[UPDATED: JUN 2023]
You’re almost ready to create your online course, you thought of all the things you want to teach your audience, and now it’s time to jump into the course creation process. But wait a minute, what is the best type of content for online courses, you may wonder? You can surely think of a few types but how effective can they be for your audience’s learning journey?
Online courses, even those created by solopreneurs and service providers, have gained popularity over the years. So why should you not give it a go and turn your passion into profit with online courses.
Sounds easy enough, right? But before you get started, it’s important to understand that the virtual classroom requires various formats of elearning content to ensure successful learning outcomes. Therefore, you should always strive to provide your students with an engaging learning experience.
So, as an instructor or course creator, understanding all these types of content for online courses is vital for creating a curriculum and lesson plans that will be very engaging for your students.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of course creators out there who claim to have the best online courses. But only an elearning experience that provides a solution to a problem with tailored and bite-size chunks of content will make your online course a success.
What is the definition of content?
Before we take a look at the different types of content for online courses, it’s important you understand what content is. Below a basic definition of content:
“Content is the information contained within communication media. This includes internet, cinema, television, radio, audio CDs, books, magazines, physical art, and live event content. It’s directed at an end-user or audience in the sectors of publishing, art, and communication. Live events include speeches, conferences, and stage performances.”
Now that you have an idea what content can be, let’s figure out what type of content is best suitable for online courses so you can give your learners an unique user experience.
What is content for online courses?
When we think about elearning content, specifically what it can do, we are talking about the different delivery methods we can employ to make learning engaging and fun. Online learning is a very specific way of sharing knowledge and developing elearning content is an art.
That’s why it can be very important for course creators who are trying to provide their student’s with ultimate learning outcomes to understand that every person has unique way to learn to meet their personal goals, and that each approach to learning corresponds to a certain type of content within an online course.
Here are some examples of content that is suitable for online learning:
- Video Lessons
- Online Workshops
- Live Streaming
- Visuals & Infographics
- Ebooks & Worksheets
- Audio & Podcasts
- Interactive Elements
- Quizzes & Certificates
- Student Chat & Support
- Online Community
Because every piece of elearning content you create can have a substantial impact on the success of a course, it’s not difficult to see why planning out your course in detail is a very important part of your online course launch journey.
Different Types of learning styles
Before we actually consider different types of content for online courses we have to understand that every person learns in a unique way and it’s our duty as course creators to provide solutions to meet the needs of our students by tailoring their experience.
Learning styles and preferences take on a variety of forms and not all people fit neatly into one category. But generally speaking, these are the most common types of learners:
|Someone with a preference for visual learning is partial to seeing and observing things, including pictures, diagrams, written directions and more. This is also referred to as the “spatial” learning style. Students who learn through sight understand information better when it’s presented in a visual way. These are your doodling students, your list makers and your students who take notes.||Auditory learners tend to learn better when the subject matter is reinforced by sound. These students would much rather listen to a lecture than read written notes, and they often use their own voices to reinforce new concepts and ideas. These types of learners prefer reading out loud to themselves. They aren’t afraid to speak up in class and are great at verbally explaining things. Additionally, they may be slower at reading and may often repeat things a teacher tells them.||Kinesthetic learners, sometimes called tactile learners, learn through experiencing or doing things. They like to get involved by acting out events or using their hands to touch and handle in order to understand concepts. These types of learners might struggle to sit still and often excel at sports or like to dance. They may need to take more frequent breaks when studying. But once kinesthetic learners can physically sense what they’re studying, abstract ideas and difficult concepts become easier to understand.||According to the VARK Modalities theory developed by Fleming and Mills in 1992, reading/writing learners prefer to learn through written words. While there is some overlap with visual learning, these types of learners are drawn to expression through writing, reading articles or books, writing in diaries, looking up words in the dictionary and searching the internet for just about everything.|
With a better understanding of the various learning styles and approaches to learning, we can now explore what type of content you should include in your online courses.
BEST TYPE OF content for online courses
When it comes to different types of content for online courses, there are few that are pretty popular and not even that difficult to create even if you’re just starting out and are on a budget. Let’s take a look at what these are, and see how you could get started with creating your own.
✅ Video Lessons
Video is one of the easiest ways to teach your course content. Whether or not you have a custom video or DIY version recorded with your phone is your choice, but video is a quick and easy way to communicate information and who does not like to watch and listen rather than read.
Another good thing about video is that it can be watched on-demand which basically means your students can learn at their own pace. And you’ll be glad to hear that once you record your video you don’t have to repeat yourself like a broken record.
