It is important to make sure your students are engaged with a well-structured, practical, and rewarding course experience.
The most successful trainers spend time planning their course before starting to ensure that the course will help students achieve clear goals.
Learn best practices that have worked for thousands of other Cloud Academy instructors.
Choose your course topic
To create a successful Cloud Academy course, you first need to decide what you’ll teach. When choosing your topic, it can be important to know what students are most interested in.
Check your topic’s demand and competition
When choosing what to teach on Cloud Academy, pick a topic you’re experienced in and are genuinely excited about.
Define the target student
Before you begin creating content for your course, it is important to determine which category you will be teaching and the experiences and skills that the student will acquire by the end of your course. Check out these worksheets and questions to help
guide your thinking.
Determine how students will practice what you teach.
Cloud Academy's students love to practice their learning as they want to practice what they have learned through exercises, activities, case studies, and more! There are many different types of practices you can include, so you'll want to choose the best for your topic.
Define your audience and objectives
After you’ve decided what to teach, you’ll need to decide who exactly you’re creating your course for. You’ll need to determine the motivations of your future students, and what outcomes you want to give them.
Don’t teach for “everyone”
Courses created for a specific audience have a higher enrollment rate and get more positive reviews. You’re more likely to have success on Cloud Academy if you have a course with a specific student in mind. It’s better to fit one specific target demographic
well, than trying to address too broad a category of students.
Here are two examples of how you can define your target students well:
My target students are beginners in music theory who don’t have a piano but who can read music.
My target students range from complete beginners interested in digital marketing to intermediate level students, who have worked or are currently working for a business that has difficulty retaining users and bringing users back to its platform.
Understand what’s driving your students
To get clarity about your future students, ask yourself these questions about their motivations and needs:
- What’s driving your students to find and take your course?
- What problems are they facing that your course can solve?
- What projects or tasks do your students hope to accomplish after taking your course?
Quite simply, you can ask yourself: from the point-of-view of my students, why should my course exist?
Define your students’ learning objectives
Getting a clear idea of what your students want from your course will help you understand the bigger picture of where your course fits into your target students’ life. Maybe your students are trying to get a job, or maybe they are just looking for a better
way to get a project done. Maybe they’re taking your course to supplement onsite classes that are moving too fast. Being clear about what your students may want to move toward can help you find your niche.
Your course objectives should be realistic and measurable, meaning students should be able to demonstrate their skills at the end of your course. When describing your course objectives, use strong action verbs like build, write, create, distinguish, and
so on. Follow this formula when writing your course objectives: “At the end of my course, students will be able to…”
Here is an example of a well-written course objective for a photo editing course:
At the end of my course, students will be able to edit the lighting in their photographs using Photoshop CC 2018 version 19.1.
Outline your course
To create a successful course efficiently and effectively, structure your course based on your course goals. Plan out how and what you’ll cover in each section and lecture of your course. Generally, each section should map to one specific skill you’re
While mapping your outline, think about the format you’ll use for each lecture.
Follow the steps below and learn how to set up the foundation for your course. We’ve provided information and templates to get you going.
Use our recommended template
You can download a spreadsheet template, make a copy of the template, and then start editing the template to create your course outline.
Build your own template
Your course has 3 parts—an introduction, a middle, and a conclusion. There are different best practices for each of them.
This is the first 15 minutes or so of your course. The goal at the beginning of your course is to motivate and hook your students. Start your course with the following:
Intro lecture: It should not be more than 2–4 minutes. Introduce yourself and explain why you are the best person to be teaching this course. Set the right expectations, tell the students what they’ll learn from your course and what they’ll be able to
do by the end of your course.
Quick win: Provide value right away by providing a “quick win” within the first 3 lectures in your course. This could be an exercise or reflection activity that is a way for students to prepare for the course or practice what they’ve already learned and
dive right into the material.
Instructional lectures: Introduce the topic in these initial 1–-2 lectures.
This is the main part of your course, where you’ll teach the subject and train the students on the skills that they intend to learn at the end of your course. This part of your course should include sections, consisting of lectures, practice activities,
and reference materials:
Sections: Focus on covering one new and relevant skill per section. Make sure all the sections add up together to deliver on all the skills your course promises to address in your course goals.
Lectures: Each section should ideally contain 3–5 lectures. Stick to 1 concept per lecture and give the students a chance to make progress every few lectures. Typically, a video should not be more than 2–6 minutes long. To create effective videos, choose
the appropriate lecture format, based on the type of content you want to present.
Practice activity: Include at least 1 practice activity per section, to give students the opportunity to practice the skill/learning outcome of the section. As you create your course outline, consider different projects, quizzes, and exercises you can
integrate into your course to help students practice and build on the concepts they’ve learned.
Reference materials: Don’t forget to make a note of any additional resources you want to add in each section, like checklists, worksheets, templates, visual aids, pdf notes, and additional links, as necessary.
