus on how to deliver information to their students – make a video, record some audio, give a slide presentation with lots of information.

I can not stress this enough:  Students do not want information from your course.  If that is what you try to sell, your enrollments will suffer, your completion rates will tank, and your referrals will plummet.

This idea is at the heart of the marketing mantra “sell benefits, not features.”  In order to get lots of sales, tell people what they will be able to do as a result of the course, rather than what the course contains.

It works for the sale, but does your curriculum deliver on the promise? 

If your course is chock-full of information only with little or no instruction on how to use and integrate the information, your students will not reap the full potential benefits of what you are offering.  They will not be transformed.

An educational experience does not provide information.  An effective course provides students a pathway to incorporate the important information into their actions.  Might sound like a silly distinction, but this really is what separates a high quality course from the junk that is out there.

For example, a course about building an email list that contains many detailed videos about several different strategies but does not include useful, bite-sized instruction on how to implement each of those strategies, is missing the whole point of education.  In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.


Teaching Tip:  Integration, not Information


Shifting your focus away from giving students information and toward helping them assimilate the right information so that they can act differently is the first step toward making a course that inspires and transforms.  Here are a few ideas of how to begin down that path.

  1. Only provide the information that is absolutely necessary to reach the learning objective for the lesson.  No more, no less.  This means that you as the teacher have to do the work of cutting through all the information about a topic and honing it into the pieces that students need to know.  Use your learning objectives as guidelines to make those decisions about what stays in and what you leave out. Stop thinking that your job is to tell students everything you know about a topic.


  1. Present the information in bite-sized chunks. Chunking is the key to effective instruction.  You have to find a way to create boundaries around the information so it is easily digested by students.


  1. After each chunk of information, ask your students to do something that uses the information. If can be as simple as the students writing down in a sentence what they took out of the presentation you provided.  Or maybe it means implementing an action step.  Or critiquing an example, using the principles you laid out.  Anything that gets the students brain moving the information from working memory into long term memory.