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Six Scary Mistakes You Can Make In Course Design


Course design can be scary. There are a lot of logistics to consider, the content needs to be correct and put together in a way that makes sense, and the participants must engage with the content to learn. There is a lot of art and a lot of science to course design, and many books/principles/etc. have been written to simplify the process.  So far, simplifying course design has been fairly unattainable.

Next month, you will see a solution from Endurance Learning that will greatly reduce the time spent designing a course. You can already sign up for a free 14-day trial tool of Soapbox to make sure you are one of the first to use it when it becomes available in November. We will be putting the finishing touches on Soapbox throughout October. While you wait through the year’s most scary month to see our new tool, let’s look at a few scary mistakes you might be making when designing a course.

The Objectives Are Not Learner Focused & Measurable

I always ask stakeholders what they need learners to do as a result of a course. The first answer often starts, “I need to tell them how to…”. That is not leaner focused; it is presenter focused. If that is the answer, it is important to reframe the question and ask it again.

Another common answer is “I need them to understand…” which is a step in the right direction, but it is not measurable. Objectives focus on what the learners can do as a result of the session. Understanding something is not a concrete outcome; it is better to be more descriptive with your outcomes. Find more information about outcome writing in this post.

Trying to Teach Learners Everything the Content Expert Knows

The learners do not need to walk away with everything in their heads that the SME knows. Project teams often lose scope as projects develop and start throwing unnecessary information into the mix usually due to some form of anxiety about the project. This can be controlled by revisiting objectives over and over to ground the team in what the learners need to do as a result of the training.

The Session is Not Engaging

Lecture has its place in training, but there should be a lot more built into a course than lecture. Learners should interact with content. More information about how to incorporate engaging activities can be found below in the sections below.

The Course Lacks a Training Model

Courses need structure. Any good lesson plan has a structure that is easy to follow. In another post, we share a simple model with 20 activities that fit very well within that model.

The Activities Do Not Match the Objective

Some activities are garbage.  Activities should not be added to training only because they are fun, or there is a semi-relevant story to share. It should be clear from the beginning of training development what value the activity provides to the outcome and to the learners.

PowerPoint is Opened Too Soon

PowerPoint is not the first step in creating a presentation. It is not the second, and it might be the third, but probably not. Many presenters rely too heavily on PowerPoint instead of using it effectively.  PowerPoint is a great tool; it just needs to be used the right way.

What scares you about course design? What scary stories do you have to share? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

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