How Test Prototypes Can Help You Structure Better Online Courses

7 Min Read
How Test Prototypes Can Help You Structure Better Online Classes

Today, we’ll discuss how Test Prototypes can help you structure better online courses. Whether you are new or old to the eLearning industry, designing an online class can always be a daunting task and no one is immune to making mistakes. However, you can reduce the chances of making any blunders if you use the help of the right tools — like Test Prototypes. 

In this article, we’re going to define what a Test Prototype is, why it is necessary, how to build one, and more. To find out all of the deets, stick around until the end! 

What is a Test Prototype

A Test Prototype, more often known simply as Prototype, is a model that you can use to imitate what the final product will be like. It is quite a popular concept, not just in course development but in other product development sectors as well.

As the name suggests, a Test Prototype is essentially a rough representation of the real thing and is mainly used for testing and getting feedback.

For an eLearning course, this feedback will help you identify any issues or gaps in your course structure and you can make changes and improvements where required.

Why Use a Test Prototype

Now that you know what Test Prototypes are, it’s time to take a look at the ways in which they can help you structure better online courses.

1. Helps Identify Issues Early On

Using Prototypes, you’ll be able to identify any problems at two points in time. The first is during Prototype development — you’ll be able to identify which ideas are not working out while trying to implement them. You’ll also be able to pinpoint other issues that need fixing during this process.

The second is during the actual testing stage. Test Users can experience the Prototype and weed out issues and recognize points of improvement easily.

2. Saves Time and Effort

Because the issues get caught earlier on, this usually means way less of a hassle to make the required changes. This leads to saving precious time and effort in the long run.

For instance, consider Lecture Videos. In a Prototype, lecture videos are usually substituted by their scripts in case you need to make any changes. If they do find an issue, then you can simply edit the script without having to waste time and effort re-recording the whole lecture.

3. Helps You Try Out Your Ideas

As mentioned in an earlier point, there are often instances where an idea may seem good in theory but not in practice. This can be a problem but with the help of Prototypes, you’ll be able to put them to the test and maybe even figure out a different way to make them work.

4. Attracts Stakeholders and Sponsors

Test Prototypes also allow Stakeholders and Sponsors to experience what the end product will be like. Through this, they can get a good gist of the course firsthand instead of trying to imagine it. 

This means they understand the proposed product better and makes it easier to gain their support. It also helps them to pinpoint which areas they would like to fix or improve.

Prototypes VS Storyboards

Storyboarding is another popular instructional design concept that you can apply while planning out your courses. Which begs the question — how does Storyboarding differ from Prototyping?

Well, as you know, Prototypes are mock-ups closer to the end product. However, Storyboards are like the blueprint to an online course and are much more abstract. 

As such, Storyboards are particularly helpful during the early stages of course creation. These let you “put your ideas on paper” whereas Prototypes usually come into play closer to the final leg of course creation i.e Testing and Feedback.

Moreover, you can build Prototypes using PPT software or even using the same Authoring Tool used to create the final version of the online course. We discuss both options in detail at a later point in this article.

On the flip side, you can implement Storyboards in a doc, presentation, or dedicated Storyboarding software and you’ll even find various course Storyboarding templates available on the internet.

With Prototypes, stakeholders are also able to interactively experience what the final course will be like. Whereas with Storyboards, they would still have to use their imagination to understand what the final outcome will be like based on the information provided.

How to Create a Test Prototype

Now it’s time to get to the meat of the matter — how to create a Test Prototype for your online course? Well, you can do this in various ways, each with its pros and cons.

Using PowerPoint Presentations

One popular option is using Presentation software. You can create one PPT file as a course overview and a file for each course topic/module with several slides for each lesson. 

Now, the reason why PPTs work for this is that you can do the following: 

  • Use Slideshow Mode to help mimic the lesson/learning mode in an online class.
  • Add animation to make it interactive for the test users to imitate actual course navigation.
  • Easily include any demo versions of the graphics and other media.
  • Attach additional resource material files as Objects.
  • Display colors, themes, and brand logos.

All in all, this is a great option but this approach does have its limitations. Let’s go over what these are:

  • Creating so many PPT files, formatting their content, adding animation, etc. will be a very time-consuming process.
  • With so many separate files, the course journey won’t be obvious nor will it be seamless making it a tedious experience for the Stakeholders.
  • The Prototype in this form is not reusable in any way once testing is over and you’ve got the go-ahead to proceed.

Using an eLearning Authoring Tool

Now another option is using an eLearning Authoring Tool. This is a tool you can use to build your eLearning courses similar to how people use Code Editors and IDEs to build applications. 

And because Authoring Tools are used to create courses, they are also the perfect tool to build eLearning Test Prototypes. 

And here, we’d like to suggest Tutor LMS, a WordPress LMS plugin for this purpose as this is an LMS with a built-in authoring tool. This means you can use the same tool to create courses as well as store, sell, and track them.

With Tutor LMS, you’ll get all of the advantages you may have gotten with a PPT and more but none of its disadvantages and this will be clear with the list below:

  • You can build a Test Prototype that will imitate the final course as closely as possible.
  • It’s much faster and simpler even if you have no prior experience in building an eLearning Test Prototype or course.
  • Stakeholders can easily interact with the Test Prototype as if they’re taking the actual class.
  • You can define course structure by creating not only topics and lessons but also quizzes and assignments as well as scheduling live classes.
  • Get a seamless course journey and navigation.
  • Easily include any demo versions of the graphics and other media.
  • Display colors, themes, and brand logos.
  • Once it is okayed, you can apply the changes required to this Prototype and simply add the final touches until it transforms into the completed version of your online course.

Bonus: More Course Planning Deliverables

It might interest you to know that apart from Test Prototypes and Storyboards, other deliverables may also help you in your instructional design journey. In this section, we’ll briefly introduce two such entities.

Course Design Documents

This is an important deliverable that outlines in detail what the final course will entail. While producing this, you can collaborate with the stakeholders so you are all on the same page. 

Listed below are a few suggestions of what to include in a Design Document but know that this can take many forms so you can include anything else you deem necessary:

  • Tone and style,
  • Teaching Strategies,
  • Evaluation Strategies and Criteria,
  • Supporting Materials, 
  • References and more!


Next up are Scripts. It’s crucial that you write a Script for every lesson even if it’s a live class instead of a video lecture. This will help ensure that your lecture is well-structured, informative, and paced just so which is hardly possible if you simply “wing it”.

You can also read your script aloud to help you recognize and avoid complicated phrasing, the use of too much jargon as well as repeated wording. Having your Scripts ready will also mean you can get them looked over by your stakeholders and receive their go-ahead before recording.

Nail That Course Structure

So now that you know how Test Prototypes and other tools can help you structure better online courses, what are you waiting for? It’s time for you to start your instructional design journey and nail that course structure!

Of course, if you have any queries or suggestions do give us a shout in the comments below. We’re always looking forward to hearing from you. Until then, cheerio!