Learning a new skill is hard, especially when it comes to tech. Tech seems to change every day, and with the pace of change for technologies like the cloud, it sometimes feels impossible to stay on top of everything. Course students need to acquire tech skills fast, and one way they do this is through the online course format.
Online courses provide the student valuable knowledge on a subject but, if not conveyed accurately, can leave them feeling bored, inattentive or just confused.
I've been building online training courses for many years and have learned a lot along the way about how to create an engaging online training course on a technical subject. In this article, I'll dive into some of the high-level pieces you can incorporate into your courses to make them stand out and leave students with a new skill rather than a waste of time.
1. Be real.
The first task to ensure your course works is to be real. Students want to learn from someone who's been there, done that and speaks in a tone that's relatable to them. Students don't want to hear academic jargon and or attempts to impress them with how smart you are. Students want to feel like you're close to their level, just slightly higher. They want to feel like, if they met you at some point, you could have a friendly chat with them, feeling like equals rather than like they're talking to a "guru."
2. Be entertaining.
No one wants to hear a monotone robot delivering dry, technical content to them. Even if your slides and demos are top-notch, if you fail to show enthusiasm in what you're providing, students will zone out, become bored and fail to learn. Even if you're recording late at night and had a horrible day, you have to transform your personality into an extroverted, happy-go-lucky presenter. Fake it!
You must be engaging in your delivery not only by showing that you care about the content you're presenting but also to be loose. Don't present in a stiff, dry manner. Crack a joke now and then. If you make a mistake in a demo, roll with it. Use errors as learning opportunities and joke like you meant to do that.
3. Show authority.
You can't teach a tech course and not know what you're talking about. You'll have to dive into the details, and students can spot a fake right away. Don't try to joke your way out of not knowing what you're talking about. You must show authority. If you make a mistake and can't correct it in a reasonable amount of time, it has to be edited out and redone.
Students are here to learn from you. You don't have to be the most prolific expert of all time on the subject, but you must show the students that you're at least a little ahead of them and can teach them some things they don't know.
4. Present in sequence.
One of the most common problems I see with tech courses is that the authors talk about a topic that hasn't been addressed yet in the course. Referring to an area that hasn't been taught nor defined in the course prerequisites can leave the student feeling lost.
You must be mindful of every area you've covered already and stick to those. If you need to use a particular tool to demonstrate something, be sure to introduce the tool and how to use it briefly. Never assume the student will know about a topic; always address it to be sure.
Delivering a successful technology training course requires a lot of thought, persistence and experimenting to ensure the combination of your content and delivery creates a fantastic course for students to learn from. If you take the pointers in this article to heart, I guarantee that the courses you author will be more engaging and informative, ultimately achieving the goal of teaching students new skills.