How to Write Content for Your Online Course – Complete Guide with Examples & More

According to Globe News Wire, the massive open online course (MOOC) market is projected to reach a worth of $25.33 billion by 2025.

It’s quite challenging to write content for an online course to make it engaging and worthwhile for your students. 

However, with a little research and strategy, you can definitely start writing content that will make your online course stand out. 

In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know to effectively organize and write content for your online course. 

Your Course Objectives are the Key to Writing Good Course Content

Before you start writing any content for your course, we have to explicitly state that you must keep the learning outcomes you defined earlier in mind at all times. 

If you’ve been following our articles on how to create an online course, you will have created the learning outcomes for your course when you were creating your course outline. 

In case you haven’t created learning outcomes yet, we suggest you do so before you start to write the actual content for your course. 

Learning outcomes can be defined as “goals” or “objectives of your course.

  • What will students be able to do once they finish your course? 
  • What problems will they be able to solve? 
  • What skills will they have acquired?

All of these are learning outcomes and your content should always be written in a way so that they serve these learning outcomes directly or indirectly. 

Any content that you’re thinking of adding that doesn’t serve your learning outcomes should be left out. 

Refer to Your Outline and Include Everything Necessary 

If you’ve spent enough time working on your course outline, you should already have a comprehensive list of everything you need to include within each lesson. 

That being said, here’s a list of important elements that you should include within each lesson: 

  • An uncomplicated introduction: With every lesson, you should include a small introduction that explains why you’re choosing to include that lesson and what learners will be able to do by the end of that lesson. 
  • Concise and clear content: Include all relevant information to the lesson in a clear way. Your content should be bite-sized and divided in a logical way throughout every lesson. 
  • Visuals and graphics: Be sure to keep a healthy balance of text and visuals within your slides. Including helpful graphics such as graphs, tables, videos and images are a great way of keeping learners engaged. 

As you refer to your outline and start writing content, you may run into newer sub-topics and other information you may want to include. 

When this happens, you should refer back to your learning outcomes. Will this new information serve your learning outcomes in any way? If they do, include it; If not, throw it out. 

Write Engaging Content for Your Online Course

Of course, this is easier said than done. 

However, there are some actionable steps and techniques you can adopt which will help you make your content more compelling. 

You have to create the sense within your content that the information you’ll give is valuable and worth reading through. 

You can do this in a number of ways but let’s start with writing headlines. 

How to Write Headlines within Your Online Course 

Headlines are the first thing that every reader’s eyes go towards when they first open up a slide. 

Your headlines should be useful and clear in the sense that the readers should know exactly what they’re going to get within that section. 

Secondly, your headlines should be urgent. This means that you have to communicate the idea that the reader will miss out on valuable “insider” information if they don’t read through your content attentively. 

In summary: 

Your headlines should communicate what value that particular lesson will bring to the reader. 

Writing Compelling Content within Your Online Course 

As for the actual content within your course, the first thing you have to pay attention to is the type of “language” and words you tend to use. 

The Wharton University of Pennsylvania came up with a study that states that there are two factors that evoke positive emotions among consumers: visual elements and personalization. 

The former is fairly straightforward to achieve: you can do it by incorporating infographics, images, tables, and informative videos.

The latter requires some strategizing and attention to detail on your part; When you’re writing content for your online course, observe what type of words you tend to use and ask yourself: 

  • Do these words evoke a sense of urgency? 
  • Are they effective in the ideas they’re trying to communicate? 
  • Are you communicating the most amount of knowledge in the least amount of words possible?

Keeping all of these questions in mind will help you write content that is engaging and does not put the reader to sleep. 

Here are some further tips you can use when writing content

  • Use power words to grab the attention of readers. Examples of such words are “easy”, “quick”, “efficient”, “results”, “guarantee”, etc. Words such as these entice the reader to read on and imply that they’ll get a lot of value out of the content ahead.
  • Use short words and phrases. Avoid using long sentences whenever you can. Break down long blocks of text with images and infographics in between. 
  • Use simple language as much as possible. Avoid using complicated adjectives and/or synonyms. You’re not trying to impress the reader with your vocabulary. You’re trying to communicate ideas in the most seamless way possible. 
  • Find the right balance between graphics and text. Too much of either will result in a lop-sided course that is off-putting for students. 

Make Use of Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

CTAs or Calls-to-Action are an invitation for the reader to perform any action. 

They can be a great way to increase interaction from your students and make your online course more engaging. 

You want your readers to stay focused and CTAs are a great way of doing that. 

The purpose of your CTAs, primarily, should be to encourage readers to complete their lesson(s). 

For example, when a reader reaches the end of a lesson, you can present them with a quiz and allow them to complete it. Once they do so, you can present them with their results and a “good job!” prompt. This will serve as a “mini-win” for your reader and encourage them to go on. 

