3 Ways to Design Better eLearning

If I asked you what makes an eLearning course effective, how would you answer? Would you say instructional design? I’m sure you would—that’s what everyone says! But, think for a minute about all of the other components that go into creating an eLearning course. It’s not just instructional design—it’s graphic design, user interface design, and visual communications!

Once you recognize that instructional design is just one piece of a larger medium for communicating learning content, you’ll learn that instructional design alone can’t make an eLearning course effective. It’s the combination of graphic design, user interface design, and visual communications that work together to help elevate the effectiveness of your instructional design.

Here are three tips that will help you design better eLearning.

Design Better eLearning by Creating Beautiful Slides

Here’s some truth for you: humans are visual creatures! We “eat” with our eyes first, we fall in love with our eyes first, and we learn with our eyes first. It’s because of this that graphic design in eLearning matters! When I first started in eLearning, I put all my efforts into instructional design. Although I wanted my courses to look better, I really only worried about graphic design if I had the extra time at the end of a project.

How to Design Better eLearning

Design better eLearning by using basic graphic design techniques: learn what colors and fonts work well together and how to create a clean and balanced layout. Practicing good graphic design techniques doesn’t mean learning how to create custom graphics. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving things around on the screen until they look good.

Here are some resources that will help you with graphic design for eLearning:

Design Better eLearning by Making Your Courses Easy to Use

When designing an eLearning course, how often do you think about the learner’s experience? And, when I say “learner’s experience,” I’m not referring to the learning content! I’m talking about the literal experience your learners have while using your course. Besides the development of learning content, think about all the other elements you have to develop to make your course functional and interactive. As an eLearning designer, your job also includes user interface design!

How to Design Better eLearning

Design better eLearning by making your eLearning courses easy to use! When an eLearning course is difficult to use, or lacks intuitiveness, it becomes a barrier to your learner! Is there a clear path forward? Do buttons look like buttons? Is the navigation consistent from one slide to the next? Making your course easy to use and navigate lets the learner focus on learning!

Here are some resources that will help you with user interface design for eLearning:

Design Better eLearning by Visually Communicating Your Ideas

Do you know the difference between graphic design and visual communications? If not, you might be missing a huge opportunity to enhance the presentation of your learning content! Graphic design relates to the way your course looks and feels. This is how your fonts, colors, images, graphics, layouts, and effects work together to create a cohesive design. Visual communications, on the other hand, relates to how you communicate ideas, processes, or procedures visually on the screen.

How to Design Better eLearning

Design better eLearning by visually communicating your ideas. Carefully selecting a collection of images to represent an idea, creating a series of animations to explain a process, or designing a diagram to show the relationship between different concepts are all visual communications. When storyboarding your learning content, you must always consider how you plan to visually communicate it on the screen. When you start with bullet points in your storyboard, you’ll end up with bullet points on your slides. It’s the simple truth!

Here are some resources that will help you with visual communications for eLearning:

What other tips do you have that can help others design better eLearning courses? Share them by commenting below!

Tim Slade
Tim Slade is a speaker, author, and award-winning freelance eLearning designer. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, Tim has been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for his creative and innovative design aesthetics. Tim is a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, is a recognized Articulate Super Hero, author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook and creator of The eLearning Designer's Academy.

6 Responses to “3 Ways to Design Better eLearning

  • Antje Graham
    7 years ago

    Thanks Tim – this is a great reminder (and great validation too!) I love your tips and ideas – easy to understand and digest, and straight to the point.

  • Stephan Borau
    7 years ago

    Thanks Tim.

    Good reminders about broadening the focus of developing elearning beyond just the content. How the content is presented, the look and feel, navigation, a good balance between novelty and predictability — all of this impacts the learner’s experience. And their experience is going to have the biggest impact on their learning.

    Content is king/queen… But the queen/king needs a lot of helpers to carry out the plans and make things work.

  • Thanks Tim, I always find your articles helpful, straightforward and relevant. Keep up your great contributions to our eLearning community.

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