Engaging online contentThink back to the days when you were a student. Remember how exciting it was to start a new class, only to end up enrolled in a semester snooze fest? Now think back to those few special classes you had where the material was riveting and the professor was outstanding. This is the type of experience you want to create when you are writing your online course.

Remember, online courses pose different challenges than your traditional classroom setting, which is why it is extremely important to craft a course that is not only informative, but also engaging.

1. Setting Goals

Before you begin writing your course make a list of your goals for that class. While your main goal should be to provide a learning experience that is accessible for both non-traditional and distance learning students, there are other goals should strive to achieve, such as, creating an environment that encourages dialogue and enhancing skills related to your course topic.

Once you’ve outlined your goals, never lose sight of them. They should act as the sole driving force throughout the entirety of your class.

2. Creating a Structure Based on Best Practices

Beyond setting goals, you should also employ some best practices that will help make your online course a worthwhile experience. By establishing a set of best practices, that combines both core competencies along with a customized learning experience, you will be better able to generate a course that is engaging for everyone involved.

The best practices elements involved in developing a structure include:

  • Syllabus – Use it as a contract between you and your students so that they know exactly what to expect from you and you know what to expect from them.
  • Community – Establish rules and limits to help create a supportive and effective community between you and your students, your students and each other and your students and the course materials.
  • Discussion Boards – Decide how your discussion boards will work and how you will monitor them to increase engagement and ensure your students are getting what they need from you, each other and the class.  Write up questions and discussions that pair with material you’re currently covering in class.
  • Online Persona – Decide how you want to appear to your students by creating a balance between being authoritative and accessible. Create guidelines for how you want your students to create their online personas. What information do you want to know about them? What should they feel comfortable sharing?
  • Feedback/Communication – Determine when and how you will provide course feedback and answer questions. Will you setup online office hours? Will you respond to questions with a certain period of time? Your goal to let students know that you are there for them beyond just providing lectures and assignments.  Do check-ins with your students throughout the class and at the end of the course to see how the class in going. This can help you tailor your course where needed.
  • Activities – Design assignments and activities that allow students to work on their own and that also requirement them to participate in real time. Just because your course involves distance learning doesn’t mean it has to be done in a vacuum. Offer different opportunities for participation so every student can be involved.
  • Additional Forms of Engagement – Create additional online experiences for your students that enhance their learning experience and make it more personal and fulfilling. These can range from an online field trip to brainstorming sessions and much more.


Author Rick J. Stern

Entrepreneur Rick Stern built Xenegrade Corp with a focus on service to educational organizations. With an MBA from Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester and over 20 years continuing education management, his experience provides valuable insight into the needs, demands, and trends of the continuing education market.

More posts by Rick J. Stern

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