You’ve worked hard to create your online course, but do you really know how potential students are going to feel about it?
The problem is you’ve worked so hard that it’s impossible to see your own mistakes. Perhaps a lecture rambles on too much or some quiz questions are too ambiguous to answer.
Beta testing students are the answer. Make sure you gather a group of eager testers to find out what they like and don’t like about your course. Their feedback could drastically change how successful your final course is.
Start Before You Finish
The most important tip is to gather beta testing students long before your online course is finished. It may take several weeks or more to get a few dozen students to take time out of their busy schedules to help you. When it comes time to the actual testing, wait until your course is mostly done. After all, you want the students to test as much content as possible. Your course doesn’t have to be 100% polished, but make sure the content is in place.
Offer A Reward For Beta Testers
So why should potential students just volunteer their time to help you out? That’s the brick wall that online educators tend to run up against more often than not. The key is to actually offer something in return. For instance, Coursera waives the certificate fee for any student testers if they decide to take the full course.
You might consider giving away a free sample course or offering a big discount for student testers. If you’re asking each beta tester to go through your entire course, that’s a reward in itself since students get to take your course for free. If possible, consider giving gift cards to Amazon or another major retailer if students aren’t interested in taking the course when it’s done.
Have Q&A Sessions After Each Test
After each testing session, have a detailed Q&A session. Schedule a time for students to contact you. Using Skype, Google Hangouts or other video chat tools are ideal for this. If that’s not possible, use chat apps to allow you to talk to all the students at once or individually. The idea is to not only get feedback but to ask for clarification if necessary.
Make sure you keep all of these sessions. After all, you never know when some of the feedback you receive might lead to another online course idea. If you record your session, use a site like rev.com to have it transcribed.
Consider Recording Student Tests
If you’re designing an online course for your own website, it might be beneficial to actually record the student tests. This is more for checking how easy the course is to navigate versus the content itself. Digital Trends provides a list of apps for students to use to record their screen sessions while testing your course. This step might not be necessary for every beta test, but if students also give verbal feedback while testing, it could be one of your most effective methods.
Let Students Test Different Portions
It’s kind of overwhelming to ask beta testing students to go through hours and hours worth of a course just to provide feedback. This is even more true for highly niche courses. Instead, assign students different segments. Have one check out video lectures and another go through three or four modules of content. By breaking it down, testers don’t have to sacrifice as much of their time in order to test your course.
Of course, it’s still a good idea to reward all of your student testers. This will help you draw in more testers for your course.
Prepare For Several Testing Sessions
Be prepared to go through multiple testing sessions. Let your beta testing students know that you’ll need them to go through several rounds. The first round is the most time consuming, but the next few will just involve the students checking certain portions to see if you properly implemented their feedback.
Provide Multiple Ways To Give Feedback
Finally, offer your beta testing students multiple ways to provide feedback. If you’re doing the tests on your own website, have a form for students to fill out and submit. You could also provide your email address or provide set hours where you’ll be available on Skype or another video chat app. The easier it is for testers to get in touch with you, the more likely you are to get feedback from each and every tester.
Not quite sure how to proceed after the student testing phase? Don’t worry, I’m here to help answer your questions and set you on the path to online education success.