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Applying best practices for instructional design while building your first eLearning course is a huge task! It can definitely seem overwhelming at first.
But, with a lot of planning under your belt and a few tips from me, you’ll be well on your way to building an awesomely effective first eLearning course. I can tell you from experience, the only thing more exciting than building your first eLearning course is finishing your first eLearning course!
8 Elements to Consider When Building Your First Elearning Course
It is not an easy task to develop and design an effective eLearning course. Here are eight features that every effective eLearning course should have.
Elearning Authoring Tool
No tool or software can replace an instructional designer’s expertise in taking content and putting it into a learner-friendly format. But eLearning authoring tools help instructional designers turn their training visions into reality!
Familiarize yourself with these popular tools so you can make recommendations, work effectively alongside developers, and maybe do delve into the development side yourself one day!
The suite of software offered by Articulate includes popular authoring tools like Storyline and Rise, as well as resources for instructional designers like templates, multimedia, and online training.
Storyline is a popular tool for developing customizable eLearning courses using a combination of slides, animations, audio, interactions, and more. At first glance, it looks a little like PowerPoint. You can actually import existing PowerPoint slides into Storyline as a template for your course. Although my friend Stephen, the Story Ninja, would recommend that you don’t do this.
Unlike PowerPoint, Storyline lets you add in a whole slew of interactive elements to make your course more engaging. Even if you don’t ever develop within Storyline, I recommend playing around with the free trial to get a feel for the different kinds of knowledge checks and interactive objects.
Rise is a really user-friendly authoring tool that doesn’t require the same amount of developing know-how as Storyline. In Rise, you can build your first eLearning course using customizable blocks organized into modules. If you’re interested in development, Rise is a great place to start.
Similar to Articulate Storyline, Captivate is a great canvas to customize your first learning course. Both tools have the same interactive capabilities but while Storyline transforms PowerPoint slides, Captivate transforms Photoshop assets.
Captivate is also a great tool for creating eLearning courses that need to be responsive to different players (laptop vs. phone, for example). And if your project includes virtual reality? Captivate is the tool for your project!
Regardless of the tool you use, eLearning authoring software comes with a hefty price tag! It’s also important to note that many instructional designers have long and fruitful careers without ever getting into the nitty-gritty of developing. Basic knowledge of the tools’ capabilities allows the instructional
designer to make recommendations to the client and create a storyboard that instructs a developer which interactions are most effective.
Every eLearning course should be easy to navigate. Imagine if your learner grew frustrated just trying to move through the course? They might not finish it, let alone meet the learning objectives!
Make sure your first eLearning course has intuitive and easy navigation. Moving backward and forwards in the learning environment should be quick and easy. Icons should be clear and easily found. A ‘Help’ button should be available throughout the course and contain information that will help less tech-savvy users.
Basically, if you feel like your learner will need a mini-training just to learn how to navigate your training, your navigation is too complicated!
Course Learning Objectives
By now, you know that every eLearning course must have a clear set of learning objectives. You won’t get very far in building your first eLearning course without identifying these goals! But did you know it’s equally important for the learner to understand the learning objectives?
The learning objectives tell the learner what they’ll be able to do by the end of the training. Clearly establishing the learning expectations will help the learner set the right intention and focus. It also helps to get the learner to buy into the training. Adult learners need to understand what’s in it for them!
Consistency is key when it comes to the design of your first eLearning course. An appealing, consistent design contributes to the effectiveness of the course. Poor course design, on the other hand, is distracting at best. At worst, it can become an obstacle for your audience.
Instructional designers should have a basic understanding of visual design to ensure a consistent look-and-feel throughout the course. I go into detail about different elements of visual design in this post.
Follow company branding guidelines (if the company you’re working for has them). Sometimes, companies will have a PowerPoint template and preferred color palettes and fonts that you can use in your course. Bonus points if the company has a creative team you can consult!
If you don’t have branding guidelines or a creative team, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. You can find free, pre-made templates, like the one included in this instructional design starter kit, that you can customize for your course.
My best advice when it comes to visual design? Don’t overdo it. Just because you CAN use 50 different kinds of animation and a whole rainbow of colors, doesn’t mean you should. Maintaining visual consistency throughout the course will help your learners stay focused and ultimately help them meet the learning goals.
Multimedia goes hand in hand with visual design. You know I absolutely love good video-based training! But multimedia includes all the images, icons, audio, AND video that you use in your first eLearning course.
Learners are more attracted to visuals than text, and their brains are wired to store the visual stimuli for longer periods. So what does this mean for your training? When course content is supported by images, the learner can keep that info in their long-term memory. This is why all learning experiences – live, eLearning, hybrid – should be highly visual.
When we talk about visual stimuli, it does not mean just images. It also includes eLearning infographics, as well as videos. Even the colors you use in your presentations can impact how an audience remembers the information you present.
Create a balance of multimedia with text. Make sure visuals (images, icons, videos, infographics, charts, etc…) support your content instead of distracting from it.
Learner interactions are crucial to a good learning design. Your learners need to interact with content instead of passively moving through it. You should intentionally design interactions that pull your learner into the experience. This is called engagement. If you’re interested in taking a deep dive into learner engagement strategies, I have seven suggestions!
The purpose of interactions in eLearning is to provide the learner with opportunities to practice, reflect, explore, self-evaluate, and more. When you can, set your interactions up to simulate your learner’s real-world needs. For example, if your audience includes retail associates, design scenarios that allow the learner to virtually interact with customers.
When it comes to your eLearning course, onscreen text plus multimedia plus narration is like the trifecta! Those three elements can take your course to the next level. Just like with visuals and multimedia, narration needs to complement your content.
Your narration can set the tone of the course. Some courses need a more formal tone while others can be more conversational, so choose a voiceover artist that meets your needs.
Make sure your narration and on-screen text work together. If you find you’re shortening sentences or changing wording on-screen, change your voiceover script to match the text. If the audio and text don’t match up, it can be confusing for the learner because they’re not sure what to pay attention to!
Not every training requires an end-of-course assessment, but many do. Assessments allow the organization and the learner to assess the understanding of the content presented. They also allow the instructional designer to collect important data on the effectiveness of the course.
Make sure any knowledge checks you include throughout the course support the end assessment. Think of them as practice for the test, if they have nothing to do with meeting the end goal, you probably don’t need them!
Assessments are not always graded (some may be open-ended or reflective) but graded assessments can offer important feedback to the learner at the end of the course. Consider giving the learner feedback even if a passing grade isn’t required to complete the course.
Wrapping It Up
Building your first eLearning course is an adventure! Keeping in mind these 8 considerations are the first step to finishing strong. If you need more structured help to become a full-stack Instructional Designer, without getting another degree, check out my 12-week immersive program Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program Or, if you’re ready to start building, check out one of my pre-made eLearning course templates with sections, learning objective slides, quizzes, scenarios, and more!
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The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShieldCourses