How Does An Online Learning Course Work?

We can get a lot of questions about how exactly an online learning course works. This article outlines the 5 elements needed for an awesome online learning course.

This article is for two people:

Students that want to take a course and want to know what to expect. Hello potential students!
Companies that want to start using online course material but can’t picture what exactly it is or how it works. Read more about why courses are better than webinars for teaching online here. If you want to learn how to create amazing online and blended learning courses, download HeatSpring’s online education playbook here.

Here are the 5 Elements of a Great Online Learning Course for you, the student.

Having material available all the time: When advanced material is being taught online, it’s key that the students have access to the material all the time. This is useful so they can be learning when they have time in their life. It’s also key so they can watch or read specific segments as many times as needed so they can understand the material.  The hard stuff doesn’t always sink in the first time.
Access to the instructor on a regular basis with office hours. Although the material is available all the time, the best part of face-to-face training is direct access to an instructor that can tell you that you’re right or wrong and share their thinking, thought processes and lessons learned. Access to an expert instructor is critical. This is done online in two ways. First is weekly office hours. These are specific segments of time when the instructor is free and the students can call them and have a 1 on 1 conversation. Second, for less pressing issues, is using the Facebook-style Message Wall for Q+A.
Constant quizzing. As a student, you WANT to know if you’re learning the most important material that the instructor is trying to teach. The best part of online courses is that it’s easy and effective to constantly quiz students on each element they are learning. This is impossible in face to face training. Frequent assessment gives you, the student, confidence that you’re learning each piece of critical information as you go. This way, when you get to the capstone project at the end (or the certification test), you won’t be shocked with the material.
Access to other students.  Sometimes the people in your class are experts too. Each comes with a different background and goal. Structuring the class to increase student to student interaction is another critical element for successful online training. We do this in two ways. The first is the Message Wall where students can talk back and fourth. The second is scheduling and moderating group conference calls.
A capstone project. At the end of an online training, you’ll be required to submit a capstone project (or take a test). A capstone project is key because it verifiable proof you’ve learned and have something to show for the class. In our LoopLink Certification course, everybody designs a full ground source heat pump system for a 25,000 square foot commercial building. In Marc Rosenbaum’s Net Energy Course everybody designs a Zero Net Energy home, including an complete energy model (click here to see some of the students projects).


[Proof Included] When and Why 100% Online Courses Are Better Than Face to Face Training

The following is a capstone project completed at the end of a 100% online course. If you think online training courses are poor quality, think again. Read more in detail below.

This article is for two specific people.

1. Students that are interested in learning exactly how to design Net Zero Energy homes and want to see what other students have accomplished in this class. If you want to read more about the class or sign up, click here to read how you can learn how to design zero energy homes.

2. Professionals that are interested in utilizing online training tools to increase the quality of training, verify learning, and decreasing training costs, and want to see what other experts and associations have done.  If you’re an expert like Marc, or would like to learn how Marc created his online training course, I have a few resources for you. First, download Marc’s course syllabus to see how he outlined his course. Second, download our online education playbook. Third, sign up for our technical trainer boot camp and learn how to build your own course in 4 weeks or less.

The above home is a Net Zero Energy Home design and energy model that was completed in Marc Rosenbaum’s Net Zero Energy Home Course in NESEA’s BE Master Series.

The Myth – Online Training Courses Are Poor Quality

There’s a long time myth that online training courses are lower quality than face to face training. We have found this to be untrue, and we have the proof that we’re going to share with you.

In fact, what we’re going to show you is that in many instances that quality of online training makes possible, what is 100% impossible with traditional face to face training.

Now, I’m not saying the face-to-face training is poor quality and is not longer needed. There are specific applications when it is the best, and amazing trainers can do a great job. The purpose of this article is to show that the assumption that face-to-face training is always, hands down better than online training is incorrect.

When is online just better than face to face training?

For professional training when the students are motivated and self-selecting to learn a new skill. Also, professionals tends to have less time to travel and don’t have 2 to 3 weeks to take off from work, or spend 1 to 2 nights in a class for 6 months learning a subject.
Need to learn the material quickly and verify that they’ve learned it
The topic is extremely technical and it requires hard skills. Topics that hands-on, by definition cannot be done online, and soft skills training where direct face-to-face role playing are also impossible.

Here’s the proof – Students Capstone Projects

Let’s review what these are, at the end of a 6 week course students submit full energy models and home designs for a net zero energy home. The instructor Marc, reviews all of of them and provides feedback if the designs or models need to be tweaked at all. The students can domonstrately show that they leave the class with a skill that they developed in the course. They want into the class not knowing how to design these homes, and they walk out of it with a fully designed home, an energy model to prove it’s net zero status and all of the tools, strategies, and knowledge they need complete this work over and over again.