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What's In a Text Message Course?

Ryan Laverty
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In this video, Ryan Laverty, our Head of Content, gives a quick overview of what to think about when designing a text message course. For a more in-depth look at different course structures, see our post on How to Build a Text Message Course. A transcript of the video has been included below!


As far as actually building a text message course, the most common course days are term or concept explanation days, case study or explanation days, story days, or review days.

When we say explaining a term or concept breakdown, the below (image) is from a short financial literacy course we did. Learners will receive an image that’s about 1200 characters, or two screen lengths in date, and will include a short day or subject title, a simple explanation of the concept, and why that concept is relevant. In this case, high school students were briefed on why financial literacy was important and then asked short questions to check understanding. Finally, educators will give an extra resource at the end.


Here, we see an example of a review day. We typically recommend creating a review day every 5 to 7 days, doing some sort of a review. This will typically involve summarizing what users have gone through, and we’re quizzing them every few days on what they’ve learned so far. This example is from a marketing course, where each previous course day is summarized in a sentence, and then asked about a brand that added value using marketing.


As we can see, this learner used Harvard as an example of a brand that has used its value to increase price and stand out against similar business models. If we go into the system, the learner designer in this case actually built into the system what an adequate response would look like. This way, the leaner can see if they’re correct or not. This way, there’s no need for a learning designer to go in and manually respond to a question. Educators will typically leave a point of contact at the beginning, but 99% of learners will simply know they’re correct.


The third kind of day is a case study day. Earlier we talked about our compliance training, or compliance by text, courses and this is an example of a harassment prevention course. This course described a situation with SoFi in 2017, and we see this model used often for harassment prevention and ethics at work type courses. Case study days allow us to ask the learner what they would do in a particular situation, and in this instance what they would have done differently?


This is particularly valuable for compliance organizations. Previously, they would have someone come in and lecture on a particular topic. By asking learners to respond, they can now see this treasure trove of data over 15 to 30 days on how far learners have progressed through a course and what they would have done in particular instances. This ends up being very effective for learning designers, specifically around compliance training.


Now we’ll quickly go over what we would do with a particular topic and what that would look like contextually with this course. For this instance we chose Blockchain, a topic that we think everyone knows a little bit about but nobody knows everything about.


First we’ll look at our learning objectives for this course. Learning design is as much art as it is science and the key objectives here are to learn key terms pertaining to blockchain technology, understand conceptually how blockchain works, and apply that understanding to everyday uses of blockchain.


Remember, simplicity is key. We have a tendency with articles or videos to include more than we need. A good rule of thumb: how wouldI explain this to a high school student or a beginner. Always make sure to include a call to action, review day, or some type of additional resource.


If we go into our course structure, this is how we would structure a 10 day blockchain course. The introduction typically goes over how often learners will receive a text, what type of information they’ll receive, and how you’ll measure information. By day 6 we’ll see the educator do a review, asking questions to make sure the learner is following along, and by day 10 they’ll include a wrap up with supplemental information.


For introduction to blockchain, let’s use a story day to explain blockchain. In this instance, we’re explaining an auditorium full of people holding clipboards. Ryan pays Michael 5 bitcoin, and everyone in the audience records this transaction. Now, let’s say Michael doesn’t want to pay Ryan and erases his own clipboard. Ryan simply compares his clipboard with everyones in the room, and since more than half doesn’t have that change, it’s invalid. The day then goes on to explain if every person here is a computer, that’s what blockchain is. It’s millions of computers recording who paid who what, making it nearly impossible to make up a payment that never happened.


Again, in this first day we don’t use a lot of heavy knowledge around nodes and systems, and get the learner to understand very simply and conceptually what blockchain is, only bringing in the terms in later days. We ran this course with high school students, and many texted back that they understood well. We then ran the course with many individuals over the age of 40 in a corporate learning environment, and found similar results.


This was really telling for us because it showed by keeping to this model of incredibly simplicity, learners of all ages and backgrounds responded well. When we skip a few days ahead to day 6, we can reference this same story in our review day. We’ve learned what blockchain is, a system of millions of computers recording transactions. Since each computer is keeping a record there’s no single source and it’s therefore decentralized. So this review day goes through this very quickly because it’s just a review of this content. This entire day might be multiple choice questions.


And the last example we’ll look at is just this short case study day. So we’ve found that these are really effective for learners to apply this type of learning. Here’s a CTO at a large healthcare company discussing using blockchain for sensitive data. It talks about the use of smart contracts, discussed earlier and now put into context.


Now, learners have learned the concept of blockchain, reviewed it a few days later and applied new concepts to that understanding in the case study by putting each of their newly learned terms into a real world context. By the end of this short course, they’ve gotten an application of what it is, and how it can apply to the real world. Our learning designer ended this on “Now it’s your turn! What’s one real world application you can see with this technology?”


If you would like to see example courses, access a white paper, or download any of the course guides or templates we’ve used, just head to for everything to help you build a text message course!

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