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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

The most impactful thing you can do in 2022

person's hands with online energy between them

This is an exciting time of year, filled with the energy of new beginnings.

Granted, everyone on the planet has been through the wringer for the past few years. Remember the dewy-eyed hopefulness with which we all greeted New Years 2020? HAH! How did THAT work out for us, hmmmm....

For many of us, planned holiday gatherings this year may have been overshadowed by the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant. Where did THAT come from?

It's clear that with this pandemic, we're way beyond talking about whether we're in a marathon or a sprint.

What we're clearly in for, and have been for some time, is a long, long siege.

E-Learning text on the keyboard with notepad and pencil. Concept of E-Learning using laptop and mobile devices.

If you're like me, ie, a normal human with feelings, you may be feeling discouraged, alarmed, or appalled about all this right now.

It's only natural to feel that way.

BUT...there is good news for our community of mission-driven, service-oriented online course creators and the good news is:

Online teaching and learning

 are clearly here to stay. 

Learning how to teach impactfully online

 has gone from something many people may have thought might be nice to do "someday",

to something we will all be better off for having already learned how to do well, yesterday.

One of the design principles I teach about in my book,

is the idea of affordances and constraints:

Affordances are those things that a design situation

 makes it easy, convenient, and effective to do.

Constraints are those things that a design situation 

makes it difficult, ineffective, or impossible to do.

The constant and unpredictable nature of the pandemic places constraints on many factors, situations, and activities we've all come to expect and enjoy and consider as normal parts of everyday life. 

There are constraints right now on systems as far reaching as supply chains, in-person meetings, family get togethers, air travel, and all sorts of recreation and fun.

And that's just if we're lucky. 

Many people all over the world are facing severe constraints on things like earning a living, getting enough to eat, or simply staying alive. 

So what does this unprecedented (in our lifetimes, at least) situation,

AFFORD us the opportunity to do especially well?

This is an amazing time

 for long-term, focused, introspection

and creative online work.

Online Learning Services Presentation and Infographics. Close-up shot on LCD screen.


In other words,

 this is the perfect time to

design, develop, and deliver

an online course.

It's not just that the course you've been carrying around in your head for all this time is important for YOU to create. 

Your course may be desperately needed as a path to a more meaningful and focused life, for the people you serve. 

Your course may be the difference your audience is waiting for:  to help them make a living, improve their physical or emotional health, learn new skills, or otherwise improve their lives. 

There's no better time to commit to making it happen, and getting it out there in the world, than NOW.

Inspiration quote - If not now, when?


And the most impactful way to do that is to

commit to your course design process 

by enrolling in the January 2022 cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course.

If you’d like to make creating an online course that really teaches at a deep level, a priority in the new year, 

schedule a time NOW to talk with me

about whether the Course Design Formula® Master Course (starting January 18th, 2022) is right for you.

 Spaces are limited so book your call now.

(If you can't find a time slot that works for you on my calendar, 

just send me an email to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com

with "Master Course" in the subject line).

Join the January 2022 cohort

of the Course Design Formula® Master Course

CLASS STARTS JANUARY 18TH, 2022

Book your enrollment interview now!


We'll resume the Saturday community meetings on January 8th, 2022.

Come join us to talk about how to survive and thrive

with online courses and online business in these challenging times.

2022. 2022 business goals concept illustration. Business team seeking new opportunities. Leadership. Vision. Achievement. Success vector design


Your Year in Pictures, 2021

Messy group of disorganized photos covered up by pieces of paper

I've noticed a message about the year in pictures for 2021, from various websites and publications,and the message is:

 "It isn't pretty. Are you SURE you want to look back?"

While I couldn't fully read the New York Times version, since I decided it isn't healthy to digest a steady diet of bad news, my glimpse at the headline before it got covered over by advertising messages promised a photo album of the apocalypse, with cities covered in dust.

(Hey, if I want to see things covered in dust I need look no farther than my own living room, amiright?)

Low-angle closeup of "Caution High Winds" traffic sign with strong winds visible in the cloud formations behind


While 2020, as I wrote at this time last year, may have been

 "a nonstop series of life or death storms for our little

 planet,"  2021 has been more like one BIG storm that never seems to end.

