How to Create An Online Course Outline – Step By Step Guide

Oct 16, 2023 | Latest, Marketing Tips, Online Course Creation

How to Create An Online Course Outline – Step-By-Step Guide

Are you looking to develop an online course but feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start? Creating your first online course can be daunting, especially if you are new to the online space or have no idea how to structure an online course that will have the greatest impact.

The truth is you can have an amazing course idea and topic, but unless you map out the nuts and bolts of your course and create a solid course outline, you can easily get lost in the process.

The success of your course lies in building a solid foundation and this begins with understanding how to create an online course outline.

Creating your course outline will help steer you toward creating a course that truly resonates and provides solid and impactful content that your online students will love.

A great way to start thinking about creating a well-structured course outline is to imagine a journey with a roadmap.

Taking you from A to Z with planned out steps and everything that you need in between. We can use the analogy of planning an overseas vacation.

No doubt you would research and plan each step of the way. Researching locations you will visit, hotels you will stay in and places you will eat.

You would spend time and effort planning every step of the way so that you have the most amazing experience.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

Creating an effective course outline is your roadmap, laying the foundation for your entire course. It will guide your entire course content, learning outcomes, lesson plans and so much more. Giving you all the steps that you need to reach your end goal.

Without it, you are walking in the dark and can easily get off track. And even worse, create content that is not relevant or relatable to your course topic.

The success of your course relies heavily on mapping out your course structure and getting clear on what you will include and not include. So taking the time to map things out, do your research, and test your market, will pay off in the long run in creating a course that truly resonates with your students and sells.

Let’s dive in and learn how to create an online course outline to lead you on a path of creating a successful online course that your students will love.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

How to Create an Online Course Outline – 9 Steps

1. Identify Your Target Audience 

The first step in creating an outline for your online course is to identify your target audience and ideal student. Who is your course for? What are their pain points and struggles?

Are they male or female? Are they from a specific niche, industry, or age group? What are their common characteristics?

Getting clear on who your audience is, is the starting point to helping you structure your course and provide concise and relevant content that truly speaks to your students.

This will help you design a course that meets their needs and makes their learning experience transformational.

This step also helps you to identify the ways in which you can deliver your content that will resonate the most and create the greatest impact.

Be sure to do your research and understand your audience fully before creating your first course.

2. Understand Your Topic – Research & Brainstorm Ideas 

The next step is to understand your course topic and define your course title. Now most likely if you are creating a course, you are an expert in your field with specific skills that you are ready to share on a greater scale.

However, it’s important not to skip this step when creating your online course. You want to make sure that you create a course that will sell and be successful.

The best way is to start by brainstorming ideas and researching topics that are relevant to your target audience.

You can do this by conducting surveys, interviewing people, going through online forums, using ChatGPT, jumping into Facebook Groups and joining other courses to find gaps in the market.

This will help you create a course that stands out and provides value to your target audience.

If you find there are hundreds of other courses with the same topic, this is your time to shine in your research.

Dive deeper into understanding your point of difference and how you can make your online course topic one to remember with the greatest impact.

3. Create Your Course Objectives

After understanding your topic, create course objectives that will guide you through the course creation process.

Course objectives help you to stay focused and ensure that your course meets its purpose.

Good course objectives should be specific, measurable, and achievable. They should also relate to the learning outcomes you want your learners to gain.

Oftentimes times when it comes to online course creation, we see time and time again course creators attempting to jam too much information into one course.

And more times than not, their course outline can easily be broken down into two or even three courses.

Setting course objectives will help you to stay focused and avoid creating too much content or content that is not relevant.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

4. Outline Your Course Content Into Sections & Lessons

With your course objectives in mind, the next step is to outline your course content and create a lesson plan. This involves structuring your course content into sections and lessons, making your content creation process as easy as possible.

Start with a broad outline and then break down the sections into lessons that are easy to understand and digest. You can also group the lessons into modules to help your learners easily navigate through the course.

Remember to keep things simple and not overwhelm your students. We recommend 4-6 modules with 4-8 lessons in each module. Then aim for each module to contain content in bite-size pieces of information.

