Structured for Success: Building a Strong Course Backbone

When you decide to teach a course on Udemy, that decision impacts the lives of hundreds of students from around the world. There are many factors that influence whether students depart your course discouraged, satisfied, or ecstatic, and we’d like to focus on one of the most fundamental: course structure.

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Course structure is the backbone of a Udemy course – everything flows from it. A good outline guides the creation of your course, and your course in turn guides your students’ learning journey.

Let’s start from the beginning. You have an idea for a course, so what do you do next? Or maybe you have an existing course that you’re ready to re-evaluate with an eye on structure.

This article will cover how to structure your course from the bottom up. We’ll start by choosing the right learning objectives for your course. Then we’ll look at how developing section-level learning objectives guides what content you include (and makes for a smooth course creation process). Finally, we’ll give some tips on structuring individual lectures that have proved to increase student engagement!


Establishing strong learning objectives from the get-go will dictate your course content and structure.

At the end of my course, students will be able to…Fill in the rest! What skills will students have after completing the course? What will they be able to accomplish?

  • Think actionable: Empower students to take action. After completing your course they should be able to apply their newfound knowledge in the real world, whether this takes the form of a new daily yoga routine or a new social media marketing strategy implemented at work.
  • Think big picture: Don’t go into detail on every single thing you’ll teach (save this for your course summary). Rather, focus on the 2-4 overarching goals of the course – how will your course ultimately improve or enrich your student’s life? Check out the following example:

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Who should take this course? Who should not?: Ask yourself, who is your ideal student? Pinpointing your target audience will greatly influence how you structure the course. If you’re ever confused about what to include when creating your course, just think of this ideal student. What do they need? Include it.

Now that you’ve thought through strong learning objectives and identified your target audience, add them into the Learning Objectives section of your draft course. If your course is already published, go back and rework your learning objectives to make sure they’re following this structure.


Decide what skills or knowledge your students will need to master along the way to achieve these overarching learning objectives.

  1. Translate each topic you intend on covering into an individual learning goal. For example, the learning objective for Section 2 of an Astronomy course could be “Compare different models and select the appropriate telescope for your needs.”
  2. Make sure these individual learning goals are ordered logically. Put yourself in your students’ shoes: what’s the smoothest and clearest way to get from point A to point B?
  3. Go to your course Curriculum and create a new section for each of these individual learning goals. Then actually write in your section-level learning objectives. Students will see these as they go through your course! If you have an existing course, add the appropriate section-level learning objectives into your existing sections.


You’ve determined your students’ final destination and illuminated the steps to get them there. Now here are a few ways to ensure your students have a smooth and enjoyable learning journey.

In your introductory lecture(s), be sure to include the following:

  1. Reiterate the overarching learning objectives – what will students get out of the course?
  2. Describe who the ideal student for the course is.
  3. Introduce yourself as the instructor and explain your background in the topic – this will establish credibility and trust.

Add a summary/conclusion lecture at the end of each section to sum up the key takeaways and transition into the next section. If you have an existing course, a summary text lecture is an easy addition that will greatly improve your students’ learning experience!

Include an introductory sentence at beginning of each lecture. Here’s an example: “Welcome back! In this lecture, we’ll learn how to [x]. Let’s get started!”

Teach just one topic per lecture, rather than several.

  • Stay focused: You might be able to squeeze several topics into a 20-minute lecture, but that doesn’t mean you should. Focused lectures result in higher student engagement!
  • Think bite-sized: Students should be able to consume your course wherever they may be – at home, on the bus, or on a lunch break. Lectures are a way to break your course into easily consumable chunks. For more recommendations on lecture length, go here.

Congratulations! You now have a strong structure for your Udemy course. And remember, following through is just as important as laying the foundation – make sure you deliver!

Ready to get started?

Edit your Learning Objectives
Edit your Section-Level Learning Objectives
Edit your Curriculum