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Understanding Where to Begin and End Your Course Lessons

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In this post, we’re going to begin a new series on content creation tips to help you create online courses which will help your students succeed in absorbing and retaining the material you deliver.

These tips are based on experiences working with our clients over the last several years, and these strategies and tips are primarily being shared with you as they're things that we found to lead to more satisfied students.

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Well, first they feel that your course successfully led them to their final desired learning outcome.

That's obvious…

But, it also means that they found value in your course, that they felt it was structured well, that it was paced well, and that it catered to their unique needs. So let's dive into our first content creation tip in this series.

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So what do I mean by this?

Let's look at our course as a bridge designed to take our students from their starting point to their desired learning outcome. Well, what's the most efficient and structurally sound way to build a bridge?

One option would be this...

To rush out and grab as much random material as possible, throwing caution to the wind, not measuring properly to know what size each piece should be, not choosing uniformly-sized materials and just getting it down as quickly as possible.

What happens in this case?

Well, we end up with a bridge that's difficult to drive over, right? It's uneven, bumpy, and nerve-wracking to drive over. It's structurally unsound and it may actually end up damaging our car.

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Now let's say we carefully measure out the span of the bridge. We find an ideal unit and material which is not too long to let the bridge sag, but not too short to be wasteful and require too many pieces.

Then, we decide precisely how many of those pieces we need and we then join them nicely to create a structurally sound bridge which is smooth to drive over and gets us to the end efficiently and safely.

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This analogy directly relates to how your course lessons fit together on your students' learning bridge…

We want our lessons to begin right where the last lesson left off and we want it to end right where the next lesson will pick up.

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This may not sound like a big deal, but it's important to keep in mind. We've seen a lot of courses which students found frustrating because of a lack of flow, consistency, or pace and these elements are critical for a couple of reasons...

First, too much overlap or repetition between course lessons can impede learning retention. If you're constantly repeating and you've already discussed a topic ad nauseum, it taxes your student's mind and burns up brain bandwidth they should be using to assimilate new learning concepts.

You've probably experienced this before in your own learning and you may not have even been aware of it.

But…when learning material is presented to us, our mind is constantly sorting and storing it. During that brief moment when new ideas are interrupted with something your mind thinks it's learned before, your mind checks to see if you’ve stored that already and it briefly goes back to check the mental file cabinets…

Which leads to a short moment of, you guessed it…distraction.

If this happens occasionally, it's not a big deal. But, if you're constantly bringing up past material, it can actually be detrimental to the learning process.

So when we begin working on a lesson, we want to be mindful of the concepts our students have already mastered. We don't repeat ourselves too often and we also want to be mindful of precisely where the last lesson left off so that we don't overlap with it and also don't leave a gap between the last lesson and our current lesson.

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This is another reason I always recommend creating course content consistently.

Even if it's a lesson a day or three lessons a week or whatever fits your schedule, it’s better than sitting down once a week or once a month and cranking out lots of content all at once.

When you work on your course consistently, it will have a direct impact on the flow and pace of your course. It'll translate to smoother, more effective learning journeys that your students will appreciate.

So to summarize that point, we want to prevent as much overlap and repetition as possible by starting our lesson precisely where the last lesson left off, but not going too far ahead into content we'll be addressing in future lessons and by being mindful of the concepts our students have already mastered.

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The second primary reason we want to follow this principle is to build momentum for our students.

Think about this…

Have you ever been totally engrossed in a book and gotten to the end of a chapter and instead of putting the book down to go to bed or go back to work from your lunch break you think, "Ah, maybe just one more chapter?"

"I just have to know what happens next!"

You want to guide your students through your course this way as well. You want your course to read like a story...a logical story which makes sense, chapter after chapter, and builds momentum.

This will help your students make more consistent progress throughout your course and it will help them focus better along the way.

About Nate Johnson

Nate Johnson is one of the co-founders of Fly Plugins, creators of the first and most widely-implemented learning management system for WordPress, WP Courseware. Since 2012, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, corporate training departments, and higher education institutions develop and deploy online training courses from their WordPress websites.

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