Creating courses has been ALL the rave lately. Courses are being created to help people learn how to do their own canning, master their budget and gain financial freedom and even how to design a logo. Creating a course is tough cookies, and added to the stress of creating, you also have to worry about how to design a course your students will LOVE (and engage with). Tracy from Course Dezine gives us some tips on how to design a course that is on brand and seriously, visual eye candy.
How to Design a Course Your Students will LOVE (and Engage with)
Have you considered how your online course visually aligns with your brand? By giving your online course its own visual identity, you’ll strengthen your overall brand and help to promote your course as a separate entity amongst your tribe. You’ll also be able to promote and market your course as a product across your social media platforms.
You should plan the design and style of your course as soon as possible. Choose a style consistent with your business brand but try to give it a unique twist. Let’s take a look at ways that you can create a unique brand for your online course that will truly excite your students.
CREATE A COURSE MOOD BOARD
One of the best ways to plan your online course branding is to create a course mood board. I highly recommend using Pinterest for this job.
- Before you start, list your course topic and course name.
- Then think of three words to describe your course?
- Is there a specific tone? What is the look and feel of your course? What message do you want to convey with your course? For example, is it playful, cheeky, serious or sensitive?
- Next, think of the visual images that come to mind when you think of your course and topic.
- Are there elements, colours, patterns from your business brand that you want to include in your course branding?
The next step after creating your mood board is to choose the visual elements to include within your online course.
SELECTING ONLINE COURSE DESIGN AND STYLE ELEMENTS
Remember that customising the design and elements of your online course will depend heavily on your chosen teaching platform. Some will offer drag and drop editing while others will require CSS coding…something to consider when you’re shopping for platforms.
I’ve listed the most important online course elements that you need to consider as part of your branding.
- Course banner – This is your front page course banner or header. This can be an image, photo, illustration, icon or include a custom logo.
- Course logo – A custom logo designed to identify your online course. This should be different to your business logo but could have similar design elements or colours. There’s no need to spend a fortune here, just keep it simple but professional.
- Course thumbnails – These are thumbnail images that you can use to promote your course on social media platforms, on your website or on affiliate sites.
- Navigation buttons – These are the buttons such as back, next, forward etc. They help your student to navigate your course by clicking on them. Some platforms will not allow you to customise these buttons while others will let you change the colour and shape.
- Course module & lesson icons – These are icons to help your students distinguish course modules and lessons. I often use ww.iconfinder.com for free icons.
- Course resource icons – These icons are used to indicate course materials and resources such as audio, video, slides, activities or workbooks.
- Patterns, lines or dividers – These are elements that you can use to break up online text, divide content or resources.
Once you’ve carefully decided on your course elements, it’s time to get creative by choosing colours, patterns, fonts and images.
CREATING A COURSE STYLE GUIDE
A great free tool for creating style guides is Canva. I use custom dimensions of 800 x 1200 pixels for my example. If you would like a copy of my ready made editable Canva style guide template, click on the image below to enter your email address.
CHOOSING A COLOUR PALETTE FOR YOUR ONLINE COURSE
Colour can be helpful when you want to draw attention to course elements and design. Our brains are designed to focus on bold contrasting colours so keep this in mind when choosing your colour scheme.
A few steps to help you choose a colour palette:
- There are no hard and fast rules on the number of colours you can include but try to stick to a colour palette of 3 – 4 colours max. If you use too many colours, you run the risk of confusing and distracting your students.
- Think about your current brand or logo colours. What feelings do you get when you look at your existing colours? Do you think they help to create a good learning environment? Remember, your course is an educational tool, so you’ll want to use colours that encourage learning and motivate students.
- If you’re dead set on using your branding colours, why not pick one bold brand colour and use complementary shades or tints throughout the course. Or use a bold brand colour as an accent. An accent colour is a colour that is used in small amounts to lift or add pops of colour.
- Use colour picker tools such as www.adobecolor.com or colorpicker.com. Always list your RGB colour codes. This will ensure you’re using the exact same colour each time.
- Next decide on colours for each course element and add these to your course style guide.
- Tip: Using colours repetitively throughout your course content, media and screens will give your course a cohesive professional look and feel.
Now that you’ve nailed down your colours, it’s time to move on to your typography.
CHOOSING FONTS THAT SUIT ONLINE LEARNING
- When choosing typography or fonts, make sure that you choose fonts which are easy to read online and on mobiles and tablets. Your fonts should enhance your course and be easily legible which is why your brand font may not be the best choice for your online course.
- All fonts have personality, so make sure the font you choose reflects the mood or tone of your course and aligns with your brand.
- Create a typographic hierarchy in your style guide for headers, sub-headers and body text.
- Header and sub-header fonts should be larger in size and heavy in weight so that they draw attention. Sans serif fonts are typically easier to read on screen but there’s no reason why you can’t use serif fonts or contrasting combinations of both.
- Choose a simple and clear font for body text. Body text is the main text that will be used in your content, slides and resources.
- Stick to a maximum of 3 fonts. List the font names, size, spacing, line height and thickness to ensure consistency.
Images can make or break your course so they’re well worth the investment. If you can use an image rather than text to convey a message, always choose an image. When considering HOW to design a course your students will love, your imagery is so crucial in attracting the RIGHT students who are clamoring to enroll in your course.
Hint: Try to source your images after you’ve created your online course style guide as it’s much easier to find matching images that will align with your online course branding than the other way around.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT IMAGES
- When choosing images, remember that they should compliment and support your messages.
- Do you know where you’ll source images from or will you take your own? Will you use free stock photo sites or paid sites?
- The tone and personality of your course will also influence your choice of images. You might want to use vector images, photo’s, illustrations or icons. Choose an image type and try to source complementary images that match your course branding. Photo bundles are great as the images often complement each other.
- Always check the size of your images and resize or compress them before adding them to your course content. TingPNG is a great tool for compressing images. The smaller your image size, the better the download speed and your students will thank you.
If you’ve read this far, well done you! And to thank you I’m giving away a free PowerPoint and Keynote course lesson slide template with bonus icons and images. There’s two styles to choose from but if they don’t fit your brand, you can easily customise them.
Are you working on designing your online course? Do you have any special tips on how to design a course your students will LOVE?Have a special Leave it in the comments, let’s share the wealth!
About the AuthorTracey Meyer is an e-learning expert, online course designer, trainer, writer and blogger. Her mission is to rid the world of boring online courses and slides. She passionately helps other bloggers, creatives and entrepreneurs to design engaging online programs and courses. She lives on the gorgeous Gold Coast with her cheeky toddler and loves spending time at the beach or organic farmer’s markets. You can find more awesome tips for course creation on her blog, coursedezine.com
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