4 Reasons Why Some E-Courses Suck

There are good e-courses and there are those that suck. That latter frustrates the heck out of learners.

And I am not surprised at the number of poor courses as many non-educators (aka entrepreneurs) are pumping them out like candies from a Pez dispenser.

Having an e-course is the latest and greatest. I have to agree, to a point, because:

  • Online courses are so convenient to access and are a way to learn something vital in the moment.
  • Lifelong learning is the new norm – continuous learning will keep us young and vibrant.
  • Online courses can be revisited to follow the strategies and use the tools offered, at any time.

BUT it is not easy to make a good e-course. Below are some tips on what not to do when building an e-course.


Let’s get down to brass tacks. I am not going to point out actual e-courses that suck – not my MO or style. But I will categorize the leading issues of a poor course.

See if you can recognize any of these no-nos.

1) Lack of Instructional Variety

I can pretty well describe the format of a typical online course currently delivered in the entrepreneurial world.

  • Module 1: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Module 2: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Module 3: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Module 4: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Module 5: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Module 6: Video 20-30 minutes long plus a worksheet
  • Etc. (I was getting dizzy)

Steps on Adding Variety

(This is what I do for all my e-course clients)

Let’s use a course example: Teaching winning copywriting strategies for a sales page.

  1. Visualize what you are trying to get them to do. Actually see them doing it.
    • Appreciate  the behaviour of consumers
    • Distinguish the parts of a sales page
    • Practice writing each section of a sales page
    • Critically evaluate another’s copywriting
    • Complete a sales page
  2. Determine how to teach each of the learning objectives above (this could involve 2-5 lessons for each objective).


Here is an example of a course that provides a variety of lessons and activities.



2) One-Way Communication Only

A course that only delivers content with little input from the instructor or fellow students is very much a one-way communication – they are talking at ya but not allowing you to speak.

Self-directed courses are typically one-way communication and that makes sense. They are meant to be quick training pieces that don’t need a lot of interaction from the facilitator or peers, such as:

  • Cooking techniques and recipes
  • How to set up an Instagram account
  • and other technical topics…

However, too many full courses are plopped online leaving the student to completely teach themselves, solve their own problems, and receive no feedback on their understandings, misconceptions or work.

Two-way communication is having your voice, questions, concerns, wonderings and ideas SHARED with people, such as your instructor, teaching assistants, group leader and fellow students.

Plato was the original great teacher – he would wander around lovely Greek gardens and had a dialogue with his students. He would give them reflective and critical-thinking questions and asked them to ponder ideas. Lovely.

3) Over-Stimulating Learning Environment

Then there is the course that has too many animations, irrelevant images, bells and whistles, loud font, and cheesing games – all of which are highly distracting and annoying to adult learners.

Following the same concepts of web page designing, keep visuals, audio and any other designs to a minimal.

In fact, students need their own whitespace (ala their brains) to let the new knowledge sink in. Therefore, give them the weekend off or provide a midway break.

Recognize or research how our brains work to provide the best learning. Look up ‘brain-based learning’.

4) Fire Hosing with Content

What is fire hosing? Providing too much content at one time so that students feel they are drinking out of a fire hose.

Here is my permission:

Following my comments above about overstimulating students with a loud, distracting learning environment, having too much content will create the same angst. Students will shut down and become overwhelmed by the amount of content.

Simply stating they should consume what they need lets you off the hook from teaching well.

However, if you  insist on keeping everything in the course (and not pare back content like you should) then at least separate the ‘must know’ content from the ‘nice to know’ PLUS guide them through the most critical content by using a course outline, Monday morning emails, etc.

Or better yet, create another course.

Basically, adults stop learning after 20 minutes. Click here to read more tips on how to pace your content.



In summary, create a lovely learning flow within a course by visualizing your students learning and their applying your lessons. More content and over-stimulating learning environments do not make for a better course.

When building a course, think about how you like to learn and some of the great courses you took. Then, emulate that.

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