Know what sets online courses apart from, say, ebooks? Action. When people sign up for your course, they expect to do something.
Intuitively, we know this, right? We know that it's our job to do more than present information; we've got to help our students get results. And that only happens through action.
So what can you do to make your course more actionable? In this article, I'm going to show you three tactics you can use in your course right now to get your students taking action.
Why is Action Important?
If you have a self-paced course, you know one of their major challenges: Self-paced courses are notorious for drop-offs in engagement. Mainly because students need structure, support and motivation to act...and they don't always get it.
It's not enough to say students should take action. As course creators, we've got to create opportunities for action. In fact, for high-stakes subjects, we need to require action.
(Have I said the word action enough? :))
The point is you've got to make action part of your course design. So how do you do that?
Three Tactics for Actionable Content
Here are three of my favorite action-based learning tactics for your online course:
Quizzes are indirect action-based tactics. They aren't a way to have your students take apply complex concepts. Instead, what they are is an excellent way to help your students check their knowledge or comprehension of a topic.
This helps them know where they're struggling so they can take action in that area. It also helps you know where your students are struggling. In other words, quizzes are a great indicator for where you need to direct action.
Let's recap. Quizzes:
- Work well in courses that present a lot of information or complex concepts
- Help your students check their knowledge in a certain area
- Help you identify challenging topics that would benefit from more activities
Assignments are a more direct action-based tactic. There are a ton of options that fall under the general term "assignment." The main idea is that you have an activity that your students must complete in a module/lesson/week.
When it comes to assignments, feedback is key. If you know you don't have time to review each assignment, consider having mentors who manage small groups of your students and their work. Or, you could have students review each other's work.
Think about it: would you want to work on something and never get any feedback?
Assignments come in many formats and work well in every type of course. You can make them graded or ungraded. For example, Caitlin Pyle has graded assignments in her Proofread Anywhere course.
On the other hand, Bryan Harris from Videofruit uses ungraded assignments in his Rapid List Building course, but you must complete them before you can move to the next module. Both of these are great examples of using assignments to make sure students take action in your course.
Recap - Assignments:
- Work for just about every type of course
- Can be graded or ungraded
- Require feedback in order to be effective learning tools
#3: Course Projects
Course Projects work great in courses that focus on transformation or learning a complex skill (or set of skills). The idea is to have your students complete a course-long project that shows they can apply the concepts or skills they've learned.
The best way to approach projects is to break them into smaller assignments that are due throughout your course. That way it’s not one big chunk of work due at the end. No one likes a bunch of work at the end. (Because, procrastination, motivation and a bunch of other "ations".)
For example, if you had a course on mastering the sales process, the course project could be a sales proposal due at the end of the course. You could break up the different parts of the proposal and make them due throughout the course.
Or, maybe you have a course on knitting. The course project could be knitting a sweater. You could have progress check-ins throughout the course where your students would have to have a certain amount knitted and get feedback.
Recap - Course Projects:
- Works great for showing transformation or application of skills
- Break projects into smaller assignments that are due in different modules of your course
- There are a million ways to go about projects, so have fun with it!
The Spectrum of Learning
All this action-based talk really comes down to this: Learning doesn't happen by accident. There is a spectrum of learning, from knowledge to application. And there are specific activities or actions you can use to move your students from one end of the spectrum to the other.
What are those specific activities? Well, that's for the next article. Stay tuned!
How do you incite action in your course? Tell me in the comments!
Here’s The Next Step:
Want more tactics? If you’d like to improve your student's experience and make your course more actionable, I've got something for you.
It’s a free cheat sheet with five (5) extra strategies in addition to the ones I outline in this post.
Click the image below and enter your email to get access to your free cheat sheet.