Another great example of a CTA is whenever you’re teaching a lesson that involves community engagement or something similar, you can prompt the reader to come and join your social media community. 

Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, a subreddit, or something else, you can prompt readers to come and join it and engage in discussion related to the topic you’re teaching. 

Not only will this help keep your customers engaged but it will also help you build a community around your online course(s). 

It’s important to note that you should also not overwhelm your students with too many CTAs as well. 

As a rule of thumb, you should normally have just one CTA per lesson. 

Dealing with Technical Jargon

As we’ve said earlier, you should avoid using overly complicated language wherever possible. 

However, sometimes that’s not possible since your online course may involve technical terms and techniques that are essential for the teaching process. 

In this case, you should make a glossary of such terms beforehand. Here’s what you can do: 

  • Make an extensive list of all complicated words and terms that you’re going to use within your course. 
  • Define them in the most basic terms possible. 
  • Make sure to use these definitions within your course to define difficult terms whenever you first mention them. 

The people who take your online course don’t know the things you know. Hence, dumb it down for them as much as possible.

Once you have clearly defined the meaning of a term, you can freely use it within the rest of your online course. 

Edit Your Content with Readability in Mind

So, you’ve applied all the tips and techniques we’ve described and completed writing content for your online course. 

You should know that this isn’t your finalized content, it’s only the first draft. 

The next step is to start editing the content you’ve written down. 

Of course, you’ll edit it to catch common mistakes such as grammatical errors and/or typos but that’s not the main focus of why you’re editing. 

The main focus of your editing process should be to ensure that the finalized content you present to your students is thoroughly readable. 

What we mean by this is that it should have a flow to it that makes sense. One sentence should lead into the other and all the information you present should be ordered in a logical way. 

Read your content out loud or have a reading software read it out to you. Keep your ears ready to identify any sentences and/or phrases that may sound awkward or out of place. 

Remember that you’re not just checking for grammatical errors here. You’re checking for readability and flow. 

Add Extra Resources and Links 

If you’ve followed our steps on how to create your course outline, you’ll already have a list of extra resources and links to include within each lesson. 

Now is the time to start adding those resources to your online course’s content. 

There are a number of ways in which you can do this. Some course creators like to add their resources and links at the very end of their online courses, others like to include them throughout their course in whichever sections make sense. 

A great method that we’re a fan of is to just mention the resource (for example, if it’s a book, mention its name and how it relates to the lesson at hand) and then put an asterisk (or small number) next to its name.

Then, have a link to that resource at the end of your lesson. If you used a small number to identify that resource, mention that same number when giving its link.

This is a great way to incorporate extra resources because it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your content and at the same time, it’s still fresh in your reader’s minds so they’re more likely to check that resource out. 

Some examples of resources that you can add are: 

  • Links to relevant studies or academic papers. 
  • Links to interviews with experts 
  • Bonus material related to your lesson 
  • Link to a list of Q&As or FAQs from your previous classes or relevant courses (if any) 
  • Links to extra resources such as books, PDFs or websites. 

When you add resources, it’s important that you only provide material that enhances or supplements your course’s content. 

You don’t want to add resources that can serve as replacements for your online course. That could result in your customers suggesting your resources to their peers rather than your online course.

While creating your online course content, you may need to use plagiarism to check the authenticity of your content. We have compiled some good plagiarism checker tools for you in our guide.


Test Your Content with a Small Group of Peers 

Once you’ve written and finalized all the content for your online course, one great thing you can do to make it even better is to enlist the help of your friends. 

These could be laymen that don’t know anything about your topic or it could be your peers that are acquainted with the knowledge you’re providing in your course. 

In our opinion, a healthy balance of the two can do wonders for refining the content for your online course. 

Have them read through your content and ask them to identify any problems they may have had consuming your writing or any holes in knowledge that you may have missed out on. 

Make a list of everything that each person in your test group told you, identify what needs to be added and what doesn’t, and then, edit your content accordingly. 

Take Your Time 

Writing content can definitely be very stressful and once you’re finally done with writing, it can be very tempting to move on to the next step in your online course creation journey. 

However, we urge you to resist that temptation and sit with your work for a while. 

Read it, edit it, read it again, edit it again. 

Many veteran online course creators have said that content writing for online courses is the part that takes up the highest amount of their time. 

That’s because they spend an absurd amount of time perfecting their content in order to ensure it’s clear, concise, and engaging. 

CLICK HERE to learn how to start your online course business without getting overwhelmed.

content writing

Wrapping Things Up… 

Writing an online course that’s engaging and provides genuine value to students can be extremely challenging. 

That’s why you need to put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that you provide your potential students with an online course they actually want to take. 

When you provide students with value, not only are they going to love you and buy more courses from you in the future but they might also recommend you to their friends and peers.