Mistakes in eLearning design are common, so how do you avoid them?

For many people, design is how a thing looks, but at its core, design is about problem-solving. Steve Jobs was obsessed with making beautiful products but he too was keen to make this distinction, famously proclaiming “design is how it works”.

At RedJamJar, we see clients make errors in eLearning design all the time. We can often implement impactful adjustments simply by considering the logic behind individual components and how each relates to the whole. The key is that small but important word design.

Design thinking

Design thinking focuses on the cognitive aspects of the design process. It’s a method for creative problem solving that aims to significantly improve outcomes. Importantly, design thinking prioritises how information might be most effectively received over the desires of the communicator. eLearning resources should therefore be founded on strong design thinking, which is why we’ve put together tips on how to use this approach to avoid mistakes in eLearning design.

RedJamJar presents…

6 mistakes to avoid in your eLearning design


1. Forgetting the target user

We all have favourite tools and systems, but your learners and their goals should always be in the forefront of your mind.

Every element of the course should serve those goals, not only the text, but the images, layout, and any other elements that comprise your modules. If you lose sight of the learning goals, you will create ineffective content. Develop a clear idea of the learner’s expectations and the information you need to convey in order to make that happen.

2. Misjudging the learner’s ability

Creating an eLearning course that doesn’t challenge learners is a common mistake.

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said writing a good joke is like attempting to leap a metaphorical canyon, taking the audience with him: if the sides are too far apart the audience won’t reach the other side, set too close and there’s no sense of achievement. The same applies to your eLearners. If they don’t feel as though they are being pushed beyond their boundaries and are gaining new insights  from the course, they won’t be motivated to learn.

Providing scenarios is a particularly good way of making learning topics relatable to learners and provides a narrative which conveys both the necessary skills and behaviours.

3. Overly long content

Learning modules should be ‘chunked’ into 2-minute sections.

A research team at Germany’s Dresden University of Technology compared the standard approach to eLearning (chunks of information and a short assessment) compared with a frequent and fine-grained assessment. The conclusion, published just a few months ago, was that micro-learning drives over 20% more information retention.

4. Poor layouts

Cognitive overload occurs when a learner’s mind is flooded with too much information.

Text-heavy pages create a cognitive overload for your learners. Be concise and clear. Don’t include irrelevant information and try to break more complex concepts down into more digestible paragraphs, or even three key bullet points if possible.

Similarly, including a myriad of images will only serve to distract the learner. Limit the number of visual elements you use and ensure that they are high-quality, on-topic and don’t interrupt the reader’s eye in sections where they should be focusing on the text.

5. Substandard content

If the messaging you provide for learners isn’t completely useful and relevant to them, it shouldn’t be included.

Errors, irrelevant information and poorly written content can drastically diminish the eLearning experience, as well as the credibility of your organisation. Videos, audio and use cases are all great examples of interactive elements that can make the eLearning experience more effective. If you omit multimedia when developing interactive eLearning strategy, you run the risk of creating boring courses. Always make users feel like active participants.

6. Courses too complex to update and maintain

eLearning courses may be visually stunning and packed with valuable information but this counts for little if they can’t be maintained.

Designing eLearning courses that are visually attractive and meaningful is great, but they have to be maintained long term. Keep simplicity in mind and always ensure that you or your client will be able to easily update the deliverable when required.

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