Now, we’re going to deeper into the topic of designing your course management system to meet the needs of your students. That is, after all, the single biggest defining element that will either make you or break you as an eCourse seller.
There will be a moment when your online students will be able to tell if they have achieved what you told them they would be able to achieve if they took your online course. Students, especially adult learners, are looking for tangible results. They want to see, at a minimum, progress towards their educational goal. In the case study we’re currently diving deeper into, our member focused their 4th year on making sure their students were hitting their educational targets.
If his students were not hitting their educational targets, he saw it as his fault, not his students’ fault. During this 4th year, he took the time to really zero in on areas where he could be making improvements to help his students achieve their desired result. In this blog posts we dive deeper into methods he used to analyze and act on that data.
STUDENT OUTCOMES WILL BE THE NEW GOLD
As online education gains in popularity, students will rightly demand more from their educators. The democratization of education has been great, not only for teachers who now get access to students without having to go through the traditional school system, but also for students who now gain access to a growing number of highly skilled teachers who are competing with each other. Through the process of competition, teachers who can’t prove their worth, or the worth of their eCourses, will be weeded out. Students will demand to see results.
This new dynamic is putting a new performance pressure on teachers. It’s making them more accountable to their students, which we think is great!
COURSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS AND STUDENT OUTCOMES
There are a couple of things our member did to make sure his students were reaching their goals. The most important thing he did was implement student progress tracking software into his system. You can do this to keep a finger on the pulse of many important features of your online course.
Essentially the tracking software is any type of data collection software that tells the teacher how their students feel they are doing and it provides an opportunity for the students to tell the teacher or program administrators how they could be doing better. When the eCourse administrators look at all of the collected data, they will be better able to tell if there are any glaring holes in their educational platform.
For example, let’s say we’re teaching a course on how to make a paper airplane. Let’s say there are 10 steps involved. We’ve created content to walk students through each step. Each step of the way students are required to upload a picture of their paper airplane so the teacher can review their work, make recommendations for improvement and just generally make sure the student understood the step so far. You don’t want to allow a student to progress in your course if they’ve made a big mistake in step 3 because that mistake will just compound itself by the time it gets to step 10.
Your goal is to get students to master each step before moving onto the next step.
That is why your course management system needs to have a series of checks and balances to ensure mastery is being obtained before you allow a student to progress. So how do you do this?
PREREQUISITES AND LOCKING CONTENT
Well there are a couple of things you can easily do to ensure you enforce mastery each step of the way. The first, and most obvious is to “lock” content be assigning a prerequisite that needs to be completed before that particular “step” can be completed (or even viewed).
This forces online students to progress through their eCourse material a linear order from step A to Z. The good news is that most LMS’s have this content locking feature built into them. You can even take it a step further by requiring that students achieve a certain grade (for example 75%) on a test at the end of the “step” before they can progress to the following step. This helps ensure that they really understand the concepts contained within each course module.
However, what often ends up happening with most new online course is that at some point through the educational journey, the teachers will find their students’ work to be only satisfactory… not great. Unfortunately, many teachers allow their students to progress to higher levels in the online course even thought their performance is starting to lag behind. This process of not enforcing mastery each step of the way often results in final projects that are less than impressive.
Therefore, we recommend all of our members who are selling courses online take the time to analyze the steps where mastery isn’t obtained and to find ways to fix the issue. Sometimes you need to add additional steps. Sometimes you need to give students more practice. You might need to re-design your projects or add additional course material. You really need to address these quality issues on a case by case basis but you get the idea.
MY FIRST 5 YEARS SELLING COURSES ONLINE
Year 1: Finding the Right WordPress Membership Plugin
Year 2: Developing the eLearning Platform
Year 3: Thinking About eLearning Software & Tools
Year 4: Course Management System – Focus on Student Goals
Year 5: “Being There” – The Inclusion of a WordPress Chat Plugin