Think about it.

The first time you run your course, it will be the worst it will ever be.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying your course will be bad.

could-be-betterMost likely, it will start out good and improve over time.

And that’s natural. That’s what you want to happen.

Every time you offer your course, you’ll learn. You’ll get feedback from your students and you’ll adjust and improve as a result.

Hopefully your first course will go well and you’ll feel pretty good about it.

But inevitably you’ll discover ways it could be improved.

Your course could have been better.

  • You might realize that you could have given your students more tools and direction to help them succeed.
  • You might see that you should have provided more learning options, media formats, or flexibility.
  • You’ll probably know where you could have simplified some lessons or explained some difficult concepts more clearly.

Whatever the case, once you’ve done your first run-through you can – and should – start revisiting your course content and delivery to improve it.

Why settle for a course that’s good, when you know it can be great?

The resources in this post will make your course truly outstanding.

If you apply what you learn from even some of the links below, you’ll see greater participation, more meaningful engagement, and happier students. That’s a win for everyone involved!

It all starts with your content.

Polish your content until it's truly exceptional

These posts will walk you through the exact steps you can take to tighten up your content and make it remarkable.

1. Take it Apart, and Put it Back Together Again

Shawn Blanc takes you through his process of building out a new course with an outline that started with six modules and more than 90 individual lessons — in other words, way too much content! In this post, you’ll learn how to distill modules down to the absolute essentials and find the single most important lesson in each.

2. 38 Ways to Build Great Courses

Illume Learning put together a comprehensive list of ways to make sure your course is great. They also explain each strategy in detail. Check out their helpful tool that allows you to find learning materials to use when teaching your topic.

3. How To Improve Your Next Online Training Course: 7 Tips For e-Learning Professionals

Christopher Pappas compiled a great list of ways to improve your online course on the eLearning Industry blog. Even though the post is written for corporate trainers, anyone can benefit from the advice he gives. Pay attention to his final tip and don’t be tempted to overhaul your entire course without analyzing what really needs to be updated.

4. Three Critical Elements to Ensure Online Learning Programs Remain Fresh

There’s plenty of guidance out there to help instructors create good quality content, but fewer articles focus on keeping your content fresh and up-to-date. This post teaches you how to make effective micro-changes and prune away any content that’s no longer relevant.

5. Five Ways To Update Your Online Course & Digital Products

In this post, launch coach Anne Samoilov talks through five different scenarios you might find yourself in as you update your online course — everything from doing a quick trim or format change to a complete overhaul or even starting over from scratch. Her post includes a handy checklist to help you decide what needs to be updated.

6. Learning To Be An Authentic Teacher (with Jennifer Louden)

In an early episode of the Authentic Expert podcast, Abe sat down with Jennifer Louden, creator of TeachNow, to discuss what it means to be an authentic teacher. You’ll learn about the power of keeping content bite-sized and how to reduce and simplify course material for maximum impact and student engagement.

7. Find the Heart of Your Teaching (with Mark Silver)

Podcast bonus! In this episode, Abe interviewed coach, consultant, and spiritual healer Mark Silver about heart-centered teaching. Discover why topics that feel like a “micro-bite” to you can be a full meal to someone just getting started. Harness the power of using examples and making it as simple as possible for students to find things inside your online course.

8. The Best e-course Resources

Online course expert Dr. Kelly Edmonds compiled this comprehensive guide from the best posts on her Creating Learning Journeys blog. Learn everything from planning out your course to choosing your technology and more.

One of the hallmarks of great content is how it affects your students. Here’s how you can make sure you’re making a positive impact.

Help your students get life-changing results

Your students don’t buy your course simply to learn information. They buy results. They’re hoping you’ll help them make their lives better somehow.

The following blog posts will help you do that.

9. Little Known Secrets to Getting Remarkable Student Results

Breanne Dyck pulls together the best content from the MNIB Consulting blog that will help you reflect on what changes you need to make to your online course. From posts on the psychology of course design to the mastery of storytelling, each will get you one step closer to a great online course.

