Drop that Curriculum!

May 16, 2018


Experienced professors, scholars, and teachers have been successfully presenting their curriculum in classrooms, seminars, and workshops for years.

However, when it comes to translating their material into a digital learning platform their content can fall flat.

Why is it that a well-established course structure does not always convert into a well-designed, digital (web-based) course?

The same person can take the same course in a classroom and online, and absorb different pieces of knowledge. The retention and transfer of knowledge has little to do with the content, and more to do with the delivery of the material. There are several tools that in-person educators use to engage learners that do not immediately translate to web-based learning.

Basic advice that is used to improve in-person instruction:

  1. Keep eye contact with your audience.
  2. Interact with the audience through role playing and demonstration.
  3. Read the crowd and insert physical activity when they start drifting.
  4. Solicit feedback for your next presentation.
  5. Encourage and establish confidence with your audience.

If the basic advice for delivering dynamic instruction does not translate well into digital courses, it is obvious that the construct for in-person delivery is much different. Leveraging the benefits of digital design is the primary objective for developing dynamic online content.

Basic tips for digital course development:

  1. Balance challenge and ability with structured goals and real accomplishments.
  2. Encourage learners to construct and organize their information.
  3. Chunk the flow of new information to keep it relevant and digestible.
  4. Leverage story-telling.
  5. Maintain attention with appropriate media that does not distract from learning.

Balance challenge and ability with structured goals and real accomplishments.

A primary reason that in-person curriculums fall flat online, is that the information lacks any human interaction. Without interaction, a step-by-step course is mundane. Digital courses must balance challenge with ability. This means reinventing the content to include actionable goals. A way to include this tip is to test the material. Review the content for ‘actionable’ information. Make sure that all of the statements can be performed by the learner. This will encourage them to cognitively apply the information as they progress through the course.

Encourage learners to construct and organize their information.

Constructing and organizing information is best exemplified by mind-maps. Mind-maps are doodles that are created by the learner to help them organize the material into a personal, visual representation. Not everyone is a ‘doodler’, however, while developing web-based courses, imagine the learner drawing a mind-map. Make sure that the content is presented in way so that the learner would be able to draw a clear representation of the information.

Chunk the flow of new information to keep it relevant and digestible.

Dumping all of the text from an in-person presentation into a digital course is not advisable. Whether the presenter realizes it or not, they are chunking information as they present. Each pause for applause, laughter, feedback or Q&A is a chunk. On a grander scale each session, class, or workshop is a chunk. Just because a learner can freely leave and come back during a digital course does not mean that they are responsible for managing the content. Keep content concise and actionable. Establish confidence by reviewing what is known, adding new information and then encouraging them to apply that knowledge to a personal experience. Use chunked information to encourage engagement. Present the information, provide an activity prompt to bring it all together, and facilitate shared experiences among the learners. Prompts are a fantastic way to measure engagement and assess learning.

Leverage storytelling.

Presenters frequently use storytelling to wake up an audience. Leverage storytelling the same way, digitally. Use a variety of media types to tell stories. Record, animate, or tell a story via video or audio. The benefit of digital media is that it facilitates creativity. Make your content come to life by adding the human element with real-life examples and events. Keep in mind that telling a story is not an opportunity to ramble. The story must be entirely relevant and concise. Imagine that your audience is struggling to stay awake; tell a quick story to jolt them back into action.

Maintain attention with appropriate media that does not distract from learning.

Limit textual information so that it flows evenly. Limit all media as well. Draw attention to only one image at a time. Shorten videos to only the essentials. Without enticing and engaging media, digital learning can fall flat. However, too much media can confuse and distract the learning process. All images, videos, and audio recordings should be relevant to the content. This means that if only 30sec of a 5min video is relatable, either trim the video to just 30sec or leave it out. Original footage and content is preferred. Only reuse publicly accessible images and videos if entirely relevant and necessary, and do this sparingly when possible.


Here are some Dream See Do tips and features that will enhance learning content and delivery

Live-Video - Keep the audience engaged & schedule an integrated live-video chat

Expressive Responses: prompt learners to give audio reflections or video checkins

Feedback - Provide encouragement & feedback throughout their learning journey

Quiz - Insert quizzes and activities to test retention and improve transfer

Resource Bank - Include additional resources for learners to dive deeper

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