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The CONTENT of coaching: what happens during a session?

Decoding and understanding problem, face to face explanation concept


How does coaching complement teaching an online course....

 and how can the mix between them work for you and your clients, students, and customers?


What IS "coaching"?


What I mean by “coaching” is providing one-to-one “done with you”  services focused on the goals of a specific client.


What makes coaching special?


Coaching is specifically targeted to each client's unique course design vision and goals.  The focus is on helping the client create a product.

How does coaching differ from courses?

The types of results—and the time frame for delivering them--that people look for in coaching differ from what they expect to get out of participation in an online course.


People book coaching because  they want ongoing support and accountability for getting a project done.

  • They need top quality results
  • They need the results FAST
  • Their focus is on producing a PRODUCT, rather than on learning a process


Coaching is focused on the client's vision and goals for what they want to achieve

In my coaching sessions, I start by getting very clear on the exact goals the client has… for the coaching process as a whole, and for each individual session.

I want to be sure that at the end of two hours of intensive work together, the client has something to take with them that exceeds their highest expectations around what they were hoping to achieve.


What happens during a coaching session

What happens during a coaching session depends on the CLIENT’S goals for what they want to accomplish.

That could be anything from:

  • Structuring a whole online academy
  • Designing a course
  • Planning a lesson
  • Creating a PowerPoint or other media item

Depending on the nature and scope of their project, a specific coaching client might want to go through all of those steps at different points in the coaching process.

Before setting up coaching, the client and I have already conducted a free strategy call to assess their project vision and scope, and determine how many coaching sessions we think it will take to get there. We have a coaching agreement in place and a schedule of 2-hour coaching sessions planned.

At the beginning of each 2-hour session I use a structured form to ask targeted questions designed to discover the real, urgent issue that the client wants to solve NOW.

During the session I take clients through a sequential series of steps that are laser-focused on helping them achieve those goals for their specific course topic, target audience, and subject matter.

At the end of the session we check back in to reflect on what was accomplished and what the follow through items and next steps need to be.

After the session I send a detailed email including the session recording, any screenshots or attachments I took during the session to document the client’s course development progress and steps, and follow through and action items to complete next.

Between sessions, with this method, there is continuity from one session to the next with no time lost having to remember where we left off and what to do next.

Coaching Session Content for Learn and Get Smarter, Inc.

(You can enlarge the flipbook by clicking on the square in the lower right corner of the blue area below).

Do you include one-to-one coaching services as part of YOUR business model? 

How does your coaching work? 

How do you integrate coaching with your online course teaching practice?

Come talk about it:


 I'd love to hear what's working for you and your clients!

Taking the stress out of online course design

stressed female executive thinking at her computer


One of my main goals in creating the Course Design Formula® has been to relieve the stress many experts and entrepreneurs feel when creating an online course.

Can you relate?

Why creating an online course can be stressful:

Young and timid woman with head in the cloud sitting on bench
  • You have so much expertise on the topic that it's hard to know where to start
  • You aren't sure what to put into your course and what to leave out
  • You want to make the course clear and engaging... but how?
  • You can't figure out where to begin, and how to structure the course
  • Everything is connected so you just end up going around and around in circles!

The way most people go about creating an online course only adds to the stress.

What most people do is jump in right away creating content, without a clear plan as to what content even needs to be in the course to begin with.

It's natural and intuitive to start that way.

You're an expert on a topic and you want to teach people about it, so you start creating content based on your subject matter expertise.

 What's wrong with that?

What's wrong with that is that it doesn't work.

In order to set up a course in a way that's effective, stress-free, and leads to the results you want 

you need to use LEARNING DESIGN EXPERTISE, 

NOT SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE.

If you use learning design expertise to set up the course structure, you'll then have an elegant, clear container you can use to share your subject matter expertise.

The container (course structure) will make it clear what needs to be in your course, what should be left out (or put into a different course you can create at another time), and in what order.

White puffy could in a transparent box on white pedestal, blue studio background

     


  And just like that, your stress is gone! Pouf!





When you use learning design expertise, rather than your subject matter expertise, to create the STRUCTURE of your course,

 you ensure that the course is going to engage your course participants

and help them achieve the transformation you want  to provide.


Suddenly it becomes clear:

  • What should be in your course
  • What to leave out
  • Where to start
  • What order to present the material
  • How to create a logical, smooth learning path
Garden with clear path through it

If you're feeling stressed about how to structure your online course, here are a few suggestions:


What if you've already created a course (either on or offline) and now want to revise it?

Circular Ribbons with RETHINK REVISE RESET Word - 3D Rendering


The same rules apply to revising a course as to creating a new one, but it's harder to see those rules at first. 

