Category Archives for Learning Design

Use learning design to structure your whole business…and everything in it

the five possible learning types for your course
  • Verbal Information. 
  • Mindset.
  • Cognitive Strategy.
  • Intellectual skills (How-to).
  •  Motor Skills.

    These are the five “Domains of Learning” discovered by educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné.


Any type of learning you want to create falls into one or more of these categories.

Understanding the 5 domains is a powerful key

you can use to unlock the BEST way to structure your entire online business enterprise...

as well as every course, lesson, and media item within it....

so people can achieve the transformation you’re promising.

The 5 Domains of learning can help you discover:

  • The type of transformation every aspect of your business will deliver
  • The best way to structure every part of your business to optimize learning
  •  What to include in every level of your business and what to leave out

Most courses include elements of more than one learning domain, but there is ONE domain that determines the best way to structure your course as a whole.

The same principle applies to anything you create, from  your whole business enterprise to a single PDF.

 Figuring the over-arching domain  is the key to setting up a business, course, lesson, or media item

 that people will learn from, love, and recommend to their colleagues and friends.

Let's say that  you have a business that includes a book, coaching, and a course.  

Your business will have its own learning domain.. and figuring out what that learning domain  is will guide you in how to structure the business.

For example, a business that's focused on producing mindset change will need to include long-term ongoing support to ensure that the mindset change sticks.

Woman changing smileys on her face


My online learning program, as a whole… my whole online course enterprise.. focuses on MINDSET CHANGE

The goal of my business is to change people’s attitudes  (and resulting behaviors) about online course creation—so that they understand what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and what will work better to create online courses that truly deliver on their promises.

In order to facilitate that type of mindset change, my online course enterprise goes deep into helping you get in touch with your mission and vision for teaching online… your WHY for doing what you do.

 And I provide extensive long term support so you can go the distance to get your course created, get it out there, and continuously up-level your delivery and practice of teaching online… whether you’ve been teaching for 35  years or have never taught before in any context, at all.

As a smaller subset within my online enterprise,  The Course Design Formula® which you can read about in my book, is ahOW-TO(INTELLECTUAL SKILL).

The book presents the big ideas that are critical to know about teaching and learning… both in general, and online.

The book presents tools and resources specifically designed to help you create effective online learning programs, and  steps to follow to get your course online.

And you’ll learn some high-level fine tuning tweaks to ensure your online programs are effective, impactful, engaging and “elegant”.. by which I mean that you skillfully combine different aspects of quality teaching in a smooth and graceful way.

picture of the Course Design  Formula book in paperback
octopus emerging from computer


But let’s face it… it’s one thing to learn what the steps of a skill involve.. and another thing to APPLY those steps to YOUR specific content, which may be very comprehensive, unique, and complex. 

That process can feel  as overwhelming and nebulous as  trying to wrestle an octopus... amiright?

In order to help you apply the steps of the Course Design Formula® to your specific content, 

I’ve set up the Course Design Formula® Master Course as a COGNITIVE STRATEGY course... 

 you learn how to learn how best to apply each step of the formula to your specific content,

in your own unique way, that works best for YOUR target audience and their needs.

The Master Course is a 14 week cohort-based program that I offer twice a year. 

Admission is by private interview only.

If you’re interested in joining the next cohort (starting June 21 2022), 

click here to make an appointment

to meet with me for an enrollment interview.


You can see the domains of learning for the different aspects of my business, here... and how they relate to each other. 

Each business, course, and media item will be unique in this regard. 

That's why developing a deep understanding of the domains of learning is so important,

so you can get clarity on how to structure each aspect of your online teaching enterprise.

learning domains for different aspects of my business


How about you?

 What’s the learning domain for your online academy, program, or course?

Take the free quiz

to find out your program's learning domain. 


How will YOU change the world through teaching online?


And.. what kind of help do you need to make that happen?

Join us on Facebook

 in the

Course Design Formula® Community.

Send me an email

 to

Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com

Come to the 

Learn and Get Smarter community meeting

Saturdays on Zoom.

Come to the Learn and Get Smarter Community Meeting

Where we talk about how to survive and thrive

 with online courses and online business

in these challenging times

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

Why is transformation so hard?

Transformation of common lascar butterfly ( Pantoporia hordonia ) from caterpillar and chrysalis on twig

We all say we WANT transformation, right?

