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Family Lives provides targeted early intervention and crisis support to families. They run a range of services.

Use this Guide if you would like to create an interactive online course that people can study by themselves. Family Lives used a tool called Coassemble, but there are lots of others available, such as Moodle and Google Classroom.

Steps to providing interactive, self-guided online courses using Coassemble

The first step when creating a new online course is to understand what your learners need. Both the content of the course and the way it is delivered should be designed to suit the people who will be using it.

There are many ways to identify what your learners need:

  • Interviews with current or previous learners

  • Interviews with potential learners

  • Interviews or exercises with staff or volunteers who work closely with potential learners

  • Observing how people use your current course, if you have one

  • General course data, for example number of registrations vs course completions

  • Any analytics that are available, for example pages with high drop-off rates

  • Feedback form responses

  • Common email queries or complaints

  • Reviewing similar courses offered by other organisations.

It’s also important to understand what you and your organisation needs. For example:

  • Goals for learner outcomes

  • Information to report to funders

  • The option to change or add new courses

  • A manageable sign-up process.

Family Lives used to run only one self-guided course called Parents Together. They ran it via an eLearning platform called OpenELMS. They also ran live online parenting courses via MS Teams. 

The self-guided course had been created for them, but they didn’t have the ability to edit or update it. Nor could they add new courses to OpenELMS. They needed an eLearning platform that offered more flexibility.

Feedback from learners helped Family Lives get a clear picture of other features they needed in a new platform:

  • Easy to use and navigate

  • Mobile-friendly

  • Ability for learners to save their progress

  • Interactive tools like quizzes

  • Audio and video content

  • Ability for learners to download a certificate.

The team also wanted learners to be able to register themselves. This would lower the access barrier to the course and reduce admin work for the team.

When you understand what you and your learners need from your new course, you can draw up a list of criteria to help you choose the right platform.

There are a huge number of eLearning platforms available. Sometimes they are called Learner Management Systems (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). You might have heard of Moodle, Instructure, and Google Classroom, but there are many more.

You may want to think about:

  • Subscription costs

  • Features and tools available

  • Visual design and user experience

  • How many learners you hope to reach

  • How you will communicate with learners

  • If the platform will integrate with your other systems

  • How much technical knowledge is needed to create a course

  • What support will be available

  • If the course will work on a mobile device

  • Where learner data is stored - you might need a data sharing agreement.

Family Lives compared several different eLearning platforms, including:

  • OpenELMs, their existing provider

  • Eloomi

  • Coassemble

  • Talent LMS

  • Learn Upon

As well as the features identified in feedback from learners, the team were looking for a solution that was:

  • Low cost

  • Flexible i.e. included a course builder

  • Easy for their staff to use

  • Visually appealing in its design

They decided that Coassemble was the most suitable. It also offered a non-profit discount on the subscription fee.

Family Lives have a data processing agreement allowing Coassemble to process data in line with the requirements of Family Lives' privacy policy.

Their subscription includes a limit on the number of learners which can be registered at any one time. This motivates Family Lives to regularly remove inactive learner accounts. This is good data protection practice too.

When you have chosen an eLearning platform you can build your first course by adding text, images, audio, and video, and choosing different types of questions and assessments.

Often the best way to learn how to use a new piece of software is to try it out. Think of your first course as a way to learn how to use the new platform. If there is anyone else that will be involved in creating courses, it might be a good idea to give them some sections of the course to create so that they can learn about the new platform too.

When you are ready, invite some of your colleagues to try out the course and give you feedback.

Part of the Let's play module on Family Lives' parenting course, with the course overview screen open.

Family Lives created their first course on Coassemble using the content from their existing Parents Together course. This gave staff an opportunity to learn how the platform works and understand all the things it can do. It also gave them something to share with colleagues to get feedback.

When you and your colleagues are testing the new course, you might want to ask questions like:

  • Was it enjoyable to use?

  • Did you feel engaged and interested?

  • Are the instructions clear and easy to understand?

  • Was there anything that was unclear or confusing?

  • Is it easy to move from one section to the next?

  • Is this type of content the best way to deliver this information?

  • Is this kind of assessment a good fit for this outcome?

You may also want to run a ‘usability test’ by observing people working through the course and asking them to ‘think aloud’ about the decisions they make, and why. If possible, try to do this with real potential learners, or people who are not already familiar with the course.

It’s important to test how the course administration works for your team as well as for learners. Ask yourself:

  • Does the registration process work smoothly?

  • Can you access the data you need?

  • What will you do if there’s a problem?

  • What happens when learners complete the course?

  • If a large number of learners sign up at once, will everything still work as planned?

You may want to produce some step by step guides or other resources to help both your team and learners to use the new platform.

Setting up part of a course using Coassemble's editor

The digital team at Family Lives created a group of course testers from their communications team, volunteer helpline advisors, and subject matter experts.

Together, they went through several rounds of testing and feedback, adapting the course content for the new platform, and trying out different functions such as quizzes and videos.

Because the subject matter experts were part of the testing group, the digital team could negotiate changes (for example, reducing the amount of text) as they went along. This built a shared understanding of the test course and the platform.

If you are transferring courses from an old eLearning platform to a new one, it’s important to think about your existing learners in advance of the transfer.

Ask yourself:

  • What questions will they have?

  • How will you communicate with them?

  • What will happen to anyone who hasn’t finished their course on the old platform?

  • Do you plan to migrate user accounts from one platform to another?

  • When will any migration happen?

Make sure you have answers to all these questions ready in advance.

After launch, check on how well the new platform is working and respond to any problems. Gather feedback from learners regularly so that you can show the impact of your work and keep improving your offer.

It was important for Family Lives that everyone who was already registered on the old platform would have time to complete the Parents Together course before they changed systems. They contacted everyone who was already registered to give them two months’ notice to finish the course, and closed registration one month before re-launching the course on Coassemble.

Since moving the Parents Together course to Coassemble, Family Lives have seen registrations increase from 60 to 80 per month to 200 to 300 per month.

Coassemble allows Family Lives to embed their course feedback form directly into each course. This has increased the number of learners leaving feedback. This in turn helps them to improve their courses and report more thoroughly on learner outcomes to their funders. They also signpost from the course to their helpline, live chat, and email support for any learner who needs one-to-one support.

Since launching the new version of their Parents Together course, Family Lives have created interactive, self-guided versions of their live courses too, and now offer six courses in total.

Further information