E-course Development – Part 3: Building Course Content

This is part 3 of a blog series on vital, small steps to create your first (or next) online course. Following these steps will alleviate notions of going crazy. Trust me.

Previously we discussed the following topics, which you might want to explore first as important course development work. Click on each title to review those planning tips.

  1. E-Course Development – Part 1: Discover Demand
  2. E-Course Development – Part 2: The Learning Journey


Let’s get your feet wet on being a course developer by building the content pieces with technologies that are familiar, free and/or low cost.

In my previous post, I suggest that you have at least :

  • One major course goal for your students to achieve
  • A few lessons to help them reach that goal
  • Content, activities and resources to complete each lesson

… and if your course is longer with more goals, you will have more lessons.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”When building your course content, always keep your learning objective in mind.” quote=”When building your course content, always keep your learning objective in mind.”]

Building Course Content: Lesson Pieces

Below are the basic segments of ONE LESSON with an example (next are the possible formats and technologies to use to create the lesson pieces.)

Opening message This is a brief intro. State the purpose of the lesson and what students can hope to achieve at the end of it. This will focus and prepare their minds for learning (aka advanced organizer).
Instructions This is the most detailed section. Keep the steps very direct with lots of instructions. Have too many instructions? Then make a second lesson. Remember to focus on your ONE lesson goal and just teach that.
Examples Provide stories, ‘how to’ videos or images of what you are trying to teach. Students LOVE examples as it provides them with a visual representation and something to model after.
Activity You gotta get them to do something otherwise it’s just passive learning and is not effective. But instead of giving them the dreaded worksheet, have them do a small task or step to try before filling out worksheets or creating something. If your students feel successful with the bite-size activity then they will attempt the larger one.
Support Add some kind of support, like a community to share ideas, a FAQ sheet to find common questions with answers, or a way to provide them feedback on their work/progress.



Click the titles below.

Opening message

This can be a simple paragraph at the top of a course page or PDF.  Keep it short, and bullet what they can expect to do at the end of the lesson.

For a more effective opening message, create an advanced organizer (aka Dr. Kelly Lesson Booster) with these 4 parts:

  1. Lesson overview
  2. Prior lesson review
  3. Few key points
  4. Expectations
PDF creator with

email service or

Course platform with webpages


Instructions can be spelled out in a list or chart using text. However, to give instructions more depth provide illustrated steps using images or visual chart, deeper explanations via text, video as demos and checklists to follow. If this is a course about personal development, provide advice on overcoming inevitable blocks.

Chunk your instructions into vital steps with white space around them so each step is visible, accessible and easy to find again.

Image maker

Video production

Examples Modelling is the most powerful way to learn – that is why apprenticeships are effective by following an expert’s performance.

Provide your story, screenshots of productions, written examples, reviews on performances, others’ work etc. This provides them with what it could look like and what they can achieve.

Photo editor

Adding webpage links


Bite-size activity: This could be as simple as 2 or 3 paragraphs encouraging them to do something small offline. Or provide reflection questions to think about. It could also be a quiz to check their knowledge or perceptions with auto feedback.

Main exercise: The purpose of the exercise is to get them to achieve the one lesson goal. Recall that? This could be in the form of steps to print off in a checklist, a template to fill in, deadline to meet, opportunity to perform, web treasure hunt, project to complete, etc. Provide the tools and resources for them to engage with the activity.

Embed external quiz

WordPress quiz

Fill in worksheets

Word templates

Polished PDFs


Feedback: By far getting feedback is the most demanded need of students to understand if they are getting it right. This can be submitting work to you for feedback, sharing work with a community, getting results from a quiz, comparing to modelled examples, introduced to another feedback source (i.e. journal editor.)

Community: Having a group of like-minded people to share questions, ideas, work and resources with is vital. However, there are so many groups out there so ensure that adding another to your student’s’ plate is effective. Perhaps make it a short-term online group.

Slack community platform

Google Groups

Read the last entry of this 4 part series: The Minimum Value Product (aka your next course).

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