eLearning vs. Really Good eLearning

Designing Digitally


As L&D professionals, all of us have seen the good, the bad and the... well, really bad of eLearning. We know that when it’s done well, eLearning can be an effective and enjoyable way of acquiring new skills and knowledge. We also know that when it’s done poorly, eLearning can be tedious, boring, and downright painful.

So what can we do to ensure our eLearning courses are well-designed, interesting and engaging?

First, we need to keep in mind that eLearning development is a practiced skill, and involves many hours of planning, preparation, design consideration, programming, testing, etc.  It also involves the use of interactive elements, appealing visual design, creative story-telling and challenging tasks, among other features. In addition, there are techniques like gamification in which learners are rewarded for their accomplishments and encouraged to participate fully in the lesson.

By incorporating the best features for the material at hand, eLearning courses can be more impactful and effective in delivering their intended lesson. They will be more likely to capture the attention of your learning audience, and will have a much greater rate of completion and knowledge retention.

Why eLearning often falls flat

Someone pointed out recently that the roots of most eLearning, if we really consider it, can be traced back to Microsoft PowerPoint. Many of the original digitally-delivered training courses were nothing more than linear and tedious converted PowerPoint presentations – even if they did contain some fly-ins or animations. This is evident even now, as many of the eLearning design programs out there allow for direct importing of PowerPoint files.

Importing PPT and calling it training is a flat and boring excuse for eLearning. There is a laziness and lack of creativity on the part of some in the industry that can cause eLearning courses to fail in their primary mission. It is against these sub-par efforts that the really great eLearning designs are able to stand out and succeed.

Elements and design considerations for really good eLearning

The creation of a successful eLearning course requires careful consideration, planning and effort. There are certain elements and design factors that, when implemented correctly, can lead to a highly effective and successful course. Here are some of the basic elements that we consider when designing eLearning.

  • Add interactivity – but don’t overdo it.  Using interactive elements like simulations, branching scenarios, drag-and-drop activities and immersive stories can engage your learning audience, but too much of these can result in a chaotic and distracting course. Remember, the point of the lesson is to deliver information in the most effective way, not to impress learners with your abilities.
  • Strive for a clean design and easy navigation.  Challenging your learners on their retention of the lesson material is one thing, but challenging them to figure out navigating your course won’t do. Make it clean, simple, consistent and aesthetically pleasing – that way the focus will be on the information, not the interface.
  • Include a storyline or unifying theme in your eLearning. When possible, create a story around the lesson that creates interest in the material. If your learners can imagine themselves within the training scenario, they are more likely to be engaged and to retain the information being taught.
  • Use multimedia when possible and appropriate.  Inserting animations, video, audio and images in your eLearning can create excitement and interest in the lesson. It can also be a great way to depict complicated or detailed processes in a controlled way. Just be sure not to overshadow the lesson with the multimedia production.
  • Build in checks along the way.  Nothing is more frustrating to a learner than to feel lost in a training course. Building in knowledge checks along the way will help learners gauge their level of understanding. You can then redirect them if it appears they haven’t grasped a concept.

Here at Designing Digitally, Inc., our eLearning design team will work with you to develop courses that engage and interest your learners. With our expertise at developing unique and effective training, you’ll see the difference between eLearning and really good eLearning. Call us or drop a line to find out just what we can do to help your organization’s eLearning efforts.