Online course creators NEED to focus on the transformation they want their course to deliver, if their course is going to actually DO anything and make a difference in the world.


BUT… here’s the dirty little secret of online course design that no one talks about (because it’s so hard and painful for all of us, as humans, to face).

We all WANT transformation. That’s why we sign up for online courses to begin with (and why we create them for our clients and customers).

But in order to ACHIEVE transformation, people have to actually CHANGE.


Frightened Woman

Change is hard, and people resist it. And they should.

And they… wait… WHAT??? They SHOULD?

 I thought we were focused on producing transformation here.

 We are.

 And in order for transformation to be real,

 it has to overcome the learner’s natural and instinctive resistance to change.

 

If there's no resistance, there's no (real) change!


Why do we resist change? Because change is hard, scary, and dangerous.

Many online courses DON’T produce real transformation… because they’re not designed to. 

That can happen because the course creator doesn’t know HOW to design a course to produce transformation. 

Or because no one really wants transformation to happen, to begin with.

Those are two separate use cases, so let’s explore them one at a time.

1) No one really wants transformation to happen, to begin with:

Sometimes, people like the IDEA of transformation, but don’t want to do the hard work needed to really make it happen. We’ve all been there at different times in our lives.
We buy the gym membership, but don’t actually go to the gym. 

We sign up for that class in accounting or yoga but never actually log on.

That’s from the learners’ side.

From the course creators’ side, a course that PROMISES transformation (but doesn’t actually deliver it) is fast and easy to create because it requires no learning design chops.

As long as you know how to ♨️SELL the sizzle♨️, you never need to actually cook the steak.

Plenty of people have gotten rich doing this.

All I have to say about that is… well... you know what they say about karma, so I won’t repeat it here.😱😱😱


2)  The course creator has excellent intentions, but doesn’t know how to design a course that actually produces transformation. 

I know that if you have read this far, use case #1 above does NOT apply to you, which means, you WANT your online course to produce real transformation.

The challenge then lies in understanding how to make that happen.

Here's what transformation looks like in each of the five domains of learning described by educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné.

In my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online, I share how to use Gagné’s research into the domains of learning to set up your course to produce real transformation.

What I want to explore here is, WHY do we need five different ways to produce transformation?

I mean, change is change is change, right?

Wrong!

The collage of faces of surprised people

Different kinds of change require different teaching strategies, because of the different ways we RESIST each kind of change.


Now let’s get a high-level view of how to set up a course that produces real transformation.

In order to overcome resistance, pretty much any kind of transformation works best when we approach it from the right mindset, so let’s start by exploring mindset change.

MINDSET CHANGE

Woman changing smileys on her face


Surprisingly, when you set out to produce mindset change (meaning, to help people change their attitude and the resulting behaviors), the first thing to do (based on Gagné’s research and what I’ve discovered works from helping hundreds of creative experts set up their own online courses) is to start by helping your learners understand WHAT DOESN’T WORK: the unhelpful attitudes they COULD adopt, or maintain, if they want to.

Depressed woman lying on couch in messy room isolated flat vector illustration. Cartoon lazy character resting on sofa at home and surfing internet on smartphone. Apathy and indifference concept


Why would you start a course that promotes positive mindset change, by focusing on what DOESN’T work?


Here’s why: mindset change is a CHOICE. 


If you want people to actually change their mindset and resulting behaviors (instead of just SAYING they’ve changed while continuing to do what they were doing before), they have to first realize they COULD just keep doing what doesn’t work… and understand the long-term consequences of NOT changing.

The resistance to mindset change comes from the natural tendency we all have to want to stay in our comfort zone. It’s only natural, right? Lounging on the couch scarfing down carbs is a lot easier than getting up early to train for that half marathon... at least, at first.


So to produce mindset change, people need to first understand that change is their choice, and see the long-term consequences of NOT choosing to change.

  • You can keep scarfing down carbs… and here’s what you ‘ll look and feel like in 50 years.
  • You can NOT work hard to learn that new thing... and here’s how not knowing it will impact your performance and promotions at work over the next 10 years
  • You can smoke a pack a day for the rest of your life, and here’s what your lungs will look like compared to the lungs of someone who chooses to quit smoking now
  • (and so on...)

