The Rapid Elearning Blog

4 things to think about before building e-learning courses

It costs money to build e-learning courses and it costs money to take e-learning courses. Considering the cost, it’s important to ensure that you get the most value out of the courses you create.

One way to get value is to not create a course. Seriously. We don’t want to admit it, but many courses are pointless and a waste of time.

However, if you do need to create e-learning courses, then consider the following points below:

Create a Resource Hierarchy

You have limited resources and you want to make sure you use them wisely. In a recent post, I shared how I’d determine which e-learning application to use and when. This type of approach will save resources and help you get the most out of the e-learning software you use.

Move Content Offline

A lot of e-learning content is content that already exists in other formats. And most of that content is text-based. If the course is mostly reading and lots of text, why not take it offline and create PDFs or some other medium that’s easier to read? If you need a course, make it an abstract of the resource content with some activities to demonstrate understanding.

Teach How to Find & Use Resources

Since a lot of content already exists in other places, perhaps it’s better to teach them how to find and use those resources than it is to copy and paste that content into e-learning screens. Create real-world activities and then design the courses so that the learner is accessing resources and using that content to solve the activity.

Make the Courses Smaller

Do you need big courses? That seems like something from the 1990s and not the YoutTube generation. Instead of one big course, perhaps it makes sense to create a series of mini courses. They can always be bundled to create a cohesive learning path.


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7 responses to “Four Things to Consider Before You Build That E-Learning Course”

June 18th, 2019

Great points, Tom. True and honest.

June 18th, 2019

So true. I’m actually contemplating taking a fairly long multi topic course apart so that it will be 4-5 shorter modules. It seemed to make sense to bundle them at the time, but a course that’s an hour long is pretty daunting these days!

July 1st, 2019

Hi Tom,
My client and I are interested in the idea of mini courses but really struggle with the logistics. Let’s say new hires have thirty 15-45-minute courses they are typically assigned to take. If that material is redeveloped into 3-minute mini courses, now the employees are assigned HUNDREDS of courses instead!

You do mention the option of bundling, but that brings up more questions and concerns. Do most LMSes provide a way to bundle the mini courses into learning paths? If so, depending on the LMS design, (as in my client’s case), any mini courses included in a learning path may have to be duplicated to be able to also be offered as standalone courses, which then creates the added complexity of having to set up equivalencies between them. But even more importantly, in the end, is it really any easier/better/less taxing on the learner to take a string of ten fragmented 3-minute courses than it would have been to take one cohesive 30-minute course?

I’m not arguing against mini courses but rather trying to figure out a rule of thumb for when they make sense and when they don’t — instead of converting everything to mini courses just because that is the trend. Any insight you can provide would be helpful. (Possibly a whole blog post on this very topic?) Thank you!

July 1st, 2019

@Autumn: good questions…it is a bit subjective and there are issues as you note: number of modules, management, etc.

A few rules that I’d consider:

Many courses don’t need to be courses. For example, a lot of onboarding content (and most compliance training) is content from other resources already available. Many of those courses could be more like abstracts with access to the full resources when necessary. If that happened, what might be a 20 minute course could be a 5 minute with an activity to learn to use existing resources. And many courses don’t need to be as long as they are.

While microlearning is the current buzzword, it’s really not a new trend. I think one of the great benefits of looking to make courses smaller is forcing us to look at the content. It take a lot more work and discipline to get rid of content. The reason many courses are long is because many organizations package all content into a course with little regard to the learning process. In those cases, looking to break them into smaller (single objective) courses helps us pull out what’s least critical.

Breaking courses into smaller bites probably doesn’t matter if it’s all still the same length. If a course is 30 minutes of content, it’s still 30 minutes. 🙂 Although smaller bites may make it more palatable. I’d probably do more of the smaller bites for courses that weren’t mandatory.

Each LMS is different, but most should be able to handle some sort of learning path where courses are bundled.

July 4th, 2019

vary good post.

I go through your blog .you talk about e-learning. Basically its time to internet studies. e-learning is a good way to find large amount of student.

Tom,
The mini courses is a great idea. We do that in my current work place, we create mini courses and bundle them in a suggested order. When a new employee starts they are assigned a curricula based on their job role and it has several mini courses in it. They have 90 days to get that completed and the remainder of the training is hands on.
We just provide them with the policy and procedures of their role, and it’s up to their supervisor to teach them how to perform the role. We also have a link to education resources, like the employee handbook, and we have job specific training materials they can access and print off if need be.