Premium course development process

Introduction

The purpose of this section is to guide you through the step-by-step process of developing a premium DataCamp course. The emphasis here is on helping you to stay organized and on schedule and to make it clear what your responsibilities are and how we can help.

We'll set up a GitHub repository (a.k.a. repo) under the DataCamp organization, where all of your course materials will be kept. This will allow us to collaborate seemlessly by keeping everything in one place, tracking changes to documents over time, and providing a system for proposing and merging changes. If you're new to GitHub, visit our Getting started page to get your account set up and linked to DataCamp.

1. Course specs

The first step in the course development process is to develop a detailed blueprint for your course. We call this blueprint the course specs.

In addition to helping you brainstorm topics for the course, you'll define your audience, create some example exercises, write a high-level outline for the material, and tie everything together with a "sales" pitch to students on why they should take your course and what they'll learn.

Your course repository will have some example course specs along with a blank template for your specs and detailed instructions for how to create your own.

2. Exercises

Once your course is fully spec'd and approved, you'll begin working on exercises. There several different flavors of DataCamp exercises, each of which is described in detail here.

We want you to focus on the core content and not get too bogged down in the details associated with the structure of the chapter files or making things interactive. For example, just fill in the following elements for each of these most common exercise types, ideally using the course editor to ease development:

  • VideoExercise
    • Video bullets: Short list of bulleted "talking points" making it clear what will be covered and how that relates to the exercises
    • Video links: For now, just keep the default placeholder links provided
  • NormalExercise
    • Assignment text: Main explanatory text used to introduce concepts and prepare the student to solve the exercise
    • Instructions: Specific instructions the student must follow to solve the exercise
    • Pre-exercise code: Code run behind the scenes to initialize the student's workspace before the exercise begins
    • Sample code: Comments and code provided for the student when the exercise begins
    • Solution: Comments and code representing the correct answer to the exercise
  • MultipleChoiceExercise
    • Assignment text: Explanatory text and the question to be answered
    • Instructions: For multiple choice questions, the "instructions" are actually a list of possible choices

3. Slides and scripts

The videos in your course will show slides with you talking over them. This enables you to walk students through important concepts and examples in a concrete and concise way, preparing them to complete the interactive exercises. The slides will also be made available for reference as students are working through the exercises.

In addition to the slides, you will also script out exactly what you'll say in the videos. Although writing scripts takes some additional time upfront, it makes the recording process far more efficient and the resulting videos significantly more polished and professional.

You will create all slides and scripts in the 'Slide Editing' mode of the course editor. Detailed documentation on this process can be found here.

A few pieces of advice before you get started:

  • Videos should generally be 2-4 minutes a piece, so don't try to cram too many slides into each video
  • Minimize the number of purely conceptual talking points (i.e. bullets)
  • Focus on walking the student through interesting, real-world examples with data, code, and visuals (plots, diagrams, etc.)
  • DataCamp has an account with Shutterstock, letting you include professional images in your slides
  • Think about how the slides will prepare students for the specific exercises that follow
  • Avoid going through the exact same examples you'll have the student work on in the exercises. Instead, vary the examples slightly by, for example, performing the same operations on a different dataset (or different parts of the same dataset) or by performing slightly different operations on the same dataset

4. Screencasts

Screencasts involve recording your computer screen while cycling through your slides and talking over them as if you are recording the full videos. This provides an opportunity to practice before doing your final recordings. We'll also review the overall presentation and provide feedback in plenty of time for you to make adjustments.

It's best to keep this step as simple as possible. If you're using a Mac, we recommend using QuickTime Player to record your screen. If you are on Windows, there are plenty of free software options available for screen recording including Icecream Screen Recorder and CamStudio.

Save all of the screencasts in a single directory called screencasts/ somewhere on your computer, but not in your course repo. The reason for this is that the video files are too large and won't play nicely with Git and GitHub. Instead, once all recordings are complete, we suggest using a free cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive to share the screencasts/ directory with us. Please use simple, organized naming conventions for the files, similar to what you did with the slides (e.g. ch2_3 for the third screencast in chapter 2).

Once we've received the screencasts, we'll upload them to DataCamp so that they appear in your course as placeholders for the final videos. We can then review them in context, alongside the rest of the exercises, and provide feedback in preparation for recording the final videos.

5. Videos

For some courses, we record the instructor on camera. For others, we're able to simply do audio recordings. We'll let you know which it will be as early as possible in the course development process.

After reviewing the screencasts and making any final adjustments to either the slides or the scripts, the next step is to do the final recordings.

If we're recording you on camera, we will fly you to New York City for a day to join us in our professional recording studio. The actual recording process generally takes no longer than 4-6 hours. Don't worry: we'll cover travel expenses and our team is well-trained and prepared to make sure things go smoothly.

If we're recording audio-only, we'll make sure you have the proper equipment set up in your home or office, then give you detailed instructions on how to produce high quality recordings for the course.

Once the videos are recorded, we will review, edit, and merge them with your slides. You'll then use our slide editor to time out the slide animations and make sure everything fits neatly into the course.

6. Review and release

At this point we will put any finishing touches on the course, make sure it's fully interactive, then ask that you review the course in its entirety before it goes live.

Once it does go live, we'll ensure that enough students complete and give feedback on the course to allow us to work out any remaining kinks before we make a big announcement to our students.

During this process, we'll implement as many small adjustments as possible based on the feedback we receive, but we will need your assistance for more substantive changes.

Once everyone agrees we're ready to move forward, we will announce the launch of the course to the world and watch the magic take place. Congrats!

7. Monitor and maintain

Since your course will be exposed to thousands of students all over the world, we will quickly learn of any improvements that need to be made. For small stuff like typos or issues with solution testing, our team will make the necessary adjustments without bothering you. If, however, there are any serious issues with the content that require your expertise or input, we'll be sure to notify you immediately, then work with you to resolve them.

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