One of the first questions course creators ask is how to create a curriculum for a course.
As an expert in your field, planning a course curriculum for beginners or even intermediate learners can be challenging. Some topics might seem obvious to you now. However, if you think back to when you were learning, you might remember it wasn’t obvious then.
Another challenge is knowing where to start and organizing your thoughts into a structured curriculum. How do you create a course curriculum that helps you teach students successfully?
Thousands of creators have built online courses with Teachable. The most successful ones have thoughtful, easy-to-follow curriculums. To design a course that wows students, follow this six-step curriculum design process.
- Brainstorm desired outcomes
- Identify your target audience and their pain points
- Narrow down your learning outcome
- Create a list of milestones and lessons
- Estimate the time to complete each lesson
- Compile course content, materials, and resources
- Get student feedback
Download this worksheet to work on your curriculum.
1. Brainstorm desired outcomes
When it comes down to it, the purpose of an online course is to reach an outcome. Assuming that you already have a course idea in mind, your next step is to define student outcomes or learning objectives. To get started, ask these questions:
- What skills or knowledge will students gain?
- How will students benefit from your course?
- Will students need certain skills or tools to be successful?
- What will students be able to do?
- How will it impact their lives?
You might have one or several learning objectives per course, but they should be clearly outlined for students when they visit your course sales page. For example, Lauren Hom Painting Murals for Designers course includes a bulleted list of the skills that students will have upon completion.
2. Identify your target audience and their pain points
Before you can create a course that blows your audience’s minds and transforms their lives, you need to identify your audience. It would be hard to explain how to create a curriculum for a course without considering your potential students and their needs.
- What group do you understand better than anyone else?
- What do you care about deeply?
- Is there a community that will benefit the most from your knowledge?
- What level are they in their learning journey–beginner, intermediate, or advanced?
If your gut instinct is, “my audience is bloggers,” dig deeper. Is it all bloggers? The answer is likely no. Maybe your target audience is really women in college who want to turn their blogs into a full-time career.
This process will help you resonate and connect with your audience as well as build a course curriculum. Lauren Hom didn’t just say the mural class was for designers. You can tell there was thought put into defining the struggles or reasons why designers might take the class.
She acknowledged that painting on a large surface can be overwhelming. Then, connected that challenge back to the course’s learning outcomes. The better you understand your audience, the easier it will be to talk to them in a meaningful way.
How do you know what struggles or pain points your students face? First, you likely experienced the same struggles. When you were first learning or were in the early stages of your career, what challenges did you encounter? Reflect on those to build your initial list.
That said, you should still do audience research. There are two primary ways that you could tackle this:
Survey online communities
If you’re in the early stages of building an audience, you might not have a large pool of potential students to survey. In this case, there are tons of online communities and tools that can help you find and survey your target audience. Here are a few tactics that you can use to connect with and gather audience information:
- Join Facebook groups that are in your niche.
- Research and join relevant subreddits.
- Join professional Slack communities.
After joining these groups, you might notice that members frequently ask similar questions. You can also post and ask about topics they’d like to learn or challenges they face.
Poll your existing audience
If you already have a sizeable audience, you could also ask them who they are. Send a survey to your email list with a few questions that help you better understand their struggles. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- What are your blog goals?
- In what ways are you already monetizing your blog?
- How much do you earn from your blog every month?
You can offer your audience the option to answer anonymously, just make sure to ask a few demographic questions to help you sort through outliers.
The best way to determine how you can help your audience is by actually asking what they’re struggling with.
If you already have a responsive audience, you can include this question in the demographic poll we mentioned in step one, if you don’t, you’ll have to get a bit more creative.
Here are a few strategies for polling your audience and determining their struggles:
- Send an email
- Create polls in Instagram stories
- Post in Facebook groups where your audience hangs out
- Post in subreddits your audience frequents
- Ask them in the caption of your Instagram stories
- Write a blog post and make the CTA a question asking your readers about their struggles
- Schedule discovery calls with a handful of audience members
Once you’ve polled your audience, look for consistencies. What are the trends? Is there a common theme? Make a list of the common pain points your audience experiences.
3. Narrow down your learning outcome
Here’s where the ball gets rolling. Once you’ve got your list of pain points, narrow it down to the most popular two or three.
Take a look at what’s left and decide which one you have the most authority to teach and are most interested in teaching. From there, you can craft your learning outcome.