10. How to Design an e-course That Delivers Results

How many online courses have you purchased and not finished? In this podcast, Digital Content Strategist Nathalie Lussier dives deep into how to create and deliver an online course that ensures your students will make it to the finish line and get great results.

11. How to Make Your Course Content More Actionable

If your students don’t take action and actually do something, they’re never going to get results. You know this, but it might feel easier said than done. In this post, Janelle Allen from Zen Courses tackles three tactics you can use to motivate your students to action.

12. 85% of People Don’t Finish e-courses. Stop This!

The headline says it all. Dr Kelly Edmonds gives you four learning boosters that can keep your students from giving up in this infographic. She also includes links to other posts that dive into how to keep learners from getting stuck as they make their way through your online course.

13. 10 Ways to Help Online Learners Succeed

What if you could use neuroscience and brain mapping to help your students succeed? This downloadable PDF resource from Teach Online explains ten different ways that you can use science to improve learning outcomes for students in your online course.

14. Create and Sell Courses with Purpose (with Natalie Sisson)

In this episode of the Authentic Expert podcast, Abe talks with Suitcase Entrepreneur Natalie Sisson about how to create effective courses. Find out how to create clear results-based outcomes, build in accountability, and work backwards from the desired end result to create your course framework.

15. Why Online Students Succeed

Can you improve your students’ results by getting back to basics? That’s what findings from a recent Eduventures study shows. This post also includes an infographic that covers the factors that drive student success in an online learning environment.

16. Four Ways to Focus Your Course Idea from Four Course Creation Experts

This Ruzuku post introduces the “minimum” question: what’s the very minimum your students need to learn to get from where they are now to where they want to be? Learn how to drill down to what your students really need and give them the easiest path to get there.

17. Online learning: It’s different

Researchers at Harvard University tried to figure out how online courses can cut through the noise and distraction that students face as they sit at their computers. They found that testing was the key to information retention, even something as simple as a quick quiz after a short lesson.

So your content’s strong and you’re helping your students get results. Mix it up a little with some different approaches.

Transform your teaching with the best new learning approaches

Education is constantly changing. Staying on top of the newest approaches will ensure your students get the best possible results.

The following resources will help you stay on the leading edge.

18. How to Teach Better So You Can Sell More (with Breanne Dyck)

Who doesn’t want to sell more spots in their online course? In this episode of the Authentic Expert, Abe and online course expert Breanne talk about how to improve your teaching, student engagement, and your students’ overall experience in order to fill your courses.

19. Seven Practical Tips To Show Your Online Students How To Learn Before You Start Teaching

Are your students new to online courses? You may need to teach them more than just your course content — you might have to teach them how to learn! This post covers seven strategies you can use to make sure your students are ready to thrive in your online course.

20. Tips for Students: Get the Most Out of Your Online Course

There are a few easy steps your students can take to get themselves ready to get the most out of your online course. This post lists three ways that students can ensure their own success.

21. The Head First Formula

Do you know how your brain learns? This website takes learning principles based in cognitive science, neurobiology, and educational psychology and makes them fun. There’s even a sidebar that gives practical tips for how to improve your brain’s ability to learn.

22. Two Transformational Learning Strategies: Heutagogy and Personalization

Don’t be intimidated by the big, science-y word in the title. These two learning strategies are actually simple and very powerful. This post tells you how to incorporate them into your online teaching.

23. The Power of Believing You Can Improve

This notable TED talk examines what can happen when we instill a growth mindset in ourselves and our students. Motivation researcher Carol Dweck explores what would happen if we praised effort and progress instead of results. How can you incorporate this growth mindset into your online course?

24. Nine Ways to Plan Transformational Lessons: Planning the Best Curriculum Unit Ever

This post was written for classroom teachers but the concepts can have powerful implications for online course builders as well. From learning to create student-centric processes and activities to taking introverts’ styles into account, these tips can help you become a transformational online teacher.