When first starting out, I know it can be rather overwhelming to get on video and you may find many excuses that you don’t have the proper setup. Stop right there, if you have a phone and know your content, jump right in and get started. There will be no better time and always remember you can always upgrade later.
Curious to see what I use to create my videos? Here is a guide I have created of my setup & tools.
✅ Online Workshops
Another popular way of delivering content to your learners is to create online workshops. They can be either live sessions or shared as a recording or replay. You can ask your audience to either register for each workshop so you know exactly how many attendees you’ll have or it can be pre-scheduled specifically for the students in your courses.
Online training can also take place through one-to-one sessions. This is a very effective way of teaching, because it helps to guarantee that the learner is getting enough attention to succeed.
Just like with video lessons, online workshops require some upfront work. You may want to have a slideshow with information you are sharing so the visual learners can get more out of the session. And, it cuts your face-to-cam time down too if you are on the shy side.
I always make sure to record my workshops even if I am not sure if I will need it in the future. And with tools like Zoom or Google Meet you can easily save a copy of your online workshop for future use.
Want to check out a recent workshop I hosted? Check out the Course Creator Masterclass.
✅ Live Streaming
We’re all guilty of binge watching video clips on social media. And I am sure that your audience has a social media presence, so why not take advantage of it by hosting training sessions on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok.
Just like with online workshops, you’ll need to prepare your content you wish to share and jump live online once the time has come. You can pre-schedule your session or go online at random times, all depending on your followers.
One good thing about live streaming is that you can host your session open to the public (hello potential new students) or keep it private in a group dedicated to your learners only.
Personally, what I like to do is host short mini trainings open to everyone so my audience can get an idea of what to expect from my courses and experience my teaching style.
✅ Visuals & Infographics
It’s important to break down your content into text and visuals not only to provide the visual learners with aids but also to address the decreasing attention span of your learners. Creating short pieces of content is a good idea but breaking it up with photos and (info)graphics makes learning more fun.
Keep in mind when employing visuals that they should be related to the content and rather support the written words or video message you are trying to convey. Also, by keeping all your images throughout the lessons similar, you’ll add coherence to your course.
You can use tools like Canva to create your graphics or use one of the many templates available (even for free). And as always, less is more so focus on the main message and remove all the extra fluff. Your students will thank you in the long run.
✅ EBooks & Worksheets
Even when we are talking about online learning content, printable or digital versions of things like ebooks, worksheets, and checklists are still a valued part of the learning process for consolidating knowledge and completing basic tasks.
You can ask your audience to read your text and watch your videos but most of the magic happens when your learners have to apply what they have learned. And one way to do so is by including worksheets or checklists.
After all, some people do prefer to learn offline so by enabling access to downloadable content that can be easily printed can be a great add-on benefit to some of your learners. Btw, you can grab my Course Launch Checklist as downloadable checklist.
✅ Podcasts & Audio Recordings
While podcasts may not be the most common type of content for online learning, if you happen to host a podcast that compliments your course topic then why not include it as part of your course outline.
Or maybe you know of a podcast that may be suitable as a complimentary resource for your learners. Look at the bigger picture of how the information may benefit your audience and always make sure to get permission from the right places before including it in your course.
Another option, depending on your course topic, you may also consider adding audio recording only instead of video. One recommendation, no matter if video or audio always try to include a transcript or closed captioning to add an additional layer of web accessibility which is really easy to do when using a course hosting platform.
✅ Interactive Elements
Interactive components like video games or other mediums like it are a good way of delivering course content in a fun and unique fashion. Depending on your course topic and zone of genius, you can implement gamification into your online course.
Gamification is a highly effective strategy for engaging students and offering more dynamic and fun online course content.By using typical game elements, your students will be more motivated to complete challenges, keep score, and practically without realizing it, learn more.
You can also use quizzes as an interactive tool and not only for grading. In the past I have included those to warm up my students in my courses for what’s to come next and also add a fun activity between modules/lessons to increase engagement.
✅ Quizzes & Certificates
Quizzes, tests and knowledge checkpoints help to provide not only much-needed structure but also allow for ways to ensure your students get the most out of your online course.
You can decide if you want to make knowledge checks mandatory or optional in your course, and can include not only grades but also certificates for those who successfully complete your course. Now, if that’s not a great way to encourage your learners.
