One of the most important tools tech employees have in their arsenal is their thirst for continued education. Employers meet this need by paying for opportunities to learn and sending employees to conferences and trade shows. While these opportunities are useful, many employers are beginning to see the benefit in creating their own courses. By capitalizing on industry knowledge and existing expertise, companies can create courses for employees to improve their understanding of the technology that directly relates to their job, task or career path in order to improve performance and productivity.

Even better than a course held in a company conference room or lecture hall is an online course, available on the company’s server or intranet for employees to take at their convenience. These online learning opportunities remove the pressure of taking a large chunk from a work day and allow employees to set their own pace for learning.

Before you begin, determine your goals. What is the value for your employees? Being able to say you offer continuing education to employees isn’t a good reason – and creating a course for that reason alone is a waste of valuable time. Are you hoping this course will help your team achieve a better understanding of specific technical subject matter? Will it help them improve their productivity? Once you pinpoint the reason – and the need – for the course, you’re ready to move to the drawing board.

Step 1: Focus on timely and relevant subject matter.

If you keep abreast of technology news, you know what’s happening in the industry. As larger issues, like the WannaCry ransomware threat, or product updates, like a new Apple operating system, arise, pay attention to the questions and discussions that surround them. It’s likely your tech team shares these questions and curiosities, whether or not they’ve voiced them. When you take note of public opinion and relevant discussion, you’re provided with inspiration for an in-depth course that falls in line with a current need.

If you’re not plugged into the latest technology headlines, join online communities where industry experts fuel discussions surrounding the tech landscape. You can spot trends in these arenas, enabling you to get ahead of the next round of questions by creating an online course in a subject users will need to know next.

Are you also interested in learning more about the trending topic? Take the time to create the course yourself, and you can brush up on your existing knowledge and master the content you’ll be presenting.

Step 2: Leverage in-house expertise.

Now that you’re aware of the topic, make sure to bring experts into the fold. You’ll want to leverage in-house subject matter experts to prepare the lesson and be available for questions and discussions, both online and in the office. Technology professionals with certifications and experience have a lot to offer. By giving them a platform to share their knowledge with their colleagues, you’re showing you value what they bring to the table. You can also tap into passionate employees who may not have specific certifications but would gladly welcome the opportunity to dive into a topic and then educate their colleagues on their findings.

Along the way, cross-reference materials and best practices in order to ensure the tips and education being offered are, indeed, what your employees need to know.

In order to create an online course that your employees can enjoy and understand, you’ll also want to bring in experts who can record screen activity, document presentations and perfect the sound for optimal production quality.

Step 3: Make it a recurring series.

In technology, there’s always more to learn. The topics you teach in July may not be relevant in September. In the case of security, for example, it’s important to prepare your development and IT teams with the latest information on what risks exist and how to protect against them. And that’s an example of just one area of technology that’s constantly in flux.

Creating a recurring online course on a particular subject offers the opportunity to gather feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of each course. What are your employees saying about the material? Was its process and explanation in-depth enough, or did it leave them with lingering questions? Continuously improve your online course so that your employees can continue to improve.

As the online course grows, take time to explore misconceptions and debates surrounding the topics you discuss. This will keep the content interesting and provide your employees with the opportunity to think critically about the matter at hand.

Step 4: Provide actionable items.

When each online course is finished, your employees may think, “Great! Now, what?” Clearly defining the value and goals at the outset of each online course will guide employees toward specific actions. Maybe you want them to implement the latest security protocol to one of the offsite servers; make that a task they need to tackle before the next online course. Maybe you want them to research best practices for a specific software update; have them perform the task and bring their findings to the next discussion on the software.

Follow-up instructions provide greater opportunity for your team to retain the course material by reinforcing tips and outlining principles with real-life applications. Concrete action steps also provide a way for employees to showcase their newfound knowledge and implement new protocols in business processes, benefitting the organization’s productivity.

If you’re planning to create an online course for your tech employees, follow these steps to make it strong, insightful, cutting-edge and iterative.