eLearning course design plays a significant role in every step of the learning process. Design starts by grabbing the attention of learners and then motivates them to stay engaged. As learners progress through the course, design assists with learning and retention. Later, it impacts the ability to recall knowledge.
To ensure your training materials achieve all this, you need to know how to design a course. This guide will provide you with the optimal steps for eLearning design and development.
Step 1: Research Learners’ Needs
It is key that you create a course that teaches learners what they need to know. The course should be challenging enough to keep learners motivated, but it should never be so difficult that it leads to stress. This kind of information will act as one of the main eLearning course design principles that will guide your decision in the next steps.
Step 2: Create a Template
eLearning courses may have originated with repurposed PowerPoint presentations that were uploaded to the Internet, but now learners expect much more. You should never rely on a text or bullet-point screen for your course design template — these are dull, difficult to absorb, and show a lack of effort.
Use colors, fonts, bolding, italics, and text sizes for a specific purpose in your eLearning course design. This will help learners better process information. For instance, you could use bold text to denote importance across screens. A consistent style throughout will allow users to focus better.
Once you have created a great training course design template, use it for all your courses. The familiar feel will mean learners know how to interact with your courses immediately. Plus, this enables you to include branding in the design of your online courses, which is crucial whether you are creating courses for your own company or developing training to sell to your clients.
Step 3: Test Your Templates
Continuous testing of elements may seem tiresome, but it is one of the best approaches to course design. Before you even start adding the meat to your course, check that the templates you have designed resonate with learners.
Step 4: Develop the Content
To engage with learners, go beyond simply presenting facts. If you want to explain a complex concept, a story will help learners find a way to relate to the facts and retain information. Best of all, storytelling fits any eLearning course design — you can use video, animation, or illustrations, for example.
Be impactful with your stories by keeping them short and only including details relevant to the lesson. Whenever possible, use case studies instead of made-up stories. These will show learners that the knowledge imparted in the course will help them improve their job performance.
Step 5: Incorporate Rich Media
Visuals, like graphs, diagrams, charts, and photos, assist with explaining content, whereas videos allow for auditory learning. Also, include some interactive features to prevent learning from becoming a passive experience.
Bear in mind, every element of the online course design needs to have a purpose. For instance, a picture just for the visual stimulation is useless — it will only distract learners away from the message.
Step 6: Add Some Opportunities for Practice
Whenever possible, learners need to put their knowledge into practice. Information from lectures alone, no matter how interesting, is difficult to retain.
For instance, if you are designing eLearning courses to teach software, you could add simulations. You can allow learners to first watch a demonstration before giving them the opportunity to attempt the task themselves.
In cases where simulations are impractical, incorporate quizzes while creating an eLearning course. Distribute them regularly throughout the course to enable learners to check their understanding so far. To avoid wrong answers leading to frustration, consider supplying feedback. For example, you could offer learners a second chance with a hint. If they are still wrong, provide the correct answer with an explanation.
Bear in mind, there is no need for quizzes to be limited to multiple-choice questions. In this part of the eLearning course design process, experiment with ideas that utilize gaming or interactive videos.
You should also include a scored test at the end of the course. This will show learners how much they have improved and give them a sense of achievement. An equally effective alternative is to ask learners to carry out a task that demonstrates their understanding of the material.
Step 7: Add Additional Elements
By offering extra support, you can ensure that those who are less knowledgeable about the subject stay on track without boring more experienced learners. For instance, including clickable elements in the eLearning course design allows learners to receive more information when and if they need it. These elements could lead to a simple text box or even another video or piece of interactive content.
Alternatively, consider starting the course with a quiz and use the result to send learners to the right module.
Step 8: Divide Your Course into Chunks
In the case of extensive training, learners may feel overwhelmed when they realize a course covers a wide range of topics.
Another of the most important principles of eLearning instructional design is chunking. This states that you should split information into bite-size pieces for learners to consume. Use the concept in your eLearning course design by splitting the training into manageable sessions.
Step 9: Configure Your First Version of the Course
Create your first version of the course by importing all your content and other media into a course authoring tool. Write a course manual that explains how to administer the course and summarizes the purpose of the course.
Step 10: Run a Final Check
You went through the process, ticked the boxes mandatory to design online courses. But, you’re not over. Test the entire course on a few learners. Note down any problems they run into or any errors they notice. Make the necessary corrections before delivering the course for training.
Bonus Step 11: Check Learners Are Engaging with Your Course on Three Cognitive Levels
If you want to create a great course, test if your eLearning course design evokes emotions. There are three cognitive levels of emotions, as defined by Don Norman: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. When you ensure learners are connecting with your course on all three, you ensure they feel an emotional connection to the learning experience.
The visceral level refers to first impressions. Learners make an instant judgment about the training according to the aesthetics of the eLearning course design.
The very first screen is the most important for the visceral level, as it will define the content that follows and impact learners’ willingness to continue. Learners should find the initial screen attractive and feel positive about the learning experience to come. This is easy to achieve when you use something to grab learners’ attention, such as a shocking fact or the introduction to an intriguing story.
Next, to connect with learners on a behavioral level, you need to ensure that they continue to see the course in a favorable light. Ask learners if they found the eLearning course design intuitive and easy to use.
The highest cognitive level is the reflective level or conscious reasoning. The perception of your course on a reflective level will impact learners’ willingness to take your eLearning courses in the future and the likelihood they recommend the training to others.
So, what’s your next step?
Since you have all the fundamental course design principles laid out in front of you in linear steps, the next step is yours. Implement some or all of the tips from this post and never forget feedback. Ask learners about how the course impacted them. Did they enjoy the learning experience? Did they feel that the course was valuable? Can they use the skills they learned? All these will make your eLearning offering all the better!