Designing Online Courses for Employee Training

Developing effective e-learning training content isn’t only about creating a course with solid material. Managers and course authors are concerned about adapting different courses to a variety of learning styles and individual needs, and keeping learners interested and engaged. This may seem overwhelming at first, but once you get past the basics and establish some consistency, those complexities will become part of the standard course-building routine. A good place to start is to organize your thoughts, and figure out exactly what it is you want to include in your online course. Pro tip: try not to make your e-learning course more complicated than it needs to be. Simplicity is key with these first steps and best practices.
Mental Prep: The First Steps for Successful Online Course Design
  • Identify the purpose of your e-learning training course. At a high level, the purpose of your e-learning course should center on changing and improving employee performance. Make sure to keep core goals in mind.
  • Establish the course type. Your e-learning course will most likely fall into one of these three categories:

    1. Information-based course with no performance assessments.

    2. Step-by-step instructions for the learner’s specific job functions.

    3. Guidelines for helping a learner solve real workplace challenges.
  • Organize your resources. Manage and allocate your them according to the complexity and importance of the e-learning courses you’re designing.
  • As you proceed to the course design phase, remember to keep your course straightforward and outcome-focused.
Online Course Design Best Practices
Passive vs. active engagement
Depending on your course, you may want to focus on a more passive style of learning or a more actively engaged experience. Passive engagement can be effective when delivering timely and relevant information. Passive learning tends to be more resource- and reference-based—in other words, learners will absorb the information, and if they need to check back later, the information will be available to them. Active engagement allows the learner to apply given information and get feedback right away. While active engagement is often more memorable, a passive-engagement course can be used as an ongoing resource. Both styles can be effective, and there isn’t necessarily a “right answer.” It’s important to keep both your audience and the actual course content in mind when designing online courses.
Keep the e-learning design simple and clean so you don't overwhelm your learners. A modern, “flat” design style incorporates a solid color scheme, with consistent structure. Successful online course designs are often bold yet slightly muted in tone. Using a simple, minimal approach when designing online courses means there’s less for the learners to worry about or become distracted by.
Stick with the same course design elements throughout. Avoid changing fonts and sizes. Style changes can be disruptive and can unnecessarily distract learners. Mix styles only to add effect, such as drawing attention to a specific spot on the screen.
White space
Use white space to further simplify your e-learning design. This forces you to add relevant information in a clear and concise way.