A female course creator is writing her course outline in her notebook.

So you have picked the perfect niche for your course, spent hours researching the topic and now you're ready to put all that knowledge into a structured format.

However, you might find that as you start to organize your thoughts, you're jumping from one topic to the next and struggling to keep things clear and concise.

This is where a course outline comes in. Think of a course outline as your guiding light - it helps you stay on track and ensures that you're moving in the right direction toward your end goal.

In this article, we will look at how to create an effective courses outline step by step.

But before we jump in…

What is a course outline and why do we need one?

A course outline is a plan that provides an overview of the content and course structure. The course outline serves as a guide for both you and your students ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding the course and what to expect from it.

We need a course outline to:
  • Establish the learning outcome - Where do you want your students to reach after they finish your course? The learning outcome is the goal that you set for your students. Having a clear goal in mind can help you identify the necessary steps to guide your students towards success. You should consider what skills they need to develop, what foundational knowledge they require, and what sequence of concepts makes the most sense.
  • Set expectations for the course - Wouldn’t you get frustrated if you are on a road trip without being aware of how long the trip is, where and if there are halts, and where you are going exactly? Create a course outline that provides a clear overview of the course content, structure, and learning objectives, helping to ensure that everyone understands what will be covered in the course, and what is expected.

Download Course Outline Template

How to write a course outline step by step?

#Step 1: Determine your goal

The first step in creating a course outline is to determine the course goal or objective. This is like setting a destination before you embark on a journey - it gives you a clear sense of direction and helps you create a roadmap to reach your destination.

Ask yourself, what do you want your students to be able to do or understand by the end of the course? This objective should help your learners visualize the destination they will reach after your course.

You can use the following guide to chalk out the goal.

After completing the course _____________ [course name], my students will gain _______________ [skills and knowledge], which can help them with _____________ [problem statement]. They can now ____________ [main benefit after solving the problem].

#Step 2: Start with the basics

Now that you have a clear course objective, the next step is to break it down into smaller topics or sub-objectives that can be taught in a logical sequence. These basics should provide a foundation for the rest of the course and help students build a strong understanding of the subject matter.

Consider what knowledge or skills students will need to have before they can achieve the course objective. Put yourself in your student’s shoes.

  • What basics did you have to learn to start learning the main topic?
  • Where did you get stuck which made you seek additional knowledge or background?
  • Is there a pre-cursor to the course? One that you wish you knew before you mastered the topic?

These basics could include foundational concepts, terminology, or skills that are essential for understanding more advanced topics.

#Step 3: Create Milestones

A graphic that illustrates the process of creating milestones for an online course.

If you think of your course as a book, milestones will be individual chapters/sections comprising of several lessons. Think of milestones as anchors along the way, marking the progress you and your students will make as you move closer to the course objective.

It is essential here that your milestones follow a logical flow of progression, starting with the basics or easier concepts before proceeding to complex ideas.

By scaffolding the learning in this way, you can help students to build on their prior knowledge and skills and avoid overwhelming them with too much information too quickly. This can help to keep students engaged and motivated throughout the course, as they feel a sense of accomplishment with each step forward.

Remember that each of the milestones will be a stepping block for the next milestone - preparing the learner thoroughly before facing the next topic.

#Step 4: Assess and Track

Assessments help the students to gauge their understanding of the material and track their progress. It also helps you as a course creator to identify gaps in the learning and tweak your courses based on the feedback.

It is generally a good idea to keep a few formative assessments spread across lessons before a milestone. Formative assessments are low stakes and generally help the student understand if they are able to follow the course and are grasping the concept easily. Quizzes, and reflective questions are some that you can use.

Next, in your course outline, ensure you are adding a summative assessment - a deeper level of assessment after every milestone. These could include a small assignment or workbook practice.

An infographic depicting the things to consider when assessing an online course

#Step 5: Additional Learning Resources

An infographic displaying a list of additional learning resources that can be used for an online course

It is understandable that everything cannot be condensed inside the course. But there are important materials that can complement the course, and adding them, can help prepare better with a deeper understanding.

These resources can also help your students to retain knowledge and build context between topics.

Extra resources can include additional readings, worksheets, practice templates, etc. The resources can also be Youtube videos or podcasts that shed light on the topic from a unique angle, and can overall make the course more comprehensive.

Next Steps

Now that you have all the steps, it’s time to bring them all together for an effective course outline. By breaking your course down into manageable milestones and incorporating progressive learning, you can ensure that your students are on their way to the intended destination.

As you begin to develop your course, you may be looking for online course platform to help you create and sell your courses. This is where Miho comes in. Miho is an all-in-one platform that makes it easy to create online courses and monetize them.

With features like a customizable website builder, built-in marketing tools, and secure payment processing, Miho provides everything you need to get your course up and running quickly. Get a free 14-day trial if you sign up with Miho today.