It's only logical, after all, to revise a course by starting from what you've already created (your existing content) and then thinking about how to make it better, in a kind of editing process.

This is like taking concrete that's already been poured out and hardened, 

and trying to chip away at it to change its shape and form.

It's much easier and less stressful to instead go back to the original intention and purpose behind the course, create the ideal mold for the shape you want the finished product to take, and pour the concrete  all over again.

In this metaphor, the mold represents the course structure and the concrete is your content.


Chipping away at hardened concrete in an attempt to reshape it:

  • takes a lot of work
  • makes it hard to remember what the original goal was
  • is not very successful


Pouring fresh concrete into a new, perfectly shaped mold:

  • is fast, easy, and fun
  • evolves naturally from what the original goal was
  • produces smooth and elegant results

Whether you're creating a new course or revising an existing one (either from online, or off),

 the Course Design Formula® helps you go with the flow

of how people can best achieve the transformation you want your course to provide.

If you want to master the formula so you can use it to create any course you envision, for the rest of your life, the best way to do that is to take the Course Design Formula® Master Course. Enrollment is limited and by private interview only. I'm interviewing now and taking reservations for the June 2021 cohort, so if you're interested, email me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and we can schedule a time to talk starting in March.

If your focus is on setting up a specific course or online academy, from scratch (or revising an existing one using the "fresh-mold-pouring" method I wrote about above), you can schedule a free strategy session to discuss your project and set up a coaching schedule so you can work with me to get your course designed. Again, I have availability starting in March... this is a process that requires advance planning, so we can create a smooth, enjoyable and stress-free experience for you as a course creator and for your course participants as learners.

Workers at building site are pouring concrete in mold from mixer truck.

You are always welcome and invited to join us in the Course Design Formula® Community Facebook Group, and on Saturdays on Zoom at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern for the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting, where we talk about how to use our expertise and our online courses to help ourselves and others survive and thrive in these challenging times. I look forward to seeing you there!


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

Make 2021 YOUR year for teaching online!

Goals for 2021 Using Goalscape software

The past  year has provided everyone around the world with the opportunity to see things in a new (though often, harsh and painful) light.

Learning is the process of adapting to one’s environment in ways that promote survival, and 2020 forced us all onto a very steep learning curve.

The ability to learn from each other and connect online has been a lifeline to hold onto while navigating the twists and turns of this steep learning curve.

What lessons have we learned that can guide us for the year ahead?

I’d love to hear your lessons learned, so please send them to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

 Here are mine:

  • Online learning is a powerful resource for effecting positive change.
  • Many things can be taught online, that one would have thought required a physical in-person presence.
  • Learning works best when it includes community, accountability, connection, and continuity.
  • We are all more skilled in some areas than others.
  • We can optimize our lives by teaching the things we are skilled at, and learning the things we need help with.

I spent most of my time last year either teaching the things I am good at, or being coached in the areas where I need help.

I worked out with my trainer 3x a week (on Google Duo, using weights and medicine balls and a mat in my own living room).

As a result, my flexibility and strength have improved despite not being able to go to the gym.

What made this work: consistency (3 times a week every week, even on holidays) and continuity over a long period of time.

I worked with my professional organizer twice a week on Facetime.

She supervised me while I cleaned my own house, organized my own paperwork, and restructured my life.  

Again: accountability, consistency, and commitment to getting the help I needed, were what made the difference.

How about you?

What are your goals for 2021?

What type of accountability and consistency do you need to build into your life NOW, to ensure you achieve them?

How do you want to feel a year from today, as you look back on the year we are about to live, together?

If creating an online course, or a whole academy, is something you’ve been thinking about doing, 

NOW is the time to get professional help--from me.


And by now, I mean, right now, today, this week.

The Course Design Formula® Master Course January cohort starts January 12th, 2021

 at 4 PM Pacific,

7 PM Eastern.

If you want to become a transformational teacher in the online teaching space,

NOW is the time to commit to making that happen.

You can learn more about the course from my new, on-demand webinar:

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!

Now is the time to decide.

Only you can know your schedule and time commitments,

 but I can't be sure when I'll be teaching the Master Course again

… that will depend on many things. 

I also can’t promise that the price will stay as affordable as it is now.

Are you ready,willing, and able to commit to YOUR online teaching practice?

Is becoming the best, most transformational, global educator you can be, a priority for you in the year ahead?

If your answer is YES, you NEED to be in the January Cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course.

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let me know you want a spot, 

and I’ll send you what you need to start the enrollment process.


