Education, eLearning, Instructional Design

Designing an Online Course: Portion-Sized e-Learning

4 min read | Jun 10, 2014
Designing an Online Course: Portion-Sized e-Learning cover image

Delivering course content to your clients with stand-alone modules for self-paced distance learning.

Previous articles in this series have covered the ideas of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and the simple concept of using practical activities as both teaching aids and assessment tools when delivering the content of your course to your students. However, the one driving force that threads its way through all of these articles is the central idea that the way you choose to deliver the content of your course to your students is directly related to your success through effective and efficient delivery.

Achieving this effectiveness and efficiency requires several variables to be considered, and many of these considerations involve you and how you tailor your content specifically for your student base. Diligent attention to student loyalty is a large cornerstone in any successful educational business philosophy, from the largest eLearning corporations to the smallest course vendors offering niche products in smaller markets, and this attention will be a must for your course offerings to succeed as well.

Design an eCourse that fits into your students daily lives

Therefore, the attention to detail that you demonstrate for your students and clients will be illustrated by how well you create a course that fits into their daily lives. Just as we have discussed how important your method of delivery is for you to stand out amongst others that may be offering similar or other closely-related content, the pace at which you deliver this content must also be taken into consideration when keeping the needs of your students in mind.

Many universities, colleges and other post-secondary education providers are now involved with some form of online distance learning to connect to students who may be interested in their courses, but not within physical proximity to the institution to attend in-person. Since distance learning is essentially all that you are doing, how you approach its delivery is of the utmost importance. This is where the pace of content delivery comes into play. Besides the obvious benefits of being able to learn from an institution that is kilometres away, distance learning truly becomes distance e-learning when you consider the Learning Management Systems (LMS) used to deliver this content.

But these applications only cover the “e” portion of the equation, and it is the learning part that you have to address. This where you as the content provider must be flexible and put that personal touch to the material that you are delivering to your students. Creating an effective Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will require you to look at the overall content that you wish to include in your course, and determining the best way to formulate a curriculum that can be properly managed in smaller portions for your students.

Breaking your content down into smaller Teaching Points (TPs)

The reason that this process is vital is because the medium of e-learning not only has the benefit of facilitating distance learning, but also allowing students to determine when and where they can complete the lessons and assignments determined necessary to successfully complete the course. In order for you to do this for your clients, you must look at your material overall and break it down into smaller teaching points (TPs) that can be strung together according to a larger theme or concept.
Once this has been done, you can rearrange and group together similarly-themed TPs into smaller modules that students can complete in spurts throughout the timeframe you have allocated for overall course completion. Broken down in this way, students will find it easier to absorb, comprehend, and reflect upon the content that they have just learned. If they wish to go over it again, all they have to do is repeat the same module over again until they have mastered the TPs within, without having to go through a much larger section just to cover a few small details.

Alternatively, students may find your content easy to absorb and do not require the need to go over one particular section again, but the smaller modules will still allow them to fit their e-learning more easily into their busy lives and hectic work schedules. If your students find themselves with a weekend they are free, they can go through several modules in one sitting, and yet return to one module at a time once Monday returns and the work week begins anew. Of course, the content of your course may be very specific in the order that your students must learn the material, and any rearrangement of TPs according to a common theme or concept may be impossible. This is ok too, as long as you remember to break the material down into smaller units that can be absorbed more easily, allowing your students to determine their own pace.

Be flexible

Flexibility is truly the key when it comes to maximizing the benefits of using e-learning to facilitate your student’s comprehension of your content, Your unique position as a subject matter expert is truly to your advantage in being able to determine the best way to ensure your students thoroughly learn your material, regardless of whether they are already well-versed in the material, or if they are green-horned, first-time learners. Academic administrators in other institutions who do not know the subject matter inside and out like you do may cut vital TPs out or miss entire chunks of information altogether, if they were to be tasked with simply tailoring course material to fit into smaller, easier to-understand portions.

Conversely, someone who is very familiar with specific content may forget what it means to be new to the material, and first-time learners may feel overwhelmed if they receive too much information too soon in a short amount of time. Therefore you have a very special role in being able to bridge the subject to the learner, and this type of attention to your clients’ learning needs will help ensure that client loyalty will never be an issue that you have to be concerned about. You are truly the key to your client’s success!

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