Thursday, March 13, 2014

Best Practices for Instructional Design in eLearning

As technology progresses, assuring the quality of educational experience continues to increase in significance. This, in turn, has led to a surge in the number of Instructional Designers(IDs). IDs are seen as professionals who can facilitate explicit eLearning outcomes. The accomplishment of these outcomes are determined by the techniques used.

This blog highlights some valuable nuggets of information from an ID’s perspective to help you build and deliver high-quality eLearning material.

Choose the appropriate tool(s)

Selecting the appropriate tool would majorly be determined by your course objective and target audience.

  • Select a tool that is suitable for your target audience (Choose a user friendly tool if you are dealing with beginners) .

  • Make sure you are fully aware about budgets. Choose a cost effective tool based on your budget.

  • Be accustomed with the editing and integration capabilities of the tool. Fast editing is time efficient.

  • Select the tool that integrates with LMS or other media tools easily.

  • Decide the level of interactivity required for your project. Pick the tool according to the required interactivity levels.

  • Be fully aware of the platform to be used by your learners. Opt for a tool that will help accomplish the objective.

  • Do you have team expertise? Choose a tool that your team is comfortable with this will help you save effort, time and money

  • Align your media needs with the tools that you choose to work on, authenticate the tool with the file types to be used.

  • Determine how an eLearning course is going to be presented to users. Make sure your tool is well aligned to the output you want (LMS, CD-ROM, Mobile, Podcast etc).

Content Staging

Remember the golden rule when presenting content, bridge the gap between the learner and content by emotionally involving the learner in a dynamic way (Storytelling, humour, etc).

  • When presenting your course learning objectives, make sure you coherent the entire course benefits for your learners and not just the features.

  • Split the training into small segments to help the learner tread easily to the end.

  • Format the text so that it’s easy to read.

  • Use scenario-based learning; it gives the learner a role to play.

Design Plan

A design document is essential to make sure the team involved in the project is on the same page before commencement of development.

  • The Design Plan should contain metadata including the course name, description, timeline, notes from the client, and a section that outlines each page or types of interactions in the course.

  • Make sure this document captures global information on font size, colour, paragraph and text alignments and image appearance. This will help in standardising the course.

  • The document should talk about the timelines for sign-offs to be received by the client, and whether they should be after each major step or after a development phase.

  • Decide on the slides that are to be interactive and the ones that are going to be animated.


Storyboarding helps in branching scenarios, deciding on appropriate interactions and also in introducing assessments at suitable intervals. Depending on what your project demands, add or design storyboard documents that fit the need. When designing, remember to be consistent. This helps the learner understand the course better.

  • Draft a storyboard from start to finish. It will help in understanding how a learner is going to experi­ence a course.

  • A storyboard should contain slide information, graphics, audio and video instructions, On-screen text, navigation instructions and interactivity instructions.

  • Make sure your storyboard is routed through your subject matter expert (SME) and other stake holders before you freeze it.

Let’s see what some of the eLearning gurus have to say:

  • Less is more: Keep the number of words low, audio narration brief, and avoid gratu­itous stories and visuals - Ruth Clark

  • Provide clear standards (a style guide) on how to format your eLearning: fonts, colors, logos, resolution size, file types, etc - Jill Kirtland

  • Document everything when you are involved in an eLearning asset-recycling effort. It is like high school and college math, you only get partial credit for having the right an­swer; you receive most of the credit for documenting your work - Joel Gendelman

The eLearning Guild’s 62 Tips on Effective eLearning Instructional Design is also a great resource to refer to. Click here to access it.
If you have some more tips on designing an excellent eLearning course, right from staging the content to preparing the indispensable documents to the final product, do share them. For any queries, please post in the comments section below. I will be happy to answer them.

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