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Learning 11 MIN READ

18 Amazing Outline Templates to use in Course Design [3 Downloadables]

You have decided on the course curriculum and all the digital material you need, and you feel ready to start training online.

You might also have studied ways to create an online course.
But, there is something that might be missing:

How are you going to decide upon the final course structure?

Your question is reasonable. Just putting content online isn’t enough by itself. There has to be a specific lesson plan for delivering training material.

This is why, today, I want to show you how to create one effectively. With LearnWorlds being used to deliver hundreds of thousands of online courses, we were able to look into the most popular structures, outlines and lesson plans course creators are using in their own courses.

Going through this post, you will find:

All of these fantastic handouts are free and downloadable, and you can instantly use them for your course creation.

But, let’s first discuss some important details:

You have decided upon your course topic and course curriculum. It’s time to start putting that wisdom onto the online course platform.

While that information may be very neat in your brain, unpacking it for the people who don’t have the expertise you do, is a different story.

If you want to help your students achieve those lofty promises you set out in your sales pitch, you need to provide it in a crystal clear manner along the journey.

That roadmap is a course outline will help you:

Knowing your course outline allows you to:

Course outlines, and lesson plans in general, are an integral part of the so-called “instructional design”. Instructional design is a thoroughly researched subject I suggest you study to get lots of insights into your course design.

What does a course template look like?

Here are the 18 ready-made templates chosen by the instructional experts in LearnWorlds as the most common forms of online courses in the market.

Using a course template will help you design your course quicker.

We have researched several online courses and concluded to specific activity patterns (templates), each of which correlates to a particular course type.

When you download the whole guide, you will see in detail what each course template is all about but the exact structure your activities must have to create each one.

Download Our Free Online Course Outline Templates

Depending on what you want to achieve with your course, here are 18-course categories you can choose from:

1Assessment Courses

These courses intend to help both you and your potential students assess (test) their skills. This course type can also be used as a powerful Lead Magnet to gather students’ emails early on the process.

Course Outline for Assessment Courses

2Presell Courses

Presell courses serve as a storefront of an upcoming course. They can rapidly validate a course idea and start building an email list of your potential students before officially releasing a course.

Course Outline for Presell courses

3Orientation Courses

An orientation course provides an overview of all the courses you offer. If you are offering many courses in your Academy, create an orientation course to build student engagement and interest with the course contents and let them get acquainted with the goals of your Academy. It’s a good idea to add a walkthrough of your academy, how to engage in the community or contact the instructor(s).

Course Outline for orientation courses


Mini-courses are short to consume summaries (teasers) of a full-sized course. Like presell and orientation courses, they serve as teasers that make students enroll in a course. However, in contrast to the other two categories, Mini-courses provide real educational value: A full summary of what will be taught in the full-sized course.

Course Outline for mini courses

5Live courses

This course type includes mostly scheduled live sessions. You can frame your live meetings with many different types of material, also: Quizzes, gamification, discussions in the discussion forum, transcripts of the live sessions, downloadable files (PDF) of your presentations.

Live courses could also have office hours, where the instructor can be reached for questions, feedback or support.

Course Outline for live courses


Demonstration courses consist of a series of videos where an instructor demonstrates specific skills to students online. Workshop courses usually fall in arts & crafts, painting, sewing, fitness, content creation, anything that shows the instructor demonstrating something new that students try to imitate through observation.

Course Outline for demonstration courses

7Professional training courses

Professional training courses serve in building knowledge, skills, and competence in a group of individuals or a team. Companies are used to promote job quality, efficiency, and effectiveness while also motivating employees to make a formal commitment to growing with the institution and being more productive. Corporate training is a main use case of professional training courses and this course outline template.

Course Outline for professional training courses

8The X days challenge courses

Through an X Days Challenge course, an instructor attempts to guide the student through daily or weekly small achievements to higher achievements at the end of the course. Therefore, X Days challenge courses challenge users to focus on small steps and quick and fast wins in specific skills/achievements.
You can see a live example of a challenge course in LearnWorlds’ Just Launch It! Challenge.

Course Outline challenge courses

9Certification courses

Certification courses offer a certificate that guarantees the skills a student has obtained in the course. Certificates serve the external validation of knowledge and require students to pass a final exam to get it. Certifications can be obtained from external governmental organizations or the academy.

Certification courses work a lot with prerequisites, you can read more on the course navigation on LearnWorlds here.

Course Outline for certification courses

10Spotlight/Niche Topic Courses

Niche topics are created to teach particular skills like mini-courses. The difference between those two-course categories is that spotlight courses are oriented to a specific skill. Instructors can create a whole Academy with multiple niche courses and also sell them in bundles.

Course Outline for niche courses

11Traditional Academic Courses

Academic courses are courses with a traditional academic structure followed by universities. Each section usually consists of an introduction to the course, where objectives are discussed, a short test to assess pre-existing knowledge, and multiple lectures.

Faculty members use this outline structure the most to deliver academic courses to their students.

Course Outline for academic courses

12Drip feed courses

With the drip-feed course, you can organize the timely release of your content (section by section) so that it doesn’t become available to your students all at once. For example, if you’re running a fixed time frame course, ten weeks, it makes sense to drip your content weekly to keep students engaged and moving through the course.

