How to design engaging online course content

John Shannon

There are thousands of online courses available on the internet today. With online learning on the rise, thousands of digital entrepreneurs are creating their own online courses and creating new passive streams of income. The question then becomes not IF you should create your own online course (we’re all about this), but how to make your online course design stand out in terms of engagement. Engaging online courses will help keep your student’s completion and student engagement levels high.

The team at Archy Learning has put together 4 top tips for you to create engaging and viral online courses. 

1) Keep the content short
2) Use Video

3) Simplicity is key
4) Use interactive elements

1. Keep The Content Short


With the shrinking attention span of online learners, our learning modules must accommodate this. Take into account that the average learner can pay attention for up to 15 minutes at a time. It is wise to structure and create your content around this time frame! Otherwise, the drop-off rate will rise.

Not all of your learning modules need to be the same time length, it is understandable that some content will take longer to teach than others. Though as a general rule of thumb, keep the average length of 15 minutes in mind. Microcontent works and is the most digestible.

2. Use Video


Gone are the days of powerpoints and keynotes in the online learning experience. Users are looking for more interactive elements, and though we’ll get to that on another point, we think the video should stand in a category of its own. Video content is simply king. It translates well and has much higher retention rates than textbook content.

When creating your videos, try reading out the course content and recording yourself in person, providing a personalized touch, as well as adding in general explanatory content that will illustrate the lessons better. Your users will utilize multiple senses and be able to retain the information much better.

You can create and upload videos on platforms such as YouTube, Wistia, or even Vidyard. Upload them into your learning course, and monitor completion rates accordingly. This will help you tweak the content if you notice large drop-off rates in your videos.

3. Simplicity is Key


This is similar to creating micro-content, yet this is a bit of a different approach. When it comes to the actual course content itself, break it down into the simplest of ways. Use quizzes and gamified elements in between, and don’t forget repetition! Repeat the main takeaways multiple times for your users to increase retention rates.

It is easy to speak industry jargon, since you as the course creator are so familiar with it. When teaching, break it down into simple, introductory content for online students of all levels to follow along. When the course content is too advanced, it will lead to a higher drop-off rate.

4. Use Interactive Elements (Gamification)


The Archy Team is a huge fan of gamification, and as a result, our LMS (Learning Management System) has partnered with Gamify and allows you to insert fun interactive elements such as quizzes, mini-games, badges, and leaderboards! This is the truest and most proven way to raise your engagement levels.

When your student completes a course, reward them with a badge to help them feel accomplished. The dopamine “feel good” hormones that will be released will encourage them to continue on and finish the content.

Another interactive element is community and discussion boards. For your digital course, we recommend you create a Facebook group or an online forum for your users to be able to discuss the learning outcomes and topics and keep each other accountable. You as the creator should be within reach as well, to answer questions.

Feeling isolated while completing an online course can definitely feel overwhelming, which can lead to large drop-off rates for users. This is all simply because of this lack of community.


There are a few ways to ensure that your online course is engaging. It’s easy to think that if you simply put content out there, it will be consumed by the masses, but this is far from true. Along with a solid marketing strategy, the course content should be aimed to not just be educational, but engaging.

Using video content, keeping your courses short and succinct (known as microlearning), and utilizing gamification elements such as mini-games, badges and leaderboards will help your engaging learners not only reach their educational goals but have fun along the way! You can create a great course, starting for free with Archy Learning today.

John Shannon

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