Using Visual Thinking Tools To Develop An Online Course - Doug Neill - sketchnotes, doodling

Using Visual Thinking Tools To Develop An Online Course

I’m right in the middle of the development of my latest online course – How To Make Sketchnote Videos – and I wanted to share with you the process that I’m following to build this course, and how visual thinking is playing a major role.

Here are the steps that I’ve been following:

#1: Define The Transformation

The first step is to decide what transformation you want your students to undergo throughout your course.

In the course that I’m developing, students will learn both the technical details of how to create a sketchnote video as well as some of the more nuanced aspects of creating a video that has the desired  impact on the audience you hope to reach.

#2: The Course In Broad Strokes

Once you have defined the overall transformation that you will help your students go through, you can map out in broad strokes the structure of the course.

I don’t think it’s worth listing out each individual lesson yet, but what is valuable is clarifying the big-picture modules of your course and the purpose of each module.

#3: Host A Q&A

There’s nothing better than having a real conversation with someone interested in learning the skill that you’re about to teach.

That’s why I like the idea of hosting a Q&A before digging too deep into course development.

By getting to know the people who are interested in your course and hearing all of their questions (then answering them to the best of your ability right away), you’ll have that much more clarity when you then go to build out the course.

As an added benefit there will be real people who you’ll be building your course for, not just the imagined future student.

#4: Outline The Course

After having that Q&A conversation you’ll be in a good position to outline the entire course.

To help you do that, I recommend setting up a course development wall where you can capture all of the ideas around the course – the initial big-picture planning, the questions and answers, and then the outline of the full course.

Being able to see all of those ideas in one place is incredibly powerful.

#5: Sketch Out Each Lesson

You can then use that outline as a reference as you sketch out what each specific lesson will look like. This is when you focus in on the details, but you’ll also never lose sight of the big picture nor the people that you’re making your course for because those pieces stay right in front of you on your project wall!

#6: Produce The Course

With each lesson sketched out, you’re now ready to produce the course. Though this stage is one of the most time-consuming, in some ways it is the easiest because you’ve already done the more difficult and more creative work up front of planning it out.

This is when you put your head down as you put in the hours creating a worthwhile learning experience for your students.


I’m in the throes of this process right now as I finish up development of the How To Make Sketchnote Videos course. If you’d like to add a visual component to the lessons of a future course or presentation of yours, I think you’ll enjoy that course!

I used a similar process as the one described above for the foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking. If you’re newer to sketchnoting then that course is a great place to start.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy this series on curriculum design.



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