Think about how solving these pain points would transform your students’ lives. What does success look like? Ideally, learning goals should be actionable and measurable.
Let’s pretend that your audience is struggling to go from earning a few hundred dollars a month from their blog to making a full-time income.
Your learning goal could be to teach students to increase their blog revenue five times over. In this pretend scenario, you’d know this is possible because you’ve done it yourself, and other students have used your strategies to do it.
Once you’ve defined your outcome, you can start developing a curriculum.
4. Create a list of milestones and lessons
What do students need to know to achieve their learning outcomes? Put yourself in your students’ shoes. Think about every skill you needed to learn or action you took to get to where you are today. Then, write everything down in a list.
As an example, the full-time blogger course list might look like this:
- Joined more blogging networks
- Created a membership site for blog readers
- Added new sidebar ads to your site
- Inserted affiliate links into old posts
- Reached out to five new PR companies each week
- Emailing potential blog sponsors
- Revised pricing or sponsorship rates
- Created a series of ebooks to sell
- Took on blog coaching clients
Once you’ve written every step it took to get to where you are now, group each into lessons or modules.
Pulling from the example list above, you might call your lesson ‘working with brands’. Inside it, you could group together any steps that fall under working with brands–joining blogging networks, reaching out to PR companies, and emailing potential blog sponsors. This way, each lesson is broken into shorter, easy-to-digest sections.
You might find that some steps deserve to be standalone lessons. On the other hand, you may want to bundle others into five or six lessons.
The goal is to create five to ten easy-to-follow lessons. You can use different methods to organize your curriculum. Moving from easy to more challenging is a natural flow. If you start with easy lessons first, you’ll give students easy wins. They’ll be motivated to keep going. Then, as they build their skills, you can work up to the more time-consuming and difficult lessons.
Keep in mind that students might not consume your course all at once or from start to finish. They may jump around a lot. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to find each of your lessons.
If you want students to follow your lessons from beginning to end without jumping around, you can do so with a Teachable paid plan. When adding your curriculum to Teachable, you can use the course compliance feature. With it, you can enforce a lesson order so that students must watch certain sections to move forward. You can also make it so they must watch 90% of a video before moving to the next lesson.
5. Estimate the time to complete each lesson
Your students will not only be investing their money but also their time into your course. Naturally, they’ll want to know how long it will take to complete. To estimate the course completion time, you’ll need to plan out the length of each of your lessons.
When writing a curriculum, try to keep each lesson video under ten minutes. In most cases, it’s better to have a handful of short videos than to jam all of the information into one 30-minute video.
Of course, there are exceptions. You can break the rules if you think it will create better learning experiences. For example, if you’re teaching an art course and doing a Bob Ross style “paint with me,” you may record a longer video.
6. Compile course content, materials, and resources
There’s much more to how to create a curriculum for a course than writing down a bullet list of lessons. You have to create course content, record videos, upload files, add quizzes, and more.
It might seem like a lot but you don’t need fancy, expensive recording equipment to start. You can make an online course by recording a Loom, using your mobile phone, or voicing over a Google slides presentation. The important part is that each piece of course content ties back to your curriculum and student outcomes.
Make sure to answer these questions when creating materials and resources for your course.
- How will this help students reach their learning goals?
- What should students learn from this lesson?
- How will you evaluate students?
- Will you use quizzes, graded assignments, or something else?
By asking these questions, you’ll stay focused on the skills you need to teach and will be better able to tell when students are making progress.
It may seem like it will take a lot of time to make a course, but once you have your curriculum planned out, it’s easy to get started.
7. Get student feedback
Writing a curriculum is no easy feat. It’s also a learning process for you. If it’s your first course, ask for feedback from current and past students. Ask if there was anything that wasn’t included in the curriculum that they wanted to learn. What sections did they like the most? Did students think some sections could be removed or revamped?
Getting feedback from students can help you improve your learning experiences and overall outcomes. As time goes on, you may need to make small changes and updates to your course curriculum to ensure that you have the most accurate information.
Go back to your original course curriculum and make changes or revisions as you see fit. By making little improvements over time, you’ll build a curriculum that consistently delivers positive student experiences and results.
Now, you’ve how to create a curriculum for a course. Maybe you’ve planned your course content and even started recording video lessons. If you still want some inspiration and guidance, these resources can help you take your course content to the next level.
- How to Create Slides for Your Online Course
- How to DIY a Home Video Recording Set Up
- Record High-Quality Audio for Your Online Course