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From Novice to Master: Navigating 6 Levels of Expertise in Course Creation

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Picture this: a classroom filled with eager beginners, seasoned practitioners, and true masters of their craft. Each individual represents a unique point on the spectrum of expertise, each with their own insights and challenges.

In the world of knowledge-sharing professions, understanding these different levels of expertise isn’t just helpful—it’s essential. No matter your field or subject, if you want to share your knowledge, understanding this landscape of expertise will help you create more impactful and tailored online courses, programs, and learning experiences.

In this article, I break down what expertise is, the different levels of expertise, and how this can transform the way you create online courses and share knowledge.

What is Expertise?

“Expertise” typically refers to a high level of proficiency, knowledge, and skill in a particular subject or field of study. Therefore, an expert is someone who has extensive knowledge and experience in a particular domain and is recognized as having a deep understanding and ability to perform effectively within that area.

Expertise is often built over time through continuous learning, practice, and practical experience in a particular area. As you gain more experience and knowledge, you develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and become more adept at applying your skills and insights.

6 Levels of Expertise

Expertise can be categorized into six levels to indicate a person’s proficiency, knowledge, and skills in a particular subject or field.


Novices refer to those who are new to a subject or field and have limited knowledge or experience. Novices require guidance and instruction to perform tasks or make decisions.



Beginners are individuals who have acquired some basic knowledge and skills in a particular area but still require substantial guidance and practice to perform tasks independently.



Intermediates have a solid understanding of the subject or field and can perform tasks with a moderate level of independence. They have gained experience and can handle more complex challenges.



Advanced experts possess a deep understanding of the subject or field and can handle complex tasks and challenges. They are capable of working independently and often contribute valuable insights and innovations.



Experts are highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals who have spent years honing their craft. They possess a comprehensive understanding of the subject or field and are often sought out for their insights and guidance. Experts may have made significant contributions to the field through research, practice, or innovation.



Masters are at the pinnacle of expertise. They have achieved a level of proficiency that is recognized and respected by their peers. Masters often have a long history of exceptional accomplishments and are considered leaders or authorities in their field.

Considering Levels of Expertise in Course Creation

Understanding the different levels of expertise can transform the way you create online courses by enabling you to design more effective, engaging, and tailored learning experiences.

Knowing the different levels of expertise can help you:

  • Identify your target audience’s current knowledge and skill level.
    Example: You can design courses that meet people where they’re at—whether they’re novices, beginners, intermediates, or experts.
  • Customize course content to meet the specific needs of learners at different stages of proficiency.
    Example: You can provide foundational content to novices and beginners, advanced content to intermediates, and specialized content to experts.
  • Structure your course content logically and progressively.
    Example: You can create clear learning paths that build upon foundational or intermediate concepts before delving into more advanced or specialized topics.
  • Implement engagement strategies that cater to different types of learners.
    Example: You can provide step-by-step explanations to beginners, whereas you might review case studies or facilitate open discussions with more advanced or expert learners.
  • Design assessments that appropriately challenge learners and measure their progress.
    Example: You can create quizzes that require novices or beginners to recall content or match vocabulary and definitions, while more advanced learners would benefit from challenging problem-solving scenarios or analyzing and critiquing publications.
  • Provide constructive guidance based on learners’ current knowledge and skills.
    Example: You can offer targeted tactical help to novices and more advanced insights or exploratory suggestions to experts.
  • Effectively communicate who you designed the course for.
    Example: You can detail who the course is or isn’t for on your enrollment website, attracting learners at the appropriate knowledge and skill level. You can also provide materials or direction for those who don’t yet meet the minimum qualifications to help with their development and readiness.
  • Explore and adopt creative ways to engage learners at all levels of expertise.
    Example: You can offer multiple pathways that learners can choose based on their expertise—novices can follow one longer path while experts can take a more expedited route. You can also offer self-paced learning and engage novices and experts in creative group discussions or projects where they play different roles.

For a full breakdown of the competencies and expertise required to create online courses successfully, check out Creating Effective Online Courses: Balancing Subject Matter and Instructional Design Expertise.

Incorporating knowledge of expertise levels into your course creation process ensures that your courses are well-structured, engaging, and effective for learners at various stages of proficiency. It allows you to create a learning environment that supports growth, skill development, and meaningful knowledge acquisition. And it shows learners that you’re thinking about how to help them level up.