6 Common Mistakes When Creating Online Learning

Dustin Elliott
Posted on

Let’s apply some 80/20 to our eLearning course design, and stop making these 5 common mistakes! (3 minute read)

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Originally posted April 20, 2019: https://elearningindustry.com/creating-online-learning-mistakes-5-common

Creating Online Learning: How Can You Avoid Potential Mistakes?

After 2 years of working with everyone from General Managers, seasoned eLearning Professionals, HR, Sales Managers, and everyone else set out with the task of implementing eLearning in their organizing, I can boil everything down into 6 common mistakes I see.

Avoid these, and you will be on your way to eLearning success!

1. Keep It Simple

I get it. Creating courses to educate and inspire your audience can be very exciting, and it’s easy to feel all fancy and get fancy with your online learning. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t work.

Now, I’m not saying to not take pride, not innovate, and try things outside the box as you craft your learning, but I implore you to keep it simple!

At the end of the day, creating courses using eLearning should have a clear goal—to educate. And everything that doesn’t add to that, takes away from it—being unnecessary complexity of information as an example.

When I work with professionals through this process, I ask them one question; “What will your learners be able to do after completing this course?”

Everything else, no matter how pretty or cool that doesn’t support that question needs to be turfed!

2. Not Enough Repetition

The human brain is an incredible device capable of recalling and synthesizes amazing feats. But, in our everyday world, that poor brain has a lot to contend with for attention and bandwidth.

So, to not only craft the best learning but also make sure it sticks is to ensure that you repeat things at least 3 times throughout the learning process.

Repeat things 3 times.

Repeat things at least 3 times. See how well that worked.

Of course, it all depends on what tool you’re using΄. Does it include:

  • Text for people to read?
    Try including instructions or something to set up the learning they’re about to go through.
  •  A video, auditory, or another visual medium?
    This is where bulk learning will happen for that particular topic or idea.
  • A summary, recap, or essay/multiple choice questions?
    This is where the person can process and recall the information to start to enforce the brain’s pathways relating to that new knowledge.

An easy way to create meaningful, repetitive material without it being intrusive is to frequently recall and bring different learning concepts together to form a bigger. This allows you to repeat things time and again to really hammer it home.

3. It’s Too Loooong!

Look, our attention spans suck. And the bad news is that it’s only getting shorter. So, when you’re creating your course content, and where possible, try and break it into segments that are no longer than 10 minutes in length. And in between those segments, you can include soft breaks which allow the learner to feel refreshed but also keep them engaged.

If they disengage, then we start to jeopardize the learners’ experience and potentially losing them to those white sneakers sitting in the corner that might need a cleaning (they do not need cleaning though!).

The best strategy to avoid topics and courses getting too long is to plan out beforehand. This will give you the time both to zoom in and zoom out on the content to ensure that it’s a structure in a logical way, and one which supports the best outcome for our learners.

4. Not Knowing The Audience

We’re all guilty of this, myself included. We create content that looks amazing!

It’s slick and sexy with all the bells, whistles, and those sweet buzzwords.

But here’s the thing, we’re not creating the content for us, we’re creating it for others. So, some important questions that need to be asked are:

  • What is our audience’s education level?
  • What is their role/job?
  • What is their level of comfort with technology?
  • Where is this learning going to happen? (i.e. in an office, on a noisy job site, at home, etc)
  • What type of learning might need to be combined to reinforce the eLearning experience?
  • And more related to understanding who will be doing the learning and whatever else they may need to be successful.

5. Leverage The Learner’s Own Experience

One of the most overlooked opportunities in eLearning (and learning in general if I’m honest) is opportunities for the learner to bring in their own shared experience as it applies to whatever they’re learning.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a new skill they’re getting or an old skill they’re leveling up in, leveraging their own experience can be a critical link to for the learner to be able to have greater retention as well as go beyond the obvious training objective.

Some strategies that have worked well for clients are:

  • Getting the learner to share their own experience about a certain situation (i.e. safety, bad customer service, leadership, etc) and get them to take the knowledge and mix in the new learning for an enriched experience.
  • Getting the learner to engage in practice runs, trials, or hands-on learning. By combining auditory, visual, and tactile, you can achieve 85% of retention rates.

6. Ask! (Bonus Point)

One of the most common questions I get from clients I work with is “where should I focus my course building initiatives?”.

And my simple answer: “Ask!”. That means ask the management, ask your clients, ask your suppliers, and ask the learners what they need and how they think they might be best engaged. Often they will tell you exactly what you need and get you at least 50% of the way there.

The Conclusion

I’ve seen these mistakes thousands of times, and everyone (absolutely every client ever!) makes their own decisions to restructure their content to be in line with the above principals.

The moral to the story? Save time from the get-go, and stick to these core course creation principles, and you’ll be on your way to eLearning (or any learning) success.

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