146: Developing an effective online art program curriculum


Let’s start these shownotes off with a bold statement:

I would bet that you’re teaching lesson to lesson and not with a larger curriculum in mind…

Most people do that. And it works fairly well for interactive one-on-one or in-person programming, but doesn’t quite cut it for online programs. When we work with a curriculum we are creating lessons that definitively take our students from point A to point B.

In the online space, we really need to be specific, because most of the time our leads (future students) come to us and experience our content and our messaging before they have any direct communication with us. When we present a strong curriculum, we create an opportunity for our students to see us and connect with us in these early stages of them exploring what it might be like to work with us.

And this goes for existing students who haven’t worked in online group programs with us before… they need to see that we are prepared and ready. They already believe we can help them to get to Point B, and when we show this in our online content, it re-enforces the trust they have in us.

Once we know what we’re teaching in our online program, every step we take to get from idea to launch is laid out for us. That curriculum provides us structure for social media content, email newsletter content, our sales page and our launch content.

Are your students seeking results? Or are they seeking the steps along the way?

Of course, they are looking to do something specific at the end of the program… this is their goal and we need to keep it front of mind when we’re creating a program curriculum. We need to figure out the steps and lessons required to reach that goal. But equally important is factoring in where our students are at the beginning of the program and when they are seeking a program like ours.

Without a doubt, you, as the expert instructor, know the steps to get from start to finish for the program that you’re looking to develop — and that’s exactly it, there’s a start and an end!

The two methods that we can use to build our programs are:

  • work from the start and end points until the content meets in the middle
  • build specific lessons and then organize them

With the working from the ends method, I like to start with the very last lesson and think of this as the capstone of the program. Knowing the final chapter or piece of the curriculum we can then take a step backwards and say what is the next to last piece that needs to be taught or presented or otherwise.

In the second method, you decide specific lessons or topics that you want to teach and outline what that module will look like without factoring in any pre-requesites. Once a sufficient number of lessons are identified, they can then be sequenced into a logical manner. This method makes sure that every single lesson has the potential to stand alone while building off the prior lessons, as appropriate.

I believe we need to have a strong curriculum, a very clear understanding of the student journey and that it’s clearly defined.

When we are building this online curriculum, we also have the advantage of knowing what modalities we can offer the educational content in — from talking head and demonstrative videos, to audio, workbooks and handouts. And the different forms of assessments from quizzes and surveys to feedback loops and assignments. Then we get to the live sessions which again can be a host of formats from conversational to critique and from dynamic interactive or collaborative to demonstrative.

As we are outlining our curriculum, we can also take the time to jot down these modalities and create a more detailed execution plan.

With this curriculum, we now are able to determine how long the program is going to last, and the cadence of the release of new material.

To this point, we’ve built curriculum based on the end goal. Sometimes we’ll want to build a curriculum that fits into a specific period of time. In this case, we can certainly use the earlier methods, but I also think that there is one final way to break this time-based curriculum down. And that’s by saying “at the halfway point, this is where I want my students to be.” This is just another method that you might find really appealing since we are specific about the number of lessons and specific goals or milestones within the program from the design stage.

When we have a finite number of lessons, we might need to move our starting criteria or end goals to match the progress we can actually make with our students in this amount of time. Or we could determine that we need more or less weeks to accomplish everything we want in this program.

Our students deserve to have the absolute best experience inside our programs. Which means, we always need to include a welcome module that they get immediate access to, regardless of how close to the official start date they sign up. And, if appropriate, bonus lessons and modules are a great thing to include at this stage because they help our students find their online groove with us early on.

Having a strong curriculum for every program you offer makes it easier for students to stay with us and participate in program after program after program. With this, we are providing them with the support they need to keep showing up and investing in their art.

Parting thought:

Think about the curriculum that you want to create and the experience you want your students to have when they work with you.

You’re at the end of the shownotes which means you’re all in on creating a great online program, right? So book a call with me to get those ideas flowing: http://callwithjaime.com and connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! I love connecting!

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