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6 Common Mistakes to Watch Out for When Creating Elearning

About a 7 minute read.

Whether you’re creating elearning for the first time or you’re a seasoned elearning designer, life can be tough for an elearning creator – frequently under pressure to speed up project delivery times, improve quality and grow engagement. But don’t get disheartened; with the availability of easy-to-use tools such as Nimble Author and some well-placed advice, almost anyone can create effective online learning that their teams will love.

Here are our 6 most common mistakes to watch out for when creating elearning. Our article comes from experience, with Nimble having helped our customers to create over 10,000 courses for their teams.

1. Mistaking your online course for a PowerPoint presentation

1. Mistaking your online course for a PowerPoint presentation

When well-produced, online learning can make a terrific, cost-effective addition to your classroom training programme – but it’s important to remember that elearning is very different to face-to-face training and your online course is far more than just a PowerPoint presentation.

Unlike classroom training, elearning doesn’t offer the learner the same opportunity to interact with their presenter. A learner can’t raise their hand to pose a clarifying question, nor can a trainer pick up the pace in response to flagging learner engagement. Online course authors need to put greater consideration into their courses to ensure their learners remain engaged and their learning outcomes are achieved.

Take the necessary time to understand how to make the most of online delivery and adapt your approach accordingly. A good authoring tool provider should give you all the support and advice you need to hit the ground running.

2. Not making the course reflect your audience and their situations

2. Not making the course reflect your audience and their situations

Think ‘Cinderella’! When it comes to elearning, one shoe certainly won’t fit all. If you’ve been in your company for a while, then you might already have a clear profile of your learners. But if you don’t, before you launch headlong into your course authoring you should first consider; your audience demographics; their existing knowledge and experience; preferred tone-of-voice; and the hardware used (e.g. laptop or mobile) – all of which can have a tremendous influence on how you might approach your elearning course.

One of the most effective ways to improve audience engagement is to ensure your content is relevant to your learners. Easy-to-use authoring tools such as Nimble Author make it easy to contextualise your elearning, allowing you to customise your learning to reflect different departments or even specific job roles.

One technique learning designers employ to improve knowledge transfer is known as ‘scenario setting’. By putting the learner into familiar, real-world scenarios, they are provided the context needed to better apply their knowledge in their workplace. In a coffee chain, for example, this could set the learner as a barista, having to respond to a series of typical customer queries. Consider going a step further by including photographs of your real work environment to set the scene.

3. Not consolidating your learning


3. Not consolidating your learning

You might be forgiven for assuming that your learners will retain all the wonderful knowledge that you’ve packed into your online course. Unfortunately that nearly always won’t be the case.

While research* suggests that elearning can increase knowledge retention rates from 8% to over 25% when compared to face-to-face training, that won’t be achieved without serious consideration. Whether through the inclusion of consolidation exercises, learner reflection or straightforward repetition, you should look for ways to make your learning stick. As a learning designer, it’s important to know whether your training is hitting the mark.

That’s where assessment and surveys come in. As well as providing your learners (and your company) with evidence of compliance, post-course assessment can offer a clear indication of what your learners have absorbed. It can also surface valuable trend data, exposing any challenges your learners may have experienced when undertaking your course.

Along with quantitative feedback, consider adding a survey to gain qualitative feedback from your learners. This can offer up useful and sometimes surprising learner insight that can’t be gained elsewhere.

*The Research Institute of America found that elearning increases retention rates 25% to 60% when compared to 8% to 10% found in face-to-face learning.

4. Forgetting to add some multimedia sparkle

4. Forgetting to add some multimedia sparkle

When you’re working to an impossible deadline or you’ve a horde of impatient learners fighting to get their hands on your latest elearning creation (we can but dream!), it can be tempting to roll your courses out to your learners at the first opportunity.

One of the great benefits of using a modern authoring tool like Nimble Author is that it makes it easy for you to enrich your courses with interactivity, imagery, video and audio. Multimedia doesn’t just add sparkle, it can…

  • Improve retention and recall. By supporting your messages with relevant imagery, you can provide visual ‘hooks’ to make your learning more memorable.
  • Simplify complex ideas. The right diagram or illustration can make your information more digestible and improve comprehension.
  • Improve the quality and cohesion of your course. Try to use consistent, well-considered media that reflects your company brand. Some authoring tools include an image library to use in your courses. Try to avoid using low-quality clip-art if you can – there are plenty of good quality images available on royalty-free image sites such as Unsplash or Pexels.
  • Enrich the learning experience. It’s a well-known principle that your audience will learn better from a mix of media than from words alone. If a picture is worth a thousand words, think about what a video might do for your course!

Remember to keep any visuals or audio relevant. The inclusion of unnecessary, unrelated, or ambiguous media can be distracting for the learner and will work against your training course.

5.  Overloading your learner

5.  Overloading your learner

Cognitive overload is the most common pitfall in online learning. It’s easy to get carried away by overpopulating your course with content – no more so when creating compliance training. An abundance of information risks flooding the memory banks and can lead to your learners missing critical information.

Consider your course a little like a chocolate fudge cake: In the same way that you wouldn’t consume a cake in one (delicious) helping, your elearning is best served to your learners in a way that is easy to digest. In elearning this is known as ‘chunking’ and involves grouping information for more efficient use of short-term memory.

Most online learning is self-paced, with the principle that learners learn better from a course that is presented in segments rather than as a continuous unit of information. It’s important that the flow of your course should afford your learners time to process and absorb what they’ve read before launching into the next topic.

6. Believing you don’t need planning

6. Believing you don’t need planning

Planning your elearning course is by far the most important step in the course authoring process. It has been said that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

To be sure that your learning objectives are achieved, your elearning course requires extra attention during the planning phase of your project. Investing time into planning upstream will pay dividends later down the line. It will help your project run more smoothly and will always (always!) save you time in the long run.

Figure out the problem before trying to solve it!

Before getting hands-on with your authoring tool, you should first:

  • Identify who your elearning is for
  • Define your learning objectives
  • Consider where you will be sourcing your subject matter
  • Assemble your supporting resources and media assets
  • Storyboard and sequence your content
  • Choose your technology

Some mainstream elearning authoring tools recommend creating storyboards outside your authoring platform, as the process of mapping out your training can be difficult and time consuming. With Nimble Author the majority of our customers storyboard and write their courses directly into the tool, allowing our authors to build their course exactly as it would be seen by their learner.

That’s it for this week! If you’re looking for a way to create elearning in a super simple and quick way, with UK-based support every step of the way, then our authoring tool Nimble Author might be just the right tool for you.