Best Practices For Courses Versus Curriculum Versus Bundles

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 Overview

Absorb LMS provides Admins the opportunity to flexibly deliver content to your learners through a variety of tools.  As an Admin, you can use a Course, a Curriculum or a Course Bundle to deliver content.  If you are unsure of which tool to use, you should define the learning objectives and the learner experience you want to offer using question such as these:

  • Is the information I need learners to understand complicated?  Does the information span many topics or do the learners need to only learn a few simple, related concepts?
  • Will learners need more than one learning opportunity to comprehend the material?
  • Will learners require both face to face learning and online learning to truly grasp this training?
  • Do I need learners to have great flexibility as they work through the learning? (For example, do I want learners to have choices on the material they will review to gain a completion?)
  • Do I want learners to see all their learning grouped in their catalog?

Once you have defined your learning needs and the learner experience you want to present, you can decide if you want to deliver the content through individual Courses, a curriculum or a Course Bundle. 

Course 

An Instructor Led Course (ILC) or an Online Course is the simplest learning option for delivering live or online learning. Even if you plan on creating a Curriculum or a Course Bundle, you will still need to create a Course as they are the building blocks for these options.

An individual ILC or an Online Class should be used to deliver simple content, or content that addresses only a few closely related topics.  Though you can offer multiple sessions and occurences of an ILC or multiple chapters in an Online Course, it is best to not use an individual course to deliver complex in depth information on multiple topics.

For example, if you plan to create a Basic Fire Safety class, this simple topic can work as a Course.  But if you intend to review a variety of safety topics, you may want to create a series of separate ILCs or Online Courses for each topic.  To enhance the user experience and make it easier for learners to locate, track and complete your series of safety courses, you may want to create a safety Curriculum (below) to deliver these courses.

Below, we have also noted some specific functionality of an ILC and of an Online Course that you need to consider before creating your courses. 

An Instructor Led Course 

An Instructor Lead Course (ILC) is simply a live training session where registration is managed through the LMS.  (You can learn more about creating an ILC here.) As noted above, an Individual ILC can help you deliver simple material on one topic or closely related topics.

Though you can make an ILC session with multiple occurrences, each of these occurrences must take place in the same venue and all will have the same instructor and course title listed.  If your course is complex and requires each occurrence to have a separate title  (and venue or instructor), you will need to set them up as separate courses and then manually enroll them in the additional sessions. An easier way to link multiple ILCs is to add them to a Curriculum (see below). 

For example, if you were offering one class called Introduction to Leadership that introduced new managers to an overview on leadership models, this could be delivered through an ILC even with multiple occurrences if each one addressed the same topic (leadership models) and was offered in the same room and with the same instructor.  But if you offered a 10 session course for new leaders on 10 different topics, with different titles and venues, you will want to create them as 10 distinct courses and deliver them either individually or through a Curriculum.

If you want to include online material or PDFs as part of an ILC, you can do so as a Resource.  A Resource can include digital materials such as weblinks, PDFs, etc. But if you need to view that these online materials were completed (reviewed) you will need to create an Online Course to deliver these materials as a Resource cannot be not marked as complete. To link the ILC and Online Course as one catalog option for the learner, you will need to add them to a Curriculum (see below).

For example, you have several online links and materials for the Fire Safety class  and you were considering attaching them as a Resource to your ILC yet your HR team asks that you have evidence that these online materials are reviewed.  Because you need to track the completion of these, you will have to create a separate Online Course in addition to the ILC so that you can track the completion of both the online materials and class attendance.    

Online Courses 

An Online Course can be used to deliver and report on SCORM content, a wide variety of other content like video and documents as well as Absorb-based quizzes and exams.  (You can learn more about creating an Online Course here.)

As noted above, if you want to blend an Online Course with a ILC you must create and each course separately and then you can use a Curriculum to connect these courses as one learning path.

An Online Course does offer some more flexibility than an ILC as you can set up multiple chapters and lessons.  If you decide to use the Online Course to display multiple chapters and lessons, it is still best to use one Online Course to address only a few very closely related topics.  Your learners may be very confused if you offer too many chapters with unrelated topics, they may be overwhelmed if the course displays many chapters with multiple lessons and if the course is too complex, they also may have trouble finding the needed sections if they need to refer back to them.

For example, if you need to provide a quick overview three new basic features in your HR system with a simple lesson or two for each feature, you could create one Online Course called "New Features."  Yet if each of those new features required learners to learn how to do multiple related tasks and this would result in many lessons in each chapter, it would be best to create individual courses called "Feature 1", "Feature 2", etc..  In "Feature 1", you can then create lessons for each new task and then repeat the same process with each new Online Course.  