Try not to overwhelm your students by providing excessively long videos or large amounts of information to digest in one sitting. People are super busy and you want to motivate your students to keep going and finish the course.

This is something to really keep in mind upfront before you begin to create your course. Research and studies have shown that completion rates for online courses typically range from as low as 5% to 15%, with some courses or platforms reporting slightly higher rates.

That’s why planning matters and keeping things simple and easy to absorb is a must.

5. Map out Your Course Structure on a Project Management Tool

The next step before moving on to breaking your course further down into sub-topics is to set up a map or layout of your course using a project management tool.

This is a critical next step that honestly acts as the heartbeat of your entire course, helping you to stay on track and focused. When it comes to online course creation there are a lot of moving parts and many things to juggle.

Using a project management tool offers a visual way to organise your thoughts, break down your course into smaller, manageable sections, and track your progress as you develop each part.

Two excellent tools that we love at Haymes Digital Marketing are Trello and ClickUp. Both offer intuitive, user-friendly interfaces, and robust features to help you manage your course creation process.

The great thing is you can sign up for a free plan for both of these tools and map out your entire course. What we love about these tools are the visual layouts that you can create to map out your entire course and stay on track.

You can check out Trello here and Clickup here.

Trello is renowned for its card and Kanban board system. It allows you to create a board for your course and then designate individual cards to represent each section or module.

You can add details, checklists, and due dates, and even attach files to each card to keep all your resources in one place.

ClickUp, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive set of project management features. One of which is the Kanban board that creates a visual workflow similar to Trello.

However, ClickUp’s strength lies in its adaptability, supporting Gantt charts, mind maps, and more.

By leveraging tools like Trello and ClickUp you can effectively map out your course structure, organise your work, and ensure a smooth, efficient course creation process and create a course schedule.

It is something that we highly recommend you get started with to map out your course plan. Then you will be ready to dive into the next step which is creating your sub-topics and lesson objectives.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

6. Break Down Each Lesson Into Learning Objectives & Course Goals

Once you have your lessons in place, it’s time to break them down into learning objectives, identify your course goals and create your individual lessons.

This is important as it helps your learners understand the goal of each lesson and what they expect to learn from it.

You can use bullet points or numbering to make the learning objectives clear and easy to understand.

You can also set up modules that contain related lessons to make it easy for your learners to follow your course.

An effective way to start each module is to create an introduction video. A video outlining the key objectives for that module, what will be covered in each of the lessons and what the learning outcomes will be.

We also recommend a conclusion video summarising the module and what they can expect in the next module, to encourage continuation and motivation.

Another idea is to provide a checklist that your students can check off at the end of each module or lesson, to ensure they have covered everything and haven’t missed anything crucial.

All of these methods help to break your course down and engage your students, which keeps them motivated to continue. 

how to Create An Online Course Outline

7. Incorporate Different Types of Media

Diversifying the types of media in your course content can significantly enhance the learning process for your students. The most important thing to understand is that each individual has unique learning preferences.

Using different media types helps to cater to all learning styles and helps your students engage and enjoy the learning experience.

Here are some different types of media to include in your course:

Videos are a powerful tool in online learning, providing a visual and auditory experience that can mimic traditional classroom instruction.

They are perfect for demonstrating complex processes or concepts, and add a personal touch, making students feel more connected to the instructor. Video content is also great for visual learners. 

Audio lessons are great for auditory learners, allowing students to learn on the go such as when they are travelling, exercising or at any time that is convenient to them.

You could provide audio recordings of your video lessons, share relevant podcast episodes or offer additional audio lectures. Be sure to include this type of media into the mix of your course to cater for those who love to listen on the go!

Text should not be overlooked, despite the popularity of video and audio. Some learners prefer reading at their own pace, and text can provide detailed explanations or supplementary information.

This may come in the form of presenting slide shows or sharing PDF documents or reports. 

Graphics are another great media source to include in your course. Consider using infographics, charts, and diagrams.