Because this is an ongoing, high level mastermind, enrollment is by private interview (with me, personally).

There are some things you can do to speed the process along, right now.

Once all that has happened, and we’ve had a chance to talk, I’ll send you the link to enroll.

 If you’re not sure whether the course is right for you, here are some ways to learn more:

  • Watch this video starting at the 6:07 mark.
  • Join this webinar.
  • Email me with questions (Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com).

Don't wait. Do it now. Class starts January 12th, and  I’d love to see you there.

On another note, the Learn and Get Smarter community meetings are BACK

on Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern,

 and I’d love to see you there as well.

Let’s continue to support each other in finding ways to survive and thrive

under the conditions of uncertainty, challenge, and risk

that everyone on the planet is facing at this time.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, January 9th,  2021

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Asking the Right Question

Thoughts and options head with arrows

The entire planet is in the midst of one of the most globally destabilizing times in history, where the foundations of how we function and interact on every level of our lives have been shaken.

We've all been pushed out of our comfort zone. That’s a situation that serves as the impetus for tremendous learning and growth.

As systems grow and change, there is a push and pull between stability and growth. We need stability in order to function effectively, and we need growth in order to keep moving forward. 

New systems and structures are starting to emerge from the chaos wreaked by the pandemic… new ways of learning, connecting, and finding meaning in our lives. While many of us are still struggling to establish a stable foothold in this new reality, the ongoing human need for growth is present as well.


A  friend and fellow entrepreneur shared an interesting experience the other day. She mentioned that she had been feeling stuck about how to move forward in her business, until someone asked her the right question. 

Once the right question was asked, the answers to what she needed to do to grow her business, became clear.

Answers that had been eluding her suddenly came to her easily. Processes started unfolding organically and naturally. The barriers to growth in her online business had been removed.


What was this magical question that released such profound and positive change?

It was:

 “How are your customers feeling?

How can you reassure them that what they want to achieve is do-able?”



Which reminds me: how are YOU feeling?

How can I reassure you that what you want to achieve in building your online course, is do-able?

Book with heart love shape

I’ll share how that plays out for my business, and would love to hear how it works for yours.

My students, clients, colleagues, and customers are mission-driven innovators who are passionate about sharing their unique expertise online. 

They want to create an online course (or courses) as a way of reaching more people than they could in person.

They want to share the solutions they’ve created to important issues, in transformative ways and with a global audience.

Many experts who fit the above profile feel overwhelmed by their own expertise when it comes time to turn it into an effective and engaging online course. 

Having 360 degree vision on your topic is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because you have such profound awareness in your area of expertise, but that makes it challenging to figure out where to start and how to share what you know with learners who don’t share your level of expertise. 

 IF everything you know is connected to everything else you know, where do you start explaining it all to someone who does not yet know anything about the subject?

Digital Human Brain Covered with Networks
Don't serve a whole cow: learn how to divide up your expertise into digestible portions for online learning

Most people who are creating online courses start by trying to include everything they know, in one course.

That soon starts to feel overwhelming to themselves, and also to their future course participants.

Trying to TEACH ALL THE THINGS in one course is what I call “serving a whole cow” (when all people want and can digest is a single, well-seasoned and marinated steak). 


I’ve got a free course that helps you think about how to divide up your subject matter into smaller portions to make it easier to both teach and learn.



The next mistake people make is not having a clear target audience in mind for their course. 

We can’t teach all the things (in one course) and we also can’t reach ALL THE PEOPLE.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to structure your course, you first need to determine who the ideal learner that you’d love to have more of, in your class, would be.

Go out and talk to some real life examples of that ideal learner, to find out what they want and need to learn from you, and what their starting point is with respect to what you want to teach. (I’ve got a mini course that can help you do all that).

Course landing page screenshot from Action Plan A: Before You Begin

Make sure you have a clear starting point that resonates with the people you want to serve.

The next challenge is to figure out where those ideal learners of yours want to end up with respect to the subject you want to teach.

What’s the problem THEY (not you) are trying to solve?

You’ve already solved the problem... that’s what your expertise is about.

Now, how can you APPLY that solution in ways that make life better for others?

Point of view, looking up ladder sticking through hole in ceiling revealing blue sky

Our purpose in teaching online is not just to put everything we know  out there in digital form. 

That’s not teaching, it’s just exposing people to information.

In order to teach effectively we need to tune in to the challenges and pain points that others are facing,  

and provide actionable solutions that help them make those real life issues better.  

The Course Design Formula® Master Course is designed to take away the stress and overwhelm that experts feel when creating an online course. 

But it’s much more than that.