Seeing the long-term negative consequences of NOT choosing to change, counteracts the natural tendency we all have to want to stay in our comfort zones.

That’s why the first thing to teach in a mindset change course is what doesn’t work.

Next, people have to know what does work, which is the heart of the course’s teaching content.

But knowing what does work is still not enough to produce real mindset transformation.

People need to see concrete examples of what positive mindset change looks like, in the form of role models or case studies.

 They need to be inspired and to see that making the choice to change is possible because others have successfully done it.

Young man standing in front of large superhero shadow on white background

So now we’re good to go with mindset change, right?

NOPE... that’s still not enough!

Because changing our mindset and resulting behaviors is really really hard.

Even:

  • knowing what doesn’t work
  •  learning what would work better, and
  • seeing how others have successfully made the change

are still not enough!

There are two more very important pieces to the mindset change puzzle.

People need help getting in touch with WHY they want to get out of their comfort zone to make this change. 

They need an immediate short term “why” (that motivates them to take immediate action so they can get some quick wins) and they need a deeply compelling long term “why” so they can keep going over time.

If your reason for changing your attitude about healthy eating is that you want to look great for your friend’s wedding in three months, you need a longer-term reason to keep at it once the wedding is over.

And finally, the MOST important aspect of mindset change is

 long term ongoing support,

which means that producing lasting mindset change is a great foundation for an online membership or a coaching practice.

Heart hands as a group of diverse people hands connected together shaped as a love symbol expressing the feeling of being happy and togetherness.

Is mindset change an important part of YOUR online teaching program?

To learn more about how to create mindset change that really sticks, read my book, 

3D book mockup including back cover

For a deeper dive into mindset change and how it impacts us as online course creators, check out my blog post,

 “Are you ready for a mindset make-over”,

which focuses on the mindset changes we may need to make OURSELVES as digital entrepreneurs in the online learning space.

Video call or conference concept with men and women working together. Virtual meeting

I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences in producing mindset change that really sticks… let’s talk!

Join us at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting

Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern, on Zoom,

where we focus on how to survive and thrive with online courses and online learning in these challenging times.

(These meetings are one of the ways  I provide long term ongoing support for all of us, as online course creators! 

It would be great to see you there!)

Come to the

Learn and Get Smarter Community Meeting

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

Saturdays

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern on Zoom

Streamline your course to make the learning POP!

Streamlined Course Creation course card screenshot

Simplifying the navigation in an online course is one of the most important things you can do to help your course participants get the most out of it.

But that's easier said than done.

I'm the featured guest on Danny Iny (Founder and CEO of Mirasee) and Abe Crystal (Founder and CEO of Ruzuku)'s outstanding new podcast, CourseLab from Mirasee FM radio.

Check out my podcast episode, where I talk about these issues in depth.

(If the embedded version below doesn't play on your device,then click here to listen instead).

The online learning interface automatically adds complexity to learning, because you have to help your learners figure out how to get around and where to find everything in your course.

A solution that  works very well is to use digital flipbooks, which combine the simplicity of turning the pages of a book with the interactivity afforded by online learning... so it's win/win!

Learning to create a digital flipbook is easy....my fast FREE mini course will teach you how in less than an hour:

digital flipbook course screenshot

I use digital flipbooks extensively in my online courses, and will be updating some current mini courses that are included within larger course bundles, to be all-inclusive flipbooks that fit inside one lesson of one course.

You can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress (extraneous cognitive load)  if the learner can stand in one place and make the learning come to THEM by simply flipping a digital page.

Once you've learned how to create a digital flipbook to hold your lesson content,

how do you learn how to set up your course and create the lessons themselves?  

How can you get your course created and online as fast as possible? 

The whole process of creating an online course can feel completely overwhelming! 

Puzzles with business woman

(Talk about cognitive overload!) 

That's why I use digital flipbooks, simplified navigation, and minimal downloads in the course I'm talking about in the podcast interview, Streamlined Course Creation... which is designed to help you set up YOUR course in three focused work sessions of about 2 hours each. 

Want to learn more about Streamlined Course Creation?

How much time do you have?

  • 2 minutes

  • 22 minutes

  • 52 minutes

Watch a very short inspiring video!