Course Outline for drip feed courses

13Conceptual Change Courses

Conceptual Change courses are courses that aim to create an experience with the power of storytelling. These courses don’t intend to teach a skill but rather change students’ mentality on a subject. Their structure is random (it can include, for example, five videos, three ebooks, and two assessments).

Course Outline for conceptual courses

14Hybrid courses

Hybrid courses allow students to take the benefits of online learning and combine them with traditional in-class learning. These courses enable students to use the physical classroom skills and apply them to real-life scenarios.

Course Outline for hybrid courses

15Series of invited talks Courses

Courses that include invited talks from guest speakers who talk about the courses’ topics are very engaging. You can schedule a series of (live) interviews every three months or two weeks, for example, and ask for payment from the beginning.

Course Outline for invited talks courses

16Selling digital goods or extra services

Online courses are not strictly used for teaching. An online course can be a suitable wrapper for a digital good you are offering. In other words, an online course can be used as a portal to give access to users to certain digital products or extra services.

Course Outline for digital good courses

17Bonus Courses

Bonus courses are usually short and offer some extra resources to students. They typically contain scarce resources, like a pdf, an exclusive interview, an exciting webinar, etc. What makes bonus courses so valuable is that they add much more value to your first bundle.

Course Outline for bonus courses

18Complimentary to Physical Products Courses

A complimentary to physical course offers additional material to a product you are selling through your website. Such complementary content can be information about that specific product, guidelines about how to use the product.

Course Outline for complimentary courses

As I told you before, in our new free ebook “18 Course outline templates”, you will learn more details about each course category and get free syllabus templates on how to create them.

Download Our Free Online Course Outline Templates for 2021

Let us know if this handbook helped you.

A lesson plan refers to a detailed step-by-step guide for a teacher to understand what materials to give and how to provide them to help students accomplish learning goals during the course.

The process outlined below draws on some of the cornerstone steps of instructional design:

All the tips below and more can be found in our printable instructional design cards.

Download the Cards

Step #1: Conquer your subject

It may seem obvious, but the best teachers have an in-depth knowledge of their subject, and this has a significant impact on students’ learning and enjoyment.

The reason is apparent:

You can’t teach something if you do not have more knowledge than your students. You must be an expert on it.

Study everything available on your subject and then brainstorm all the topics and subtopics you would like to include in the course.

Classifying topics will help you choose the best ones for your course and also prepare your course outline.

Conquering a subject also comes along with setting the learning goals and coming with a great course title.

Step #2: Understand your learners

Learning involves a change in competence, ability, understanding, attitude, belief, or whatever.

To achieve that, you must know your students very well to help them go from point A to point B.

Therefore you need to assess what students already know about your subject and what their motivation is for learning.

How experienced are they as students? Have they taken a similar course before? Do they have course requirements completed?

You also need to know their preferences, their differences, and also allow them to suggest adjustments for your course.

Step #3: Organize your course syllabus

Now it is time to put your objectives and units into an excellent plan.

Use several online tools like “Boords” to organize your content into meaningful learning blocks.

Are there enough challenging unit blocks your students would love? Have you unrooted words, graphics, pictures, or music that do not support your instructional goals?

Refining your learning content is always extremely important.

Step #4: Refine your instructional style

Adults need to feel accepted, respected, and supported within an atmosphere that is friendly and informal. This is why you must take extra care of your instructional style.

There are several ways to make such a good impact on your students:

Step #5: Content Ideas

Apart from teaching everything right, it is crucial to make student learning more authentic.

What is authentic learning?

It is skills-based learning in a real-life context, demonstrating to students that their knowledge is connected, relevant, and can impact the world around them and their future selves.

That means your material should include many worked-out examples, what-if scenarios, success stories, demonstrations, contradictory situations, practice activities, case studies, interviews, and many more.

Step#6: Boost learning performance

What are the next steps for your course design?

Enhancing student learning results. To achieve that, there are specific techniques you can use:

We have valuable tips to share with you for all those six steps:

50 instructional design tips that come in the form of 50 unique cards!

Many of our clients have already downloaded them and printed them out!

There are many ways you can use those cards. You can choose those you like most, put them in the order you want, and follow them as a roadmap for your course design.

Or you can hang them above your desk and keep an eye on them each time you find yourself struggling for the next step.

Here you can see some example-cards:

Download the Cards

And if you have more questions about your course creation with LearnWorlds, read: How to Create an Online Course in 2020

Before choosing one of the templates I described before, it is essential to first break up the content into easily digestible sections: Topics and subtopics (lessons and modules).

They make the course easier to follow and allow learners to quickly refer back to specific parts of the course if they need to.

Download the Course Creation Workbook

Here is what I mean; It is reasonable to create a detailed table like this one:

Breaking up your content into smaller bites makes instruction easier.

It will also help you prepare your word documents accordingly.

Also, apart from deciding upon your topics and subtopics, there are many details you need to decide upon:

In our third exciting download, the “Course Creation Workbook”, you will find those steps you need to take before you conclude a course template.

You can instantly download it, print it out, and start filling it in!

Download the Course Creation Workbook

I have studied all this useful material and decided upon my course outline. Now, what?

The next step, if you haven’t already, is to sign up to a powerful LMS.

Set up your free LearnWorlds account. Our platform makes it super easy to create and sell your own online courses. Log in and check it out!

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

Start free trial
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Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.