Secrets of Successful E Learning Course Design

For every learner who reports a good experience using e learning, there are many more who can vouch for a truly terrible experience. The typical criticism from these dissatisfied learners is the e learning course they took was boring. Usually, they report, it involved nothing more than clicking though endless screens of uninspiring content. Many dissatisfied learners vow they will do their very best to avoid taking an e learning course ever again.

If this describes your reaction or the reaction of learners in your organisation, then read on. This article introduces a different, boredom-busting approach to e learning course design, guaranteed to keep your learners engaged, motivated and (most important) learning.

The first step to success involves moving away from a highly content-centric approach to your course design. Is content important? Absolutely. Should it be the sole driving force behind your development? Probably not.

If this seems like a puzzling response, consider this. The more you focus on content at the very beginning of your development process, the more likely you are to end up with a highly structured content outline that reads like a book. And two key things to remember about e learning. It’s not about creating an online book and it’s definitely not about creating an online presentation. Save the latter for the lecture hall and the former for your Kindle.

So if it ‘s not about conveying structured information, what is it about?

Let’s think for a moment about your learners and what they might be doing in a typical day of their working lives. Whatever their job role, it’s more than likely that they need knowledge and skills to solve problems, make decisions and carry out a variety of tasks, some repetitive and frequent, others more complex and infrequent.

So why not create your e learning to better reflect your learners’ reality, rather than just pounding them over the head with abstract content? It’s not that they don’t need content – it’s just that they need to discover and learn it in a meaningful, memorable and motivating way.

To achieve that, you need to adopt a broad, four-pronged approach to your development. How do you start? Choose a context for your learning. What will be familiar to your learners? Look at the context (or contexts) that they work in everyday. Perhaps it’s an office, or a warehouse or a customer service desk. Whatever their work environment, there will be any number of familiar contexts just waiting to be used.

Within that context, there will almost certainly be challenges your learners have to meet, so choose a challenge that your learners will have to meet that is relevant to the learning and fits naturally within your chosen context.

To meet the challenge you are setting them, your learners will have to carry out some tasks or activities. It’s likely there may be more than one right way to meet the challenge, so give your learners options. Allow them to experiment and try different approaches (through a variety of tasks) to see which gets the best (and the worst) outcome.

Finally, provide plenty of feedback. Not just the ‘yes, that’s right/no that’s wrong’ type, but detailed feedback on the tasks they have carried out and the decisions they have made. This could be situational or instructional or a combination of the two. In short, the secret to successful e learning course design is escaping the highly content-centric approach to e learning typically used by very many designers.