The Line of Understanding

The Line of Understanding: integrating Bloom's Taxonomy with Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction

In past blog posts, we've explored how to set up the steps of an effective and engaging lesson, using Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction.

And we've looked at how to use Bloom's Taxonomy to make anything easier to learn.

                                             I've put these two frameworks together

to create an integrated schematic I call

THE LINE OF UNDERSTANDING

Graphic showing the Line of Understanding: where Bloom's Taxonomy meets Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction The Line of Understanding © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Line of Understanding © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The line of understanding represents the points at which

 the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (on the vertical axis)

 meet the steps of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction (on the horizontal axis).

Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy describes what the learner IS ABLE TO DO at each level of a hierarchy of thinking skills.  

These skills build on each other from the most foundational ("REMEMBER") to the most complex ("CREATE").

In order to ensure your learners' success, it's important to confirm they are capable of performing the skill you are teaching, at each level of the hierarchy, before you ask them to perform at a higher level.

Skipping levels of the taxonomy leaves gaps that learners can easily fall through, if they don't have a solid foundation (built on the skill levels below) to support them.

Here is an all-too-common scenario: the instructor demonstrates their OWN expert way of doing something (mastered over a lifetime!) and then turns to the class and says, "Now YOU do it!". That is a method that is doomed to fail.

 Learners cannot create something new (the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy) based on having seen it presented once!

They may REMEMBER the information,  and they may UNDERSTAND it, but that does not mean they are ready to APPLY it, let alone analyze it, evaluate it, or use it to CREATE something new.

Person falling through a hole

Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction

What's the solution?

For any skill you are teaching, you can use Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction to clarify how to structure your teaching to ensure learners can perform the skill at every level of Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy.

At first, it might not seem clear how the two frameworks can be synthesized, because Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy has six levels, which don't correlate perfectly with the nine events of instruction.

The secret to fitting the frameworks together smoothly, like cogs in a flywheel, is to realize that the first level of Bloom's Taxonomy, REMEMBER, is so important and foundational to everything above it, that it requires not one but THREE of Gagne's Events of Instruction, to ensure it is happening!  

Similarly, learning to APPLY the instruction in practical ways is so important that it requires TWO of Gagné's 9 events of instruction (Guided Practice, and Independent Performance) to make it work.

If you realize that EVERYTHING that takes place before you present the new instruction in your lesson is designed to help your learners REMEMBER what they need to know in order to learn the new material, and that being able to APPLY what was just learned requires extra support,  the two frameworks snap into place neatly like the missing pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle... closing any gaps that your learners might otherwise fall through.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces snapping together


In order for learners to be able to do the things

 indicated along the left (vertical) axis of the diagram, 

the instructor must do the things

 indicated in the corresponding color along the horizontal axis of the diagram.

The Line of Understanding mapping what learners can do to how teachers can teach them to do it © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved


So if you want your learners to REMEMBER, you must:

  • Gain their attention
  • Tell them what they are about to learn
  • Help them bring related things they already know, to the forefront of their minds

If you want them to UNDERSTAND, you must:

  • Present the instruction
  • (in the optimal way based on the DOMAIN OF LEARNING for that specific lesson)

If you want them to be able to APPLY the instruction, you must:

  • Provide guided practice
  • Facilitate independent performance

If you want them to be able to ANALYZE what they are learning, you must:

  • Provide ways for them to get FEEDBACK

If you want learners to be able to EVALUATE what they have learned, you must:

  • Provide meaningful ASSESSMENTS
  •  that help learners determine whether they have achieved the learning goal 

If you want them to be able to CREATE something new, you must:

  • Complete all the earlier stages of Bloom's Taxonomy and all the previous events of instruction
  • Help them remember everything they've learned in this lesson, and
  • Prepare them to take what they've learned and transfer it to new and different contexts 


Here is a chart that summarizes and synthesizes these ideas.

You can use it to ANALYZE and EVALUATE the steps you must take to present your instruction

 in ways that ensure your learners stay with you every step of the way,

and don't fall through any gaps in the learning hierarchy.


A synthesis and integration of Bloom's Taxonomy and Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction

© Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Does the Line of Understanding offer you a helpful framework for thinking about how to present the instruction in your online course, to ensure your course participants are learning, every step of the way?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, reflections, experiences, and reactions!

Drop me a note to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to share your thoughts.