Just when you think it's safe to peek your head outside, you get blasted back  under your rock by the howling wind of another Covid variant.

And sometimes by the ACTUAL howling wind as well.

We've read the positive-thinking books. We've got the meditation apps. 

We know that it's important to have a positive mindset, in order to bring more positive things into our  businesses and lives ....

But it's a Catch-22 when negativity comes flying at us day after day after day, for years. 

No blowing smoke here, this is a very long slog up a very steep hill.

It isn't easy. And it isn't over.

So how should we look back and remember 2021?

My suggestion is, don't.

Don't look back. 

Look forward.

Keep going.

Envision the good that  you want to do in the world and focus on that with laser vision.

Because everything else is going to heck in a handbasket, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Just focus on your circle of influence and make the positive changes you can in your world and life... and especially in your courses and teaching work.

Young couple running away from waterfall (blurred motion)

What is the specific change you're here to make in the world, and how can you best achieve that? 

What will it take to make that happen, given all the odds that are stacked against all of us on this planet, right now?

Here's how my version of that looks (I'd love to hear yours!):

I'm here to help people create effective and engaging online courses that really DELIVER on the transformation they promise.

An important goal of my business is to take the stress and overwhelm out of online course design.

I'm like a professional organizer for your mind... helping you structure and display the aspects of your expertise you want to share with the world, in ways that (as Marie Kondo famously puts it) "spark joy" for you and your course participants.

In the midst of the swirling chaos, crazy weather, and general mayhem of the past year, it's been a source of great joy to celebrate my coaching clients' and course participants' successes as they launch their courses and deliver meaningful transformation that beautifully expresses their life's work.

I truly couldn't ask for anything more.



Your course content... 

before and after

applying the

Course Design

 Formula® to it!

Wide angle view of young woman with hands covering face kneeling on bed among large tiles of clothes and other objects in a chaotic bedroom. León, Castilla y León, Spain.
An organized closet

How about you? Despite everything that's going on outside your sphere of influence,

what have you been able to focus on in 2021 that WAS in your control?

What's the difference your work and teaching made in the world this past year?

As you look back on 2021, what pictures do you see in your own mind,

 that reflect the impact your work has made on others' lives?

POV From the bridge of a boat sailing ocean
Sailboat in stormy seas, lighthouse in distance (Digital Composite)
Composite image of a lighthouse beacon shining with stormy weather and crashing waves

When you're out there  on a stormy ocean, it helps to have a group of fellow travelers to help you reach your goal.

For each of us, our guiding mission and vision

 serves as the beacon that keeps us on track no matter what the external conditions are...

and our community is our group of fellow travelers to support us in reaching our goals.

In 2021, our community met every week on Saturdays to brainstorm and synergize about how to survive and thrive with online courses and online business in these challenging times.

The members of the Learn and Get Smarter community are experts in many fields, and we shared ideas and pooled our expertise on topics ranging from systems thinking to human behavior to software development... and of course, teaching and learning.

As a result, we all learned and got smarter. We created a community of practice around transformational online teaching, and a weekly practice of building community and supporting each other in these very challenging times.

I'm thankful for the participation and sharing, the generosity of spirt, and the sheer brilliance, that the members of this community have shared with each other and with me. Thank you for being who you are and for doing what you do.

What's your mission and vision for teaching online,

and what beacons and landmarks have you set for yourself 

to head towards in 2022?

If you’d like to make creating an online course that really teaches at a deep level, a priority in the new year, 

schedule a time NOW to talk with me

about whether the Course Design Formula® Master Course (starting January 18th, 2022) is right for you.

 Spaces are limited so book your call now.

Join the January 2022 cohort

of the Course Design Formula® Master Course

CLASS STARTS JANUARY 18TH, 2022

Book your enrollment interview now!


Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of this community, for your vision,

 and all your hard work to make the world a better place in these challenging times.

I hope that 2022 will be a year filled with blessings, growth, and service

for you and your students, clients, community, and family.

We'll resume the Saturday community meetings on January 8th, 2022.


Have a great holiday season and I will see you next year!

2022. 2022 business goals concept illustration. Business team seeking new opportunities. Leadership. Vision. Achievement. Success vector design


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! 


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.

