What content makes a Course in your LMS?

What content makes a Course in your LMS?


Richard Nantel


I can't remember the last time I heard someone say when asked their opinion of something, "I just don't know." To be uncertain of something used to be a sign of having an open mind and mature decision-making skills based on weighing facts and considering the opinions of others. Now, regrettably, "I don't know" suggests indecisiveness and weakness.

Perhaps this epidemic of certainty stems from our addiction to news sources and social media networks that mostly confirm that our beliefs are 100% correct and shield us from different ways of looking at the world. We know what we know, and no one can convince us that other ideas and opinions have merit.

This mental rigidity permeates all aspects of life. Politics, of course, comes immediately to mind. But, we even see it in learning and development.

Openness to new learning experiences

In an average week, I typically meet with representatives of about a dozen different organizations to discuss their learning and development requirements. I'll often ask these professionals to describe their courses. This often generates a pause, not because they don't know the answer but because they assume I know what their courses are like.

"A course is a course, no?"

  • For some, a course is something that takes place at a specific point in time, taught by an instructor in either a virtual or physical classroom.
  • For others, a course is a PowerPoint-like presentation, containing pages that the learner clicks through.
  • Others are certain a course is a video.
  • Still, others think a course is a document such as a user manual.
  • And so on.

Having an inflexible view of what a course is can lead to problems. If you have an urgent need to get your learners up to speed on something but you're shackled to the idea that an online course is an immersive simulation containing fun games and lovable cartoon characters that move their lips when they talk, your boss will not be thrilled with the multi-month delay and big budget required to create the content. Your boss will be even less thrilled with the high cost of making updates to the course if the content changes often.

Similarly, if you find yourself repeating the same instructor-led course over and over again to accommodate the schedules of your learners, then maybe you should abandon your view that a course is something given by an instructor and expand your view of a course to include self-paced modalities.

Instead of thinking in terms of courses, it can be helpful to think of learning experiences. Accidentally grabbing the handle of a pan recently removed from a hot oven with bare hands isn't a course, but it's a very powerful learning experience.

The question to ask when creating content is "given my budget and time frame, what experiences can I present to my learners to help them learn the content the fastest?"

To help get your creative juices flowing, here are a few learning activities that can be used, either alone or in combination with others:

  • Reading documents
  • Watching videos
  • Navigating Powerpoint/Prezi-like presentations
  • Analyzing diagrams
  • Playing games
  • Studying animations
  • Experiencing screen recordings created with tools such as Camtasia
  • Attending instructor-led events, either in physical or virtual classrooms
  • Watching recordings of past instructor-led events
  • Interacting with embedded external Web pages (Wikipedia, blogs, wikis, Google Docs, etc.)
  • Testing their retention with quizzes and exams
  • Completing surveys
  • Performing tasks, either self-reported as completed or requiring a review by a supervisor
  • Completing written assignments
  • Discussing the content with other learners
  • Asking questions of experts.

Absorb LMS works well with all types of courses. We encourage you to try it for yourself!

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