When I first began creating eLearning modules some time ago, I often struggled to come up with ideas for taking content and transforming it into something that was both a good learning experience and also looked appealing. I know it’s a challenge that’s faced by many ID’s but particularly those who are new to the field or don’t have a lot of eLearning design experience. I also see it in some of our Master eLearning Course students who are in the early stages of their eLearning careers.
Here’s a few reasons why I think people struggle with the design aspect of eLearning:
The PowerPoint Mindset
Most of us have been using PowerPoint for a long time (usually well before we started creating eLearning) and very few of us were given any kind of instruction or guidance as to how to create a great presentation. As a result, most PowerPoint decks consist of bullet point lists, way too much content, decorative images vaguely related to the material and annoying animations. Naturally, these things have found their way into eLearning modules which has then had a negative effect on eLearning generally. (Tip: Take a look at the book Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte it will change the way you design PowerPoint).
Lack of Examples
When you’re starting out, it’s difficult to come up with ideas when you have nothing as a reference point. However, (in my experience) looking at a few samples can often spark an idea which you may apply to your eLearning project and you can also learn a lot by looking at what others have produced. The trouble is, it’s hard to find examples that aren’t hidden behind the usual “the material in the course is confidential so we can’t show it publicly” reason.
Design is Complex
There’s more to great design than meets the eye. It’s the layout, colours, typeface, language used. It’s how to integrate images and text. It’s deciding what to leave in and what to take out. It’s deciding whether to use stories, videos, audio, game-design or a combination. It’s also very much about how much time you have to complete the project. There’s lots of decisions to make and it takes time to learn about all of these areas and how they interrelate.
While you can improve with practice and as you gain experience, here’s some places where you can get some inspiration and learn more about design (they’re good to bookmark for future reference):
eLearning Design Essentials
B Online Learning’s eLearning Design Essentials was adapted from our award winning Master eLearning Course. It’s designed to give you all the fundamental tools needed to ensure your eLearning is a ‘hit’. Filled with practical activities and resources, this event will give you everything you need to upgrade your eLearning design skills to the next level. Find out more here.
PowerPoint Makeover Process
David Anderson put together this short video showing a 5-point makeover process for PPT but it could be equally applied to eLearning design. It covers type, background, graphics, layout and colours. https://multimedialearning.com/5-point-makeovers-powerpoint-e-learning-slide-makeovers/
There’s lots of great information on this site thanks to the community but here’s a link to lots of short demos from the weekly challenges (look for the Recap for each) https://community.articulate.com/series/e-learning-challenges
Great design takes time to learn. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet that will instantly transform you into a better designer! (if only there was). You need to want to learn more and want to become better at it. The second thing is knowing where to look so hopefully this post has given you some good places to start.
One final point, design ideas can come from other places outside eLearning too such as websites, movies, advertising, art, magazines, and comics. Look at the layouts used, the composition, the colours, and the imagery and try these ideas when you are thinking about designs for your next eLearning project.