The Rapid Elearning Blog

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better courses with these tips

I facilitate a lot of elearning workshops and from my experience most of the people who attend are just getting started. Generally the transition to elearning happens like this. They’re good at explaining things and go from explainer to trainer. Then somewhere in the process the organization says that they’re switching to online learning.

Now the trainer has to make another transition as she goes from creating and facilitating workshops to building elearning courses. And as we know, building an online training course is different than creating a facilitated live session.

So the challenge is: How do I learn and get better at building online training especially when working with limited resources?

Build Better Courses: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about being perfect. The first online course I ever built was a mess (as I look back on it today). I was teaching people who had never been online how to navigate this new thing called the “World Wide Web.” What should have been a fun course full of discovery was a long-winded, information-heavy course. I made learning about the Internet about as fun as doing taxes.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - don't worry, just get started with build better courses

But that’s OK. I received some good feedback and the next course was a little bit better. And with each one that followed I tried something new. Over time I learned to build better elearning. You only know what you know. Do the best you can, and then learn from it to get better at what you do.

  • Essential point: You’ve got to start somewhere. Do something with the expectation that the next time you’ll incorporate what you learned to build it a bit better.

Build Better Courses: Practice Your Craft

If you want to be good at something, you have to practice. Building courses is a job and we usually only commit to the job what’s required to get our paychecks. That means we work from 9 to 5 and at the end of the day, we’re done. The challenge is that during the 9 to 5 we only work on projects and have little time to practice.

Great athletes start with natural athletic skills. But what makes them great is that they start with their skills and practice, practice, practice to build on where they’re currently at. If they didn’t they’d never be exceptional.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice to build better courses

If you want to be good at your craft, you have to practice doing more than building the same type of course over and over again. Build practice activities into your routine as part of your on-the-job development. Tell your boos it’s cheaper than going to school.

  • Essential point: Take time to practice building something new. Practice new instructional ideas and production techniques you can add to your next course.

Build Better Courses: Reflect & Write about Your Learning

This part is a bit harder, but pays off big time. Start a blog or portfolio. The goal isn’t to become a recognized blogger with lots of subscribers (although that could be a goal). Instead it’s your public learning journal and a means to reflect on and share what you’re learning.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - reflect on how you build better courses

This will let you solicit feedback and get ideas to help build better courses. It also helps the person like you who wants to learn more. If we want better elearning, we need fewer blogs from thought leaders who throw out big picture ideas and more from practitioners who share practical tips and tricks.

  • Essential point: Writing about your learning experience will help you and those like you to become better developers. It’ll also add your voice to the community at large.

Super Duper Bonus Tip for Building Better Courses

Every week, David Anderson posts a simple elearning challenge. The idea is to promote exactly what I referenced above—practice doing something new to help build your skills.

It’s all about fleshing out some ideas, sharing them, and getting feedback. Most people develop simple prototypes but some put in a bit more polish. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something to push your boundaries a bit. That’s the key.

  • Essential point: The weekly challenges are happening now and an easy way to get into the habit of trying new things. That saves time trying to come up with different ideas and helps establish a routine of practice.

Weekly Challenge E-Learning Examples

There are a few who take the challenge one step forward by including a write up of what they did. What I like about these posts is that the participants are at various levels of experience. Some are just getting started and some have quite a wealth of experience. Not only do they share some nice examples, they also often share good production tips and some even share their source files.

Create a Comic Book Inspired Course via Paul Anders

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of comic book design to build better courses

Gamify Your E-Learning via Jackie Van Nice

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of gamified course to build better courses

Typography Challenge: Create a Design Tip Poster via Gemma Henderson

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of tips posters to build better courses

Create a Drag & Drop Interaction via Dan Sweigert

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of drag and drop interactions to build better courses

Use Characters in Online Courses via Montse Anderson

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of characters in elearning to build better courses

Makeover a Quiz Results Slide via Jeff Kortenbosch

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of quiz results screen to build better courses

Build an Interactive Screenshot via Allison Nederveld

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of interactive map to build better courses

Build an Interactive Screenshot via Michael Hinze

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of interactive dashboard to build better courses

Odds are you’re building the same course over and over again. That won’t do. Want to build better courses? If so, commit the time to learn something new and apply what you learn.

What do you do to improve your skills? Share your thoughts here.


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.

14 responses to “Want to Build Better Courses? Then Do This.”

Great post, Tom! All good points.

For me, the weekly challenges have helped me get out of my comfort zone and push myself to get better. I’d never created an e-learning game before, for example, but I made myself try it for one of the weekly challenges and the result is the German beer-drinking game you were so kind to include here.

Many thanks to you and David Anderson and the countless people who make up the Articulate community. It’s the best place in the world to learn more and share.

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the post, there’s some really great info here! I’m currently completing my MA in instructional design, and I’ve created a blog ( to track my growth. It’s always a great tip to practice self-reflection on our own learning. I didn’t know about this weekly e-learning challenge. I’m defiantly going to start following that. If we don’t challenge ourselves, or push ourselves past that comfort level then we’ll never improve, and sadly our training will stagnate meaning the learners will suffer.

Keep up the great work, I love the blog!

I love this!
Practicing and looking at what others are doing have been the biggest learning tools for me. I started doing eLearning about 5 years ago but have really seen the most improvement in my work in the past year or so as I became more involved in this and other eLearning and instructional design communities.
The weekly challenges are something I look forward to every week now! Even if I don’t have time to participate I really learn a lot from the wonderful examples posted by the smart and talented folks in the community.

When I just started as a freelance developer of elearning I didn’t know how or where to start to get my ‘skills’ to the next level. After a while I started to experiment with some of your ideas. Besides this I joined the elearning challenges. The feedback and examples from other community members got me on the right track.

Thanks for sharing these great examples. Keep up the great work!


Pet Peeve: gender neutral pronouns.

Persumably, if using the male pronoun “he” was exclusionary to half the population, you might expect the use of “she” in place of “they” to be equally so to the other half.

Just a thought.

Despite feeling gender-excluded, great content – as always ;~))

@Peter: I knew you could tolerate the exclusion. 🙂 Actually I always rotate it so that everyone is equally excluded.

leggi qui la traduzione in italiano autorizzata:

March 28th, 2014

Good advice with lots of information and must say great Content 🙂 with nice image work.

Thanks for sharing -love it!

April 2nd, 2014

Hi Tom, I am student Roosevelt University’s TRDV program (blog: and I found your tips very helpful. I like the tip to create a blog and write about your learning experiences. Also, practicing and doing the weekly challenges will help take me get to the next level. As someone with little experience using authoring tools and limited examples of my work this tip will help me tremendously. Thanks!

@Larissa: Thanks for the feedback. Document your learning (even after school). It’s a great way to get noticed and be part of the conversation in the industry. Good luck in your studies.

These are great tips! I love the Weekly Challenge E-Learning Examples, especially the makeover quiz. It is more interactive and fun at the same time. This will help me create better and interactive courses.

April 9th, 2014

It is possible to undoubtedly see your knowledge within the work you publish. The planet hopes for all the more passionate writers including you who are not afraid to mention how they feel. All the time comply with your heart.

April 14th, 2014

Great tips, thank you very much!