Three things to do BEFORE you present instruction

Human Brain Lobes on Blackboard.

Educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné observed skilled teachers in action, and noticed that they followed nine specific steps in order to create effective learning.

He codified these steps and called them "The Nine Events of Instruction".

Let's take a closer look at the three things Gagné  noticed highly effective teachers do, BEFORE they present the new material they want their students to learn.

The first step is: Gain the learner's attention.  (See how I gained YOUR attention by using a different font color and larger text?)

How can you gain your learner's attention before presenting new instruction in your online course? 

Here's a humorous example: an attention-grabbing cat video I  designed as an ice-breaker for a (hypothetical) online piano course for reluctant first-time musicians:

I hope you got a kick out of that video,

and that it got  (and held) your attention!

Here's why it works:

  • It's funny
  • It's short
  • It's unexpected
  • It tunes in to the learner's anxiety and concerns (about being able to learn to play the piano)
  • It's supportive and encouraging
  • It leads directly into the (imaginary) piano lesson to follow
  • Everybody loves cat videos


Notice that this opening video does not actually start teaching how to play the piano. 


Gaining the learner's attention is an introductory step to take BEFORE you present the actual instruction.

What's next? 

The next step is to let your learners know what they will be learning in the instruction that is going to follow.

(You're still not presenting the instruction. 

 You're just TELLING THEM what they are going to learn).

In our imaginary music course, the instructor might say something like "In this lesson, you will learn how to play a simple chord on the piano."

And there's still one MORE thing you need to do before you actually start teaching the material. (Keep reading to find out what it is....)

Grab your learners' attention

with stunning digital workbooks.

It's FAST, EASY, and FREE!


The third step to take before actually presenting the instruction, is to help learners recall anything they already know, that is relevant to what you are about to teach them.  

For example, in our imaginary piano course, the instructor might say, "Remember that yesterday we learned the names of the notes on the piano. In today's lesson, you will learn how to put those notes together to make a pleasing sound called a 'chord'."

Course Design Formula™ Book



If you'd like to learn more about the three steps to take BEFORE you present any new instruction, check out pages 161 to 183 of my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.

I have a mission  for you (should you choose to accept it.... )

Think about a specific lesson that you'd like to teach online, and ask yourself these questions:

Before you begin actually teaching the lesson:

  1. 1
    How will you gain YOUR learners' attention?
  2. 2
    How will you inform them about what you're going to teach?
  3. 3
    How will you help them remember relevant things they already know, that will help them learn what you're about to teach?

I'd love to hear your ideas.

Write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let's talk about it!

Teaching vs. exposing people to information

Sign in page on computer screen. Desktop computer with login form and sign in button. User account. Modern concept. Creative flat design vector illustration

We’ve talked about the difference between being exposed to information (especially online), and actually learning it.

But what about teaching?

What’s the difference between simply presenting information online, and actually teaching it?

You heard right: presenting information is not the same as teaching it.

Just because you’ve said something (using text, video, or audio) doesn’t mean you’ve taught it.

In order to learn new material, people have to go beyond simply being exposed to it.

They have to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.

Now wait just a minute”, I hear you saying. “How can I control what someone else does with the information I present online, after I’ve presented it?”

You can’t.

Frustrated teacher standing in front of a chalkboard screaming

Unless you’re teaching online in an academic or corporate setting where learners are required to show up for your course and pass it in order to fulfill a requirement, you have little if any control over whether and how learners consume and process your course material.

As an online course creator working with independent adults, your responsibility for teaching the material ends once you’ve put it out there for people to consume.

So teaching online (as opposed to just exposing people to information) involves putting the material out there for people to consume, in ways that promote learning.

That means you have to present the material in ways that allow your audience to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.


In this type of online teaching context, presenting the material is not the first step; it’s the last. If you want to teach online in an effective and engaging way, presenting the material should be the final step in a carefully planned series of steps. That series of steps will guide you in knowing exactly what material to present, and how to present it.

So.. what are the steps you should take in order to present your material online, in order to teach it effectively?

Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out! (Can you stand the suspense? It's a real cliffhanger....)

rock climber hanging on to the edge of a cliff with bare hands (it's a real "cliff-hanger"!)

(If you just can't wait to find out how to teach effectively online, go here.)