Three Steps to Building Online Courses

In the last episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions Rushton and I answered a question about tools for creating online courses. That was the second time in three days that I fielded a question on that topic. So I think it’s a topic worth covering for a wider audience.

The following tools and strategies can be used whether you’re creating an online, self-paced professional development course to share in your school or you’re creating a course for your students.

Create Lessons

The first step is to develop the course content. Creating short video lessons is a good way to do that. I recommend using Screencastify to create your own short lessons whenever it is practical to do so.

There are two elements of Screencastify that I like for the purpose of making video lessons. First, the free version limits you to five minutes per video which is helpful in forcing you to create succinct lessons. It’s better to have two videos that are each five minutes than one that is ten minutes. People are more likely to watch all of the ten minutes when it’s broken into smaller chunks. The second aspect of Screencastify that’s great for creating video lessons is the ability to insert questions directly into the timeline of your video. Watch this video for a demo of that feature.

If you don’t want to make your own videos or you find that there’s a video that better illustrates the point of your lesson, then try using Edpuzzle to add interactive questions to that video. Here’s my demo of how to use Edpuzzle.

Schedule Lessons

Obviously, the schedule that you set for distributing your lessons will be dependent on a number of factors including whether or not the course is graded, completion deadlines, and the overall purpose of the course. Fortunately, the distribution tools that I feature in the next section can be used to distribute lessons on any schedule of your choosing.

If you’re building an online course for summer professional development for staff in your school (as was the case with one reader who reached out to me last week), then I’d generally recommend a pace of no more than two lessons a week. That gives everyone time to digest the lesson and complete any tasks associated with it in a comfortable timeframe.

Distribute Lessons

If you have read this far, there’s a good chance you’re already thinking, “I’ll just distribute the course content through Google Classroom (or Teams or Canvas).” That’s a fine way to do it and it might be your only option if what you’re building is a graded course for students.

Alternatively, you might consider distributing your course via scheduled emails. The upside to this method is that you have more flexibility for personalizing each lesson as needed. Additionally, someone who decides to take the course after it has started can actually complete the lessons in the proper sequence instead of jumping into the middle and trying to scroll back in an LMS.

ConvertKit (the email service I use for this newsletter) has a free plan that is more than adequate for distributing online course content. It even includes some slick course registration page templates. Watch this video to learn how to use ConvertKit to create an online course.

Put It All Together

Last Thursday I recorded a short video that demonstrates how to put together an online professional development course using Screencastify, Edpuzzle, and Google Classroom. You can watch that demo right here.

Do You Need Ideas for Summer PD?

Get a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips and you’ll have plenty of ideas for short workshops that you can run in your school. Or if you’d like me to run a workshop for you, I’d be happy to do that. 

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