In addition, they can be a good way for breaking up the material into chunks and allow you to monitor student learning progress. Or test the existing knowledge your students may already have about a specific topic you intend to teach.
✅ Student Chat & Support
Creating support groups, making online chat available or including comment sections to ask questions is a good way to tidy up the end of the module or online course and make sure that everybody knows how to get help if they are stuck in their learning journey.
And while I am a great supporter of making myself available to my students, it’s important to keep boundaries and only offer selective office hours so people don’t expect you to answer every day all day.
You can always set up chatbots with automated replies or hire a support team to assist you. But never forget you are the expert and your time is valuable so don’t give up too much of it for free. You can also offer paid support hours where your students can book additional sessions with you.
✅ Online Community
Another way to include peer support is to create an online community for your learners. You can use Facebook Groups or any other platform you wish to get started. But it is important to keep in mind that it takes time to manage and engage your learners on such platforms especially when you first start out.
Think twice before including access to private groups or learning pods if you didn’t plan it out in detail as it can leave a bad impression on your students if they are looking to connect yet nothing is happening in your online community.
If your online group is thriving, it can be a great way to include accountability as learners will be able to help and communicate with each other. Furthermore, seeing other students progress can be a good motivator to keep on going.
Tips to Master Your Content Creation
Each type of content for online courses mentioned above will require specific preparation. Below are four essential tips that will help you avoid making mistakes in any of them.
🗒️ Plan your elearning content ahead of time
Outlining your course content ahead of time is a must to ensure that every essential topic will be covered thoroughly in your online course.
Therefore, it’s crucial to plan what will be shared in each topic, list the information that must be covered, such as research data and fundamental concepts, and define what the sequence of your modules and lessons will be.
This way, you’ll find it easier when it comes to actually recording or writing the content because you’ll know exactly what needs to be created for your online course.
👭 Create the content with your STUDENT in mind
This is a very important tip for all content creation! Whatever you consider creating, you have to think about your target audience first. Never forget who your ideal persona avatar (ICA) is, their interests, and preferences.
You need to tailor your lessons for them at all times, making sure that the language style and duration of the lessons are appropriate so they can experience successful learning outcomes.
💻 Make sure you have the tools & tech you need
It’s a given, but before you start the creation process, you need to make sure you have everything you need to create your online course content! This way, you avoid interruptions and rework throughout the production cycle of the content for your online course.
You can make a list of everything you’ll need, from the details to the most important resources, such as a computer, camera, microphone, editing tools, etc. And don’t shy away from listing all the props you may want to use while recording your video lessons.
The important thing is to have everything ready when you start creating the content for your lessons so that nothing interrupts your thought process!
🗣️ Ask your students for honest feedback
Your online course content is live, and you have the first students inside your online course engaging with your course content. Well, it’s time to ask for feedback!
To determine if your course’s goals have been met and if there’s anything that needs to be improved, ask your students to complete a feedback form right after completing the course or a module or by email.
Stress the importance of receiving this feedback so that students feel motivated to respond and contribute to making your online course even better. You can always offer a little reward for providing their feedback.
Diversify the format of your online course content
As you can see, there are plenty of ways in which online learning can be approached. Differentiating between these different delivery methods is important for being able to make the right decision regarding learning outcomes.
Unfortunately, there is no one method that fits all solutions when it comes to outlining your course content. But if you consider your learner’s needs and wants, you’ll quickly discover that a healthy mix of video, text and visuals with a sprinkle of accountability and online support will get the job done.
Most importantly, get started with version one of your online course content today, and you can always change or upgrade along the way. And if creating a full course sounds just too daunting right now, you can always start with a mini course to test waters and warm up your audience.
No matter which path you choose, there is nothing worse than waiting for the right time create the content for your online courses. Start small with a mini course, map out your entire to-do list, and get familiar with all the course platforms before committing to one.
No COurse, No problem – get started today!
And if you don’t have an online course yet or thinking of automating your expertise or passion with an online course, below are some recommended resources for you to get started:
- My Favorite WordPress Hosting Deal
- My Favorite Course Hosting Platform
- My Favorite Social Media Scheduler
- My Favorite Tool for Graphic Design
- My Favorite Email Marketing Platform
- Join Course Creator Bootcamp Course
- Watch the Content2Course Masterclass
- Or Download Course Creator Roadmap
And if all this is still too much hustle for you but you’re ready to turn your expertise into profit in 2023, join the Course Launch Challenge to launch your own course in no time.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2022 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. In addition, I believe in transparency. If you use my referral links above, then I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.