E-learning course design can be time-consuming and the courses costly to create. But one way you can easily save time and money is by efficiently gathering content. In this article, we’ll talk about easy-to-follow steps to help you gather accurate content and speed up your workflow.

1. Identify the Type of Content You Need

It’s tempting to jump right in and create a list of all the content available on your subject. However, you can save time by doing a quick needs analysis instead. In this, you’ll outline your course goals and learning objectives. 

A thorough needs analysis identifies the types of content you’ll use for your project. Once you have this figured out, you can easily eliminate information that doesn’t apply to your audience or project conditions. 

Resist the temptation to use material just because it’s available. A best practice is to let the need drive the content you include, not the other way around.

2. Collect Content

The quickest, most convenient place to source content is online. However, don’t confuse quantity with quality. You might find a wealth of information, but be particular about what content you choose to use.

While online materials are easy to access, remember you can also use physical materials such as books, periodicals, manuals, and videos. When using printed materials, read the introduction to find out if it’s relevant to your course. You can also check a book’s index for specific subjects or names.

3. Document as You Collect

Whether your resources are electronic or print, make sure you record them and their location. For items from electronic sources, make a list of URLs, or even bookmark them! If you need to revisit a particular resource, this makes it faster to find.

4. Connect with the Right People

To help you gather the most relevant content for your course goals and objectives, it’s important to talk to experts on the subject. 

Your needs analysis should identify subject matter experts (SMEs) to help with your project. If possible, try to work with a couple of different SMEs so you get a wide variety of information. It’s not always possible, feasible, or prudent to get everything you need from a single person. For example, you might need one SME to provide on-the-job, contextual insight, and then another to provide technical or process information.

5. Work with Your SMEs

In addition to helping you with existing materials, SMEs can help generate new content that fills in any gaps you might have. When you talk with your SMEs, be clear about what you need. It can be helpful to use an outline to guide the conversation around your training. Also, ask open-ended questions so they can share their expertise. For example, “What are the most common questions about this subject?” and “What are the most common mistakes you see with this subject?”

A great strategy for getting relevant information from SMEs is to ask them how a learner can practice using the information in a real work environment. You can get their help filtering responses with a simple, “Does a person need to know that in order to perform the task?”

SMEs are often busy, with tight schedules, so getting on their calendars early in the process is important. Show up prepared to meetings with SMEs  by taking time to learn background information that will help you ask better questions. Also, taking extensive notes, or even recording the conversation, is a great way to minimize the need for follow-up.

The final step in the content collection process is to synthesize and organize your information. Once you’ve done that, you can ask your SMEs to review and confirm that the content is complete and accurate.


Once the SMEs have confirmed your content is accurate, you’re good to go! You can move forward with designing and developing your e-learning course. 

For more information and instructional design tips, check out the links below! 

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.

Be the first to comment