Probably the most important thing to do when designing a training course is to determine whether or not there will be any “hands on” exercises. It’s best if there are; the most effective learning is by doing, not by seeing or listening. It’s also important from a course design point of view. Having exercises gives you a framework around which to design the rest of the course. Just as you need to finish the framework of a house before you install the plumbing or wiring, you need to finish creating the exercises before you decide what the lecture or the schedule will be.

The first exercise sets the tone and expectations for the remainder of the course. It’s important to begin at the beginning; an initial exercise should border on trivial and boring for a non-beginner. This actually makes it difficult for experts to create. But the most important first step for the student is to be convinced that learning the material is possible, so success in the first exercise should be all but guaranteed.

Once this success is achieved, such exercises rapidly become boring. Subsequent exercises need a few “curve balls,” or challenges, to keep the student interested. A second exercise should have one such challenge, with the number increasing in the third exercise and beyond.

While such a course design does the most good for the most students, it tends to cater heavily to the lowest common denominator. More advanced students can find it a bit boring. An advantage of a course designed for the web is that such challenges can be made optional throughout the course as advanced exercises without intimidating the majority of students.

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