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The “Netflix” of Online Learning: A Guide to Creating Engaging, On-Demand Courses

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Rachel Rheinhart
May 29, 2024
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Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all training or rigid classroom-style courses. This outdated model of education just doesn’t keep up with the demand for developing a highly knowledgeable customer base.

This is where self-paced and on-demand learning has emerged as a game changer that enables customers to steer the education they deliver. But for businesses venturing into this space, the most challenging decision is where to start and what to build. 

The allure of on-demand learning 

The appeal of this model of creating on-demand learning courses lies in their flexibility. They come in various shapes and sizes, catering to diverse needs. This approach allows learners to fit training into their busy schedules. For instance, a customer could take a course to refresh their knowledge of your product on their morning commute or a new hire could complete onboarding at their own pace. 

The benefits expand beyond the convenience it provides individuals. The self-paced model unlocks a global audience because now individuals can access on-demand content wherever they are, at any time. This means the addressable market has vastly expanded for companies. From a commercial perspective, these online courses are highly profitable as once they are created, they are used and sold hundreds and thousands of times.  

Tale of two approaches: Asynchronous vs. Semi asynchronous  

When designing self-paced and on-demand online courses, it’s important that you decide the level of interaction that the learner wants and needs but also what is most efficient for your business. There are two main approaches here to consider: 

1. Fully asynchronous training 

Training on your own schedule, with no given timeframe 

A fully asynchronous model is the most flexible approach to training. With rolling start dates, individuals can move through the course in their own time and at their own pace.  

While this model means enrolment can happen at any time, it also means there is no rigid start date to fix people to, as all content in the course is made available immediately. This is where engagement is critical, and you need to create compelling course material to keep learners’ attention. These courses should be highly interactive, include social learning and learner notifications to prompt individuals at certain points or remind them to log in.  

This method is ideal for learners who have basic or foundational experience or if they are working remotely from anywhere in the world. 

2. Semi asynchronous training 

Combining the flexibility of asynchronous training, with elements of real-time interactions  

A semi asynchronous model uses the same template, the same approach, but the difference is that individuals have a dedicated start date. Each section becomes available at a particular time. It keeps the cohort together in that time period and it’s a great way of allowing individuals to move through the course in a linear fashion.  

This concept allows you to incorporate elements of live interaction, such as virtual meetings with peer discussions, Q&As with instructors or pre-scheduled webinars. Businesses can look to integrate Zoom, Adobe Connect, or GoToTraining, GoToWebinar, Webex for scheduled live events. 

This method is ideal for taking a collaborative approach to learning and for teams working in similar time zones. 

The ADDIE-tude you need 

Creating an effective on-demand course requires a robust, well thought out plan. This is where the ADDIE model comes in, a five-step approach around analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.   

Analyze 

The first and arguably the most important step in the ADDIE model is the analysis phase. This is the opportunity for you to gather all the information you need at the outset of the project, to make the actual development of the course easier. 

This information includes: 

  • Defining the objective and outcomes of the learning course: What’s the business problem that you’re trying to solve? What does success look like? 
  • Clarifying the target audience: Who are the learners and what are their demographics, abilities and circumstances? 
  • The setting and model of the learning experience: Will this be asynchronous or semi-asynchronous? 
  • Type of content: What content do you already have that can be used? What needs to be created for the course? 
  • Timeline: What is the timeframe of completion, or is there one? 

Given that the analysis phase is the foundation, it’s important to resolve any issues here before moving on to the next step. 

Design 

The design phase is where you would translate the analysis into a framework of what the course will look like. This includes the strategy, delivery model, structure, duration, assessment and feedback.  

As part of this phase, it is useful to create a prototype which will act as a blueprint of the course and allow you to carry out a sanity check before moving forward. 

Develop 

Now onto the fun part. In the development phase, you will be heavily guided by the blueprint that you designed. Most people really like the development phase because this is where you’re creating all the assets that you’re going to use in the course, whether it’s text, video, assessments, or interactive activities.  

In a nutshell, developing a self-paced online course will include: 

  1. Preparation: Identifying the assets you need to create 
  2. Pre-production: This includes the planning time before producing the video which involves creating the blueprint of the video, e-learning materials, technological platforms, storyboard and script 
  3. Production: This involves shooting, recording audio, and getting all the content you need 
  4. Post-production: This includes editing and iterating 

This development phase will also require the testing of all planned materials to make sure they flow well, before moving to implementation.  

Implement 

This is where the magic happens – the launch of the on-demand learning course. 

While the course will now be in action, consider this phase as an opportunity to observe whether your design and development phases were a success. 

Evaluate 

Evaluation is ongoing throughout the ADDIE model, but including a moment at the end of the process to reflect is key.  

This stage will help to provide an assessment of the overall course and whether the initial objectives that were laid out were met. During this stage, you will see how well your learners are doing, how well they’re absorbing the knowledge, and then you’re making iterative changes to improve the experience.  

Ready to start developing self-paced and on-demand courses? Contact us today and schedule a demo about how we can support you to create engaging and effective learning. For more insights, view the full recording of our webinar, “Creating Effective and Self-Paced Online Courses.

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