How to Create Course Modules for Business Training

Create irresistible training programs with course modules that teach the way adults need to learn. We'll show you what to include and what to leave out.

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Remember your school days? For some, it was the best of times. For others, the bell couldn't ring soon enough.

Members of the first group are a trainer's dream. They like schoolwork. They can't wait to dig in and start filling in blanks, writing paragraphs, taking quizzes, and checking their scores. They’ll do almost anything for a badge or a certificate.

The second group is over all that. They have plenty to read already and no time to waste. Those learners are looking for training that gives them control, serves a vital purpose, and produces clear results.

Your courses need to win over both types of learners, whether you're selling them online or using them for employee training or customer education. To do so, you must create enticing course modules.

The right learning management system (LMS) can make this job a lot easier for your instructional designers, trainers, and administrators.

Overview: What is a course module?

A course module is a learning unit that is part of a larger course. Generally, a learning module covers one concept or knowledge area. Course modules are connected into sequences, building understanding step by step. The learner has a module guide that walks them through each step.

Courses may be further connected into learning paths and curricula. Some learning management systems allow you to connect course modules to performance objectives to support employee development plans and other business goals.

This modular structure is valuable because it breaks learning into small bits, a principle of microlearning. Microlearning keeps learners engaged and reinforces concepts throughout instruction. Compare that to a college exam that you have to spend weeks cramming for because it covers an entire textbook. The college exam works for students because they're able to focus on school. Adult learners rarely have that privilege.

Adult learning theories show that our approach to learning changes with age. Adults learners are often:

  • Busy and distracted with work
  • Overloaded with messages and information
  • Focused on practical results over abstract concepts
  • Eager to solve problems and move on
  • Driven to control their own learning
  • Looking for opportunities to apply their experience

So, what makes a winning course module?

6 things to include in a course module

To work for adult learners, your course module design should feature these six elements.

1. A mix of media

People have various learning styles. Some learn best by listening to lectures; others learn better visually or by working with their hands. By providing a mix of media such as images, videos, interactive web content, and text, you can broaden the impact of your training.

Media-rich course components turn static training module content into digital storytelling, making the lessons more memorable and engaging.

An LMS opens up a wide range of possibilities for mixing media and teaching modes. From instructor-led training events to web conferencing to asynchronous learning for remote teams, an LMS makes it easy to create immersive course modules that flow seamlessly from one to the next.

A screenshot of a video lesson from Canvas.

An LMS such as Canvas lets you create immersive, interactive course modules. Source: Canvas software.

Canvas is a great example. This deluxe LMS includes a feature that lets instructors and students bookmark videos, make comments, and continue playing with a click. Other students can view the comments and respond.

2. Interactive elements

Interactive elements such as surveys, polls, and knowledge checks scattered throughout your course module make it more engaging. This can be as simple as asking a question to drive home a key point. Many LMSs, such as Lessonly, include options such as flip cards or other "reveals" that uncover content with a click.

A screenshot of a flip card question in Lessonly.

Sometimes, it's the simple things. Flip cards and other interactive elements bring your course modules to life. Source: Lessonly software.

3. Real-world problems

Adults are looking for practical knowledge, so focus as much of your training materials as you can on real-world challenges. This might include posing a scenario and asking learners to solve it either as a group or individually. Invite learners to share their experiences and apply the lessons to their own lives to increase the impact of the training.

4. Social learning

Adding social elements such as live chats, breakout groups, and discussion boards to your course modules promotes vicarious learning — learning through observation or from the experience of others — and collaboration. Social learning is not just enjoyable; it boosts learner engagement and retention.

5. Quizzes and surveys

Ending course modules with a brief quiz is a great way to reinforce the lesson and provide positive feedback to the learner.

6. Learning incentives

Course modules should build toward a conclusion, which you can mark with an appropriate reward such as a certificate of completion or badge. This satisfies adult learners' desire for training with purpose and tangible results.

How to develop course modules within your LMS

An LMS makes it easy to build exciting course modules and connect them into courses and larger learning paths. Here are the basic steps involved in LMS content creation.

1. Import existing content

If you have existing course materials to work with, your LMS should allow you to import them easily, either through individual file uploads or bulk imports. This includes materials such as images, slide decks, videos, tests, and documents.

Here's a sample course building dashboard from affordable, user-friendly TalentLMS.

TalentLMS’s course building dashboard, with options to add text, video, audio, and more.

An LMS should make course building drag-and-drop simple. Source: TalentLMS software.

2. Break units down

Look for ways to break down larger content items into course modules. For example, if you have a 50-slide presentation, it might make sense to break it into four or five modules. Most LMSs are set up to automatically build courses from individual modules. This makes it easy to create a variety of modules that flow smoothly within the course.

3. Add assessments

Quizzes are interactive elements that help learners retain key points. You can scatter questions throughout a course module and include a brief wrap-up quiz at the end. Requiring the learner to answer correctly before moving on further enhances the retention of important concepts.

An LMS can give you options that go way beyond true or false and multiple-choice questions, with flip cards, hot spot maps, formulas, matching, and more.

Your LMS will also handle the grading and reporting for you. All that's left is the open-text responses. Some LMSs even take a stab at grading written responses through keyword recognition. That's a stretch, but it tells you how far these systems have come.

4. Invite interaction

You can provide opportunities for learners to collaborate and share ideas using a variety of LMS tools. You can use feedback and peer review tools to encourage learners to interact. Forums and chats allow learners to discuss the course content in real time or asynchronously.

Polls, surveys, and chats can also be conducted during live training sessions. This can give remote users a chance to interact in real time with the instructor and fellow students.

5. Include surveys

Course surveys are critical for evaluating the impact of training and for improving training over time. Adult learners bring a lot of knowledge to their training and are often eager to share their thoughts on the course. Your LMS should make it easy to provide simple ratings such as a five-point star system as well as qualitative feedback through open text questions.

6. Build the paths

Once you've created dynamic course modules, your course is complete. You can then connect it into a learning path or curriculum. You can also advertise it through a course catalog or learning portal.

An LMS guides your learners through their assigned courses and learning paths. Many provide appealing dashboards with progress bars and badges. Here's an example from Absorb LMS, an advanced, highly customizable learning software with stellar user interfaces.

Absorb's learner dashboard, with course progress charts, competency badges, and more.

With Absorb LMS, learners can sign in and see their training progress, including badges earned. Source: Absorb software.

7. Reward achievements

Many LMSs include gamification elements such as learning badges, progress bars, and certificates to mark milestones and accomplishments. Progress is tracked and synced for you. Some LMSs even award certificates automatically at the end of a course.

These elements satisfy those goal-driven, no-nonsense learners as well as those who miss getting stars on their papers. (I am definitely in the latter group).

Course modules for every learner type

Oh, how far learning systems have come. If you haven't checked them out recently, click through to our top 10 LMS reviews and see what you're missing. Some, including TalentLMS and SkyPrep, give you free trials so you can take them around the block just for kicks. All of them are guaranteed to help you deliver outstanding course modules to suit any audience.

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