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How NOT to Design eLearning January 24, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.

Mark Simon wrote a great article in the January 2009 edition of T+D Magazine titled, "E-Learning NO How: 7 disastrous decisions sure to sink any e-learning implementation." The article begins like this…

You finally did it.

After researching and selecting all the e-learning development tools that you needed to author your first lesson, you’ve rolled up your sleeves and produced an excellent, captivating e-learning course. It really looks great, and, more importantly, it includes all of the fundamental learning methods that you discussed in your instructional design training. You know that learners will absorb the learning concepts you’ve given them, as they sail through the module.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mark goes on to list "seven of the most common reasons for e-learning failure" and then discusses ways to avoid making the mistakes. I’ve summarized the seven common reasons for eLearning failure here, and I’ve added a few tips for avoiding failure.

Reasons for eLearning failure:

  1. Fire and forget
    After you’ve created an eLearning course, you can’t just send it out and assume everyone will take it. Follow up with email reminders, internal marketing, and communication from management.
  2. Don’t worry about assessments
    Don’t assume the learner mastered the material. Assessments are necessary!
  3. Ignore the working environment
    Consider providing links to job aids and other performance support tools for the learners. Remember, they will return to their work environment after the course.
  4. Forget about the LMS
    Make sure your course works seamlessly with your LMS. Don’t just assume your part is done after you’ve built the course.
  5. Don’t worry about teaching the e-learning interface
    Provide support materials to make sure your learners know how to navigate your eLearning interface.
  6. Make it difficult to access the course
    Automatically enroll users in your course or make sure the course can be found easily in the LMS.
  7. Ignore workstation configurations
    Do some research with help from your IT department. Your users may not have the right browser, plugins, etc. Figure out how to handle upgrades and prepare documentation for learners if they need to make changes to their systems.

A common theme that I saw on Mark’s list is: Don’t assume anything. Do your research, know your audience well, and be as prepared as possible. Read Mark’s full article here.



1. Jeff Goldman - January 24, 2009

May I add:

Keep it updated. If the content is no longer correct or relevant participants will “write the course off.”

Before even releasing the course, set review dates.



2. Gary H - January 27, 2009

All good points with good tips. As I read over the list I was thinking about the courses I have done recently. Most of these are automatic for me, I just do them. The courses that I didn’t were not as successful. It’s good to see this stuff written out so clearly. It’s a good reminder.

3. B.J. Schone - January 28, 2009

@Jeff – Good point. Reviews are critical.

@Gary – Thanks. I had a conversation about this with a co-worker. We decided that this list of tips is great for people new to eLearning, and it’s also a great refresher for the seasoned veterans like us. 🙂

There are several other eLearning sins that come to mind, such as not knowing your audience and not understanding the problem (analysis failure). I’m sure we could think of others…

4. Learning Pulse | Xyleme Learning Blog - January 30, 2009

[…] eLearning Weekly: Blogging on the article “E-Learning NO How: 7 disastrous decisions sure to sink any e-learning implementation”. Some tips to avoid failure. […]

5. Learning Pulse | Xyleme Insider - February 2, 2009

[…] eLearning Weekly: Blogging on the article “E-Learning NO How: 7 disastrous decisions sure to sink any e-learning implementation”. Some tips to avoid failure. […]

6. Anna - February 4, 2009

In regards to #5 and 6, I agree–It’s important not to forget that your students may experience difficulty navigating the online course. Making the interface as user-friendly as possible is essential, but some form of help should be available to users at all times, should they experience difficulties. Keep the language simple. Making the language as accessible as possible will help prevent frustrating moments for your course navigators.

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