The Rapid Elearning Blog

three ideas for effective communication in e-learning

We often build a single course to suit all learners. This presents possible challenges to the learning process. Let’s take a look at why and discuss a few options to help remedy some it them.

Effective Communication Involves Common Understanding

We use words all the time that have loaded meaning and often don’t mean the same things to people. For example, even a word like e-learning can be a bit confusing. First, we don’t even have agreement on how to spell it. Is it eLearning, elearning, or e-learning?
In my world, e-learning involves the authoring of online courses with a rapid e-learning product like Articulate 360. For others, it’s any learning content in digital format. Thus, a PDF is e-learning just as much as a course authored in Storyline.

effective communication and common understanding

There’s even more confusion as we look at different industries. The corporate version of e-learning is a lot different than what you’d find in higher education or at the K-12 level.

It’s important to recognize this and ensure you have appropriate context when using words and phrases that may have different meaning. The best thing is to build context and clarity in the communication process.

Experience and Skill Level Impact Effective Communication

People don’t come to the e-learning course at the same level. We have different personal experiences impacted by things like our worldview, culture, and ethnicity. We also have different professional experiences (and some may even conflict with the course content). On top of that, we have different skill levels. For one the course may be too easy, and for the other, too difficult.

effective communication and skill level

You can’t control those things about the learner. However, there are things you can do in your course design that may help resolve some issues. For example, a pre-assessment helps determine how much someone already knows and what they need to learn. From there you can opt out the experienced person, or create an adaptive process to accommodate different needs.

Personal Motivation Impacts Effective Communication

A lot of e-learning is pointless to the learner and most of those types of courses also tend to be boring and mind-numbing information dumps. On top of that, people are at various levels of motivation when it comes to engaging with the e-learning content.

There are many things that motivate people. And a lot of it is outside the realms of the course and not something you as a course creator can control. However, there are a lot of things that you can do to help motivate the learner.

effective communication and personal motivation

If the course is relevant and meaningful, then it is received better than one disconnected from the person’s real world. No one complains, when they actually learn something.

Many courses are overly focused on content and not on application. Focus on what the person needs to do, and then build the course backwards from there.

Interactive engagement is also important. I try to do two things: get the person doing stuff on screen to pull them into the course. And most importantly, get them interacting with the content. This is usually built around decision-making activities similar to what they’d do in the real world.

People are complex and they come to the e-learning content with different experiences, skill levels, and attitudes. Effective communication in the e-learning process is built on understanding this and applying the right strategies.

What do you find to be some of the challenges during course development and communicating the content to those who take the e-learning courses?


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

2 responses to “Effective Communication for Online Learning”

March 8th, 2020


I really enjoyed reading your post. My school is attempting to move into the world of elearning due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Our school start has been pushed back for quite some time. One thing I am struggling with in our attempts at an online community is communication with my students. I teach Korean kids in China. So what you said about worldview and culture having an impact on their elearning journey, I really connected with that. My question about this is, you mention that a pre-assessment would help gauge the students understanding and you can build off of that for the lesson, but what should the pre-assessment look like? Am I measuring their knowledge about what they are learning or their tech abilities? I also liked what you said about motivation, that some elearning can be too focused on content and not as much on application. I teach History and sometimes this is what I struggle with, it’s a lot of content and not as much application. What sort of online tools do you know of that keep students motivated that doesn’t slack on the content?


March 16th, 2020

@Amber: good questions. A good book that goes into a lot of this is Understanding By Design. He takes a backwards design approach focusing on understanding of the content and how that’s expressed. And then designing activities to demonstrate understanding.

As far as pre-assessment, I’d focus on what it is they need to know. The pre-assessment should expose their level of understanding, and hopefully expose their gaps.