Come to the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting... Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern on Zoom

We're focusing on how to  use our online teaching practices and online businesses to help ourselves and others survive and thrive during these challenging times. 

Click here to register for the meeting

many people online in a conference call

Teaching changes the world

Someone cutting the

Education removes the obstacles that prevent people from achieving their dreams.

The difference between failure and success often comes down to learning... whether learning to change one's mindset from "I feel like I can't" to "I know that I can" or learning how to perform a new skill.

Times of accelerated societal change, like the present, call for accelerated learning. This is a time of unprecedented growth in online learning  as we are called on to meet the needs of those we are here to serve.

How will you rise to the occasion to meet this time of need? 

What's the difference you are  here to make in the world?

And.. would you like help doing it?

The Course Design Formula® Master Course starts TODAY

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

4 PM Pacific/ 7 PM Eastern

Course Design Formula® Master Course landing page screenshot

Would you like to be part of it?


If you'd like to join the course,

write to

Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com

to set up a private admissions interview.

You might also enjoy watching my on-demand webinar

which teaches three secrets of online course design

 (secrets we go into in much more depth, in the Master Course).

Screenshot of webinar registration page

Sign up to the Webinar

Secure your place in our free webinar on course design and learn to make your course stand out from the crowd!

Whether the course is right for you at this time or not, I'm here to support you in your online teaching journey. 

How do YOU want to change the world in 2021 and beyond?


Come to the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting... Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern on Zoom

We're focusing on how to  use our online teaching practices and online businesses to help ourselves and others survive and thrive during these challenging times. 

Click here to register for the meeting

many people online in a conference call

Reduce overwhelm through chunking

messy box of buttons next to neat box of buttons sorted by color

The limits of working memory dictate that we can only focus on five to seven separate pieces of information at one time. Beyond that, it all starts turning into a blur.. which is why long strings of apparently unrelated information, or a long to do list, can feel so overwhelming.

But we can’t just whack our to do lists off at the roots, or only learn a fraction of what we are supposed to learn.

The solution is to group related items together, so that instead of say, 32 unrelated separate items, we end up with 4 groups of 8 items.

items sorted  by color

Learn and Get Smarter community member Rob Ruder demonstrated this principle at the community meeting last week, by teaching us 32 computer shortcuts in literally five minutes.  

Rob promises to share how he accomplishes that amazing teaching feat, in the Facebook group soon, so stay tuned!

Effective teaching, like Rob’s, relies on this chunking principal extensively to group related items together and make them much easier to learn.

When staring down a long list of things that have been causing stress, it’s helpful to chunk the list into categories.

One of the first questions to ask is, what categories will be most useful?

 In case of a list of stressors, it makes sense to create action categories, such as:

  • Things you can do something about
  • Things caused by the pandemic
  • Things you just have to put up with

Not only does creating categories shorten a long list into manageable segments, but it also suggests actions you can take to reduce the overall size of the list and cope with it better.

For a to do list, it helps to create action-based categories like “do”, “pay”, “buy”, and “call”.

That way you only have to DO a few different types of things… and  can easily make all the calls, or pay all the things that need paying, at one time.

What long lists of seemingly unrelated items are causing YOU stress right now? 

Whether it’s a holiday shopping list, a long to-do list for your business, or ALL THE THINGS you want to teach in your course, it can feel completely overwhelming to look at them all at once without having an effective structure to help you organize them.

Join the January 2021 cohort

of the Course Design Formula® Master Course

Space is limited.

Enrollment is via private interview only.

The course Design Formula® uses research into how people naturally learn different types of material , to give you pre-configured containers for chunking the material in your course.

 If you’re teaching a complex how-to skill with many components,for example, it simplifies things to know that you only need to focus on four big categories of things:

  • The big ideas one must understand in order to perform the skill
  • The tools, resources, or ingredients needed to perform the skill
  • The steps (rules)  that go into performing the skill
  • Any exceptions to those rules that require an adjusted approach to performing the skill

Let’s take a completely overwhelming task for online course creators: teaching ANYTHING (in the whole world) to ANYONE (ever).

That’s a huge job, right?

Swiss universal knife with tools on shelf

I read somewhere that if a job is really difficult, somewhere there is a tool that will make it really easy. 

