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Creating an eLearning Course for Non-eLearning Developers

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on February 9, 2015

3 Steps to Building Effective eLearning

I am often asked about how to create effective eLearning. My advice is always the same. And although my advice is supported by science, it runs counter to what many believe about how effective eLearning should be designed. Many people think eLearning is about animations and graphics and interactive gaming and scenario-based storylines. While these techniques can be used in an effective manner, they are not what makes an effective eLearning course.

Effective eLearning is much simpler than that, which is why it is so difficult to do.

Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius.

- George Sand

In fact, anyone can create effective eLearning if they understand just a few simple rules and have the right tools. In this blog post, I would like to describe three elements that make up effective eLearning. These three elements are so fundamental that no matter how fancy your art or scripts or videos are, your students will not achieve maximum learning outcomes without them.

Your eLearning Must Have:

1: Clear, specific learning objectives

2: Varied content that addresses each learning objective

3: Test and Review questions that cover each learning objective

Let's dive in:ldot-11

1. Clear learning objectives

The most important part of any training course (eLearning or otherwise) is clearly defined learning objectives. Before any course can be written, the designer needs to know what to teach or more importantly, what outcome students should achieve as a result of taking a course. 

Why are learning objectives important?

Learning objectives are important because they:

1. Specify what exactly someone will learn in a course. 

2. Serve as the outline for your course, guiding the design.

If you have five learning objectives, you know there will likely be at least five sections in your course. And you know that you will have to cover content for each of these sections (learning objectives) to make sure students learn those five things.

3. Specify what needs to be tested. 

Examples of learning objectives

The simplest way to create a learning objective is to complete the sentence, "At the end of this course, you will be able to:" Examples of learning objectives include:

  • Customize a workflow to meet the needs of your project
  • Install NGINX on Ubuntu
  • Add a billing object on a newly won opportunity
  • Write an effective meeting agenda

Writing clear learning objectives is a critical step that should be completed at the very early stage of any eLearning design project. Once learning objectives are written, course content can be created.


2. Add (Varied) Content

Once you have your learning objectives (and thus your outline) you just need to fill in content for each section. It is best to vary your content to suit learner preferences.

Text: You can use text to set up a section or use text to outline each section.

Pictures/Graphics: Using images, tables, flow charts, and other graphics, is a great way to show a concept. In fact, one of the best ways to facilitate learning in eLearning is to use an image on the screen and have audio to narrate the image.

Audio: Audio narration is important because it can improve learning outcomes. As described in the book, eLearning and the Science of Instruction, learning outcomes can be improved when audio narration describes and explains a slide with an image, figure or table compared to when audio narrates both text and an image. The lesson here is to keep slide content light, and use audio narration to explain content.

Video: Use your webcam to explain a topic or use screen capture software to show a demo of a software tool or process. Don't be afraid to narrate in a casual tone. In other words, narrate like you are explaining the process to a friend.

Creating content can seem like the hard part. But if you have clearly written learning objectives, the content is easy to determine because you know exactly what someone needs to learn.


3. Test/Review Questions

The final step in creating an eLearning course is to write test / review questions. Learning science tells us clearly, the best way to learn is to make an effort (repeated efforts) to recall or otherwise test oneself on material one wants to learn.

And if learning objectives are a promise about what someone will learn in a course, course content and review questions should cover each learning objectives. A critical practice for developing an effective eLearning course is to write test / review questions for each learning objective.

Aligning objectives, content, and test questions

Learning objectives, varied content, and review questions are critical parts of any eLearning course. But each does not stand alone. In order for an eLearning course to be effective, there must be alignment between all three.

Learning objectives define the outcomes a student could achieve. Content addresses each learning objective. Test/review questions offer an opportunity to review or perform each learning objective. 

So, as you create your first eLearning course in Learndot, what three things should you keep in mind?

Test yourself, to see what you learned:

  1. The most important part of my training course, whether it is classroom training or self-paced eLearning, is to have a set of clearly and specifically written _________________.
  2. Once you have your learning objectives (and thus your outline) you just need to fill in _________________________ for each section.
  3. The more people ___________________ themselves, the more they learn.

See what I did just there?

Originally published Feb 9, 2015 6:30:00 PM, updated Mar 2, 2015