Communications professional, Kyiv Mohyla Academy lecturer and co-founder of gohigher.org education portal Anastasia Nurzhinska tells the why and the how of creating online courses and why this is such an effective promotional tool for social projects.

I wrote my first online course three years ago on Prometheus, which had just begun working. At that time I felt that some of the materials that I was using for lectures and teaching students could be put online.

Three years later I developed a platform with 14 online courses for the Culture and Creativity programme. More than 5,000 users got their certificates and 82% of the audience said the knowledge they gained would be useful in their work.

What’s the benefit in creating an online course?

First of all, there’s a benefit to your brand as a teacher or specialist or on the specialist you bring in to lead your course. For example, the year I wrote my first course on Prometheus, I was listed as one of the top 10 PR professionals in the country according to the MMR ratings.

Second, online courses help to systematize knowledge. Additionally, of those who finished the Culture and Creativity course, two-thousand listeners shared their certificates on social networks. They wrote reviews, raised questions and, of course, offered their thanked for the course. All this interaction took place on social networks and awareness of the Culture and Creativity efforts grew.

This approach will work for your organization: if you put together a quality online course, your listeners will share their certificates and their impressions of the course on their social media pages. For example, the Culture and Creativity programme site has received a half-a-million views and collected over 30,000 followers on Facebook. Culture and Creativity courses have begun to affect the financing and management of cultural projects, and today we see positive changes in the sector - more and more organizations creating effective projects.


There are challenges, of course. The average percentage of those who complete the course is 10-13% of those who registered. There are different reasons for this, but these numbers are consistent with what is seen at some of the best online courses worldwide. People are overloaded with information and burdened with work. A listener might also determine that the course does not meet his/her professional goals, doesn’t hold their interest, or they become distracted by other, pressing issues and don’t continue.

Another challenge to be ready for is the need to respond to questions and comments. Working on the Prometheus course, we received over 500 comments. Working with Culture and Creativity, we responded to two thousand comments on Facebook.

This is a big job: apart from what you need to do to develop and promote a course, you still have to deal with user issues and technical issues. You need to plan how you to address an issue and who is responsible for that, and what resources you’re going to need.

Student motivation

What motivates a course participant to stick with it to the end? There are two types of motivation: internal and external. External motivators include things like the opportunity to receive a certificate, additional points for additional tasks, or, conversely, penalties for turning in assignments late.

But internal motivators carry more force: an understanding of the importance of knowledge, a sense of belonging, curiosity, and the ability to boost their skill levels. You can be confident that a person guided by internal motivators understands the goal of the course and will put the acquired knowledge to use. But it all depends on whether you were able to explain how this knowledge will help them in the future, whether you’ve established a friendly atmosphere and provided a variety of study formats.

Top 10 rules for creating an online course

High-quality video. Along with increasing exposure to video content, user discernment to its quality also improves.

Design. In our work we also used infographics and worked hard on the visual appearance of the courses. All our users noted that infographics are an important tool for summarizing course information. They also shared our visual material and used it regularly like a checklist.

Language. If you decide to take use a foreign specialist in our course, you need to plan how you’re going to incorporate the translation and make it user friendly.

Promotion of the course. There is stiff competition among online courses, so you need to give serious thought to its promotion.

Moderating comments and addressing technical issues. Technical problems are a constant, so it's important to address them on a timely basis.

Working with "difficult" and negative students. It’s important to develop guidelines for using the course and for identifying at what stage you need to stop responding to negative comments. Rules might relate to the prohibition of comments of a political or religious nature, or personally offensive comments. Listeners need to know the boundaries from the start.

If a difficult situation arises, you may attempt to address the person individually, explaining the problem. Keep in mind “the rule of two": if you’ve attempted to find a compromise twice, but the user continues to be disruptive, preventing other participants from learning, then you have the right to cancel this person’s training.

Practical assignments. Share useful links and templates. For example, if this is a communication course, then an example of a communicative strategy or a checklist describing an effective social network post would be very useful.

Real examples. This might be working with recent events, unpacking them.

Combining online and offline. Either during or following the course, you might offer to meet with students, or with those who have successfully completed the course.

Certificates for listeners. If your organisational brand is not widely recognized, invite partners whose presence will boost the reputation of the course. Also, formulate the title of the course and its content in such a way that the user can reference them in his/her subsequent employment.

Key trends in online courses

Gaming is a very popular method now. Some courses have been structured as online games where people learn new skills playing the game. Personalized learning is when a student has a private mentor and teacher and an individually designed curriculum. These courses are typically conducted for a fee but offer greater value to the student.

Micro-learning is also an approach that is gaining momentum. This is when small topics are addressed during brief sessions, or learning that occurs through group participation and communication. An interesting example of a micro-learning course can be found at https://gohighbrow.com. Subscribers receive a new session every morning by email.

It’s also necessary to pay attention to trends in how people access information. For example, 50% of site visitors do not stay on the site longer than 15 seconds. A contemporary person focuses his concentration typically for no more than 8 seconds. Only 20% of those who read the headline will read through the rest of the information on the site. You need to understand that you’re competing with an infinite number of information resources: online courses, bloggers, entertainment or news video, and other kinds of websites.

So when you’re putting together your online course, think about how to make it more interesting, dynamic, brief and practical in order to withstand all the competition. 

Originally appeared at: http://www.gohigher.org/page2364242.html 

Other interesting stories: