Toward the Goal of Creating Better and More Effective eLearning

Designing Digitally


elearning Designing Digitally

Although eLearning within the corporate environment may seem ubiquitous, it bears keeping in mind that compared with traditional techniques, this method of training is still in its infancy. In fact, the term “eLearning” was first used as recently as 1999, soon to be followed by others like “online learning,” “virtual learning” and similar variations. But despite its rather recent origins, eLearning has quickly earned a spot as one of the most important ways in which we deliver training today.

As with any new technology, eLearning is still developing into its full potential and is undergoing many changes along the way. The development of new eLearning techniques, methods and styles continues to evolve as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. And it’s this evolution that drives those of us in eLearning design toward the creation of better and more effective eLearning courses.

The Starting Point

At the core of any effective eLearning course is a definitive and measurable learning objective. All of the simulations, slick graphics, interactions and activities have to begin with a learning objective that matches the performance outcome you hope to achieve. Too many eLearning courses seem to miss this crucial first step, in favor of creating what is possible – not what is effective. Remember that it is the objective of any eLearning course to affect a change in the behavior of the training recipient.

It is also important when discussing learning objectives in the context of eLearning to establish “do” objectives. The challenge, of course, then becomes how to develop activities within your eLearning that allow learners to practice the “doing” of a task. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including simulation activities, first person virtual reality, interactive branching scenarios and other techniques.

The Techniques

Once the performance outcome has been identified and the learning objective defined, the real task of eLearning development can begin, right? Well, not just yet actually. First we need to understand what it really takes to effectively deliver skills-based information in a self-paced setting. That means designing for the success of your learners by starting off slowly, which allows them to build their confidence. Take care however not to insult their intelligence or put them to sleep. Here are some of the techniques that go into eLearning development.

  • Offer simple challenges first, then increase the level of difficulty Include different scenarios that represent real-world situations
  • Repeat challenges using slightly different scenarios to allow for practice of learned skills
  • Provide alternative “distractor” choices to challenge any misconceptions
  • Provide relevant and meaningful feedback
  • Allow for different skill levels and rates of progress
  • Reward success


Understanding the conceptual relationships between how things work is a complex process. We as cognitive human beings tend to base what we learn on things we already know. In order to ensure your training recipients are learning the lessons and techniques you want them to, there is a need for context, examples and practice. Without these critical components a learner may make the wrong associations, begin to go off-course, and ultimately give up on the training. It is the job of course designers to ensure our learners don’t get discouraged or lost in our training. In order to prevent this we should provide them with models as a way to explain the context of our lesson, examples for them to follow, and the opportunity for them to practice what they’ve learned. Providing these contextual models in different ways, i.e. diagrams, animations, text, etc. offers your learners even more opportunity for success.

One final message is to never forget the goal of eLearning design. Positive change in the behavior of the learner is the primary objective. It is understandably tempting for L&D professionals to want to include every new technique or tool available; but if it doesn’t fit the lesson, it is not to the benefit of the learner or the organization.

Here at Designing Digitally our expert eLearning team will help to determine what your learners need to know, develop the objectives to meet those needs, and design eLearning that effectively accomplishes the objectives. To learn more about how we can help your team deliver more effective eLearning, call or contact us here.