Have you ever heard the expression “anything worth doing is worth doing well”? It’s something my parents told me time and time again. And while today I don’t necessarily think it holds true for everything (I mean, does it really make a difference whether my T-shirts are folded perfectly, à la KonMari?), I definitely think it applies to creating e-learning courses.

If you’re putting in the time and effort to create a course, you should ensure it’s effective. After all, what’s the point of designing one if it won’t actually make an impact?

But how do you ensure your courses are effective? After speaking to countless e-learning professionals, a pattern started to emerge. I realized that when courses missed the mark, most of the time it was for one of four reasons. But instead of dwelling on what not to do (after all, isn’t there enough negativity going around?), I thought I’d focus on how to ensure the time and effort you put into creating courses pays off. Let’s take a look!

1. Make sure e-learning is the right solution

When decision-makers see a performance issue, they often assume training is the answer. So they come to you—the e-learning designer—and ask you to create a course. But before you fire up your favorite authoring app, take a step back and think about whether building an e-learning course will solve the problem. How do you figure that out? By doing a training needs analysis! 

Confirming that e-learning can help bridge the performance gap before you get started gives your course the best possible chance to succeed. And if you determine that e-learning isn’t the solution, then you’ve saved everyone involved a good deal of time. You can use that gift of time to create courses that will make an impact. And learners can spend that time on whatever alternative solution was selected to improve performance. Win-win!

If you’ve never done a training needs analysis, head on over to this article to learn how it’s done: Training Needs Analysis: When Is E-Learning the Solution?

2.  Identify clear learning objectives

Once you’ve decided that e-learning can help close a performance gap, it’s important to identify the learning objectives. These will guide you as you build your course, ensuring you remain focused on the end goal.

One mistake new e-learning designers typically make is using vague learning objectives. Heck, sometimes even experienced e-learning designers plead guilty to that! Take this objective, for example: “At the end of this course, learners will understand sun safety.” The problem with using the word “understand” in your learning objectives is that it’s impossible to measure a learner’s understanding. After all, you can’t read their minds!

Try refining your learning objectives to make them more performance-based and measurable. For example: “At the end of this course, learners will be able to identify the three most important ways to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful effects.” To confirm whether learners can actually do that, all you need to do is present them with a multiple response question. 

For more tips on crafting effective learning objectives, check out this helpful article: All About Learning Objectives for E-Learning.

3. Involve learners in the course creation process

Too often, course creators design their e-learning in a silo—without consulting the learners they’re being created for. And it makes sense! It’s not always easy to get access to learners, especially if you’re developing courses for external clients. And even if you’re developing courses for internal clients, you might worry that involving additional people in the course creation process will result in a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. I get it.

However, when you develop a course without involving any actual learning, it can result in a course that doesn’t meet learner needs. So next time—if at all possible—instead of assuming you know what learners need, why not try asking them? Including a subset of learners at two key steps in the course creation process can be hugely beneficial:

  • In the beginning, during the training needs analysis, to find out about the challenges they’re facing and what they hope to get out of the course.
  • During the design phase, when the first version of the course is ready for review. This will allow them to give feedback about how well the course you created fits their needs and fulfills their expectations while there’s still time to make any necessary changes.

By getting learner input and feedback during the creation process, you increase the likelihood that your course will meet their needs and make an impact.

4. Streamline your content

One of the hardest parts of creating e-learning courses is deciding what content to include and what to leave out. In many cases, it ends up a tug-of-war between the instructional designer—who’s trying to pare down content—and the subject matter expert (SME)—who wants to include everything. The end result is a course that’s bursting at the seams.

One argument that usually hits home with even the most stubborn SMEs is this: including every last piece of content doesn’t guarantee learners will learn or remember it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The more information you include in a course, the more likely learners are to get overwhelmed or bored and give up. And even if they do end up making it through, they’re unlikely to remember it all. 

Explain that it’s better to include only the most important content. The less content you include, the more likely learners are to complete the course, remember the key messages, and apply them to their jobs. And isn’t that what you want?

For more tips on streamlining your content, be sure to read this article: What to Do When Your Course Has Too Much Content. And for tips on working with SMEs, check out Everything You Need to Know About Working with SMEs.

More Resources

Hopefully these tips will help you feel confident that the time you’re spending on course creation is well worth it. If you’re looking for more helpful e-learning tips, be sure to check out these articles:

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.