eLearning - The Basics

Part One


Online learning or eLearning doesn't have to be fun, but it does need to be engaging. It does need to interest the learner and be absorbing.

It needs to be what is known in publishing as a page-turner. Why?

People who are engaged, interested and absorbed learn 1000 times faster than those who aren't.

So, does it matter how fast people learn - isn't it up to them?

Yes, it is, but why would you want to make things difficult when you could make things easy?   

A major principle of eLearning is design. Instructional design, UX design, visual design, graphic design, asset design, all aspects of design.

Not just to make it look nice but to ensure the maximum amount of information is absorbed quickly and painlessly.

As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like or feels like, but how it works."

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Principles - Design - Click to View

Principles – Design

The first principle to look at is design. This is predominantly a visual medium so the basic principles of design must therefore apply.

  • Instructional design, to determine what learning is delivered and how it is delivered.
  • UX design for the order, process, structure and navigation.
  • Visual design determines the overall look and feel, simplifies the message, and creates the visual identity. 
  • Graphic design translates the visual design into the individual screens and assets.
  • Asset design requires a consistent visual approach in order to maximise a sense of professionalism and integrity in the training.

Not all of the above are equal but in order to produce high-quality content, you need to act as if they were.



Principles - Respect - Click to View

Principles – Respect

  1. Just because your participants don’t know anything about the subject in question doesn’t make them idiots. A newly qualified doctor who can’t figure out how to use the NHS trust procurement system is still a smart cookie.
  2. Don’t assume people know more than they do. Just because you and the SME know the subject inside out, doesn’t mean what you take for common knowledge extends out into the wider community.
  3. If participants find your course particularly difficult consider the possibility this might not be the best method to use.
  4. Learning designers need to be the champion of the end user.
  5. Constantly ask yourself if what you produce is understandable and coherent to the relevant audience.
  6. Don’t overload your audience. The premium period for the absorption of information is 20 mins.
  7. Try not to preach.



Principles - Involvement - Click to View

Principles – Involvement

  1. Involvement can be simple. Instead of “This is how it is done”, use examples and ask participants to choose which they would use. Or ask them to choose which method they would use in a ranked order.
  2. Always ensure the information needed to make a logical decision is available in some form. Participants asked to do tasks or answer questions they don’t have the information available for, will lose faith in the process.
  3. Involvement is not an end in itself. Involvement is used to draw the participants into the process, to get them interested or hooked.
  4. Involvement is to start a discussion or peer group collaboration. People like to be involved, they also like to figure things out for themselves.
  5. Involvement isn’t an endless test.




Principles - Production

  1. The first rule of production is there will never be enough time.
  2. The second rule of production is anything can be done if you have enough time.
  3. The third rule of production is everything takes two to four times longer than you think it will.

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Principles - Analogy - Click to View

Principles – Analogy

  • With the possible exception of open discussions with live participants, analogies have no place in online or eLearning. An analogy creates more questions than answers with nobody there to answer or clarify.
  • If you can’t explain what you need to explain using the relevant facts, introducing abstract instruments isn’t going to help.
  • If your participants don’t understand the principle in question, introducing another principle they may not understand in order to compare the two principles, isn’t going to work.

To understand the fundamentals of electricity, classroom based participants are asked to compare the flow of electricity between two points – with water flowing downhill. These are used because they are both fundamental principles of physics.

Questions from the floor included:

  • Does electricity only flow downhill?
  • If you could electrify water will it flow uphill?
  • So electricity is drawn between the two points by gravity?
  • Yeah, why does water only flow downhill?

Clearly, the participants don’t fully understand either principle, so asking them to compare two principles, neither of which they understand just creates confusion.

Principles - Production - Click to View

Principles – Production

  1. The first rule of production is there will never be enough time.
  2. The second rule of production is anything can be done if you have enough time.
  3. The third rule of production is everything takes two to four times longer than you think it will.
  4. The fourth rule of production is everyone thinks you are the least important link in the chain.
  5. The fifth rule of production is everyone thinks you can’t-do it in the time because you don’t really know what you’re doing.
  6. The sixth rule of production is without you, they’re all f**ked.
  7. The seventh rule of production is you must never mention the 6th. rule.
  8. The eighth rule of production is there will never ever be enough time.

Principles - Simplicity - Click to View

Principles – Simplicity

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Albert Einstein.

Principles - Visualise - Click to View

Principles – Visualise

Our brains process visual data 60,000 times faster than text – That’s about the blink of an eye, making visualisation the most efficient means of communication. So why are online learning screens full of endless text, or visually childish power point presentations? Hopelessly inefficient from a learning perspective and just mind numbingly boring for the end user. Communicate visually with your audience to deliver a sophisticated intelligent proposition.










“Design is not just what it looks like or feels like, but how it works." Steve Jobs

"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." Henry Ford

“Learning and teaching are not inherently linked. Much learning takes place without teaching, and much teaching takes place without learning.” Jane Bozarth

“Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn." Winston Churchill

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” Groucho Marx 


Visual Communication

What does this page convey?
What is it saying to you?
Is it cold, corporate, hard, and uncaring?
Or dynamic, ambitious, successful, and rich?
Whatever it says one thing is certain, changing the pictures
will change the entire look and feel.
It will change what you think about what's written here
and how you interpret the content.
It will change what you think of the design
and the designer that designed it.
It will change how you view the
business or institute it represents.

If there were no pictures, what would that say?








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