Online learning has been enjoying an increase in popularity over the past years, and for very good reasons. Cost efficiency and flexibility are just a few of the advantages offered by online courses, which are said to be just as effective, if not better, than those taken in a traditional classroom setting. An online course, when created the right way, can become such a powerful learning tool.

A recent study by the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning shows that students who took the MITx physics class 8.MReVx (Mechanics Review) online learned more compared to students who took the same class in its traditional form. Here are a few basic tips for online educators on how to create an online course for effective learning:

Align Your Design with Course Structure

The course needs to have a coherent design that is aligned with the three stages – desired results, assessment evidence, and learning plan – as detailed in the “backward design” process developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  Ask yourself, “who will be taking this course?” and “what are the learning objectives of this course?” These will help guide you with design decisions that you will be making while creating the online course.

Define Component Skills

When planning an online course, determine the component skills that students need to understand in order to master the content. Provide a learning environment where students can practice these component skills individually and eventually develop the ability to integrate them. Identifying and reinforcing weak component skills through targeted practice can greatly enhance the performance of online students.

Incorporate Student Feedback

Most online courses allow students to sign up a few weeks prior to the launch of the course. This allows educators to gain access to student emails while the course is still in the design process. Through email, educators can ask potential students for their personal objectives for taking the course and analyze the themes from the responses received which can be included in the lesson plans.

Test Course Prototypes

Using low-fidelity prototypes, educators can solicit feedback during the design stage of the course which can help improve learning activities. This can also help identify expert blind spots in the course. According to learning scientists, blind spots are the educator’s inability to make accurate assumptions about how learners perceive the difficulty level of the course because they are unable to recall what it feels like to be a novice. With prototype testing, educators are able to identify these blind spots and make the necessary tweaks to the course so learners are given a better learning experience.

Make Emotionally Satisfying Content

According to Don Norman, author of the book Emotional Design, well-designed objects go beyond being functional but are also emotionally satisfying. While designing an online course, and educator or instructor would have to assess if the course is presented in a way that does not only allow its students to learn but also gives its students a delightful and satisfying experience.

Keep in mind these basic tips on creating an online course, taking into consideration how your students will feel while taking the course so you are able to provide a learning experience that will be effective and enjoyable for your students.

Michelle Rubio is an experienced SEO copywriter and blogger since 2010. She has been working with various businesses, big and small, in the United States, UK, Canada, and Australia. You can see more of her works and experiences in her LinkedIn profile.