It’s just a matter of finding that right tool.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to set up your online course, or entire online school, the Course Design Formula® is that right  tool that can cut through the stress and overwhelm.

Instead of an overwhelming and unlimited number of ways to set up your course, you’ll learn the five BEST ways and how to determine which ONE of those is optimal for YOUR specific material and course learning goal.

 (So actually, as it turns out, there is ONE best way to set up any particular online course, depending on the transformation you want your course to deliver).


And there is also one best way to learn how to USE this amazing tool, which is to reserve yourself a seat in the Course Design Formula® Master Course cohort starting January 12th, 2021.

 If you’re interested in exploring whether the course is right for you, book time on my calendar (before it’s all gone!) and let’s talk. 

I’d love to help you reduce the stress and overwhelm involved in designing and developing your online course (or your whole online academy).

Let's  take the stress and overwhelm out of structuring your ideas into an effective and engaging online course.

The Course Design Formula® helps you sort your expertise into research-based containers (schema) that are ready and waiting to help you transfer those ideas to your learners' minds as efficiently as possible. 

The Course Design Formula® is like a day spa for your mind--- because it takes the stress out of online course design.

Spa - Relaxation With Massage Stones And Waterlily In Water

 Save your spot 

Take the stress and overwhelm out of setting up YOUR online course

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Developing strategies to learn how to survive and thrive

A group of people helping each other survive and thrive

At our community meeting last week, we used the structure of a "how to" course to think about how to survive and thrive under conditions of extreme uncertainty, specifically, the current conditions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

We decided that the "target audience" for the course we are creating together, will be us, ourselves... this Learn and Get Smarter community of experts and entrepreneurs who are focused on creating quality online courses.

Since we are designing the course for ourselves, we will be able to test its usefulness to us, once we have it developed.

At next week's meeting (on Saturday, April 18th, at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern) we will put the work we've done over the past two weeks together, to create a cognitive strategy course.  The learning goal for the course will be to help us think about what we need to learn (and how best to learn it) in order to cope with the current pandemic on all levels of our lives and society.

We decided to focus on using Maslow's hierarchy of needs as an organizing framework for thinking about how to survive and thrive at each level.

If you have my book, you can read about how to structure a cognitive strategy course on pages 156-157 of the paperback.

During the meeting, we will use the work we've done over the past several weeks, to figure out what the cognitive strategy (or strategies) should be. We've looked at both mindset changes and practical skills that will be helpful.... now it's time to put this all together in an effective and engaging way.

Come join us next Saturday!

many people online in a conference call

We will design a

 cognitive strategy ("learning how to learn") course

for adapting to change

 in the face of the current pandemic.

As these meetings evolve, my goal is to help you understand the different types of course design structures you can use to support different types of learning.

As a community, we are gaining hands-on practice and experience in building something new together, from the ground up.

When you design a course in your own area of expertise, you are, by definition, an expert.

The Course Design Formula® can help you overcome the "expert blind spot" that makes it hard for experts to see what non-experts (your future course participants) must understand in order to benefit from participating in your course.

During our Saturday community meetings, we are using aspects of the Course Design Formula® in a different way, though. 

In this case, we are dealing with a situation where no one in the world yet has the expertise fully needed to deal with a novel and unprecedented situation. We are living in what I refer to as the "fractal zone"...an area of swirling chaos and uncertainty, that is part and parcel of chaos theory.

In fact, chaos theory may be a useful organizing principle to help us think about these chaotic conditions and uncertain times.

Abstract Living Coral Reef Colorful Sea Swirl Spiral Pattern Trendy Colors Bright Pastel Orange Teal Light Blue Fractal Fine Art Nautilus Sea Shell

This Saturday, we will work on developing cognitive strategies for dealing with the uncertainty and risk inherent in chaos. Our goal is to optimize our own and each others' abilities to survive and thrive in unpredictable complex conditions.

Come join in the conversation and share in the synergy!

Designing the different levels of a course

Russian nesting dolls standing in a line

We've talked about the five domains of learning defined by educational researcher and theorist Robert M. Gagné.
Gagné divided learning up into the following major types:

  • Verbal information (declarative knowledge)
  • Attitudes (mindset)
  • Cognitive strategies (learning how to learn)
  • Intellectual skills (how-to)
  • Motor skills (physical movement)

The  Course Design Formula® that I teach in my book and course provides research-based guidance on how to set up a course based on each of these types of learning.

