How to structure your online course lessons: 3 essential elements you can't miss

How to structure your online course lessons: 3 essential elements you can't miss

Curriculum Design
Publish Date
Nov 18, 2021
It's all about the transformation.
Your course has to take your students from point A to point B, and every lesson is a stepping stone along the way.
But how should you structure each lesson so that your students make continuous progress and don't get stuck?
Let's start with the key question:
What do you want your students to believe, understand, and do by the end of the session?
When you start with the goal in mind, you can reverse-engineer the steps to get there.
And the first step should always be...

1. Start with the Why

We don't take action if we don't understand why we should do something or if we don't believe we're capable of doing it.
That's why you need to start the lesson by explaining the why:
Why is this important? What are the mindset shifts and perspectives your students need to adopt first for everything else to make sense?
I found that the why is best explained through a story. For example, describe what let you or someone else to the mindset shift.
Spend about 20% of your lesson here before moving on to...

2. Explain the What

These are the new principles, methods, techniques, and tactics you want your students to adopt and implement.
It's what most students sign up for to learn. They want you to tell them what to do.
This is best achieved by showing concrete examples and use cases.
Spend another 20% on the what before moving to the most important part of the session...

3. Practice the How

Without implementation, your students won't see results. So, how will they implement your principles, techniques, and methods in their life?
Many online courses neglect this part and, as a result, students get and stay stuck.
This is where you should spend at least 40% of your lesson.
Here are different options to encourage implementation:
  • Demos: Show how you do things.
  • Exercises: Let them take the first step in the session to gain momentum.
  • Breakout Rooms: Prompt students to share their challenges with each other. This is where I've seen many breakthroughs happen.
  • Q&A: Answer your students' questions to help them move forward.
  • Hot Seats: Coach a student through a challenge. Often, others grapple with similar issues.
  • Assignments: Ask them to submit their progress and give feedback to each other. (Feedback truly accelerates learning.)
Ideally, your students leave the session with a small win, a clear path forward, and the momentum to keep going.
While you can cover the why, what and how in one live session, you could also break it up.
For example: Share the why and what in a pre-recorded format. Then, focus entirely on the how during live sessions. Many course creators host office hours to help students implement.
notion image