I’ve taken a lot of online courses. I love learning. I am constantly reading online, watching documentaries on Netflix, watching educational YouTube videos, and Lynda.com videos.
That works out really well with my work as an instructional designer because I’m constantly having to design and evaluate online courses. Between the 5 universities and 2 corporations that I’ve worked, I have created, evaluated or taken upwards of 400-450 online courses. And that isn’t even counting the videos that I’ve watched for my own personal development. If I add those, the number easily goes up into the gagillions…
So I Came up with A Process
Like anyone who has to do something over and over again, I began to develop ways of doing it faster.
I hated having to start from scratch each and every project. I knew that each course was different, but I knew there had to be a way to integrate all the learning principles that I had adopted into a framework that could be reused. Over the years, I have adopted the following principles into my personal learning philosophy:
David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction
Dr. Merrill researched a number of learning theories and came up with his principles based on what they all had in common, he also emphasized the use of systems and tools to make it easier for people to build better courses.
Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping Technique
Dr. Moore’s framework was created to be used in business as a way to create eLearning that was action-oriented and used only relevant information.
Ali Carr-Chellman’s Instructional Design for Teachers
Dr. Carr-Chellman was one of my professors in grad school and I really enjoyed her practical, common sense approach to instructional design.
Great Courses Don’t Just Happen
Working with great teachers, I realized that great online courses did not automatically happen because the teacher was effective in the classroom. In the face-to-face environment, they often have many opportunities to give constant feedback, see the look of confusion in a student’s eyes, and reframe the discussion to meet learning goals. But to package up all that experience and present it in a self-paced online course required an additional step.
It was necessary for someone else, a “learning coach”, to work with that teacher to transform the information into its simplest form. This learning coach asks questions to dig up the learning moments that the teacher had forgotten about ages ago. The coach has a good grasp of the technology involved, but is also a newbie in the subject area. They might be at the same level of knowledge as a student, but they know the science behind how people learn. This coaching of teachers and other subject matter experts over the years was a necessary part of my work and I loved it.
But how could I apply these years of experience with my skills and process as a learning coach into something others could use?
Inspired By The Business Model Generation Canvas
After freelancing for 2 years, I finally decided to look into developing a business that would not be dependent on trading time for money. In my search for developing a business model, I discovered the Business Model Generation Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. I was familiar with various ways of visualizing thoughts, such as mind-mapping, but the idea of giving these thoughts some structure and using the final results to plug into a course outline was, for me, a game changer.
So after mentally walking through the process a few times, checking it against my design principles, and running it by a few clients and teacher groups, I extracted the key steps and identified how the entire process could be paired down to 5 main building-blocks. On a Thursday evening at about 8pm, The Course Canvas was born.
Can It Improve Your Course Planning?
Yes, it definitely has for me. I’d love for all course creators out there to give it a try!
FREE TEMPLATE: THE COURSE CANVAS
* Includes step-by-step Instructor's Manual *