This article is for businesses and instructors that want to understand best practices for designing online courses. It’s based on our experience training more than 8,000 students. Since 2011 all of our students have used online or blended learning.

The benefit of online and blended learning are clear. Instructors and businesses can teach things that cannot be done with pure face-to-face training. You can teach extremely advanced material, quickly, to many students (click here to see designs of Net Zero Energy homes that were completed in a 100% online class) and most importantly you easily and cheaply VERIFY student learning and the implementation of the skills they’ve learned.

If you’re looking to build out your online trainings, here are the 5 tips we’ve found to be extremely useful. We use these to create our HeatSpring courses and when advising Cammpus customers. Click here if you’d like to download our entire HeatSpring Online Education playbook.
TIP 1: Have a perfect understanding of the characteristics of the best online courses before you start.
I’ll review the 5 elements below, click here if you want to read the entire article of the 5 elements needed for an awesome course.

Here are the characteristics of a great online course:

Having material available all the time
Access to the instructor with regular office hours
Constant quizzing
Access to other students
A Capstone Project

 TIP 2: Write down EXACTLY WHO the course is for.
Be extremely specific. General online classes are the worst type. Either make your course extremely specific or not do make it at all.

Here are examples of how specific course audiences are made for.

LoopLink Certification: The class is specifically for experienced geothermal drillers and HVAC contractors that want a better tools for quickly designing and selling residential and light commercial projects
Net Zero Energy Homes taught by Marc Rosenbaum on NESEA’s BE Master Series: The course is for architects, engineers, and builders that want to learn the theory, practical step by step process and tools needed to design residential net zero energy homes.
Passive House Fundamentals taught by Katrin Klingenberg on NESEA BE Master Series. The course is for all of the professionals in the build industry, inspectors, managers, project managers, executives, that need to be very aware of what passive house design is but won’t be the ones personally doing the design work.
How to Make Money in Renewable Energy. This is a course I teach on HeatSpring. It’s made for students, career changers and entrepreneurs that are trying to understand where their opportunities is in the renewable energy industry.

TIP 3: What are the TOP Learning Objectives?
Similar to tip 2, you need to be extremely specific about the learning objectives of the course. If the learning objectives are not clear before you outline the content for the class (the reading assignments, video lessons, quizzes, homework assignments) that class will not work and it won’t be awesome.

A few examples

Viega’s Hydronics 101 Course: After the course the students should easily be able to differentiate between the components of heating and cooling systems. 
S+H Construction Solar PV Design Considerations. The course is for architects and engineers design solar PV projects in dense urban area. After taking the course, students should be aware of how solar PV projects are integrated into buildings, how solar PV impacts construction schedules, and what is the difference between a bad clients and a perfect client.