But what if your course contains more than one type of learning?

Many, if not most, courses do.


The way to handle that is to realize that a course has more than one LEVEL, and each level of the course can have its own domain of learning. 

To make this concept easy to visualize, think of those nested wooden dolls where one fits inside the other.

Your course as a whole is the outermost "doll", which holds all the others. So the first thing to do is set up the course as a whole based on its domain of learning. Let's use an example-- an intellectual skills  ("how-to") course about How to Change a Tire.

The next level inside the course is the module level: the large sections or chapters or chunks that hold the lessons. Each module can have its own domain of learning, which might be different from the domain of learning for the course as a whole.  

The first module of our imaginary "How to Change a Tire" course might be called "Things you need" in order to change a tire. At the end of this first module, learners won't yet be able to change a tire. They will be able to state/list/describe the things you need to have in order to be ready to change a tire. So the first module of this how-to course teaches verbal information.

Now let's go inward another level to the lesson level in this module. Let's say the things you need in order to change a tire include several different tools, the right mindset, the ability to read your car's user manual,  and a specific wrist motion. You could create a different lesson inside that first module to teach about each of those things.

The lesson describing the tools would be a verbal information lesson. You  would also have an attitude change lesson, a cognitive strategy lesson teaching how to approach reading a car's user manual, and a motor skills lesson teaching the wrist motion. 

And within each lesson you might have more than one learning object. Learning objects are the individual media items in a course (an individual video, text document, PDF, PowerPoint, etc).

Let's say that in the cognitive strategy lesson about how to read the user manual, you have a text document explaining where to find the manual, a video demonstrating how to find the tire-changing section of the user manual, and a short audio file encouraging learners not to stress about reading the manual. That's three separate learning objects in one lesson, each with its own domain of learning (verbal information, intellectual skills, and attitudes).

Being able to adjust the focus of your design to the course, module, lesson, and learning object level gives you tremendous power and control and flexibility in how to design your course. 

Here are the key concepts to keep in mind:

  • Set up the whole-course level first. That is the outer layer that holds everything else.
  • Then move inward to the module, lesson, and learning object levels, in that order.
  • Design each level based on its OWN domain of learning.

What this means is that you can (as in our example above) have a how-to course with a verbal information module that has a cognitive strategy lesson containing learning objects each with its own domain of learning.

If you are clear and precise about the level you are designing, and always get THAT domain of learning right, your course will fall into place beautifully and just "click".

At our community meeting last Saturday, we used a mindset change (attitudes) format to think about how to adapt to change given the current Coronavirus pandemic. We came up with a lot of very creative and insightful ideas. The question then came up: is this a mindset-change COURSE?

The answer was, no. A mindset change might be an ASPECT or COMPONENT of what is needed in order to adapt to the current situation, but it's not enough in and of itself to be the total answer. We can change our attitudes all we want (and we should), but just doing so will not be enough to cope. We need some practical how-to skills as well... which is what we will be working on for this coming week's community meeting. You can register for the meeting here and help brainstorm what those practical skills might be:

Come join us on Saturday!

many people online in a conference call

We will design an "intellectual skills" ("How-to") course for adapting to change in the face of the current pandemic.

My suspicion is that practical how to skills, while important, are also not the total picture of what is needed to cope with the current situation. If we were, as a community, to create a "course" about how to cope, my best guess is that it would be a cognitive strategy course... learning how to learn how to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances. A mindset change and some practical skills might be PARTS of the strategy, but would not provide the total picture.  

Since we are not experts on this topic, we will use a process of unguided discovery learning to see what we can figure out. We will try the how-to course structure as a way of holding our collective thoughts and ideas.

You may notice that earlier, I said that one should design a course starting from the whole-course level (top down) and THEN fill in the modules and lessons. Yet in our exploration of the current pandemic, we may in fact be designing some of the smaller components of the course first.

That's because in this current crisis, no one on the planet is an expert with complete understanding of how to cope and adapt. This situation throws us all into unguided discovery learning where we are feeling our way in the dark.

We tried the mindset structure to see if it would work to help us think about the problem. It was helpful but we realized it was not the biggest picture. It was not the outermost doll. I think the outermost doll when we get to it will be a cognitive strategy course... and that the mindset and how- to components will be aspects of the strategy needed to learn how to cope.

