What Makes a Winning Online Course?

winning online courses

Today was Video Friday on L&D Talk. Mark Lassoff was our guest and he made some great points about the qualities of great online learning courses. The entire video of our conversation can be viewed here.

 IMPORTANT NOTE: Mark Lassoff creates fantastic online courses that he sells. He is in the business of creating training that is a product. All of the points we discuss in the video come from that perspective. I am a proponent of iterative design and knowing that within the walls of the enterprise, sometimes, just publishing content “as is” would be perfectly acceptable and even preferred. However, if your courses are products, then you need to up your quality. Supporting the learning of internal employees requires is significantly different from creating a training product that you sell to make your living.

However, the basic ideas within this conversation apply equally to both scenarios when you are looking at improving your training output.

3 Elements the Best in Industry Have in Common

According to Mark, if you look at all of the best professionals in our industry who consistently win awards and put out the best work, you will find they have 3 things in common:

  1. They go beyond Powerpoint
  2. They use interactions that require computer programming skills
  3. Their graphic design is outstanding

You’ll notice that great instructional design was not mentioned. In this case we are assuming that the instructional design is solid. And the conversation pushed passed instructional design to identify what separated the great from the good.

Go Beyond Powerpoint

Very few, if any, powerpoint presentations could win a contest amongst eLearning projects. But what exactly does it mean to “go beyond powerpoint.” Going beyond powerpoint can mean many things. You might think going beyond powerpoint means abandoning powerpoint all together. I would argue that going beyond powerpoint means going beyond basic powerpoint usage. And adding additional media elements in support of the content within the powerpoint.

3 ideas for moving beyond basic powerpoint:

  1. Improve the design quality of your powerpoint.
  2. Utilize the module builder to add additional media and interactive elements.
  3. Move your content out of powerpoint and convert to video, or other modules.

We have so many more tools in our training toolbox that there are far too many options to list here. The idea is to upgrade your skills to the point that you can quickly and easily design better training solutions. But there is no magic bullet. You must put in the hard work. You must level up!

To Code or Not to Code!

If you’ve ever been a part of DevLearn’s DemoFest or other “Best of…” contest for eLearning you’ll see that most of the winners have highly interactive solutions. Interactivity requires coding. And whether you hire someone to do the coding or not, its still one of the most important 21st century skills to have. And no, the tools can’t do it for you. Yes, there are widgets and templates that do a lot of the heavy lifting but to be great you must understand the code.

4 Important Elements of Visually Literacy?

One of the most important skills you can possess as a training professional is visual design. Mark recommends copying the design elements from design professionals. Review magazines and web sites that are reputable and respect good graphic design. He recommends Jet Blue as a site with good design elements.

What are the elements you need to understand?

  1. Alignment
  2. Composition
  3. Color
  4. Typography

In our L&D Talk today we discussed a few of the specifics around visual literacy. However, you can find many great tutorials in YouTube about each of these elements.

For example, the “rule of thirds” can step up skill at alignment and composition. There is certainly a lot more too it, but this is a good place to start.

Learn the color wheel. Certain tutorials and books can make color extremely complicated. Start with the basics and apply them liberally. You will see improvements immediately.

Typography is the same as color. It can be extremely complicated if you make it so. Or you can learn some simple, basic, tricks and apply them to your presentations, copywriting, and elearning.

Mark also mentioned the following book: The Non-designers Design Book. I can second his recommendation and echo his remark that simply applying some the basics within it will instantly make you a better designer.