The difference between a book and a course

Often we get asked “What is the difference between a book and a course?” or “Why build a course when I have a book, aren’t they the same thing?” Great questions, and the simple answer is that one is about information, while the other is about transformation.

A book is very informational. Generally it contains great stories, such as the transformation the author went on, plants important ideas in the mind of the reader, and can inspire the reader to take action. However, it doesn’t usually provide the reader with the actionable steps (or the tools and templates) needed for their own transformation.

A course is much more transformational. While it provides information (and should be telling some stories as well) it can be much more transformational, providing the student with not just knowledge but also the skills to implement the knowledge and change behaviour or perform tasks better.

Both are based on the same content, but the structure, focus, and tone are all very different.

15 other differences between a book and a course

1. Courses are more dynamic.

An online course can have a range of dynamic learning assets, including videos, animations, gifs, slideshows etc. while a book will simply have words and pictures.

2. Courses provide greater engagement.

  1. An online course allows for engagement between the student and the facilitator, to ask questions or solve problems. It can also be a great opportunity for social learning with others students in the community.

3. Additional resources can be easily provided in an online course.

It is very difficult to provide downloadable worksheets, templates or tools in a paper based book.

4. Courses are interactive.

An online course can have a range of interactive features (quizzes, branching scenarios, click to reveal more information, etc.) which is virtually impossible with a paper based book.

5. A book doesn’t rely on technology.

An online course will require some device (laptop, ipad, phone) and internet connectivity to access the content. A paper based book can be accessed in any situation, without technology issues. eBooks and audible books will have the same issues as an online course.

6. Online courses are easier to update.

Books are difficult and costly to update and they can quickly become out of date. Courses can be updated very quickly and easily so the latest information can always be provided.

7. A good course is learner focused.

By applying great learning design an online course should be learner focused, delivering ruthlessly relevant content to the students. This doesn’t usually happen when authoring a book so all of the information may not be as relevant for the reader.

8. A course can be personalised.

Built with the right tools, an online course can provide personalised content based on the choices or answers made by a student, making the information they receive personalised to their individual needs. A book provides everyone with the same content.

9. Progress and activity can be monitored and evaluated in a course.

An online course provides the opportunity for both the student and facilitator to track their progress. A faciltator can measure how engaged students are in parts of the course. With a paper book you have no idea if the reader has completed the book, let alone even started reading it.

10. It is much harder to learn from a book.

It can take a lot of effort to apply what you learn from a book. Part of the value of an online course is how easy it is to take action and get feedback on your actions.

11. A course can fit better with a wider coaching program.

Creating a coaching program that includes content in an online course can provide a better experience, including drip fed content at the right time.

12. A course is (or should be) more accessible.

A book is only words and pictures and is not accessible to anyone that may have visual disabilities. A correctly built online course will have features that make the content accessible to people with disabilities.

13. A course can be gamified.

An online course can include gamification (game based principles) to reward and motivate the student as they work through the course. This may includes points and leaderboards for undertaking activities, or digital badges awarded when a student completes sections of the course, or the entire course.

14. Microcredentials can be issued on completion of a course.

When a learner completes the appropriate amount of content in a course, they can be issued with a digital certificate or badge to recognise completion.

15. A course can be easily leveraged and instantly accessible to almost anyone.

Anyone across the world with internet access can immediately engage in your course content, whereas they will have to wait days (or even weeks) to be sent a physical paper book.

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