How To Create a Course Outline The Easiest Way with a Template

Article by Sona Hoveyan / Updated at .25 Mar 2024
10 min read
How To Create a Course Outline The Easiest Way with a Template

Are you all excited about your online course idea and don’t know where to start? Then, you definitely need to think about preparing your course outline. Fear not! Having your course outline done takes far less time than you can imagine. Afterward, you can proceed to prepare the curriculum,  create your online course, and start selling it

In this article, you are about to find out:

  • Why do you need to write a course outline?
  • What advantages does your course outline offer for you and for the students?
  • How are a course program and training program different?
  • How can you create your course outline easily?
  • The best practices for writing a course outline from Jessica Terzakis herself

By the end of this article, you will get a template you just need to fill out to have your online course outline ready. 

What’s the purpose of creating a course outline?

What exactly is the purpose of writing a course outline? Simply, it's like a roadmap for your course, outlining what you'll cover and how you'll get there. Its purpose is to provide structure and clarity, both for you as the creator and for your students.

So, what goes into a course outline? Typically, it includes 

  • an overview of the course,
  • learning objectives, 
  • topics to be covered, 
  • the order of the modules, 
  • and any supporting materials and resources you might have, including assessment. 

Think of it as the skeleton of your course, providing a framework for everything else to build upon.

But why is the course outline so important? For you as an online course creator, it serves as a blueprint, keeping you focused and organized throughout the course creation process. It ensures you don't miss any crucial topics, provide tangible results with your course, and helps you maintain a logical flow. 

Equally important, the course outline is valuable for your students. It sets clear expectations, allowing them to see what they'll learn, how they'll progress, and what they will achieve. This transparency can increase student engagement and motivation, as they know exactly what to expect from the course.

The difference between a course outline and a training outline 

What is the difference between a course outline and a training outline? While they may seem similar, there are some key distinctions. 

course outline typically pertains to an educational program, like an online course, providing a structured plan for learning. On the other hand, a training outline is often used in corporate or professional settings to guide the delivery of specific skills or knowledge. 

Both share the common goal of providing direction. However, the course outline tends to focus more on broader educational objectives, and the training outline zeroes in on practical skills and competencies. 

So, whether you're writing a course or a training program, the steps below will help you start and complete your outline in less than 2 hours. 

Working on a computer

Step-by-step guide to creating a course outline  

After you have validated your online course idea, it’s time to act and get into the process. Writing an outline for your online course is way easier than you think. It does not have to be some 30 pages long! In this case, simplicity is the key. To help you prepare a course outline that legit works, our team asked Jessica Terzakis, an online course creator and curriculum & instructional expert at Terzakis and Associates, to share her best practices with you. 

As Jessica mentions, all you need to do to put your course outline together is find out the answers to the following questions:

  • What's your outcome?
  • What are the topics and modules that you need to take people through?
  • What are the mini steps your students are going to take within each step?
  • What supporting documents and items do they need?

Let’s get deeper into each step and put your online course outline together with Jessica. 

Step 1: Understand who your students are 

This may sound basic and a little cliché, but creating your ideal student profiles is so crucial. It helps you understand who this course will best suit. As you find out more about the target students for your specific course, choosing activities & supporting materials and coming up with particular course topics becomes as smooth as butter. 

What you want to know about them is: 

  • why might they be searching for your course? This is their pain point and the problem you want to solve. 
  • what are their interests and motivations?
  • what do they already know about your course topic?
  • what are they hoping to learn

You can find answers to all of these questions as you conduct research on demographics and psychographic. 

See more: How to Identify Your Target Audience for Your Online Course

Step 2: Set the learning outcome 

The next step toward creating a course outline is putting down the learning outcome. 

Learning outcomes are clear, measurable statements that describe what students should know, understand, or be able to do after completing a course. They serve as specific targets for student learning and guide your course's instructional activities and assessments. 

Jessica Terzakis applies the  “Backward Design” teaching principle when writing her outlines. What does this mean? Backward design emphasizes the importance of focusing on the desired learning outcomes rather than the topics that must be addressed. 