These can simplify complex information and make it more digestible. Great tools for visual learners or where you need to make complex topics and information easy to understand.

Remember, variety is key and we recommend using more than one learning style within your course. Mix things up and provide different ways to engage your students and keep them motivated to continue.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

8. Include Assignments & Quizzes

Assignments and quizzes can play a crucial role in the content of your course. These elements not only actively involve learners in the educational journey and enhance their engagement, but they also encourage learning.

If you need a form of assessment in the structure of your course then be sure to include these tools in your assessment plan.

Assignments create opportunities for students to apply the skills they have learned whilst quizzes provide a less formal means of assessment.

They serve as a quick and effective tool to measure the learner’s understanding of the course content. They also stimulate a sense of progression and motivation, making the learning journey more rewarding.

Quizzes and assignments also help with feedback, both for the learner and the instructor. Learners receive insights into their performance, helping them identify their strengths and areas of improvement.

Simultaneously, as an instructor, you can identify potential gaps in knowledge, gain a sense of the effectiveness of your teaching methods, and tailor your approach accordingly to enhance their learning experience.

You can also seek student feedback at the end of the course by providing a survey to evaluate your course and make improvements.

Using these tools creates an interactive element to your online course and can create a richer experience for your students.

If you like the idea of including assessments and quizzes in your course, you also need to ensure that the online course platform that you choose has those features available.

We personally love New Zenler, an all-in-one platform that includes these features and so much more.

Given you the chance to share your knowledge multiply ways to engage your students and enhance their learning experience.

how to Create An Online Course Outline

9. Choose the Most Suitable Delivery Platform for Your Online Course 

The final step in the course creation process is to find an appropriate learning management system for delivering your online course.

There’s a wide variety of platforms such as Udemy, Teachable, and Thinkific, and your choice should be guided by your specific needs and budget. Consider platform characteristics like ease of use, pricing, features, and customer support.

However, at Haymes Digital Marketing we personally love New Zenler and recommend it to our clients.

New Zenler is an incredible platform that stands out as not only can you create and host your course or membership, but you can also design sales funnels, run email campaigns, schedule live classes, tap into their Zoom features, have your very own mobile app and even set up an affiliate program – all in one place.

Its user-friendly interface makes navigation a breeze, and the support and community are amazing.

We also love the fact that New Zenler’s entry-level plan is completely free! You can create an account and set up an entire course without needing to upgrade to a paid plan.

There are limitations to the free plan, but not enough to deter you from not being able to set up your own online course and get started.

This lets you get a feel for the platform and understand if it’s the right fit for you, without any financial commitment. New Zenler is a versatile, cost-effective solution that’s worth looking into and one we love.

You can sign up for your free New Zenler account here and experience this platform for yourself.


The first step to creating your online course starts with laying the foundation and creating a solid online course outline.

Without it, you can easily find yourself going down a rabbit hole and creating a course that doesn’t engage your audience, overwhelms them, and that you simply cannot sell.

Taking the time to learn how to create an online course outline,  research and plan your course thoroughly will be the success of your course.

And remember to use planning tools like Trello and ClickUp to simplify and organise your course planning process. These tools are a must to help you map out your entire course, plan your lessons, and stay on track.

We use these tools time and time again with our clients and honestly, we wouldn’t create an online course without them.

Also, be sure to choose the right platform to host your online course. A platform that meets most of your needs, provides support, and is easy to use.

We can’t recommend New Zenler enough as it really is an amazing simple tool, with great support and features! Being able to create your course on their free account is an added extra bonus you can’t refuse.

And their paid plans are available at an incredible price! You will have your course up and running in no time.

Sign up for your free account here.

Next Steps

If you are finding creating your online course overwhelming and you need a helping hand, then be sure to reach out to us.

At Haymes Digital Marketing we love working with our clients to organise their online courses, from creating their course outline, strategy, content, and course materials and setting up their entire course platform.

Including the technology and marketing. With our support, you don’t have to face the daunting task alone.

Get in touch with us to work with you in creating your online course and growing your business. Book your free discovery call with us today.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission.


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