How to Focus On “Backward Design” for Creating Online Courses
As course creators, we often design from the top down. We think we know exactly what our audience needs, and in turn, shape our course content around this framework.
On the other hand, if we rely on “backward design” (where the content is learner-focused), our eLearning will achieve our objectives better and resonate with our audience.
Ask the Right Question
What do they need to know to be successful? A simple question, but let’s break it down a bit.
Note the qualifier “successful”. This is extremely important. It’s easy to be so close to your content that you lose sight of what your learner’s goals actually are.
I’ve taken many online courses that have completely failed at delivering the content needed to accomplish my goals. Instead, the designer created a course they wanted – not a course that the learner needed. To ensure you’re meeting the need vs. the want, you have to look at things from the learner’s perspective.
- What is success to them?
- How is success measured?
- What is needed for them to accomplish this success
Organize the Answers
Now that you have the answers to that all-important question, begin organizing those answers into similar chunks.
Your learner’s success/goals become your learning objectives.
What is needed to accomplish that success becomes your modules/topics?
You’ll begin seeing blocks of content that can be logically grouped to guide the learner along that path of either knowing or doing. Use your learning objectives as buckets to place the “what is needed” topics inside of each bucket.
This is where storyboarding comes in handy!
Knowing What You Don’t Know
How do you answer those questions when you didn’t even know they were questions in the first place?
One of the easiest ways (and one I’d highly recommend) is hosting a workshop or soft launch of your course beforehand. This will quickly reveal what questions and needs your learners actually have, and what components are missing from your course. I bet things will pop up that you never saw coming.
Value this free feedback greatly! It is a direct window into the very customer your course is targeting. If your workshop participants have these questions, you can bet the rest of your learners will have similar questions.
Address any gaps in your content before continuing and go through a few iterations of this process to land on a course that nails, “What do they need to know to be successful?”
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