In an Online Course,  you can build in flexibility for the learner by choosing to allow learners to complete the lessons in any order.  Then they can complete lesson 2 in chapter 2 before they completed Lesson 1 in Chapter 1.  You can also set the pace by requiring that they complete all lessons in order by chapter or by allowing your learners to only complete a quiz without any lessons to receive a completion.  But you cannot allow a completion for only some required lessons (other than a quiz) while allowing other lessons to be optional.  Such flexibility would require that you complete the lessons as individual Courses and then add them to a Curriculum.

For example, you have created one Online Course for new employees that include 2 chapters. Chapter 1 has 2 lessons that review paperwork. Chapter 2 has 3 lessons on policies and an exam. You can set the Online Course so that learners only have to pass the exam to complete the course but then they may not review the other lessons.  If you set the course so a learner must complete all lessons in any order, then they will have some flexibility but they may complete the exam before reviewing the policies.  You can set the pace by requiring that they complete all lessons in order  but if some lessons are not critical (e.g. they don't need to review Chapter 1 if their paperwork has already been completed) they will be forced to complete these lessons anyways.  If you want to add in optional requirements and / or allow you new employees more flexibility, it would be better to create each chapter and / or lesson as a Course and then add them to a Curriculum.

Curriculum

A Curriculum is a versatile learning path that guides learners through a selection of Courses.(You can learn more on creating a Curriculum here.)

If you have created several ILCs, Online Courses or both an ILC and Online Course and you would like the learners to view these courses as one requirement or one series, you should consider using a Curriculum  as this would make the enrollment and completion process simpler for your learners. By using a Curriculum, the learners will be able to navigate to curricula directly through their courses tile or the catalog page.  Launching that Curriculum will present all of the Courses contained within it, in an ordered fashion. 

If you have a leadership series that covers 8 distinct leadership competencies and that includes multiple Online Courses and / or ILCs to address each competency, adding these programs to a Curriculum would allow the learners to see the full series and all the learning requirements as one option in their catalog. Even if you only have online courses, such a complex series of lessons and chapters in one course could be very overwhelming. A Curriculum would offer learners easier navigation and a way to easily track progress of the individual requirements.  

Curriculum allows you great flexibility in how you design the learner experience.  Just as a course has chapters which can be configured to pace your learners, curricula offer course groups that can configured to pace learners. By enabling the pace progress toggle, you will force completion of each group before starting the next one.  Within each course groups you can also choose to require completion of all courses in the group, or only a certain number of them. This is an interesting way to provide an elective approach to your courses. It is even possible to make entire course groups optional by setting their requirements to 0 courses. 

For example, if we decided to  create our new employee program as a Curriculum that includes a Group titled Paperwork with 2 Online Courses and a Group titled Policies with 1 ILC and 1 Online Course (that includes an exam), you can set the pace of their progress so that they must complete one group before the next or that they can view any groups in any order.  Further, if the learner only needs to take either an one Course in the Policies Group, you can set the minimum courses at 1.  This will allow them to complete the Group by completing the type of course that they prefer.

When using a Curriculum, badges, leaderboard points, competencies, and credits can be awarded upon completion of each individual Course as well as upon the completion of the Curriculum.  This can help engage the learners and encourage completion of the program.  If you offered all the lessons in a large Online Course instead, you can only offer learners points, badges at the end of the Course and not as they go through the many lessons and so you may lose some of your learners along the way.

Course Bundles

A Course Bundle is a way to deliver multiple courses in a single enrollment and it makes it easy enroll learners into a large number of courses at once.  Unlike a Curriculum, learners will not see be able to see the Course Bundle after they enroll in or are enrolled and so the Course Bundle will not display and act as a navigational guide for learners.

Because learners do not view the Course Bundle as one Course after enrollment, it is also a good way to mass enroll learners in to many courses that do not necessarily connect on the same topic. You may want to use a Course Bundle when you want to allow learners to enroll or you want to enroll learners in a selection of courses that do not need to be viewed or tracked as a single unit. 

For example, if we have created several new ILC and Online Courses that range from compliance courses to skills training for a specific department, we can deliver these programs all at once to the department as Course Bundle.  By creating a Course Bundlewe not only reduce the work needed to enroll in multiple courses, we can  also reduce the emails that the team would receive if we enrolled them as the Course Bundle email overrides all Course enrollment emails.   

You can learn more about the configuration of a Course Bundle and a Curriculum here.

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