Good e-learning: engaging, relevant and effective

Everyone has their own opinion on what makes good e-learning – and as Nick’s response to my last post shows, it’s not always easy to decide on just one defining characteristic!

But clearly there are common threads that run through these discussions, and I’m glad to say that the responses to the question I posed last time more or less support that. For me, there are three headline characteristics that I keep in mind and try to achieve every time I design a piece of learning content.

I think good e-learning is:

  1. Engaging
  2. Relevant
  3. Effective

Truth be told, most workplace learners are unlikely to jump at the chance to take yet another e-learning course. For first-time e-learning users the resistance or scepticism can be even greater. So one of the most fundamental things to achieve is engagement – it’s our job to capture the interest and attention of our learners, to convince them of the importance of the training and to make it an enjoyable experience for them. We need to let our passion and enthusiasm for what we do speak for itself – it’ll show through in the end product and can go a long way towards turning scepticism into support.

Of course, engagement isn’t enough on its own – even the most entertaining and visually appealing course is likely to quickly become a chore if the learner can’t easily and immediately see what they are doing and what they’ll get from it. An e-learning course shouldn’t be cryptic – it needs to be crystal clear from the outset what value there is for the learner. If it’s not clearly relevant and directly applicable to their everyday work, the chances are they’ll switch off and the learning won’t be transferred back to the workplace.

Finally, at the end of the day all learning content is designed to make a difference to the business. No matter how engaging and relevant, if it doesn’t deliver the improved performance and business results it promised, it’s not effective and it’s not good e-learning. (I admit I might be ‘cheating’ slightly here by using a word that can be a bit of a catch-all for lots of other criteria – defining ‘effective’ is another discussion in itself.) It sounds so simple but in my experience it’s surprisingly easy to get carried away with the graphic design, the technical wizardry and the exciting new concept, and forget about making sure that what’s been delivered is actually in line with and delivering the business objectives.

None of these is exactly groundbreaking, but sometimes it can be easy to talk about what makes good e-learning and quite a bit harder to put it into practice. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to delve into each of these in more detail, hopefully with some useful tips and ideas for doing just that. I’ve also got some ideas about some steps for going beyond ‘good’ e-learning and moving to ‘great’ e-learning. In the meantime, though, I’d be really interested to know what you think – do you agree with my criteria for good learning content?


3 thoughts on “Good e-learning: engaging, relevant and effective

  1. Pingback: Learning about learning | Good To Great

  2. Pingback: The five moments of need: designing with the learners in mind | Good To Great

  3. Pingback: The secret of good design | Good To Great

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