Come participate in the community meeting on Saturday and let's see where our explorations take us! 


Engaging the senses in online learning

composition of human face and technological elements to serve as background in works on mind, reason, intelligence and imagination

As the world goes through a sudden, enforced global experiment in living online, we've all come face to face with what the online interface can, and can't do well.

The online interface CAN (thankfully) connect us in ways that allow us to interact with each other, conduct many kinds of work, and counteract physical distance with social and emotional closeness.  Thank goodness for all of that!

It's more challenging, though, to get the online interface to give us the rich sensory experience that life in the physical world provides. We can't physically experience taste, smell, or touch through a computer screen. 

But there are things we can do to punch up the sensory richness of online learning activities, to include more of the whole person who is sitting on the other side of the screen.

Plugging more sensory modalities into your online course will help the learning come alive!

Electric plug and power socket as brain organ as symbol of brainstorming, creation, learning process, cognition, perception, success innovation, use your brain

Would you like to learn how to add fun, creative activities to your online course that will make the learning more engaging and interactive for your course participants?  

This Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9 AM Pacific/12 Noon Eastern, during our community meeting on Zoom, we'll do a short, fun, interactive exercise that will expand your thinking about the types of activities you can include in your online class.

(I've set the community meeting up as a weekly event for the next several months, but right now we are only talking about the meeting for Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9 AM Pacific/12 Noon Eastern.)

Come to the meeting!

many people online in a conference call

Register here to receive the meeting link and password.

In the meantime, if you're eager to get started making your lessons highly motivating and engaging, read chapters 11 and 12 of my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.

Course Design Formula™ Book

We'll also have time at the meeting to discuss any course design issues, challenges, and concerns you are working on.

If there's a topic you'd like to be sure we cover, please email me in advance at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

Hope to see you on Saturday.... you can register here!


Tiny House, Huge Impact

A young couple live in a van. She is lying down and reading a book on the bed. He is working on a laptop in the space next to the bed.

In my book, Course Design Formula®: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online, I use the process of building a house as a metaphor for the process of building a course.

Watching the fascinating series, Tiny House Nation,  on Netflix recently, I realized that building an online course is not just like building ANY house.

Building an online course is, specifically, like building a TINY house.

The reason for that is that the limits of working memory are very small. Working memory is the aspect of cognitive processing needed to take in and learn new information.  

Research (and experience) have shown that we can only hold about 5 to 7 separate things in our minds at the same time. (That's one reason telephone numbers have 7 digits). 

Trying to absorb more than a very limited amount of new information at the same time, quickly becomes overwhelming, causing the learner to tune out and stop learning.

The reason an online course is like a TINY house, is that the limits of working memory are very narrow.

So when designing an online course, it’s important to work within very tight design limitations, because you  have a very small amount of cognitive processing space to work with.

What makes Tiny House Nation so fascinating is the process the builders and craftsmen use to make  very small spaces work so elegantly  for the specific needs of the people who will be living there.

The builders conduct extensive interviews and  create customized structures (such as staircases with built-in storage cabinets, or a butcher block table that transforms into a ladder). The customized structures make use of the small space and enable the home’s occupants to fit  the things that are most important to them into their available living quarters.

The key to living well in a tiny space, is customized LIVING DESIGN.

The key to  creating an effective and engaging online course, is customized LEARNING DESIGN.

Interior of a van that a young couple live in. The shot is focused on the kitchen counter, pull-out drawers, and bed. Ther is wood paneling on the sides and roof.

If you haven't already seen Tiny House Nation, or have missed some episodes, check it out!

Watching host John Weisbarth and design expert Zack Giffin solve seemingly impossible challenges, is awe-inspiring!


Here are just a few of the things they have made work in tiny homes:

  • An indoor rock-climbing wall for kids
  • A grand piano
  • Comfortable sleeping space for six people
  • And much, much more!

Customized course design will help you create effective lessons that stay within the limits of working memory, keeping your course participants actively engaged and learning.

If this idea sounds intriguing, you are welcome to schedule time with me to talk about your specific project goals.

Expert instructional design lets you pack a lot of learning into a little space!

Book your free strategy session

Let's explore the unique design challenges

 your course presents.