  • First, you need to identify the results your students are going to achieve by the end of the course,
  • create assessment tasks
  • plan the exercise and activities. 

If we are creating a course about Financial accounting, a typical outcome may be: 

Prepare and interpret financial statements, including balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, demonstrating proficiency in applying Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.”

What makes this outcome statement good? 1) It starts with an action verb; 2) It is measurable.

Pro Tip from JessicaThe challenging part about putting an online course outline together is staying focused. Stay focused on the outcome! 

See more: How to Develop Great Learning Outcomes in 5 Steps

Step 3: Break it down into modules and subtopics

Now, you have your course title written at the top of the page, followed by the learning outcome. 

The next step to preparing your course outline is dividing the main topic into different subtopics and getting your online course modules organized. 

What you do NOT want to do is have your module topics too general and include too much in a single module. The more specific they are, the better. 
Start by brainstorming some ideas on what main points you want to cover in your course. These are the topics you are most frequently asked questions about. As you have them in the list, try to organize them in hierarchical order. The principle you employ while organizing the topic is all up to you. For example, you can choose to go from easier to more complex topics. Once the main module names are ready, break them down into further topics to plan all the modules altogether

To make things easier, you can refer to the final learning outcome you initially put into the outline. As you can see, this course outcome suggests a certain goal. Break this goal into milestones and dedicate a module for each

Here is how your module structure can look like: 

You can then proceed to write descriptions for the modules you outlined. It will give your students a general idea of what the module will cover and what they will be able to do by the end of it. 

Step 4: Choose the supporting resources 

Your online course outline is not only about the topics the course includes. It is also about the additional materials you want to include. 

Besides the theory and lecture, practical materials and resources should be available to help your students. So, evaluate all the assets you have in terms of resources and think of what you might need that you haven’t created yet. 

You are sure to have something valuable you can repurpose and add to the course. Such materials can include:

  • PDF files,
  • a blog article, 
  • additional video or audio content, 
  • worksheets,
  •  case studies, 
  • workbooks, 
  • small guides,
  • templates, 
  • even virtual games related to your course topic, etc. 

You get the idea! 
Pro Tip: Do not include irrelevant materials or too many materials just for the sake of it. Choose only the resources that support your overall goal and the learning outcomes you set. 

Besides the additional materials and resources, Jessica Terzakis also mentions the action steps she wants her students to take within each topic. 

Let’s suppose you are offering a course on “How to use YouTube for brand awareness”. In this case, you want your students to set up their YouTube accounts first. 

Step 5: Include the assessment 

Time to find out whether you achieved the measurable learning outcomes. And yes! Assessment can also be included in your course outline. Here are a few assessment types you can include in your online course outline:

  • Interactive quizzes and tests will be used to test the students' knowledge after completing each module. They may include multiple-choice questions, true/false statements, short answer questions, etc. 
  • “Homework assignments' that can assess the students’ application of the course content. For example, if you are conducting a copywriting course, you may want to assign them to write a lead-magnet landing page copy for a particular brand. 
  • Final tests are usually followed by awarding a certificate upon successful completion. 

Whichever of these options may be suitable for you, make sure to take corresponding notes when writing your course outline. 

Write your course outline with this example template 

Looking for a course outline template to get started? Here it comes! You can copy this example in Google Docs to fill it out or download our 4-week course outline template


Course Name: 

Learning Outcome: 


  • Welcome
  • What will this course cover?

Module 1



Lesson 1 

Video lecture 1

Additional reading materials

Quiz 1 

Lesson 2 

Video Lecture 2 


Quiz 2


Lesson 3 


Module 2





Video lecture 3

Reading materials 

Quiz 3 

Ready to start writing your course outline? 

As you can see, your course outline can help you stay organized and focused. It includes what you'll teach and when, keeping both you and your students on track. 

To prepare your course outline, you will need to:

  • Define your course objectives: what do you want your students to learn?
  • Break it down into modules or sections: organize your content logically.
  • Outline each module: list the key topics and learning points.
  • Create a timeline: decide when each module will be covered.
  • Add additional resources, like quizzes, and do not forget about the action steps. 

We do hope our 4-week course outline template helps you to get into writing. 

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