8 Steps For Creating Engaging eLearning Courses
Creating eLearning content is exciting. However, even though you may be an expert on the subject matter of the course, it pays to resist the temptation to immediately fire up your desktop, laptop, or tablet to churn out content. Take a step back and review the bigger picture first. A bit of long-term planning will result in a more stress-free experience and will produce more engaging courses for your learners.
8 Steps To Successful eLearning Creation
Developing eLearning courses is equally an art as it is a science. However, to get it right requires a tried-and-tested plan. Here’s an 8-step plan to get you started:
- Conduct Sound Audience And Needs Research
As an Instructional Design professional, you’ll only receive rewards for the time, effort, and capital investments you make in designing and developing your eLearning course if it “sells.” Ensuring that there’s a demand for your creations requires sound audience research before you invest a lot into developing the course.
Ask and answer the following questions:
- Who is the course intended for?
- Why (course objectives) would they enroll in it?
- What content (lesson plans) will you deliver?
- How lengthy will the course be (time, amount of content)?
- Will there be pre-requisites to enroll?
Be sure to accumulate and collate all your research materials while performing this step. They’ll prove useful later when putting the course content together. The object of this step is to validate whether there is a need for the course.
- Settle On A Design Methodology
A formal methodology must support the creative process for developing truly engaging eLearning content.
- Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate (ADDIE)
- Merrill’s Principles of Instruction (MPI)
- Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
Choose the framework to guide and influence your design and development efforts as early as possible. The methodology you choose will deliver you the appropriate best practices to use throughout the development process.
- Decide On Appropriate Instructional Strategies
Now that you are confident that there is a need for the course, an audience to tap into, and a framework for the development process, it’s time to decide what learning strategy(s) you’ll deploy. Several other steps (below) in the eLearning course development process will depend on your choice of instructional strategy—so give this careful thought.
Here’s where you decide if you will use learning approaches such as gamification, simulation, scenarios, Virtual Reality, social media learning, and case studies. You’ll also need to consider whether to use a Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) model, or whether this will be a blend of Instructor-Led and self-directed learning.
- Choose Your Course Creation Tools
Your choice of tools will ultimately determine whether your learners receive the type of learning experience they are seeking. The decisions you make in steps 1, 2, and 3 will feed into your decision-making for this step. For instance, some tools may not support simulated or game-based content.
- Ensure that the tools you choose to support your instructional strategies
- Graphics design tools
- Audio and video production/editing needs
- Project Management tools
- Design team communication and collaboration requirements
Factors such as free versus paid tools and locally-hosted versus cloud-based tools must also be a part of this decision.
- Choose Your Development Team
It’s highly unlikely that any individual Instructional Designer can do it all by themselves—you’ll likely need help. The team you choose will determine the ultimate success of your course creation venture.
- Assemble a cross-section of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
- Include technical experts such as graphic artists, videographers, and web developers
- If audio narration isn’t a strength of yours, you may need voice-over artists on your team
When putting the team together, make sure everyone has experience with the tools and methodologies you choose for the project.
- Create Your Storyboard
Here’s where you’ll start building your roadmap for the course. By the time you complete your storyboard, you’ll have a clear idea of how the course will flow and how various components will interact with each other. This is where you may leverage a lot of the research materials you have assimilated earlier—during the audience and needs analysis.
- Use a template approach to standardize individual course components (modules, lessons, chapters, etc.)
- It helps to organize all your supporting media and content resources (.docs, .gif, .mp3, etc.) before starting the storyboarding exercise
- Use standardized naming conventions for supporting content (e.g., “Intro-01.doc” to indicate the first Word document in the intro slide, or “button_choice1.gif” to highlight specific graphic file usage)
Once completed, it’s important to validate your storyboard against the course objectives and lesson plans to ensure it (the storyboard) delivers what you are aiming for.
- Marketing Strategy
Whether you are creating courses for yourself (to sell to clients and generate revenue) or whether it is for internal consumption by your company’s staff, a marketing plan is essential.
- Start working on your marketing plan before you invest too much time and effort on core content
- Think about how to publicize and promote the course
- Research what advertising strategy you’ll use: websites, online ad campaigns, internal newsletters, and emails, etc.
- How will you distribute the course: Centrally? Through educational partnerships via the corporate learning portal, etc.?
- If this is an internal course, consider if it makes sense to “position” the course as an internal career-path booster
A final word on marketing, put some thought into whether there’s an opportunity to use this course to upsell follow-up courses to your target audience.
- Sales Strategy
Without a proper sales strategy, you may end up with a great course but with no one (target audience) to benefit from it. Selling the course, whether for money or the benefit of your organization, is likely why you developed it in the first place.
- How will you deliver the course to end-users?
- Think about pricing, installment plans, discounts, etc.
- Single pricing or multiple (tiered) pricing? Individual pricing versus institutional price models
- Give thought to secure payment processing
A good sales strategy might be to use a controlled pilot launch, offered at a reduced rate, to also validate and test market acceptability of the course. If there are glaring issues with the pilot, you could always fix and relaunch at a higher price point.
Following these 8 steps is the best way to ensure you create highly engaging eLearning courses using a disciplined approach. It is, however, important to note that not all the steps discussed here are sequential. For instance, you could commence putting your Marketing (#7) and Sales (#8) plans together in parallel with your Storyboarding (#6) process.
Additionally, depending on what your game plan is: Whether you are creating the course as an independent freelancer for yourself; whether you are working for a client; or whether you are creating courses as an employee for an organization; there may be other optional steps involved. These may include several layers of milestone approvals and peer validations before proceeding with subsequent steps. The important point to note here, however, is that these steps are a starting point for a well-thought-out course design and development process.
If you are ready to turn your courses into engaging, results-driven, mind-blowing learning experiences, then join the Instructional Design for eLearning program and start creating successful eLearning courses.