Development of an online module

M-HOUSE course Part 2

How do you transform an idea into an actual online module? There are many ways of doing this but below I can share the process we went through recently in the M-HOUSE project as we prepared our online course for its first pilot run starting in November 2014. The aim of the M-HOUSE course is to promote awareness of how household skills could transfer to the setting up of a small business.

Learning outcomes

In the M-HOUSE project we had a very distinct way of generating learning outcomes based on identifying the key learning situations we thought were most valuable to transfer from the everyday experience of running a household that have value in the setting up and running of a business. Choosing and describing these KLSs is the topic of another blog post.

The key takeaway here is that it is essential to know the learning outcomes before starting to design the online experience. The learning outcomes could be:

·         Skill mastery

·         Content knowledge

·         Raised awareness

·         Meta cognition (learning how to learn)

In the M-HOUSE project we had learning outcomes in all 4 of those domains.

So having identified the 8 Key Learning Situations (KLS) we wanted to use as the basis for 8 learning modules, the next task was to design a storyboard for each of the KLSs describing how this was to be achieved. In the end we opted for a common approach to all 8 modules consisting of 3 elements:

·         Activation

·         Background knowledge input

·         Practical application

There is in fact a fourth personal development element, however this was planned to run concurrently alongside the 8 modules rather than as distinct tasks within each of the 8 modules.


The role of the activation task is to act as a way of starting the process of thinking about the topic. In general these were designed as quick and rather superficial tasks which nevertheless start the learner thinking about the topic.

So for example, a module on making a major purchase starts by asking learners to make a short post about the best buy they have made in the recent past and asking them to complete a short light-hearted quiz about their buying habits.

Example 2:

Background knowledge

This will often be a short article or video. We debated whether we should test this but decided that the third task, the practical implementation task should be so relevant to the background knowledge input that it would be unnecessary to test the background knowledge separately. In some cases we did include a quick quiz to round off that task though.

Practical application

In this section we ask learners to do something practical such as planning  (but not carrying out) an event or to gather information about a major purchase and how it can be financed. Often this practical task is done in collaboration with fellow learners or at least is subject to peer feedback from course colleagues. In this set of tasks, our learners often need to use a variety of online tools such as spreadsheets, mindmaps and GANTT charts which would help them in a small business setting.

Do all online courses have to follow a template?

In the case of the M-HOUSE project, it suited us to produce 8 learning modules that followed an identical template. But this is by no means the only best practice. In another online course I am helping to develop in the FLITE project, the course is an asymmetrical journey of discovery, front-loaded with content at the beginning and gradually transforming into a small group project process in the latter half of the course.

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