How To Structure An Online Course

How To Structure An Online Course?

In the pursuit of making education more accessible, online courses come as the most important tool. Several aspiring students cannot attend a physical classroom due to lack of infrastructure, time, or money but online courses are somehow manageable. 

Due to the increasing inclination to remote services, online courses have also picked up the required pace where competition is becoming cut-throat. If you are a teacher, trainer or instructor, then admitting students to the online course is the biggest challenge. To get the upper hand, the online course should remain informative, delivering value, and most importantly, well-structured to make learning efficient.

Let’s help you develop a structure/outline of the online course from scratch.

Answer Some Questions

  1. Who is going to take this course? Before you prepare the course, understand the mindset, background of the students and develop the course material accordingly.
  2. What are the students struggling to understand, or what all are the gaps? This question will help you gain the perspective in determining the important and avoidable content pieces.
  3. How much can the students learn? You don’t want to overburden students with information that cannot get processed. An optimum content size will make the learning experience more enjoyable.
  4. What result should be there for students? You should define the learning objectives to map the performance of your training.
  5. What type of online course are you planning? There are some options like Individual Online Learning, Collaborative Online Learning and many more.
  6. How do you plan to engage the students? Engagement is always the key, you should allow two-way interaction through course content.
  7. Do you want to sell the course or educate your students? The objective of developing the course is always decided at the initial stage.

Once you answer these questions, move ahead with structuring your online course.

Decide on the Training Format

Some course creators use presentations to deliver content, and others use more media in the process. Few instructors even deliver content without using any teaching aid. To make an informed decision, the creator should evaluate the course content and come up with a suitable format. 

Some aspects to help you decide the format:

  • Presentations with lists and animations work best for the theoretical part. 
  • If you are working with a tool, you should display it most of the time. 
  • The instructor must be visible to the students for building healthy relationships with the students.

You can also implement discussion forums for increasing engagement and bringing in the essence of peer learning in the course. 

How To Structure An Online Course

Get Specific with Niche

It is never possible to address every dimension of the subject at once, and if you are thinking of that, it’s time to restructure your content. An instructor must determine the fundamental aspects of the course at the initial stage only. Being more specific helps in the practical implementation of the course as well.

Students opting for online courses want in-depth knowledge of the specific problem, and being too generic about the subject will never help. Targeting the niche helps in building interest and saves a tremendous amount of time in the longer run.

Brainstorm the Important Topics

Once you decide on the niche, start to brainstorm and outline the necessary topics for the students. Say, you are preparing course material for advanced photography, then you will shortlist the topics that are not covered in basic online photography courses.

You should never start with explaining the usage of different lenses but dive deep into a specific lens. While doing this, you should share some advanced techniques to resonate with the course objective decided at the beginning.

To decide on the topics:

  • List all the probable topics on a piece of paper. 
  • Keep the course objective in mind
  • Cross the unnecessary points one by one.
  • Keep doing it till the time you cross every unrelated topic.

In the end, you will get a list of relevant topics ready for turning into modules.

Find the Correct Sequence of Learning

More than making lives easier for the students, the objective should remain to make the teaching more prosperous. With an organized approach, trainers can deliver content efficiently, and the same would get reflected on the students’ knowledge takeaway as well. 

In the previous section, we shortlisted the relevant topics, and now, we will arrange the whole course in a logical order. In this part, we will follow the sequencing model. 

We intend to figure out the correct order of learning. We will start with the basics and then move to the advanced topics gradually. Once we have the desired order of training, we can move on to the next part.

Club Similar Topics into Modules

Clubbing of the related topics becomes tricky at times, but we have a way of making it simple for you. You will require a marker and some sticky notes.

  • Write down only one topic on each paper
  • Now, stick every note in a grid format and evaluate if you have covered every broad subject.
  • When satisfied, start pasting the notes with related topics together.
  • Perform this exercise for some time with multiple iterations till you get the desired results.
  • Now, you will observe a completely organized grid with similar sections clubbed together.

How To Structure An Online Course

This structuring will also allow you to assess the performance at the end of every module. You can also determine the gaps with the difficult topics that would require more attention from your end. 

This exercise will not take more than 30 minutes, but will save a lot of time in the longer run.

After structuring the whole course into modules, it becomes even more important to structure each class for the desired results.

We have divided each class into three parts, beginning, middle and end.

The Beginning

This is the most important part where you gain the attention of the students. Share a real-life example or the benefits of understanding the module. Each class should start with a new module, if possible. If not, then bridging the information gap between the consecutive sessions is your responsibility as the course creator.

Some course creators make the mistake of promoting other courses or offer supplementary material at the start of the class. One must always refrain from doing that. Spend 5 – 7 minutes on the introductory phase and highlight important terminologies to lay the foundation efficiently. You can also go for discussing the agenda of the day.

Some trainers even share their expertise and background to build trust and relationships with the students. This should come in the introductory class only and not during the later stages.

The Middle Part

Trainers should keep the maximum content of every module in this part only. It is advisable to push the practical aspects of the course through real-life examples, case studies, and live projects. 

Training while doing is the best methodology that works wonders for the students. While explaining the theoretical part of the course, you should implement the same practically during the course to build a strong case of applicability.

The End

The end part is a quick recap for the students to understand the course content better. The course instructor should list all the discussed topics at the end and add one line explaining each of them.

You can also use this phase for demonstrating the current market trends along with the industries that are already implementing the discussed techniques.


Though structuring an online course largely depends on the subject, the fundamental model remains the same. The purpose is to impart maximum knowledge using the available resources to make lives easier for the students. The above-discussed techniques will help you structure an online course perfectly if you follow each step carefully.