Catch a Ride on the Course Outline Express

Justine Ickes
Dec 10, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Dr. Who has the TARDIS. Harry Potter has the Nimbus 2000. And those folks from Star Trek have been teleporting for millennia.

To launch on online school, however, mere mortals like us need more than magic and mad science.


When you get an idea for an e-course, it’s tempting to just hop in, rev up and go. Once you get into the nitty-gritty of course design, however, you can quickly find yourself on a different trip altogether. How do you know what and how much content to create? Which images to source? What activities to use? Without a clear path in mind, you can end up in the content weeds, wondering how to get back on track.


From Concept to Course Outline to Launch

For starters, think of your course as a well-planned journey. And for that you’ll need a map.


But not just any map. To create an e-learning experience your students and clients will love--you need a course outline a multi-layered tool that gets people from point A to point Z, with maximum learning and minimal detours.

A well-crafted course outline defines where learners are going and why, how they’ll get there, and what they’ll see and do along the way.


How Do You Create a Great Course Outline?

Forget the flashy wand and gadgets. Think about your last vacation or business trip, instead.


Unless you have unlimited time and money, my guess is you plotted out the places you wanted to visit, scheduled in some rest stops, and loaded up your bags. Maybe you tossed in some fun money, just in case. With a few instructional design tweaks you can use the same approach with your course outline.


Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Follow these steps to create your course outline:

  • Decide on the final destination: Define your overall course goals. To do this, keep your learners in mind. Why are people taking your course? What exactly do learners need to know? What skills will they develop as they take your course?
  • Identify your must-see attractions: Prioritize your content and topics. What would benefit your learners most at this point? A bird’s-eye flyover introductory course? A leisurely Sunday drive seminar? A three-day weekend getaway intensive workshop? Once you’ve sorted out your content, write objectives that spell out exactly what learners will do or learn.
  • Sketch out your itinerary: Winging it may be appeal to warblers and people with wanderlust. But most folks like a bit more specificity when it comes to travel. Ditto for online learning. With your objectives in hand, you can start thinking about how to sequence your content and what activities will work best.
  • Pack your bags: You can only go so far with a carry-on suitcase. Likewise, a course outline with too little, or too many, multimedia resources can seriously hamper learners. In your course outline make sure you list all the assets you’ve got on hand and those you’ll need to create. Remember, most folks like a mix of media so think about how you can best combine text, image and audio in your course.
  • Plan for rest stops: Everyone needs time to stretch his or her legs and re-fuel. As you draft your outline, think about how you’ll use quizzes, games and other brain breaks to keep students primed for learning.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

You can use the process above to create an outline for just one course. Or you can scale your course development process with you own course outline template. Do you plan to create a series of courses? With a course outline template, you can easily drop in new topics and resources. Templates work especially well for recipes, workouts, and other structured how-to content. Plus, scalable outlines are a boon to your students, too. If they enroll in more than one course (that’s what you’re hoping for, right?), your course structure and delivery will be more familiar to them.


Whether you’re creating a one-off e-course or building a series of courses for your online school, a course outline can get you there faster.

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