Have your read a book that has a layout like this?

Chapter 1: Character Introduction
Chapter 2: The Adventures
Chapter 3: The Lessons Learned
Chapter 4: The Farewells
Chapter 5: The Problems Faced
Chapter 6: Various Buildings in the Book

No, I didn’t think so. Why? It’s not intuitive, and it’s disjointed. This approach takes all the problems, buildings and farewells out of context.

Why then are some online courses set up this way? For example, they are separated into these sections:

Course material (readings)
Discussion Boards
Quizzes and Tests (knowledge check)

Readers would have to flip though the “book” to find content. There is no flow. It’s disjointed. It’s also easy to miss an activity or assignment.

Good books follow a structure we know intuitively, without this structure we may drop the book or just ask at the end, “what was that?” We all know the structure:

Exposition: Setting the scene.
Rising action: Building the tension.
Climax: The exciting bit.
Falling action: Tidying up loose ends.
Resolution: Ending the story.

How does this relate to eLearning and online course design? How about the following layout, much like a Twain novel or even a Stuart McLean book of short stories:

Introduction (Foreword)
Announcements (landing page)

Week (Chapter) 1 (Date May 2 to May 9)

Introduction (Exposition)
Announcement (Building the tension)
Material Readings (Building the tension)
Discussion Board (The exciting bit)
Media (The exciting bit)
Quizzes and Tests (Tidying up loose ends – are Learners are clear about the exciting bit?)
Activity (Tidying up loose ends)
Unit Wrap up (Ending the story)
Week (Chapter) 2 (Date May 10 to May 17)

Of course you can shake it up a bit with variety, but the basic structure should resemble a book. Have a look at your courses, do they flow like one of your favourite books? Perhaps a set of fresh eyes can tell you. 


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