5 Common E-Learning Mistakes

There are a few parts of creating e-learning that can trip up even the most experienced designers. After all, learning is a never-ending process! With that in mind, we hope this resource will help you avoid the most common pitfalls that can sidetrack your e-learning.

1. Ineffective Use of Interactivity

Adding interactivity to your e-learning can be a great way to capture and keep your learner’s attention. That said, it’s important not to add interactivity for the sake of interactivity, because it’s not all equally engaging. For example, having learners click Next instead of waiting for the slide to automatically advance isn’t likely to fundamentally improve the learning experience. But giving them the opportunity to make decisions that impact the outcome of a scenario might—as long as it’s well aligned with your objectives! 

The key to creating effective interactions is ensuring they engage your learner’s mind—not just their mouse. Need help designing interactions that add value? Learn more in this article: Interactive E-Learning: It’s About More Than Just Clicks.

2. Distracting Design

Have you ever seen a serious business document written with a whimsical typeface like Comic Sans? Or a webpage with buttons that are in a different spot on every page? Then you know how much bad visual design can impact the user experience. Ideally, design shouldn’t be a distraction—it should help set the tone for your course while directing your learner’s attention to key points.

But you don’t have to be a pro to come up with great visual design. The key is to create a simple, consistent design following some basic guidelines. That approach will help you create a platform that allows learners to focus on content, not left cringing at the terrible color scheme or searching for the way forward. Hop over here to take your design skills to the next level: Visual Design How-Tos for E-Learning Developers.

3. Locking Down Navigation

One big advantage of e-learning is that learners have more control over the experience. This gives them a sense of ownership, which can be incredibly motivating and empowering!

But sometimes course designers or subject matter experts are uncomfortable giving their learners this level of freedom and decide instead to lock down the navigation to “ensure learners see everything.” We get it—you don’t want them to miss anything important! The problem is that most of the time this strategy backfires and ends up frustrating your learners, leading them to tune out or abandon the course entirely. And locked navigation also makes it difficult for learners to quickly revisit sections of content when they need a refresher.

Unless it’s a regulatory requirement, it’s best to trust your learners to navigate your course freely. This means making things like navigation instructions optional, allowing them to skip ahead, and even building in pre-tests to allow them to test out of courses on topics they already know by heart. While it may take some work to get everyone on board with the approach, allowing your learners to take the lead will result in a better learning experience.

4. Skipping Instructional Design Best Practices

E-learning apps like Rise 360 and Storyline 360 are so user-friendly that anyone can create courses—not just instructional designers. So does that mean instructional design is no longer necessary? Of course not!

While easy-to-use apps can help you build courses more quickly and easily, it’s still up to you—the course creator—to design the learning experience so it’s both efficient and effective.

Does this mean only instructional designers can create courses? Not at all. It just means that if you’re going to design courses, it’s a good idea to know some basic instructional design principles.

There’s not enough room here to go into every best practice, but here are a few common problems that good instructional design can help you avoid:

  • Including too much information. To respect your learners’ time and also create the most targeted course possible, make sure you separate “need-to-know” from “nice-to-know” information.
  • Failing to provide post-course help or resources. You’ve whetted learners’ curiosity with an excellent and targeted course—don’t leave them hanging if they’re looking for more! Give them some next steps or resources to support their performance on the job.
  • Writing “gotcha” quizzes that don’t really show you what learners know. The purpose of an assessment is to check that learners understand the material you’ve covered. Trick questions lead to less accurate assessments and more learner stress and frustration. Instead, use the tips in this article to craft questions that are challenging but fair: How To Write Good E-Learning Quiz Questions.

5. Poor Quality Control

Is there anything worse than a course that’s full of typos or grammatical errors? Actually, broken navigation might be more annoying. Or when the sound in a video has so much background noise you can barely understand the narrator. That’s a deal-breaker, for sure!

If your learners are struggling to understand or use your e-learning because of mistakes like these, they won’t be able to make the most of their learning experience. 

It’s easy to catch these errors with a simple quality assurance (QA) process, but all too often developers skip this step. Whether you’ve never implemented a true QA test phase or you’d like to improve your existing process, this article is sure to help: Top Four Tips for E-Learning Quality Assurance (QA) Testing

6. Not Considering Accessibility

This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous section. After all, part of ensuring your course quality is top notch is making it work for everyone—which is the very definition of accessibility

Unfortunately, many e-learning designers feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of guidelines in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and don’t know where to start.

This results in a large number of learners either having a poor experience or not being able to access the course at all. And that’s not what you want! If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry. Making your e-learning more accessible doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need the right resources to help you along the way. Head over here to start your accessibility journey: 6 Easy Ways To Make Your E-Learning More Accessible.


If you’re making one or more of the mistakes outlined in this article, don’t get down on yourself—you’re not alone. The good news is that now that you’re aware of it, you can take steps to improve your courses. Remember: progress not perfection!

If you’re looking for more resources to build your e-learning chops, look no further:

And remember to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.