The Master Course is designed to turn the computer screen that stands between online teachers and their course participants, transparent... so that you are looking at your learners (and they are looking at you) as if the screen were not even there.

It’s designed to make you as comfortable teaching online as in  a physical classroom, so that you can be a powerfully transformational  teacher in any setting.

I’ve had my online students tell me that they learned things in my course that made their classroom and workshop based teaching better, too.

Join the January 2021 cohort

of the Course Design Formula® Master Course

Space is limited.

Enrollment is via private interview only.

I’m not here to tell you how to create a digital information product so you can make money. 

I’m here to help you discover how to recreate YOURSELF as a global education leader, so you can make a difference. 

Once you know how to do that, your own business will unfold organically as well.

Making money is something we all want and need to do.

 If a business is solving a real problem that people urgently need help with, they will be happy to pay for the solution you provide.

 But what they will really remember you for is that you made a profound and positive difference in their lives.

You are here to make a difference in the world, and  I am here to help you make that happen.

My students and clients are out there doing that every day, and I am so honored and thankful to be able to work with them.

Businessman looking at coiled and tangled rope

So...instead of focusing on our own challenges as online educators and entrepreneurs, if we turn our focus to the challenges faced by those we are here to serve, it becomes easier to see what next steps we need to take to achieve that.

Business is about building relationships that help us serve others by solving specific problems. 

What problems do your online course and online business solve for the people you are here to serve?

I’d love to hear about it… you are welcome to write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com, share in the Facebook group, or join us on Saturdays for the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting to discuss these critical ideas in person.


Meanwhile, how are  YOU feeling? 

Are you struggling to find an even footing in these challenging times, looking for ways to grow, or some combination of the two?

As my colleague so eloquently put it, each of us in our own sphere as online educators, is here to help others know that what they want to achieve is do-able.

How will you make that happen for your clients and customers?

Let's talk about it!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Who are you here to serve?

Group of people on peak mountain climbing helping team work , travel trekking success business concept

In honor of Father's Day, which just passed, I'd like to send a note of appreciation to all members of the Learn and Get Smarter community who are Dads.

Fathers are powerful teachers, not only in their own children's lives but for the community as a whole, and I'd like to share some wisdom that I learned from my own father, that is relevant to the endeavor we are all engaged in: creating effective and engaging online courses that really teach, at a deep level.

My father had a reservoir of stories and anecdotes, many of which were passed down from HIS father in the form of wisdom tales, and I'd like to share one with you now. It goes like this (and please keep in mind that this is intended purely as a humorous teaching story, and not as a theological treatise or commentary of any kind).

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a man who, unlike all of you, did not lead an exemplary life. He wasn't like you at all, because he wasn't kind, he wasn't caring, and he didn't do good things to help others. So, unfortunately, after he passed away he ended up in... well, let's just put it politely by saying, he didn't get to go to a very nice place.

Instead,  he found himself in the nether regions being greeted by a guide who offered to give him a tour of the facilities.  

The man, however, was very surprised by what he saw there! He was expecting to see all kinds of punishments... but instead he saw a lush banquet table piled to the brim with delectable goodies.

How could this be? People were seated on both sides of the table, and in front of them was every kind of delicacy imaginable!

"I'm confused", the man said to his tour guide. "I thought that being down here was supposed to be a punishment?"

"Look closer," his guide admonished, and when he did, the man saw  that the people at the table had been given extra long forks... forks that were longer than their own arms.

Even though all sorts of delicious food was right in front of them, the people were not able get it into their mouths.

"Would you like to see what it's like upstairs?" his kind guide  asked. "You can't stay there, but you can get a quick glimpse of what you're missing."

The man was very curious, so he jumped at the chance to see what the reward of a virtuous life would have been like.  When they got there for the tour, though, he was even more surprised.

At first glance, it looked JUST like what he'd seen downstairs! He saw the same banquet table, piled high with the same delectable treats! And he even saw... the same long forks!

"Now wait just one minute," the man exclaimed in confusion. "How is this any different than what we just saw downstairs?"

"Look closer" his wise guide told him.  

And when the man looked closer, he realized in a flash what the difference was.

Here, the people were not trying (and failing) to feed themselves using those extra long forks.

Instead, they were using the long forks to feed each other across the table."

And that one difference in perspective, the perspective of focusing on serving others, was what made all the difference .


At the Learn and Get Smarter community meetings, and in this blog, we've considered how our own missions and businesses can contribute to overcoming inequities and creating a better world for all.

When I think of the people who make up this learning and teaching community, one thing stands out:

 This is a community focused on using online courses as a way of serving others. 

The courses we are working so hard to create, are our own "long forks". 