End your course with a strong finish that leaves students with a feeling of reward. Students who feel rewarded are more satisfied with the course and generally leave more positive reviews. To make an impactful end to your course, you can add a final and
a bonus lecture at the end:
Final lecture: At a minimum include a congratulations lecture at the end. But there are many other creative ideas for final lectures that delight students and leave them with a sense of accomplishment.
Bonus lecture: A bonus lecture is the last lecture of the course, typically after the concluding lecture. This is the place where you can market other courses or products.
Plan your practice activities
Practice activities can be anything that makes a student apply their learning. That way you can prepare your students better on how to apply their knowledge in the real-world. Include at least one practice activity per section. Practice activities aren’t
required for Cloud Academy courses but can result in higher student satisfaction and course reviews.
A general guideline on creating practice activities
- Timing: Provide students with a time to complete. Give them a sense of the scope of the activity. When you estimate the time, try the activity yourself and then remember students will need 2-3 times as long.
- Instructions: Write good instructions. You can include instructions in both text and video. Describe the activity, its importance, what students need to do, and list the materials needed to complete the assignment.
- Examples: Provide examples. If you provide sample solutions, students get a chance to evaluate their own work by comparing it against the example(s).
- Feedback: Ensure students are getting feedback. Encourage community-building and peer feedback. Provide students with a rubric or checklist that lists the criteria for a high-quality piece of work. This leads to more and better-targeted peer feedback.
Types of practice activities you can create:
Cloud Academy offers different tools for instructors to make their content more interactive and to get students to apply what they’ve learned. A practice activity can be just a reflection question or worksheet or any or a combination of the following
Quizzes are multiple-choice and best for courses that are fact-based. They are an excellent way to do a quick check if the students are understanding what you are teaching or to help them retain the knowledge. So you can add a shortlist of questions in
between your lectures to reinforce the learning and improve retention.
Unlike quizzes, assignments are good for concepts that require deeper understanding or practice, where the students need to practice their problem-solving skills or creativity. So try to replicate a real-life scenario in your assignment. You can include
open-ended questions or case studies.
Create your first lecture
The introductory lecture is the most important part of your course. It’ll set the right tone and expectations for your students. So it needs to be brief but impactful. Keep it within 2–4 minutes.
In the video, you’ll introduce yourself, and explain why you are the best person to be teaching this course. You’ll also set the right expectations, telling your students what they’ll learn from your course and what they’ll be able to do by the end of
Is this the right course for me?
As an instructor, you need to reassure your students that they’ve made the right choice by enrolling in your course. Describe the target student you had in mind when creating your course. Ask yourself, what does this student already know? What are they
looking to learn? In your introductory lecture, address that primary target student and tell them how to get the most out of your course. You can begin by saying: “I built this course for…”.
Is this course going to cover the right stuff?
Students need to know how the topic you cover in your course is going to help them achieve their goals. Explain how the sections and lectures you’ve created will help your students gain the knowledge and skills they are looking to acquire. Focus on what
your students will learn in the course and how that is relevant for them. State your course goals, describe where your course fits in your target students’ larger goals, and give a brief overview or walkthrough of the curriculum to demonstrate the
value that your course will create.
Is this the right instructor to learn from?
Students need to know that they can trust you because you are their source of knowledge. Your introductory lecture is the best place for you to demonstrate that you understand your students, their frustrations, and their aspirations. Connect with your
students by recalling what it was like to grapple with the concepts you’re now teaching and that you know how to help them learn effectively. You don’t have to be too serious. It doesn’t hurt if you can make them laugh a little and just be relatable.
Is this going to be worth my time? Is it going to be fun or boring?
Online learning can feel isolating and monotonous. But it doesn’t have to. Inspire them, and they’ll be hooked. Share your passion and enthusiasm for the topic that you chose to take a course on. Remember, if you enjoy teaching, your students are likely
to enjoy learning. So have fun! And your students will too.
Write your script
Since your course introductory lecture will be a video, we suggest writing a script first, rehearsing, and then presenting with enthusiasm in front of the camera. That way, you can time the video and make sure you cover all the questions above.
Record your video
There are several things you need to decide on for the first video of your course. From whether you want to appear relaxed or energized and eager, to what background you should choose for your shot, will set the right tone for your course. Learn more
about setting up your filming studio.
While we would want you to get it right the first time, we suggest you plan some time for re-making your introductory lecture video. As students enroll in your course and view the introductory lecture, they might start giving feedback. Be open and look
for student feedback to improve the video if needed.
What are the components of the course?
The Cloud Academy course can consist of a combination of videos, slides, transcripts, short quizzes, assignments, and practice tests. You can also add additional resources to your course, including PDFs, links, audio files, etc. These components are organized into sections and lectures (sections are groups of lectures).
How long should my course be?
To be at least 30 minutes. The duration of the course should be sufficient to fully teach all topics and allow your students to achieve the objectives of the course.
Do students want tests, assignments, and worksheets?
Yes! Cloud Academy's students love to practice and apply what they learn. Practice activities can be anything that gets a student to apply what they learn, not just quizzes or worksheets. Cloud Academy gives you the tools to create quizzes, practice quizzes, coding exercises, and assignments in your course.