5 Things You Don’t Need When You Make an Online Course—and 5 Things You Do

If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein

For many years I believed that a Thanksgiving meal had to include not only an excess of food, but an excess of types of food. Not just one vegetable, but three or four. Not just one kind of potato, but two (and maybe a noodle dish as well). Not just one type of bread, but muffins and rolls as well. Not just one type of pie, but several.

Pies   Well, I still think you need at least three kinds of pie to make the meal truly outstanding, but otherwise, I keep it simple. Besides giving me more time with loved ones, keeping it simple allows me to bring out the best in each dish. I go for the highest quality rather than the most stuff.

I approach creating online courses the same way. You don’t need to throw in everything and gooey sweet potatoes too. You just need the best quality teaching, delivered passionately.

It’s the KISS rule in operation: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Here are five things you don’t and do need in your online course:

  • You don’t need pictures every minute or two. You do need images that help students understand what you’re talking about.
  • You don’t need fancy fonts for onscreen text. You do need text that reinforces and/or clarifies your points and that is easy to read—a large size font, a straightforward style, and a consistent approach.
  • You don’t need music to accompany the course unless that is part of your content. You do need great audio quality for your voice—that means both that you speak clearly and that you record it well.
  • You don’t need onscreen text that drops in, flies in, fades in and out, or glows. You do need onscreen text that is presented consistently, with a clear pattern that reinforces the importance and relationship of points.
  • You don’t need a full studio with a set, professional cameras, and track lighting. You do need a clean, undistracting background; steady camera work (a camera phone on a tripod will suffice); and soft, natural lighting so your face is fully visible but not harshly lit.

To be clear: you can add music, relevant but unnecessary images, and moving text to your onscreen course, and doing so can enhance the overall production quality if done thoughtfully, tastefully, and modestly. But it’s not necessary to add all those things.

If you are a dynamic presenter who can teach so that students say, “Oh, I get it now!” then your course will have all it needs.

In a Thanksgiving dinner, it’s comparable to having everyone say, “Oh, that was the best turkey I’ve ever had!

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Please send me your questions for future issues, and tune in next Friday for Issue #35 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.”

Contact Marcy for help crafting your online course: https://www.marcymcdonald.com/contact.html

Marcy McDonald is an Online Course Producer. She helps Subject Matter Experts and Professors create online courses with better content, delivery, and production, for better teaching. She’s developed ~450 online courses for lifelong learners, worked in video and audio studios, and filmed in the field (literally).

Want to learn how to make online courses that teach outstanding content well? Sign up for your free copy of “12 Steps to Killer Course Content” and weekly tips, click here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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