At last week's community meeting, we touched on the issue of leadership as an important factor that determines whether individuals, families, communities, nations, and our planet as a whole, can survive and thrive.

The pandemic throws these issues into high relief, creating a learning opportunity--a learning NECESSITY--for our planet as a whole.

When leadership at any level is focused in self-serving ways (trying to feed ITSELF with those long forks), not only is the result unsatisfying, but everyone ends up feeling terrible.

Enlightened leadership, on the other hand, is focused on SERVICE.


Service can include:

  • Promoting physical health and well-being for oneself and others
  • Strengthening positive relationships between individuals and among groups
  • Developing business practices that support the good of all
  • Creating opportunities for others to learn and grow
  • Building communities that enhance the well-being of all their members
  • Working towards local and global economies that sustainably meet everyone's needs

Online learning is at the epicenter of the shakeup that is happening in the pandemic's wake. Creating online learning that truly serves the communities we are called to work with, is not just a job, a profession, or a role.

Transformative online teaching is a calling, and if you're reading this, you have heard, and answered, that call.

In the Course Design Formula® Master Course this week, we will be delving into market research. One can think of market research as a way of learning more about the people we are here to serve, and how we can best serve them. Who are they? What are they dealing with? What help do they need that we are able to provide?

Whether you are in the course, or are able to come to the community meeting next Saturday, or not, let's all take some time this week to reflect on the people sitting across from us at the long banquet table of life. What can we provide them with, to make their lives better? How can we promote perspectives of service in our courses, our businesses, and in the world?

We'll continue to explore these ideas together, at the community meeting next Saturday. I hope you can join us and share your thoughts.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Click on the green button to register for the meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

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.

Love and Learning

Illustration of hands raised in the air enthusiastically

Love is the greatest motivator for learning, that there is.  We're biologically hard-wired to make it so. When we are newborn and helpless, our parents...the people who (hopefully!) love us most in the whole wide world, are our first teachers.

Incredible amounts of learning take place in early childhood. A baby dropping the spoon over and over from the edge of the high chair is learning about gravity. Does it work EVERY time? It DOES!!!! 

A crawling toddler who puts everything in their mouth is learning about how the world feels, smells, and tastes.

(Have you ever asked yourself if you somehow "know" how rubber tastes? How metal tastes? How the sidewalk tastes? I think most of us DO know how those things taste, and I shudder to think how we learned that, lol!).

A toddler's healthy interest in exploring the world is supported by the safety and security they feel in their parents' love.

Create learning people LOVE

Make your content DELICIOUS and enticing!

Love and learning go hand in hand at every stage of our lives.


If you think back to the most positive learning experiences you've had, can you see how love was involved?


Maybe you loved the subject matter and it held deep fascination for you.


 We are much more likely to persist in a learning task, even a very difficult one, if we are strongly motivated to do so by a deep love of the topic.


Or perhaps you were inspired by a teacher who clearly loved the subject, or loved teaching itself. 

Or perhaps (admit it...because I think we've all done this...) you were trying to impress that special someone with your amazing knowledge of ... whatever topic would impress them.

As educators, we want our course participants to LOVE our courses! It's an amazing feeling to see people all over the world engaged and motivated to learn what you've created for them based on your knowledge and expertise.

I do not advocate the view of online courses as a source of "passive" income. If you create your course right, in the way that will make people love it, there's nothing passive about it.  

A more accurate term for the income you make from an online course is "asynchronous" income. That  means, you get paid at one time for work you did (creating the course) at another time.

Teaching online in a way that inspires deep love for the subject matter and for the learning experience you create, requires a lot of hard active work. But it's work that is well worth it.

Teaching online is one of the most profound ways you can share what you know with people all over the world.

Learning how to teach online in ways that optimize engagement and promote learner motivation, will enable you to create deep impact and leave a lasting legacy.

Most importantly, taking the time and putting in the effort required to learn how to teach beautifully, online, is a demonstration of the caring and appreciation you have for the people you are here to serve: your course participants.

What do you love to learn, and teach, about? 

What learning experiences stand out to you as being connected to love, whether for parents, teachers, peers, or that special someone?

I'd love to hear about it! 

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let me know!

Happy Valentine's Day -- may it be a time for you to express love and caring to everyone in your life who could benefit from knowing that they are truly loved and appreciated. 

Here are some virtual Valentine's Day chocolates for you to enjoy. These are made from pure pixels of light. All the calories have been removed.(You're welcome! 💖)

Valentine's Day (or any day!) is the perfect time to think about how you can create luscious morsels of learning in your online course!

luscious Valentine's chocolates

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.)