25. Five Tips to Avoid Hearing “I Hate e-Learning”

It can be painful to watch a student struggle, and even more so when that struggle makes them lash out at online education in general. This post talks about ways to put your students’ experience first, to minimize frustration and avoid potential hostility.

26. Three Simple Ways to Improve Your Online Training Programs

Are you stuck in a rut with your online course creation? Maybe you’ve even reached the point where you feel like you’re just going through the motions. Sometimes, all it takes are small changes to break out and breathe life back into your course creation process. This post gives three simple ways to make your course a little bit better than it was.

27. University of Illinois Online Teaching Activity Index

This index is a compilation of best practices in online teaching, organized by type of educational activity. Though it’s geared toward high school and higher education, these resources can also be highly valuable for online courses.

Are you starting to feel confident? Ready to add some fancy (and useful) bells and whistles to your course?

Fascinate your learners with games and multimedia

You want your students to finish your online course. But shiny objects and short attention spans make it hard for online learners to focus.

The following posts will help you break through and hold your students’ attention.

28. Seven Myths About Instructional Video: Which One Is Limiting You?

Do you believe any of the common myths about online video? Popular misconceptions include the belief that you have to reduce everything into 2-minute bite-sized videos and assumptions you may have about what makes a truly interactive training. This post not only exposes these myths but tells you how to overcome them.

29. Raise the Bar: Eight Reasons I Hate Your Screencast

The bad news? Your screencast is probably terrible. But there’s good news, too. This post talks about the eight biggest mistakes people make when recording a screencast and how to fix them.

30. Five Multimedia Principles For Your Online Course

Everyone says you should use more images in your online course. But did you know that using the wrong combination of text and images can make it almost impossible for your students to learn? This post covers five principles of cognitive function and how to create multimedia for your online course without overloading your students.

31. What Online Learning Providers Can Learn from Apple and Google

What can Apple and Google teach online instructors? A lot, actually. This post looks at the best practices, values, and strategies that allow both companies to exceed their customers’ expectations, and how to apply them to your online course creation.

32. The Smart Instructional Designer’s Path to Gamification: Add Value, Not Points

Gamification (the concept of applying game techniques to motivate people to get through your online course) is all the rage these days. Rather than trying to gamify your online course just because everyone else talks about it, this post recommends that you start small and pay attention to your students and their learning objectives first.

33. Tom Chatfield: 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

In this TED talk, Tom explores your brain and how games are built to capture your attention. He breaks down each of the seven elements that engage your brain, and asks what we can learn about the psychology of games and their collective engagement.

34. Three Steps to Increasing Engagement in Your Online Course with Gamification

In this guest post from Zen Courses, Joshua explains the things that can happen when you do gamification well, and three creative ways to add it into your online course.

Game designers are not only good at engaging their users and fostering loyalty, they’re also fantastic at building community. Let’s look at that next.

Foster a community that falls in love with you

1,000 true fans. An audience that purchases – and raves to their friends about – everything you create. It’s not just a myth. It’s something that your online course can help you create.

The following resources will help you build the engaged audience you’ve always dreamed of.

35. Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online

In this post from the College of William and Mary, Ali Briggs digs in to how online courses can mimic the student engagement levels usually found in the classroom. You’ll discover the social, administrative, and motivation barriers facing online learners and strategies for overcoming each.

36. Three Questions You Can Answer to Keep Engagement High in Your Online Course

Encourage engagement by asking yourself these three questions about your students. Create a strong student-teacher bond by celebrating their efforts and desire for self-direction, fostering a sense of community, and more.

37. Engage and Energize Your Learners (with Pace Smith)

This episode of the Authentic Expert brings veteran online teacher Pace Smith to the podcasting mic. You’ll learn strategies for increasing course participation and how to avoid inadvertently making your students feel guilty by aiming a fire hose of information at them.

