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How to Structure a Course; Your Complete Guide

Learning how to structure a course is crucial for engaging learners and supporting their growth. It’s also the difference between simply sharing information versus taking your customers on a meaningful learning journey. In this guide, we’ll explore the step-by-step process to building an online course structure while incorporating strategies to keep learners engaged throughout the process.

Create Learning Objectives and Outcomes

Creating a course structure which engages always starts with the end in mind. Establishing the learning objectives not only helps clarify to students what they will learn in your course, it also helps instructors and educators to build a learning path. To begin, ensure you are clear on what your learners’ needs are, and how your course will address these needs. From there, establish your objectives for your course, using SMART criteria (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound).

If you think about how this is represented in training, or a self-paced course, it’s best to reframe the objectives into learning outcomes. The reason we do this is because you are confirming to students what additional skills or capabilities they will have by the end of the course. It helps promote trust and improves your authority on the subject. There are also additional benefits as you implement a selling and conversion plan, and as you build out your learning journey.

I recommend starting with three learning outcomes. You can adapt for your own course structure:

  1. Overarching learning outcome (i.e., what you will be able to do by the end of the course)
  2. The path, steps or background needed to achieve the learning outcome
  3. Take-aways to practice, consider or apply after the course

By way of example, learning outcomes might look like this for a course focused on writing a blog post:

  1. Be confident writing and publishing effective blog posts on your website.
  2. Understand the 5 key foundations for writing search engine optimised content
  3. Post successfully, every time by leveraging our templates

Develop a Course Outline

A detailed course outline is like a roadmap that helps both you and your learners navigate the journey ahead. An effective outline not only organises your content but also ensures that it flows logically and builds upon itself in a way that enhances understanding. This is often referred to as ‘scaffolding’, and we cover this later on. Mapping out your course outline can help you identify potential gaps or overlaps in the material. It also makes it easier to create a cohesive and comprehensive learning experience.

As you have already established your learning objectives and outcomes, you have the foundation for your course outline. Using our example about writing blog posts, we can share what a course outline might look like.

Course: How to write a Blog Post

Curriculum, Modules and sequence:

  1. Introduction to blog writing
  2. What is it
  3. Why does it matter
  4. Who should use blogs
  5. Five sequential foundations for writing SEO blog content
  6. Step 1…
  7. Step 2…
  8. Step 3…
  9. Step 4…
  10. Step 5…
  11. Fast track your success
  12. Pre-filled templates and guides
  13. Helpful websites, resources and contacts
  14. Further learning opportunities

Mind you, it’s normal to write an outline, reflect, and adjust. Take your time to consider whether your course curriculum meets the learner objectives and there is a logical and clear transition between topics. Think about any complexity within the content and how this could be broken down into smaller modules or steps.

Building Modules

Once you’ve developed a course structure and outline, the next step is to build out each specific module. This involves creating detailed content, connecting it to learning outcomes, and ensuring a seamless flow between lessons. Equally as important, you need to consider how your content will engage the audience and how you can provide a meaningful experience which meets your learners needs. We discuss each of these topics, and provide suggestions for you to consider in your course.

Delivery Methods and Student Engagement

Creating engaging content involves more than just delivering information; it requires a variety of teaching methods, engaging delivery, clear communication, and interaction. By using different formats and incorporating interactive elements, you can make your course material more dynamic and appealing. Here are our tips for keeping students engaged.

Use a Variety of Formats

  • Recorded presentations with voice overs
  • Video recordings of you teaching content
  • Pre-recorded interviews or panel discussions
  • Downloadable readings, audio bites and PDF summaries, and templates
  • Virtual classroom or webinar discussions

Implement Storytelling

Sharing your experiences through stories helps to illustrate key points and make content relatable. Why?

  • Increased engagement – Incorporating storytelling into a course can capture attention and engage students emotionally, making the learning process more enjoyable and memorable.
  • Memory Retention – Stories often involve characters, conflicts, and resolutions, which make them easier to remember. By framing information within a story, instructors help students recall facts and concepts long after the course has ended.
  • Simplifying Complex Ideas: Storytelling can be used to break down complex or abstract concepts into relatable scenarios. By humanising or animating these concepts through stories, students can grasp difficult topics more easily.
  • Motivation: Stories have the power to inspire and motivate learners. When students see characters overcoming obstacles or achieving goals, they are more likely to feel motivated to do the same in their own endeavours.
  • Emotional Connection: Storytelling creates an emotional bond between the student and the material being taught, which supports a personal connection to the learning experience. Emotions are closely linked to motivation and memory, making emotional engagement during learning particularly valuable.

Foster Interaction

Interactive courses promote deeper learning and help build a community around your content. Interaction also encourages peer based learning, where learners share their perspectives and experiences, or even brainstorm. By fostering a sense of community, you can help learners feel more connected and supported, which can significantly improve their overall learning experience.

Try the following:

  • Encourage Discussion – Use Q&A, live webinars, or social media groups to facilitate discussion and peer-to-peer learning.
  • Incorporate Group Work – Design collaborative projects or group assignments
  • Provide Immediate Feedback – Use automated quizzes or interactive elements that offer instant feedback to keep learners motivated.

Keep It Concise

Avoid overwhelming learners with too much information at once. If a topic is complex or large, break it down into smaller, bit-sized modules.

Effective Learning Considerations

Any course designed to educate should include methods to increase learner engagement and capability acquisition. Unfortunately, simply providing instructional based learning materials won’t be suitable in most learning environments. And, whilst you don’t need to know detailed learning theories, it’s important to incorporate methods that help people acquire, process, and retain knowledge. With this in mind, we have taken concepts from behavioural learning and social learning theory to provide the following suggestions.

Build Alignment with Learning Objectives

Linking content directly to learning outcomes ensures that each part of your module serves a clear educational purpose. It helps learners understand the relevance of the material and supports continued focus and engagement.

Each of your modules should begin by revisiting the specific learning outcomes that you will focus on. This is where you would clearly state what this module is about, why it is important, and how it connects to the learning outcomes (or part thereof). This is a standard way to commence each module, so the learner is clear on the purpose and relevance to their development goals.

Incorporate Scaffolding

The objective of scaffolding is to provide the building blocks that help learners accomplish tasks they wouldn’t be able to complete on their own. This framework includes hints, prompts, cues, modelling, and step-by-step guidance. As students work their way through the course materials, you should provide opportunities for them to experiment and test their understanding of concepts. As competence grows, the scaffolding is taken away, ultimately leaving students with the new capabilities at their disposal.

Your objective is to start with the foundational knowledge in earlier modules, and build on that knowledge through each stage of the coursework.

Repetition & Reinforcement

Repetition is a fundamental component of effective learning, recognised across various learning theories. Repeating, revisiting, reminding and reinforcing learners of key concepts helps to strengthen memory by creating neural pathways, building proficiency, promoting automaticity, and increasing confidence.

There are various ways you can do this in your course structure. At the start of each module or lesson, spend a moment reflecting on what you covered in the last lesson. Include quizzes, assignments, and provide handouts at various intervals following a module to encourage learners to look back over course materials. Provide feedback and opportunities for correction (or to retake quizzes). At the same time, celebrate wins and provide positive reinforcement. There are some great course creation tools that allow for content drips, where you can schedule lessons or activities to occur at different times, or based on the completion of other topics.


Understanding how to structure a course isn’t easy. That said, by following a few fundamentals, you can create modules that not only educate but also inspire and engage your learners.

Remember, the goal is to make each module a stepping stone towards the overall course objectives, ensuring learners can see their progress and stay motivated throughout the course. With these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to developing comprehensive and engaging course modules that resonate with your audience.