The Rapid Elearning Blog


Between the workshops I run, blog emails received, and helping in the community, I get to see hundreds of e-learning courses. A common issue for many courses is transitioning from sharing content to helping people use the content to make the appropriate decisions.

Many course developers focus on making the content interactive, which is good. But much of the interactivity is novel or exists at a very basic level. What tends to be missing is the more complex decision-making interactivity.

The challenge is how to move past rote facts and get to a place where the learners can practice making the kinds of decisions they’d  make in the real world.

Interactive E-Learning 101

There are some core building blocks for interactive e-learning:

  • provide relevant content that fits in context to their real world
  • instead of pushing content, getting them to pull it
  • create ways to explore the content
  • challenge them with decision-making activities or scenarios

We’ve discussed many of these things in previous blog posts.

“What If?” Scenarios

The one thing that could add to this pursuit is to provide more “what if” scenarios:

“What happens if I do this? Or what happens if I choose this other option?”

I was thinking more about this the other day as we were presenting on how to use variables in one of our webinars. Variables allow the learner to do something that can be tracked. And then use that information to provide feedback unique to the learner’s experience. They’re perfect for creating this type of training.


  • Challenge the learner to analyze all of the available information and form some sort of hypothesis.
  • And then create the means for them to apply it and see what happens.
  • Provide the appropriate feedback based on the results.
  • Let them make adjustments and test it again.

The obvious reason why we don’t do more of this in our courses is that it takes more time to build. The reality is that most clients seem satisfied with basic click-and-read type content. And building more complex interactivity takes time, especially if we want to do it right. It also means more nuance to the way we package the course content. This wouldn’t work if all of the decisions to be made are very obvious.

Another challenge is that we tend to be in this somewhat nonsensical tracking and quizzing mode where it seems we’re less concerned with the actual learning and more concerned with course completion. In that world, there’s little room for testing ideas. And once the course is completed, it’s usually locked down by the learning management system. Thus it’s not even a great resource for reviewing later.

Creating these types of “what if” scenarios won’t work for all courses and content. And they do take more time and skill to build. However, they can enhance the learning experience and make the courses more engaging.

What types of courses do you think lend themselves to this type of training? And how would you set up the scenarios and process to test ideas?


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.

3 responses to “One Thing Missing in Most E-learning Courses”

On the mark, as always! One of the things some folks miss in the rush to elearning is the old adage “Telling ain’t training.”

I just sat through 42 slides of bullets and reading that was considered training that needed to be completed (read: plowed through and checked off) by everyone. I didn’t have to take the quiz, but I can imagine how rudimentary it has to be if the slides were that long and dull. No knowledge checks along the way. No opportunity to rehearse the new info. Nothing. It is the kind of thing that gives training a bad name.

Let’s be creative and help learners ‘do,’ instead of expecting them to worship at the fount of knowledge we push them into.

I get the most mileage out of these types of interactions when I’m dealing with topics of nuanced or uncomfortable human interaction (e.g. sharing concerns about another person’s well-being, supporting people who fall outside of cultural defaults, and applying new strategies to mental health support).

September 25th, 2018

Sales Training is a perfect application for this type of decision-making interaction. I’m working on a course that will offer the salesperson choices for responses to customers and the responses will be bad/OK/ideal. They’ll earn points based on the quality of the response and will need a certain number of points to unlock the next stage of the sales process–just like bad decisions in real life lead to no sale.

It is a challenge though because it’s taking more time to build and my team of two is pressured to crank out more content. I know this course will have a much greater impact but getting buy-in on the time it will take compared to text-based courses can be a hard sell. I truly believe once people see how much more effective it is for this type of content, our stakeholders will have a bit more patience. At least that’s how it will go down in my trainer utopia. 😉

Thanks for the great articles and webinars–they’ve really helped me up my game. I’ve only used Articulate for about a year but am more confident tackling this project.