Almost all e-learning courses have some basic, common elements among them. Whether you’re designing a simple 10-slide demo or a complex, animated course, you’ll probably have text and images, navigation, and maybe even some multimedia. These are the four most common elements of e-learning, which I’d like to focus on here.

Common elements of e-learning


The text content of your course is extremely important. You will transmit a lot of the information in your course through the written word, so it’s important to write clearly and concisely. You should also have your text thoroughly reviewed for spelling, grammar, and punctuation before you finalize it. Often, a fresh set of eyes is best for this because they’ll see details that you might skip over out of familiarity.

While text is important and is likely necessary, it’s also important to remember to use it in moderation: A text-heavy course could be a real turn-off for your learners! Don’t make them read through paragraphs of text on your slides. Keep only the most important information that is need-to-know, and drop the nice-to-know and any fluff or filler content.

Here are some great links to past forum discussion and tips on working with text-heavy content:


We’ve all heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, e-learning courses typically use images because they are a visually-rich, text-free way to convey a lot of information. And since a visually-appealing course helps boost learner engagement, take the time to choose quality images that are relevant and meaningful.

You should look for images that are crisp, clear, and eye-catching. Avoid using images just for the sake of having an image on the slide. Only use them if there’s a real instructional value. For every graphic or image you insert, think of why you need that photo, and what purpose it serves for the learner.

Great links to forum discussions and blog posts on this topic:


One of the great things about e-learning is that designers have the opportunity to mix it up and include other forms of media such as video and audio. Using a variety of multimedia is a great way to keep your course content engaging and interesting.

Videos are especially useful if you want to demonstrate a complicated process, or show an example of a real-life conversation or scenario between two people. You can add audio in many forms, such as subtle sound effects, or as complete course narration. The options are nearly endless when it comes to incorporating media into your courses.

Here are some links to relevant forum discussions and blog posts:


Whether it’s a “Prev” and “Next” button or a menu that lets learners click through the various slides in the course, you need to give learners a way to navigate around the course.

Navigation should always be clear and obvious to learners. They shouldn’t have to wonder what to do next, or click around to find the right way forward. Clearly label and identify all navigation items in your course, and include call-outs or instructions if necessary.

Try these links from forum discussions and blog posts about navigation:

Next time you’re taking an online course, keep your eyes peeled for these four basic elements of e-learning. I can almost guarantee you’ll spot them in just about every course you take. Do you know of any additional e-learning elements that I forgot to include in this list? If you do, please leave a comment below—we love to hear your feedback!

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