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Course Development: Lessons learned from renovating a house

2021 was a year of home improvement projects in my house. We installed new kitchen flooring, remodeled the basement, and gave our whole house a fresh coat of paint. The process was long, tedious, and messy, but the results were spectacular!

So, what made it worth the effort? It was the access to a team of knowledgeable contractors and lots of patience. While I am pretty handy around the house, I was nervous about taking on a project of this scale. I did my research and knew what I wanted, but quickly realized that I needed to call on the experts. I am so glad I did; the contractors were able to spot problems and provide solutions I wasn’t aware of, and offer ideas based on my unique needs. When I asked for carpet in my basement, they suggested vinyl (because of the potential leaks). When I asked for brand new kitchen cabinets, they suggested updating the existing ones to retain the vintage look and to save me the trouble of updates later.

Developing your online course is much like redoing your basement or updating your kitchen. It’s your course and you know your content best, but a team of experts will elevate your learning by providing the right guidance to realize your course vision.

Let’s explore five factors that contribute to a successful online course development experience: 

  1. Your team, AKA Your BFFs
  2. Tools of the trade
  3. Project timelines
  4. Communication
  5. Flagging concerns
1. Your Team = Your BFFs

Your project team members are like your BFFs. They root for you, they are there when you are stuck, and they’ll usually have a solution when you have a problem. In this case, your design team shares your vision and is there to help you visualize your course online. A typical course design team includes the following key players:

Project Manager:
The project manager is the glue of the project. They are the timekeeper and the point of contact for all things related to your course development. If they don’t have an answer for something, they’re so resourceful that they’ll find it for you.

Learning Designer:
The learning designer is like the architect for your house, guiding you to transform your ideas into a well-structured course online. They are knowledgeable in learning theories and evidence-based practices that will lead to the best learning outcomes. Lean on them for the best way to present your content online.

Learning Technologist:
They are your tech gurus who are skilled at providing the best solutions to ensure that your course is working the way it should.

Media Specialists:
They are a team of creative experts skilled in designing eye-popping visuals and editing videos to enhance the student learning experience.

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Understand the language! Storyboarding, learning architect, PoC (proof of concept)—jargon can be confusing. Ask the team for a cheat sheet of the terms they are using to avoid confusion.

2. Project Timelines

Reviewing key milestones and course delivery timelines is a critical part of the course development process.

Ask your team to explain the project plan and the time you are expected to devote to the process. The project manager will create a plan that will account for all factors, including the most important one—your availability. The team will frequently update this plan to reflect progress and delays. Keeping an eye on this plan will take the stress out of the process.

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Clearly communicate your availability and no-go dates early on in the process to prevent development delays later.

3. Leverage Tools of the Trade

Technology is changing rapidly and keeping abreast of all the cutting-edge EdTech tools can be challenging.

Tap into your team’s expertise to integrate tools that will function seamlessly with your learning platform. Familiarizing yourself with them will help make future updates to your content easier.

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Interested in incorporating something new into your course? Ask your team for an information session on the latest EdTech tools to enhance your students’ learning journey. Many software providers offer free trials, or your institution might even have a license already.

4. Communication

Emails, messaging platforms, or meetings? What works best for you?

Informing your team of your preferences will allow them to communicate most effectively. Don’t hesitate to change your preference midway; your team is adaptable and willing to go the extra mile to ensure that you are getting the most out of the process.

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Asking your team for a comprehensive list of weekly priorities will ensure that you keep things running smoothly.

5. Flag Concerns

Unhappy with something?

It’s never too late or too early to voice your concerns to the project manager. Feedback is critical to the success of your course development. Your team will value your input and course-correct as needed.

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Ask for a check-in midway through the process and use this opportunity to provide feedback to improve the process or outcomes.

Developing your online course doesn’t have to be daunting or stress-filled. Having a good handle on the processes and working side by side with your design team will reap rewards and help you launch an engaging online course that benefits your learners.

Thara Visvanathan

Thara Visvanathan
DELIVERY MANAGER