Creating Online Courses: 4 Common Mistakes

Barry Kelly
Jun 2, 2014 7:39:00 PM

MISTAKE #1: You don’t know who your customer/the learner is (so you can’t give them what they want)

Okay, you might have an idea.Let’s say you’ve already done business with Sally. You’ve got her name and perhaps an email address where you can send email updates and product offers.

But, how much do you know about Sally’s learning style? Is she the kind of person who reads instruction manuals? Or does she simply figure things out on the fly? Does she watch how-to videos? Or would she rather listen to a podcast? If you don’t know the answers, then it's going to be difficult to create eLearning that works for Sally. That’s because each person has a preferred way of learning. Without knowing the preferences of your customers, you can only guess at how they like to learn.

If you're creating online courses, you have to use different modalities—text, video, audio, interactive activities—to keep people engaged, no matter their learning style. Want to keep Sally and all your customers happy? Get to know them!

Tip: Be mindful of learning styles. Do you include video for the visual learners? A downloadable e-book for people who like to read off-line?

→ Additional reading: How To Keep Your Wagon Full of the Best Learning Content

MISTAKE #2: You’re being a bore

Ever met someone who only talks about himself? Maybe it was the guy in seat 17B on the L.A. to N.Y. red-eye. Or the sales rep at an industry convention. Whoever it was, chances are the conversation was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Online learning can be like that, too. Long-winded videos. Text-heavy screens. Boring slideshows that talk at the learner, instead of putting their needs first. In the rush to educate customers, you can end up making the course all about you. The impulse is understandable. You’ve got a great product and you’re excited about showing off its great features.

So, how do you go from boring your customers to engaging them? Focus your online courses on the learner.

Tip: When creating online courses, put yourself in the learners’ shoes. How will your educational content help them?

→ Additional reading: 3 Tips for Appealing to the Modern Learner

MISTAKE #3: There are too many bells and whistles (and not enough real learning).

Drag & drop quizzes, branching scenarios, interactive forums—with so many cool features available it can be tempting to pack your online education course to the gills. But, before you add “just one more” option to your elearning, you need to be clear about your goals and your learners’ needs. Keep in mind, too, that not all tools are created equal. Some are better for soft skills learning; others are more suited for how-to training.

Want to create online consumer learning that sticks? Use only the most relevant content and tools.

Tip: Ask yourself questions to help you match the on-line education tool to the goal. What does the learner need to know? Will a video help? Or would a simple FAQ page do the trick?

→ Additional reading: How to Create eLearning Content: Four Factors to Consider

MISTAKE #4: You’re killing them with content.

Think back to the last time you went to the movies. You loaded up on popcorn, snagged a seat, and settled in to wait for the movie to start. And then came the previews. First, a blockbuster. Then the latest rom-com. Then maybe something from Pixar for the pee-wee viewers. Fast forward to today. Can you remember the titles of any of the films? Who’s starring in that rom-com? And when does that new animated movie come out?

If you’re like most people, you can’t recall. We see that a lot with consumer learning, too. Courses that are so jam-packed — surveys, videos, slideshows!—that people get overwhelmed. Cognitive psychologists say there’s a limit to how much new information people can absorb. As far as our short-term memory goes, we’ve only got capacity for about seven new things each day.Want your course to be one of those seven? Steer clear of information overload.

Tip: Break down your online consumer learning course into memorable, brain-friendly chunks.

→ Additional reading: The A, B, C’s of Consumer Learning: C is for Learner-Friendly Content


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