Top 5 eLearning Design Best Practices


eLearning is found in almost every industry. In 2017, 77% of US companies used online learning to train employees on a variety of subjects, including leadership development and continuing education.

Although eLearning, as an industry, is predominated by corporate training, the human-centered design, educational technologies, and eLearning best practices apply to online learning in higher education too. 

In this article, we’ll review what eLearning design is, how it's different from instructional design, and five eLearning design best practices for developing meaningful learning experiences.

What is eLearning Design?

The “e,” in eLearning stands for electronic, and so as you might expect, it focuses extensively on applying online learning and using technology to enhance the pedagogy and content. 

Tim Slade, an award-winning freelance eLearning designer, defines eLearning as, “any learning experience that takes place on a digital device, such as a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, or some other device.” So by this definition, everything from YouTube videos to an online degree through a university is considered eLearning. 

Because delivering condensed educational content on a device doesn’t encapsulate the nuances of eLearning design, we think of it in terms of amplified learning experiences. For example, we’re not just organizing meetings, we’re making meetings infinitely large and widely accessible with video conferencing tools, while still maintaining a personal and interactive learning experience.

eLearning design, as a discipline, is responsible for designing the employee or student learning experience in an online classroom. eLearning designers typically work with the Chief Learning Officer or Head of Human Resources to develop course materials and architect the Learning Management System (LMS), such as Canvas.


What is the difference between eLearning design and instructional design?

Instructional design has always been a skill set for instructor-led classrooms, but applying it to eLearning brings on a new set of considerations. Instructional design formerly focused on pedagogy and content (PCK), but now we must consider pedagogy, content, and technology (TPACK Framework).

Instructional design, therefore, is most often used to refer to designing learning experiences in traditional environments, including K-12 and higher education. Instructional designers work with faculty members to design a curriculum to meet learning objectives as opposed to Human Resources to achieve efficiency and culture goals.


eLearning Design Best Practices

Instructional design has been around since the 1940s, and eLearning emerged in the 1990s, which means there are lots of eLearning design best practices. Below are our top five eLearning design principles.


1. Always return to the learning objectives.

If you’re facing a problematic design dilemma, always return to the learning objectives of the class or training. The learning objectives are your true north.

2. Always put the student at the center of design.

The moment we remove the student and learning from our design thinking, we fail as teachers and eLearning designers. Your student is the hero, and success looks like transformation.

3. The solution is in the process. 

The design thinking process and instructional design’s ADDIE models work. If you follow them closely and are earnest in your attempt, you’ll arrive at the solution you need.

4. Don’t sacrifice eLearning design principles for novelty.

Technology can be incredibly helpful in the teaching and learning process, but if it is misused, it can quickly over-complicate, frustrate, and hinder the learning experience. Don’t use technology for the sake of using technology.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

(Before you say that this counters best practice number four, hear us out.)

Schools and corporate training programs need to offer something deeper than appealing design and accurate content to compete in 2020. They need to take each opportunity to iterate, innovate, and test hypotheses to raise the bar, even if they are their only competition. Students and employees deserve an enriching learning experience.

See if UNINCORPORATED is the right eLearning Design Agency for your next project.

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