38. Creating Community in Online Courses: Tips from Faculty

What could be a better source of inspiration for increasing student engagement than instructors who have made a career out of teaching? This post includes tips on engagement, interaction, and communication from 30 college and university professors from across the United States.

39. Behaviors & Strategies for Improving Online Instructor Presence

Did you know? Establishing a personal connection with your students actually increases their motivation. Researchers at California State University present the approaches and strategies you can use to connect with your students in your online course.

40. Challenges of Teaching Online

In this 9-minute YouTube video, Dr. Murgatroyd tells you how to solve the five challenges facing anyone teaching online — including how to involve students in the learning process, how to personalize learning for a diverse group of students, and how to assess and give valuable feedback.

41. Three Ways to Improve Online Courses for Adult Students

So much of student success relies on simply showing up. How can you get your adult students to prioritize your online course as an important part of an already-busy life? Learn how improvements in technology paired with open communication channels can be the difference between success and failure for your students.

42. Profs Seek Student Input to Improve Online Courses

Researchers at Kent State University learned some surprising things when they surveyed undergraduate students about their online learning experience over the course of several semesters. Two key takeaways? How to use course design to ensure students don’t feel alone in their course experience, and why convenience isn’t the most important aspect of online courses.

43. Feedback Strategies for Your Online Course

Students who receive regular feedback from their teacher see better results and are more engaged in the course. This post covers four different strategies for delivering great feedback to the students in your online course (including one way to take some of the burden off you as the teacher).

Now that you have your base of raving fans, let’s take a look ahead to what might be.

Forge the future of online education

Online courses have come a long way, but there’s always more ground to gain.

The resources below challenge the status quo and invite you to reimagine what online education can achieve.

44. One Size Won’t Fit All: The Future of Personalized Digital Learning

Teachers have been adapting their lessons to student needs for generations. But with the advent of online education, one-size-fits all education in the form of e-books and prerecorded lessons took the place of personalized learning. Discover tactics for creating digital learning that can adapt, adjust, process, and assess your learners’ needs.

45. Anant Agarwal: Why Massive Open Online Courses (Still) Matter

Education innovator Anant explores why MOOCs still matter in this TED talk — he believes they are a way to share high-level learning widely and supplement traditional classroom education. A generation of millennials is coming of higher-education age, and there is a real opportunity for active learning, self-pacing, and peer learning in the traditional educational system.

46. Salman Khan: Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education

In this TED talk, educator Salman shows us what happened when teachers “flipped” the traditional classroom. They gave students video lectures to watch at home and had them do their “homework” in the classroom with the teacher. Discover the power of interactive exercises that can be paused, repeated, and watched at whatever pace best suits the learner.

47. Christopher Emdin: Teach Teachers How to Create Magic

How do some teachers move beyond outdated education theory to both enthrall their students and teach at the same time? Education pioneer Emdin believes that transformational teachers often learn the art of engaging teaching outside the traditional classroom — in places like barber shops and the black church.

48. Serious e-Learning Manifesto

“Learning technology offers the possibility for creating uniquely valuable learning experiences,” but it often falls short. This manifesto will motivate you to move beyond typical e-learning to make your online courses truly transformational.

This post has covered a lot of ground. Let’s look at what your next steps are.

Take your online course from meh to wow!

You’ve officially got a ton of new resources to help you level up your online course.

You’ve heard from some top experts on creating great content, increasing engagement, building community, and so much more.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the possibilities. You have plenty of time to make your course great, and rushing through the improvement stage won’t help you get there.

Pick one area today from the list above that you think will have the biggest potential impact on your online course.

Try the ideas from one or two of the posts, and see how your students react.

Once you start to see those small improvements, you’ll be hooked and want more.

And give yourself a pat on the back — this is an ongoing process.

The good news is you care enough to be here in this community and you want to learn and improve, and those things will ensure you become the best you can be as an instructor.

Which of the categories do you think will improve your course the most? And is there a technique or strategy that you want to implement first? Let us know in the comments!