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[Making Of… #11] Cave Paintings

The Making Of An Online Course Part 11

In 2021 I made a new course, From WordPress To Webflow. This post is one of a series of behind-the-scenes emails I wrote as I went along, exclusively for my email list (start here).

Once upon a time, a group of people were making tech-focused online courses.

Their courses were on topics like web design, web dev and web marketing.

They decided to base their students’ learning journeys around a relatable real-life scenario and story.

Soon after, the teachers and their students went on to enjoy an abundance of success, wealth and happiness beyond their wildest dreams.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Ok, one last email before we wrap up this whole ‘case study story’ thing….

I promised I’d delve into WHY I think basing online tech courses on real-life scenarios and stories is so effective.

Here goes.

I’ve briefly mentioned before

Humans the world over are attracted to stories.

In fact, story has been THE number one means of passing along knowledge for bajillions of years.

Since even before the internet was invented (if you can imagine that?) stories have helped us Homo sapiens make sense of the world. They help us relate abstract, unusual concepts to real-life scenarios we can understand.

Stories appeal to the primal, subconscious, emotional part of our brain (the part that really runs the show), keeping us emotionally engaged and attentive.

And stories are enjoyable! We’ve been sitting around campfires and queuing round the block for the cinema and sitting in our pants binge-watching Netflix since forever (yep, there are ancient paintings of the Netflix logo in caves in the south of France… probably).

So, likely for ALL the reasons above combined…

Stories help us remember stuff that matters.

The thing is, people quickly forget straight-up facts and knowledge, but they remember a story loooong after the event.

You can maybe see why I’m a massive fan of using story and real-world scenarios in online tech courses?

Let me count the ways:

  • Stories make tough stuff easier to understand.
  • Stories help your students relate what they’re learning to their own situation.
  • Stories reinforce WHY they’re learning what you’re teaching them, which is an incredibly powerful motivator.
  • Stories keep your students emotionally engaged and paying attention.
  • They’re far more likely to enjoy taking your course (remember, no-one really wants to take your online course).
  • And, with stories, they’re far more likely to remember what you taught them.

What’s not to like?

And for me, the sum total advantage of this entire approach is that your students are more likely to take ACTION.

Remember:

A great learning experience isn’t about what your students KNOW afterwards… it’s about what they can now DO that they couldn’t do before.

So, basing a course on a real-life scenario and narrative encourages your students to actually follow along with you, to DO, rather than passively watch.

And by doing, they learn far more effectively, as you give them opportunities to build and practice and then further develop and expand on what you teach them.

An example of an excellent online tech teacher that has this whole ‘real-life scenario’ thing licked is Wes Bos.

Wes teaches pretty complex web dev stuff, but makes it fun and engaging by weaving his courses around stories, solving real-world problems.

Like with Master Gatsby, you build a website for a local pizza joint, ‘Slick’s Slices’.

With Learn Node, you build a restaurant app, which users can search, geolocate, review and curate their favourite restaurants.

Learn Redux, a simple photo app, ‘Reduxstagram’.

Advanced React, a full stack online clothing store, ‘Sick Fits’.

Sometimes, there’s no over-arching story but still a load of cool real-world applications (mini-stories, if you like) as in Javascript 30.

Next: the most important decision I had to make.