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Course Curriculum: An Ultimate Guide to Design Effectively

One of the crucial steps in a successful online course is designing your course curriculum. Expand your knowledge in this area today!

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One of the crucial steps in a successful online course is designing your course curriculum. Unfortunately, bad curriculum design can lead your course to a low completion rate. And worst, your time and effort will be a total waste.

You don’t want that. So, the first thing to do is expand your knowledge if you are serious about creating courses and designing training.

What is a Course Curriculum

According to Learn.orga course curriculum is a series of classes designed to help a student reach the level of formal education that they are pursuing.

In addition, a course curriculum should:

  • have a clear purpose and curricular goals
  • be engaging, comprehensive, and concise
  • form a learning environment that helps students attain their desired outcome

Whether you are designing training or a course, the very first thing in your mind should be how you can transform your students from 0 to 1.

Along the way, you may bump into the concept of instructional design. You might wonder—what is the difference between curriculum development vs instructional design. Here’s a simple explanation:

  • Curriculum development is what students will learn
  • Instructional design is how students will learn it
  • If you want to create a high-quality course curriculum, you should be able to do both

Later on, I will guide you through how you can apply these two at the same time. But first, let’s flesh out what are the ingredients of an effective course curriculum.

Ingredients of an Effective Course Curriculum

For beginners in training and course creation, designing a curriculum can be difficult. We all know curricula are widely used in formal education by educators in schools, colleges, and universities.

And now that non-educators can share their knowledge online by creating courses and training, Here are the simplified ingredients for easy understanding.

Course Structure

The course structure is the most important aspect. It covers the following:

  • course modules and lessons
  • content sequencing
  • course materials and resources
  • delivery methods & models
Course Scheduling

After structuring your course, identifying when your course should be taken by your students is also important. This goes along with identifying your course approach. Is it self-paced, pure live session, or hybrid?

Course Objectives

Crafting your course objectives or learning outcomes is important in defining your student’s learning journey. What do you want them to do in a particular module or lesson? What will be the outcome after they finish the certain lesson?

Later, we will discuss how you can craft a great learning outcome.


A course curriculum is an iterative process. It’s not linear. It should be improved over time. That’s why evaluation and asking for feedback from your students are important.

Also, evaluation in this sense is not only about the curriculum itself—but also evaluating what your students learned along the way. If you are offering a certificate by end of the course, then, you should identify the requirements for them to get the certificate.

Now that we tackled the ingredients of an effective course curriculum, let’s talk about the steps. Get ready to roll your sleeves up!

6 steps to design an effective course curriculum

Before we go over the steps, there are three approaches to curriculum design. These are:

  • Subject-centered,
  • Problem-centered, and
  • Learner-centered

In this ultimate guide, we will apply the learner-centered approach. Apparently, this is the most effective approach for transformative learning.

Steps on how to design an effective course curriculum

1. Analyze your target audience

Analyzing your students' knowledge level or your target audience's pain points should always be the first thing. Get clear on who your students are, what they want, and what you believe they need. If you are familiar with instructional design's ADDIE model, analysis is also its first step. Here are some recommended ways to do this:

Social Listening

Are you a professional who wants to share your knowledge online by creating courses? Social listening is one of the best ways to discover your audience's pain points. What is it? It's where you listen to people's comments, questions, and asks in social media, forums, and online communities.

Firstly, hang out where your audience hangs out. Check out what they are talking about, what are their frustrations, and what they want. Then, gather data in one place. Look at what is repeatedly said and what posts get the most engagement. Copy-paste or use your audience's own words. Then, you can analyze how you can give value or solve their pain points through your course.

These are the online communities & social media where your audience might be hanging out:

  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Slack communities
  • Discord communities
  • Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc
Survey Forms

Have you built your audience online? Or are you a corporate trainer with particular employees to train? If yes, you can create a survey form to discover their needs, pain points, level of knowledge, and learning styles.

Gather the most important data to design your course curriculum. Afterward, analyze the survey result.

Assessment Forms

Assessment forms are used if you want to get deeper into the knowledge level of your students on your course topic. Doing so will give you an idea of your content and how you should design your course curriculum.

2. Determine your course objectives

Course objectives or learning outcomes are the actionable steps you want your students to do or gain when completing the course. You can use the data you gather from the first step. Now that you know their pain points and needs, you can transform these data into a learning outcome.

According to Andrew Barry, crafting a good learning outcome needs to be SMART.

  • Be more specific on what your students would want to learn
  • Measure how and when your learning outcome has been achieved
  • Make sure they are attainable for your students
  • Make it relevant for students' transformation
  • Create a time-bound or schedule for efficiency

3. Design the course structure

Here's how designing your course structure can get easier:

  1. Research on other instructional design theories and models. Some examples are ADDIE model, backward design, and scenario-based learning. Feel free to use one of these models that will fit your learner's needs.
  2. Determine what kind of course format would you use. Is it self-paced where you can create pre-recorded videos and materials for your students? Is it a live session where you will teach them live either online or on-site? Or is it a hybrid of asynchronous and synchronous learning?
  3. After determining the first 2 steps, you can compile the materials and resources you are going to use. You can also write the content or record videos to create your course or training.

Important note on course structure: Make sure to align the course objectives in your modules and lessons. Also, chunk your lessons into bits to avoid overwhelming your students with information.

course curriculum

4. Decide your course schedule

After identifying what course format you will use and how you will structure your course design, you may want to decide on your course schedule.

If your course is self-paced, you can suggest a schedule to your students on when they should take the course. For example, tell them that your course can be taken for two weeks long.

For live sessions and hybrid, feel free to schedule them in a way that is digestible for your students. The good thing is that there is a platform that lets you do automatic scheduling for live and hybrid courses.

5. Launch your course

Viola! Once you're done with steps 1-4, you can now launch your course or training! Feel free to test it out first with a small cohort to see if what you did fits well with them. It's also a way to improve your course curriculum!

6. Evaluate and iterate

After your first trial with your cohort, you can ask for feedback to iterate and improve your course curriculum. You can do an evaluation of what your students learned along your course. Second, evaluate how they find the course.


Creating a course curriculum needs a lot of work. But, if you know how to do it right and effectively, the success rate of your course or training is high! Let us know once you tried these steps! We would love to hear your stories. Tag us on Linkedin and Twitter.

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