Why eLearning Templates Won’t Fix Your Bad Content

If you’ve followed me online for any amount of time, you know that I love creating and sharing eLearning templates. eLearning templates are an excellent way to get a jump-start on your eLearning development process and help you achieve a consistent look and feel.

Although eLearning templates offer a lot of benefits, I’m regularly contacted by frustrated eLearning developers using a template and still have courses full of boring slides and bullet points. The truth is, there’s a huge misconception that if you plug your boring content into a beautiful eLearning template, it will make your content less boring. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

Here are three reasons why eLearning templates won’t fix your bad content and how to avoid this issue in your next eLearning project.

Garbage In, Garbage Out Applies to eLearning Design

eLearning templates

It’s easy to take an eLearning template, plug your content into it, and expect a beautiful result. Sometimes the results are good, but other times your slides don’t look as beautiful as you would have hoped. Sadly, an eLearning template won’t do you much good if your content is bad from the start—it’s simply garbage in, garbage out.

Next time you’re working on an eLearning project, take the time to evaluate your content from a development perspective. Are you able to easily imagine how it will be visually communicated on the screen, or is it just an endless list of bullet points? If it’s the latter, you might want to rework your content.

Good eLearning Design Starts Before You Open an Authoring Tool

eLearning templatesBecause eLearning design follows a garbage in, garbage out philosophy, it’s important to think about the visual design of your course before you open an authoring tool or consider the use of any eLearning templates. When I look back at the design of my most beautiful courses, the visual design process started while I was still in the storyboard development process.

Next time you’re storyboarding an eLearning course, ask yourself how you plan to visualize the content and make it interactive. If you’re not able to do this, you might want to consider rewriting or restructuring the content altogether. The goal is to storyboard content that is development-ready.

PowerPoint ≠ eLearning

eLearning templates

Although tools like Articulate Storyline have made the eLearning development process feel a lot like building a PowerPoint presentation, you shouldn’t assume eLearning is simply PowerPoint with a player slapped onto it. It’s far too easy to take your SME’s PowerPoint presentation, add an eLearning template, import some audio narration, and publish it. Although this might be quick and easy, it will never result in good eLearning content—even when you use a beautiful eLearning template.

Next time your SME hands you a PowerPoint presentation, kindly smile and add it to your pile of resources. Make it clear to your SME that you might pull some information from the presentation, but you won’t be converting their slides into an eLearning course. Remember what I said about garbage in, garbage out? That applies to your SME’s content as well! There are no eLearning templates in the world that will turn your SME’s bullet points into effective, beautiful eLearning.

What tips can you share about working with dull eLearning content or effectively using eLearning templates? 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.

8 Responses to “Why eLearning Templates Won’t Fix Your Bad Content

  • Hear Hear!!! I’m an experienced ID (old) and today every client I serve wants me to open Storyline and start developing. As a consultant – I consult but they don’t want to hear it. Failure ensues. I think they don’t care whether or not the training is effective.

    • I’ve been there as well, Larry! Sadly, sometimes you have to just do what the client asks, even if it is against their best interests. Sometimes clients need to be shown the possibilities before they will agree to it.

  • Gina Evans
    8 years ago

    Say it again, louder, for the people in the back!!

  • What? What?

  • You want bad content?

    I’ll give you bad content…..

    I was working on a module for an online MBA, all was going pear shaped as it usually does when you include academics! LOL!

    I received a photocopy of a photocopy which was then scanned and emailed to me so I could put this document up for the students to read.

    I took one look at it and thought to myself, this person is a Professor who teaches on an MBA and hands out material like this? should I bin it or redo it so it’s a bit more creative and interactive?

    Well I decided to make it more interactive, it was a list of companies and management levels. The management levels were displayed using triangles. The more levels the taller the triangle.

    Okay, so get an image of the world and have an interactive map where they see these ‘management levels’

    So i’m going through the list of countries and I stop….and look i had to twice….

    East Germany was on the list….so was West Germany…so was Yugoslavia!!!

    I was dumb struck….and then I just threw it in the bin and told the lecturer that I could use it.

    It’s now the stuff of legends here! LOL!

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