Courses with Sami Yuhas (

Top 3 Course Design tips

1. You are not your learner. Things that seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to your audience.

2. User testing is not optional. Have beta learners, get their feedback, and implement it.

3. You will learn as much from building your course as your learner will from taking it.

What are the general guidelines to arranging content so it delivers a decent amount of value without causing overwhelm?

I can’t overemphasize how important it is to chunk your content. Link things that go together. Create mini lessons that teach a whole, complete, implementable concept. Give your learner time to process what you’ve taught them by including activities and time for reflection or discussion. If you’re creating a webinar, create a meaningful wrap-up, including a ‘so what’, so that learners are able to review your key points and why to implement.


What would an ideal framework for a course be? (eg. State problem, present solutions, examples, Q&A, sharing etc)

There’s not really a single, set framework. So much of how you build your course, how you organize and develop your content, will depend on the nature of that content and of your learner. Having a good understanding of what you’re teaching, how you need to teach it, and who your audience is will inform how you structure the course. Let me give you an example.

When I worked developing military trainings, we had two projects come in that focused on teaching clinicians new tools for assessing domestic violence. Despite the fact that we had the exact same learners, who were taking the trainings for the exact same reasons, we built these trainings very differently. For training A, the material we were creating the training from was extremely technical, with a large number of fine nuances that needed to be clearly communicated. As such, the training focused on abstract examples, in an attempt to ensure that learners understood the theory behind the tool. By contrast, for training B, the material was much more accessible, and as such, much more straightforward. We created a training that very much drew from roleplaying games. The idea was to walk learners through the entire treatment process, from best practice for conducting to interviews, to explaining how to use the assessment tool, to crafting sample intervention plans.

The general rule of thumb is to ask yourself two questions: What do I want my learners to do at the end? What do they need to know to do it? Let these questions guide how you structure your course.

What do I want my learners to do at the end? What do they need to know to do it? Click To Tweet


Please provide an overview of delivery options, with pros and cons for your examples.

Oh, man, this is tough because there are so many options, with so many nuances. Off the top of my head, there’s audio, video, text, interactive module, workbook, and face-to-face.

I know everyone’s over the moon with video. It can be slick, professional, and really let your personality come through. If you’re teaching a computer-based skill, the ability so narrate screencasts is absolutely invaluable.

But video can be expensive. And unless you’re chunking it into appropriate lengths (no more than 7-10 minutes at a time for max retention, according to studies), the lack of interactivity means your audience is more likely to tune out. If the audio isn’t perfect on your videos, your audience will notice immediately. It’s not nearly as portable as some of the other options, and can be a nightmare for those whose connection is slow or who rely on cellular data to connect.

Audio is cheaper and more portable, but lacks video’s visual support. It’s friendlier and can be supported with a text transcription for the hearing-impaired. It can also allow your learner to be working on something else while learning, which can either be a boon or a bane.

Text and workbooks actually overlap a lot. They allow the learner to learn at her own pace; they let her revisit as necessary; and they can provide ample time for processing, interaction, and reflection. Workbooks let you create structured time to process, which is really valuable. They do lack the immediate follow-along capability of video, and text without audio may present a barrier for learners with dyslexia or other reading impairments.

Interactive modules can be a lot of fun, if they’re done well. They can be engaging, and marry the best of audio, video, and workbook. They’re easy to brand and host, but aren’t always mobile friendly and designing support for hearing or visual impairments varies wildly based on the authoring tool. They can also be a data drain for those relying on cellular or with slow connections.

Face to face can be great. It really lets your personality come through, and allows you to answer questions as they come up. However, if your learner misses something, she’s a little lost, unless you’ve provided handouts. Likewise, teaching to a large group may make some learners hesitant to ask questions and get the help they need. Face to face is also, in many ways, a much more demanding time commitment than any of the other options.


Please describe a workflow process for designing an e-course

Start by learning about your learners. Talk to them. Get them to tell you about themselves, about their needs, about their learning experiences. Find out why they’re interested in your course, what they want to be able to do after completing it. Figure out what’s keeping them from achieving their goals in your specific area of expertise; this is trickier than it sounds. Keep good notes — your learners will give you a lot of information, some of which might not immediately seem useful. You’ll still want a record of it.


At what point does one become able to teach others about a particular topic?

This is a tough question, honestly. There are so many different ways you might know you’re ready, but I’ll give you a general rule of thumb.

They say that you know a topic, really know it, when you can explain it to someone else. If you’re interested in whether or not you’re ready to build a course, find people who are interested in your content and start talking to them, teaching them one-on-one. Do this a lot. If the people you’re teaching are getting it, and are making meaningful change with what you’ve taught them, you’re ready.


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