What makes a good online course? Part 2 of 3

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Online Training

Three components for online training: Technology, Design and Facilitation

I’ve been facilitating my program, Redesign in-person for Online: Process, templates and support. I created this model to summarize the components I believe are necessary for a quality program that “lights up learners” and gets the results the organization is looking for.

online-training-requires-technology-design-and facilitation

I wrote about Part 1 in an earlier post. Click below to read about technology.

Design for Online Programs

Needs Assessment

I recommend starting all programs with a needs assessment to ensure what you create has the intended outcomes you and the business are looking for. So, assuming you’ve confirmed the business need and have your performance and learning objectives, you can start the design process.


High-Level Design

I begin by creating a High-Level Design (HLD). For the most part, the process is similar to creating a HLD for an in-person program. These are the biggest differences:

  • Identify what can be learned before and after the facilitated session to extend the learning and support networking and peer learning.
  • Get creative to identify online learning activities to replace in-person activities.
  • Determine which technology to use where so that it enhances the learning experiences as opposed to detracts from it.

Participant Materials

Virtual Facilitator’s Guide

After the HLD, I create a detailed Facilitator’s Guide. It tends to be more scripted than what I would create for an in-person program. I recommend always including a Producer to support the delivery, so I include instructions for that role.

Here is a sample of how I structure my Virtual Facilitator Guides.



Depending on the topic or the type of online course, I intentionally adjust the number of slides I use.

  • Presentations are typically designed for one-way communication. There may be some chat discussion or Q&A. Building relationships between the presenter and participants, or between participants is not critical to the learning.  
  • Training is focused on teaching content through presentations and learning activities. An example might be an Everything DiSC Workplace session. The learning experience doesn’t rely on participants building relationships with the trainer or each other.
  • Facilitation is focused on drawing insights and learning from the participants. There is often a ‘teaching component,’ but the rich learning comes from the participants. Creating space to develop relationships is critical.
  • Group Discussions are often with in-tact teams and can include strategic planning sessions, mapping customer journey, etc. The perspectives the group members bring and their relationships are central to the discussion.

The continuum above is about connection, not engagement. All of these types of online events can be engaging. I attended an excellent webinar on Google Analytics by the Waterloo Region Small Business Center. The presenter was incredibly knowledgable and expertly used chat to engage with the 60+ participants who had joined.

The slides you use will be the same as the ones you would create for in-person programs – whether you are creating a presentation, training session, etc. They might include Welcome, Agenda, Objective, etc.

There are two slide types I use that are unique to online design:

  • Technology Slides – This is a slide or two at the beginning that help orient participants to the platform (e.g., Zoom, Adobe Connect, etc.) you are using.
    • If your audience is more tech-savvy, the slide can have text on the screen, and you can ask your producer to walk through the different features.
    • If your audience is less familiar with the technology, consider including images of the platform from a participant’s perspective.
  • Activity Slides – I create these for in-person programs, but I include additional elements for online courses.


Participant Workbook

In-person courses often have handouts or participant workbooks. A participant workbook for an online program needs a greater level of detail. There is typically more pre-work in an online course because you need to keep timing as tight as possible. The pre-work needs to be detailed and easy to understand, so participants are more likely to complete it.

During the session, the participant workbook provides content and instructions for activities. This allows you to adjust the number of slides depending on the level of connection you want to incorporate into your course.

Often I will create a section on post-work. This includes reflective questions or a place to consider an action plan.


This is an overview of how to approach designing programs for online delivery. I’ve shared my process and templates with clients, and I have received feedback from participants in my course, Redesign for Online: Process, templates and support. Overwhelmingly the feedback has been that designing for online is a lot of work! Creating the Virtual Facilitator’s Guide in particular, takes a lot of time. I hope the insights I’ve shared help you get started.

In case you missed it

I’ve shared some additional posts online. Here they are in case you missed them.

Curious to learn more?

Here is some additional information about how I’ve helped clients with online learning.

When you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you and the employees in your organization:

Check out the other services I provide to clients to help them improve employee performance.