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essentials of interactive e-learning

At a recent workshop, we reviewed some of the essentials of interactive e-learning. Here are some of the highlights from the presentation. They focus on what the course participant should DO and not what information they need to SEE.

Basic Course Design

We discussed this in the post on what every new instructional designer should know. When building courses there are three main considerations:

  • What content needs to be in the course?
  • What’s the right look and feel for the course?
  • What will the users do in the course?

essentials of interactive e-learning 3 considerations

This last point is where we consider how the user interacts in the course. One of the challenges many e-learning developers have is that they don’t properly identify the performance objectives for the course and without that, they can’t build meaningful interactions.

The first thing is to understand the performance expectations and then from there build the interactions and activities that teach how to meet those expectations.

Objectives for Interactive E-Learning

It’s important to step away from info-centric design and step towards learner-centric design. A course focused on the learner frames the content so that it’s relevant to the learner’s needs and meaningful to the types of decisions they need to make in the real world.

essentials of interactive e-learning how to

  • Identify who’s taking the course.
  • In what situations would they need the course content?
  • After the course, what should they be able to do?
  • How do they prove they can do it during the course?

Use a Backward Design Strategy to Focus On Meaningful Interactions

Training specialists always fret over the return-on-investment (ROI) for e-learning. That’s usually the case when they’re not properly aligned to the organization’s goals and end up building a lot of information-based e-learning with very little focus on real performance improvement. It’s like they shoot a bunch of arrows during the year; then at the end of the year draw bull’s eyes around them to show the organization how well they’ve done.

essentials of interactive e-learning backward bull's eye design

  • The real bull’s eye is identifying what the learner needs to do.
  • Then determine how they can prove that they can do it.
  • Training is built around how to prove their understanding.
  • Focus on the activities. What do they need to do and what do they need to know to do it.

If you focus on the activities and not the information, you’ll most likely built more effective, engaging, and interactive e-learning.

Good books to learn more:

The links to Amazon books may produce a slight commission.

When it all comes down to it, effective interactive e-learning is built around meaningful activities that are relevant to the learner and aligned with the organization’s goals. The mistake a lot of course designers make is to not properly define the performance objectives and from there build meaningless or no interactivity.


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.

7 responses to “Essentials of Interactive E-Learning”

Thanks a lot for sharing this. I find this post very useful because I too am associated with a firm that runs an e-learning website. To be honest, we still are at the very beginning level of our vision and I feel like informative articles like this one will help us to get better eventually.

The backward design strategy seems promising indeed.

Great article. I’ve always preferred “working backwards” as it does ensure that your training is effective no matter what medium you use (e-learning, live online, or instructor led). It can certainly save you time as well if your business partners have not thought it all the way through before they pull you on board to throw training at their issue.

Thanks, Tom, for the reminder to re-read Performance Consulting and Understanding by Design.

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June 26th, 2017

very insightful article!

A good reminder of what each training should focus on. It’s great that you share it here.

July 16th, 2017

Great information especially for a student like me currently working on my master in Instructional Design. You stated above to “focus on the activities and not the information”; What are some strategies that can be used in cause the activities are not beneficial to the participants? I believe the backward design is always a great method to use because it has the end in mind. I am little nervous about eventually designing an e-learning course that will be effective for my participants especially with them being adults. I am middle school teacher, so I plan to use some the information listed above with my students in order to help me prepare for future career, as an instructional designer.