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How to explain things better in your online course

How to explain things better in your online course

When creating your online course, you may need to break down a complex idea into simpler terms. In what follows, we’ve included a list of recommendations that can help you present your explanations better.

The difference between excellent and poor teachers is how they explain the theories and techniques that make up their subject.

In short, if you can’t explain it clearly, you don’t understand it well enough.

Excellent teachers have a gift for making complex things simple. As a result, they can speed up the learning process for their students.

However, getting this good requires practice. Teachers need to know their subjects very well and take the time to develop their capacity to explain things better.

When creating an online course, teachers need to understand that explaining things is not merely capitalising on someone’s capacity to listen. It also requires teachers to earn a student’s attention and engagement with a high-quality exposition of an idea.

Online course creators can take the following three measures to improve the quality of their explanations.

1. Focus on answering the “why” question

In answering “why” someone should know something early in your explanation, you create a foundation for understanding. On this foundation, you can build more complex ideas.

Remember that your students are human.

Make connections between abstract ideas and everyday life.

Tell a story.

Both approaches provide a way to see how a concept works in the real world, with real people. The best stories often illustrate a person in pain who found a solution and now feels relieved. These simple stories offer a way for students to empathise and imagine themselves solving similar problems.

When possible, always use familiar vocabulary appropriate to your listeners’ language level. If you use unfamiliar terms, you may lose them while explaining. It can seem tempting to use words that sound smart, but you only end up confusing students if you use them.

Your ultimate aim as a teacher when explaining is to make your learners understand. You will only impress them if you have presented your explanation clearly.

2. Avoid bombarding students with too much knowledge at once

Don’t feel tempted to explain everything upfront.

Instead, try to focus on the bigger picture. At least this way, you can get students to appreciate what you are teaching.

Don’t get carried away with the impulse to get everything right.

It’s better to come up with a basic explanation that isn’t technically correct but gets the point across. From there, you can build upon that knowledge and create a more complete, accurate picture.

3. Use transition phrases

Transition phrases can help your students understand how the ideas you are trying to explain connect. When used well, they can highlight order, sequence and relationship. As a result, this can make your explanations a bit more cohesive and easier to understand.

Here are some phrases you can use:

“The reason for…”

“In the same way…”

“On the other hand…”

“Let me put it this way…”

Using transition phrases also helps you break down your idea into manageable chunks.

Closing thoughts

Getting good at explaining things takes time, and you will make some mistakes on the way.

But don’t get discouraged.

Remember: learning isn’t limited to a personal understanding of a subject.

It can also be about understanding things in a way that allows you to share them with those around you.

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Amorelli, J., 2019. How to explain anything to anyone: 4 steps to clearer communication. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021].

LeFever, L., 2013. Battle-Tested Tips for Effective Explanations. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021].

Sherrington, T., 2013. Great Lessons 6: Explaining. [online] teacherhead. Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2021].