Responsive Design in eLearning

Designing Digitally


As more employees are using their personal devices for business purposes, companies are scrambling to make the most of this shifting paradigm. One way that businesses have found to take advantage of the increase in smartphone and tablet use in the workplace is to tailor their eLearning delivery to accommodate these handheld devices.

With employees never out of arm’s reach of their devices, now they’re never very far from access to training. However, this presents a whole new set of challenges for eLearning developers.

While in the past it may have been an easy assumption that workers would view training materials on a large-format computer screen, that’s no longer the case. Now eLearning is being viewed on a variety of devices with vastly differing screen sizes.

So what are we to do? That’s where responsive eLearning design comes in.

What is responsive eLearning design?

In 2015, for the first time ever, tablet sales are projected to outpace sales of desktop PCs and laptops combined. And of course smartphones already outsell PCs and laptops by a factor of 6 to 1. Along with this huge shift toward smaller and more portable devices has been a shift toward smaller screens, which is where responsive eLearning design comes in.

Responsive design essentially means that the content presented on a device will adjust to fit the screen size it detects. To be clear, responsive webpage design is not a new concept. Savvy developers have been designing websites that scale to fit screens for many years now. It’s just that eLearning developers haven’t always had the same mindset. However, that is changing rapidly.

Variations and adaptations of responsive eLearning design are also something to consider. For example, an eLearning course that is heavy in text or presents multiple complex concepts may not be a good candidate for scaling down to fit a smartphone screen. However, the high-level summaries, guides and expert tip presentations can be made available as a mobile version of the course. Understanding your use cases is an important part of responsive eLearning design.

Importance of responsive design in your training

By now the importance of designing eLearning courseware that adjusts to fit any screen size should be obvious. For companies that have an open device policy, responsive design actually encourages BYOD, which can ultimately save money and increase training participation. It also allows for greater flexibility and greater control over their training by your workforce.

Other reasons to consider responsive design include:

  • With a familiar device, learners are able to focus on the content rather than the distraction of navigating a new platform.
  • Mobile devices like smartphones and connected tablets allow for the inclusion of social interaction features embedded within eLearning materials.
  • Responsive design gives users the ability to begin their training on one device, and transition to a different device to complete it. Think; start at work, finish at home.

What if you don’t use responsive elements?

If you’re still not convinced that designing for multiple screen sizes is worth the effort, let’s take a look at what can happen if you don’t. We already know that nearly every worker in a corporate setting has a smartphone they carry almost all of the time. In addition, many carry personal tablet devices. If they are forced to use a company-provided computer or laptop to participate in training, this may actually feel archaic or outdated. You may wind up with employees who are frustrated at the experience of training, which can lead to lower participation rates. You may even find that training goals go unmet.

The benefits of building responsive design into eLearning courses are obvious and many. And while the extra time needed to create these courses can’t be argued, it is well worth the effort. Here at Designing Digitally, Inc., our team of designers and developers will work with you to create mLearning courses that incorporate the latest in responsive design. This will ensure your employees have the best learning experience possible and are able to have more control over their training. Let us know how we can help you to design eLearning for the future of your organization.