How Easy Is It/Will It Be to Use AI to Design a Course?

Last week I received a text message from a friend to check out a March 29th Campus Technology article about French AI startup, Nolej. Nolej (pronounced “Knowledge”) has developed an OpenAI-based instructional content generator for educators called NolejAI.

Access to NolejAI is through a browser. Users can upload video, audio, text documents, or a website url. NolejAI will generate an interactive micro-learning package which is a standalone digital lesson including content transcript, summaries, a glossary of terms, flashcards, and quizzes. All the lesson materials generated is based upon the uploaded materials.

After the user completes their edits, the interactive lesson can be pushed to Google Classroom, downloaded as SCORM or HTML5 code to place in an LMS or on a website, or the URL to the lesson can be sent to students who can complete the assignment from their browser. Nolej states that the embedded code will work with Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace, and edX and other LMSs.

The product will commercially launch on April 19. The pre-launch version is available now in a free-trial mode for educators and instructional designers. The free-trial mode allows you to generate up to five lessons at no charge.

I signed up for Nolej and quickly tested its capabilities. I loaded a url link to a pdf document that was 45 pages (the current max is 50 pages). As advertised, Nolej created a summary, glossary, flashcards, and an 80-question quiz. It took approximately six minutes to complete that after I uploaded the document. I was impressed. Pricing for educators or instructional designers is $39.99 per month which includes 20 credits for 20 lessons. An annual subscription is $399.99 and includes 280 credits for 280 lessons. Assuming that your intent is to build eight-week courses and each week has a different lesson, you could build 8 lessons for each of 35 courses with the annual subscription. I suspect that a three-credit hour course will have more than eight lessons over eight weeks, but the pricing seems fair given the efficiencies the software provides.

If the NolejAI capabilities continue to improve (as most AI products do), this has huge implications for instructional design. Instructional designers are in high demand. Many colleges have a backlog in courses awaiting the conversions from their faculty members’ syllabi to online courses honed through the expertise of instructional designers. While I did not test the video or audio capabilities of NolejAI, if it works as effectively and quickly as it did with my 45-page document, it will save instructors a lot of time. The product could still be handed off to instructional designers to polish it, but I believe the timeliness of course updates as well as the quality of courses will be enhanced through this product.

Even though Nolej works with OpenAI technology that is used to construct ChatGPT-4 and DALL-E, I think other products may be needed to help instructors generate content. One product that I have found to generate content and source its facts is AI-Writer. I have tested that product on a limited basis. Each content request is limited to 500 words (up to 1200 words for subscribers) and takes approximately five minutes to generate. You can ask the model to regenerate/reword the article, and you can ask it to edit it for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can also ask it to pull out the subtopics as well as publish the article to WordPress. Like ChatGPT-4, AI-Writer needs more polishing. For my test, I asked it to write an article about me. Approximately 40 percent of the content generated was accurate, and the rest was completely wrong. The sources were correct for the accurate and inaccurate statements though.

If sources aren’t required, but you might need assistance in generating content (or relieving your writer’s block), a product that I have found useful is ShortlyAI. You can begin with a single factual sentence (if you are writing non-fiction) or a single prose sentence (if you are writing fiction), and the model will complete a paragraph. It’s quite good for writer’s block. It does not, however, provide sources for the followup content.

Another product that a friend of mine uses to supplement his writing is LongshotAI. LongshotAI gives you a few categories to select when you access the software. You can inform it that you intend to generate content for a blog, e-books, reports, case-studies, marketing copies, product descriptions, and other. There are multiple plans available ranging from free for content enhancers and limited to 50 credits, $19/month for pros limited to 1,000 monthly credits or 50,000 words, team options for 3,000 credits (150,000 words) up to five users for $49/month, and $299/month for agencies for 30,000 monthly credits or 1 million words/month and unlimited users. I haven’t tried LongshotAI yet, but its pricing seems very reasonable, particularly for a company or even an academic department or school.

OpenAI has an image generating product, DALL-E. I have used DALL-E. It took me a while to learn how to generate prompts in a manner that gave me the image I wanted. It responds to precise commands such as “generate a black and white cat lying on the left side of a blue couch.” I have read that you cannot copyright its image generation. There may be an issue that it uses copyrighted images. I don’t know. I heard about Adobe’s AI image generator called Firefly. This product is current in beta, but you can see that it uses a wide range of Adobe image generation capabilities.

I am sure it’s only a matter of time before NolejAI or another product becomes capable of generating a standard three credit hour college course. Whether that is six months or two years, it’s likely sooner than we think. It’s also possible that an LMS company will build or license instructional design capabilities into its LMS. Imagine the capabilities if instructors can update and enhance their courses as frequently as needed without sending the course to an instructional design team. That would be extremely valuable as many colleges and universities are currently seeking to expand their online course and program offerings. It might also increase the quantity and quality of available Open Educational Resources (OER). As usual, I look forward to hearing about your findings and experiences in this rapidly developing field.

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence