Basic E-Learning Workflow and Design Process

Are you new to e-learning and looking for someone to walk you through the course creation workflow from A to Z? If so, you’re in the right place. Read on for a high-level overview of what happens in each step as well as some additional resources that’ll set you up for success. 

Step 1. Confirm Training Is Needed

When you land an e-learning project, the first thing to do is identify the “why” of the training request. Specifically, you want to learn what problem—usually a performance gap—e-learning is supposed to fix by doing a training needs analysis. When you do this, you might find that training isn’t really the appropriate solution. If that happens, share what you’ve found with the client or stakeholder. Odds are they’ll be open to what you have to say! But if—for example—you’ve been tasked with creating legally mandated training, there might not be a ton of flexibility for exploring other options. If that’s the case, don’t worry! Just move forward with developing the course as requested.

Step 2. Meet with Your Client

Once you’ve explored the root of the training request, you’re ready to gather some more project details. To do that, set up a meeting with the person who requested the training—often referred to as the client or primary stakeholder. You’ll want to go over things like:

  • High-level learning objectives
  • Budget or resource constraints 
  • Course creation app the company uses
  • Timelines for different deliverables 
  • Review process and who has the final say
  • Branding requirements and style guide information
  • How learners will access the course (email with a link, learning management system [LMS], hosted online, etc.)

To learn more about what to cover at the start of a project, check out this article: 6 Agenda Items for Your E-Learning Project Kickoff Meeting

Step 3. Gather Content

With the project details sorted out, it’s time to start collecting the course content. Sometimes clients make your job easy by providing you with pre-existing content—like PowerPoint presentations—you can use to build out the course. It’s fantastic when this happens, but it’s not always a given. If there’s no existing content—or if there are gaps that you need to fill—you’ll likely need to research and write the content yourself. If the course topic is specific to the company, you might need to work closely with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to get the information you need. 

While every e-learning project is different, the aim of most trainings is generally the same—to teach someone a new skill. As you gather information, cut out anything that doesn’t support the overarching learning objective and help reach the training goal. For more information, see this list of articles: 

Step 4. Storyboard or Prototype

Ok, so you’ve collected all the content you need. Now it’s time to start organizing it in a logical way and deciding how to present it to learners. This step is often referred to as storyboarding. Storyboards often take the form of a Word or PowerPoint document. The purpose of the storyboard is to ensure you and your stakeholders agree on the course structure, content, and format, so there are no surprises later on—when it’s often harder to make adjustments. 

That being said, some people prefer to skip the storyboard phase and build a prototype—also called a functional storyboard—directly in their course creation app. This gives stakeholders something more tangible to interact with, making it easier for them to imagine what the finished course will look like.

It’s up to you to decide which option makes more sense for your project. But whatever you decide, be sure to check out the articles below for help with this step:

Step 5. Review and Edit

Once your storyboard or prototype is ready, it’s time to share it with your stakeholders for review. When you send it to them, emphasize that it’s just a first draft—and that it’s not the way the course will look when it’s done. This helps reviewers focus on the most important things—like content and course navigation—instead of the visuals. It’s also a good idea to tell your reviewers when you need their feedback completed by, so your project stays on track. 

Keep in mind that you might need to go through several rounds of review before you get everything exactly the way your stakeholders want it—which can be frustrating. But remember: feedback just makes the course better! And if you’re looking for tips on making the review process run more smoothly, check out this article: 5 Steps to an Easier E-Learning Course Review Process.

Step 6. Build the Course

If you started out with a storyboard, this is when you’ll begin moving your content into the authoring app. In this step you’ll make decisions around course functionality, fine-tune your course navigation, and design the visuals. 

Of course, if you skipped the storyboard step and went straight to a prototype, you’ll already have the functionality and navigation built out, so all that’s left is the design. 

Either way, it’s a good idea to follow some best practices during this step to ensure the final course is easy to use and professional looking. Check out the resources below for some tips:

Step 7. Quality Assurance and Testing

Now that your course is developed it’s ready to launch, right? Actually, not quite. Ensuring your course works as expected and doesn’t have any grammatical errors or design inconsistencies is a really important part of the development process. And the best way to ensure this is with a thorough round of quality assurance and testing! 

When you go to test your course, have a few different people look at it and ensure everything looks and works as expected. There are a whole host of things to watch out for, so having a checklist like this one can be really helpful, to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

Step 8. Publish and Share Your Course

Once you’ve gone through the testing phase and made any necessary edits, you’re finally ready to share your course with learners. How you do that will depend on your client’s needs—which you will have already discussed during the project kickoff. 

For more information on the different options, check out this article: How to Share E-Learning Courses with Learners.


Building an e-learning course can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but if you follow this simple workflow, you will get there—step by step! 

For more tips for e-learning newbies, check out these resources:

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.

Heather Leblond

Great article, thank you. We are just starting to use Storyline at my company. We currently have existing processes to create e-learning that likely involve several more people/processes than we'll need when developing and streamlining in Storyline. My biggest question involves how do most Storyline users split work between the ID and Creative? If you have the right master pages and layouts reflecting a client's brand and preferences do you really need the process to include the creative ongoing or can you have the ID do everything? Maybe it depends on skill level. Secondly in your step number 4 you mention your initial SME review is done by using a simple document with a two-column table - one with a screen shot of every slide and the right hand column for the SME to enter comments - is t... Expand

Arturo Aguilera

Hi Heather. My experience is that the ID should dictate most fo the creative effort since he orshe might understand the concept better than a graphic designer or developer. Creativity must aid learning and not just look pleasing. I am used to do everything because I like to have control over the entire process. As for the SME document, I like to use PowerPoint and use the notes as the script. This allows the SMEs to have a better view of how the final product will look. In Addtion, by using PowerPoint, you can add the audio script and graphics at the same time. When the storyboard is signed off, then you just import to Storyline and all you need to do is add animation, synch the audio and start the QA process. Some people called this method "rapid development". I have some samples that I c... Expand

Nicole Legault
Sarah Street
Curtis Pembrook
Curtis Pembrook

@Vijay, I'm not sure if you are looking for a general ISD Model, like ADDIE, or a process for designing online courses in higher education. In terms of ISD models for higher education, I recommend either the Dick and Cary model ( or the ASSURE Model ( Beyond a general model, a process I use for course development in higher education, is described in a book called "Conquering the Content", by Robin Smith (ISBN-10: 0787994421). I use it for faculty development courses at Mission College ( Finally, Mission College librarians have developed a very collaborative approach to designing a "core" course using our LMS's learning objects repository. Contact me at if you want more info and I c... Expand

Ejuana Mitchell
Joseph Roberson

I am beginning a large project updating and improving a series of learning modules. The client is the home care division of a major hospital system. This project is also part of my internship with UMBC ISD program; I have only been using Storlyine about 7 months now.I am hoping someone can suggest a design workflow regarding setting up Templates, Themes, Master Slides, and Layouts. I need to get a better handle on how to set up these organizational structures so I spend less time mucking around tweaking things to make them consistent. I have worked through the tutorials. They help with the individual topic but they don;t really help me to visualize and set up this workflow. Basically, I am combining the Metro flat grid idea with a Learning Agent character, so first I have to figure o... Expand