Making E Learning Course Design Work

Effective, successful e learning is the aim of every course designer. Yet ask most learners and these two words are not the ones that will immediately come into their minds when describing their experience of taking an e learning course.

While not all e learning is dreadful, too many examples are; and, as most learners will tell you, these bad examples are boring. Usually deathly boring. So what can we do with our e learning course design to make sure it works and is successful for both learners and the organisations they work for?

Most e learning course designers want to make their e learning interesting and engaging and many look to authoring tool interactions and multimedia to help them achieve this.

On the face of it, this seems like a good solution. After all, having learners do something every few screens of the course surely has to be better than just having them read content, doesn’t it? Initially, yes. But the problem with this approach is that learners soon become bored. For example, dragging and dropping an object across the screen seems fun and interesting the first couple of times you do it, but once you’ve done it twenty times, it doesn’t seem that clever anymore.

In fact, it doesn’t take learners long to realise that the use of multimedia and interactions is really just a way of covering up a deeper problem – too much focus on content.

When course designers create classroom training, they have numerous options available to them. It is relatively easy to create imaginative classroom exercises and activities when you know you will have a group of people who can engage and interact with each other.

As an instructional designer, faced with a blank computer screen, the challenge is far greater. How do you make looking at this screen interesting and engaging for your learners without spending pots of money and taking months of development time?

Chances are you will take the current conventional route and fill that screen with content and then add something like a picture, graphic or interaction to make it more attractive and interesting.

If you decide to take this approach (and most designers do) then it’s likely you will quickly see the need to keep lots of screens of content well-organised and structured. Before you know it, you are quickly sucked into a content-centric approach to development.

And once you go down this route you are well on the way to creating the online equivalent of a glorified book or a high end PowerPoint presentation. While both end results could look very professional and attractive, they are unlikely to make for effective learning.

Instead, e learning course designers would do much better to focus their attention away from highly structured content with added multimedia and interactions and focus instead on creating meaningful scenario-driven approaches to learning that are both memorable and motivating to learners.