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How to Make Writing an Online Course More Social

When you’re teaching an online course, you’re mostly confined to a screen. While there’s value in teaching and experimenting with different methods of delivery, there isn’t much of a social experience for the learner. Sure, you can include digital badges, homework assignments, and quizzes – all of which can be completed independently – but that’s about it. The teacher mainly provides the structure and content, while the student passively consumes it and occasionally provides some minimal feedback.

If you’ve ever taken an online course, you’ll know that there’s a lot more that could be done to increase the social experience for the learner. You might have considered creating a community for the course, with contributors adding value and increasing engagement – whether by sharing content, answering questions, or moderating discussions. Doing this can increase the feeling of engagement and ownership between the teacher and student, boosting retention. It also allows the students to feel encouraged to ask questions and offer feedback, increasing the course’s overall quality. Finally, establishing a community for the course encourages the learners to engage with each other outside of the course itself, further establishing the connection between the two parties.

Unfortunately, getting started with a new course can be difficult. You might not have enough content to create a community around, or you might not yet know how to effectively moderate a discussion. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, which will help you implement these practices from the outset, regardless of whether you’re teaching an online course or running an online business.

Establishing A Community

The benefit of establishing a community for a course is that you’re not only able to provide students with a sense of engagement and ownership – you’re also giving the community members the opportunity to contribute to and shape the content. It’s a win-win.

The first step to establishing a community is to consider the scope of the course content. Do you have a technical writer, marketing manager, or content strategist within your organization who could take on the responsibility of creating content for the course? If not, who will you ask to contribute?

From here, you can determine the type of community you want to create. Do you want to keep the discussion focused on the content of the course and prevent it from veering off into unproductive directions? Or do you want to encourage students to explore areas beyond the course content, such as industry best practices or the latest marketing trends?

Once you’ve determined the scope of the course and its goals, you can move on to the next step: identifying the important people within this scope. This is more about psychology than about education. If you can identify the key people within your organization who will benefit the most from this course, you can create a team, or even an entire group, around these individuals. This team will then be responsible for creating, editing, and evaluating the content that goes into the course. They are also the ones who will receive credit for the content once it’s been published.

To get started, simply ask yourself: “Who is the most suited person for this course?” Whatever the answer is, that’s the person you should be considering to take on this role. To give this person the proper training and orientation, you will need to make sure that they are aware of the following:

  • The purpose of the course
  • The target audience of the course
  • The requirements of this particular role in relation to the course
  • How they will be credited for the work they do
  • Any special training or education they might need

Conducting Live Discussions

Live discussions, or as our friends at Future Inc. like to call them, “live teaching moments,” are the gold standard when it comes to online courses. They allow the teacher to engage with the students, to answer questions, and to provide guidance as needed, all while responding to comments and feedback in real time. They’re great because they give the appearance of an a3 teacher, popping up in different locations around the clock to provide one-on-one help to students who need it.

If you’ve ever taken an online course, you’ll probably already be familiar with the term. Maybe you’ve seen it in the course description or in the footer of a website, sharing a link to a webcam lesson or a Q&A with the instructor. When someone is live teaching, it feels like they’re “in the room” with the instructor, providing extra value and interaction that isn’t available in your standard, recorded video lessons. Additionally, students can provide feedback and ask questions, which the instructor can then address. This kind of interaction provides a more engaging experience for everyone involved, increasing student loyalty and lowering the stressors associated with learning. Furthermore, having live discussions around the course content makes it easier for students who are shy or introverted to participate, as there’s no danger of missing out on valuable lessons due to a shortage of student engagement in the recorded formats. Establishing live discussions for your course also provides you with the opportunity to experiment with different scheduling and delivery methods, allowing you to find the one that works best for your particular course.

Creating Homework Assignments

There’s nothing more frustrating than a course that doesn’t feel challenging. To ensure that your students are really engaged and aren’t rolling their eyes at the tedium of yet another educational experience, you should include some form of homework assignment in your course. Ideally, this should be something that will require a little bit of effort but also provide you with some valuable data that you can use to enhance your teaching.

When it comes to assigning homework, there’s nothing worse than a course where the work doesn’t relate to anything the students have actually learned. To avoid this, try and find topics that are relevant to at least a few of your students. Not only does this provide them with some value, but it also means you’re not forced to cover an entire range of topics without any overlap. This makes the course feel a little less rigid, increasing the chances of your students liking it and staying motivated to do the work. Creating relevant and achievable homework assignments also provides you with the opportunity to evaluate their productivity, seeing whether or not they’ve been applying what they’ve learned and trying to solve problems as you’ve anticipated. This kind of formative assessment helps establish a connection and build trust between you and your students, increasing the likelihood that they’ll feel comfortable enough to provide valuable feedback and suggestions. Ultimately, establishing a community through a series of connected courses is a proven way to improve the overall experience for both students and teachers. By getting students engaged with each other and building a shared sense of responsibility for the content, you’re setting them up for long-term success in an increasingly complex and competitive world.