When Should You Avoid eLearning?

As someone who designs and develops eLearning for a living, I always love discovering new and different ways it can be used to deliver learning content. However, for all the love I have for eLearning, there are times when I know it’s not the right answer. And even if your primary job is to design and develop eLearning content, it’s also your job to recognize when to avoid eLearning altogether. 

In this post, I’ll share three instances when you should avoid eLearning and offer tips for what you should do instead. 

Avoid eLearning When It Doesn’t Achieve The Desired Performance Outcomes

When Should You Avoid eLearning? | Tim Slade | eLearning Blog

When I first started my career as an eLearning designer, I used to believe that eLearning could solve all learning and performance issues. However, over the years, I’ve come to respect that eLearning is just one piece of a larger ecosystem of learning. Because of this, you should avoid eLearning when it doesn’t achieve the desired performance outcome.

What should you do instead?

While eLearning offers a ton of benefits, it’s not always the best solution when the desired performance outcome is a physical task your learners need to complete. Instead, the best way for your learners to master a physical, hands-on skill is to actually to do it! Conducting a task analysis is a great way to better understand the tasks your learners need to complete.

I should mention, this doesn’t mean you can’t use eLearning in conjunction with a hands-on learning solution. One option might be to create a blended learning solution, where eLearning is used to augment the hands-on learning experience.

Avoid eLearning Just Because Your Stakeholders Say So 

When Should You Avoid eLearning? | Tim Slade | eLearning Blog

Here’s one thing that’s true about most (not all) stakeholders and subject matter experts: they love telling you how to do your job! By the time a stakeholder has come to you to request training, more often than not, they already have an idea of what that training should look like. 

And let me tell you, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told to “just build a quick eLearning course,” I would have retired many years ago!

What should you do instead?

While it might be easier to simply fulfill the order that has been placed in front of you, it’s not your job to be an order taker! Instead, you should take the time to complete a needs analysis and determine whether eLearning (or any learning at all) will solve the performance issue in the first place. You may discover other causes to the performance issues your stakeholders are seeing. 

Avoid eLearning When Something Simpler Will Do

When Should You Avoid eLearning? | Tim Slade | eLearning Blog

Developing and implementing a full-blown eLearning course isn’t always simple. Not only do you need to storyboard, develop and review your course with your stakeholders and subject matter experts, you also need to load your course into an LMS and get it in front of your learners. 

Depending on the complexity of the course you’re building and the complexity of the performance issue you’re seeking to fix, the juice may not be worth the squeeze.

What should you do instead?

While it can be fun and exciting to build an eLearning course, it can also take a lot of time and money. Instead, you should take a hard look at what will help your learners the most and how you can achieve that with the most minimal amount of effort.

Sometimes, this means creating a simple job aid or how-to document. Either way, you want to avoid a situation where you create something that’s not fit-for-function. 

The Bottom Line

eLearning isn’t always the right solution, and it’s your job to avoid eLearning when it’s not the best use of you and your learner’s time. More importantly, it’s your job to recognize when eLearning won’t solve the performance issue your learners are facing. 

What are some other instances when you should avoid eLearning? 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.

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