4 eLearning Design Choices that Excel and 4 to Avoid

Featured image - 4 design choices that excel and 4 to avoid in today's eLearning environment

4 eLearning Design Choices that Excel and 4 to Avoid

Matt Archer

February 4, 2021

eLearning Design quote

The Dos and Don’ts of Modern eLearning Design

eLearning design is as much an art as it is a science. You need to balance the requirements of the training against the needs of the learner and limitations such as time and budget. Additional factors come into play as well, since not all eLearning is created equal.

Modern eLearning design has shifted away from bulky, data-heavy presentations with minimal interaction and trended more towards simple, minimalistic design that has a high emphasis on interaction and conveying the most important information. To get the best ROI from your eLearning, it’s recommended to shift with the times.

Below are 4 design ideas to consider adding into your eLearning courses and 4 design choices to avoid in order to keep learner engagement and interest, while increasing their knowledge retention to make the training much more effective.

Dos and don'ts of modern eLearning Design


[DO] Simplify eLearning Design

eLearning Design - keep it simpleThe K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple) acronym can be applied here. If you can convey the required information to a learner in a simple, straightforward way that is easy to understand and retain, this is much more efficient than designing a complex training that is less likely to accomplish those goals.

Simple designs include less text per slide with more “white-space” or imagery to provide context to the information being conveyed. If the slide contains narration, it should also be condensed into what is most relevant to the topic being discussed on the slide. If you have more to talk about, add another slide instead of trying to jam it all into one.

[DO] Maintain a Consistent Theme

Most high quality eLearning courses and modules revolve around a particular theme and that them is maintained across the training to help provide context and consistency to the learner.

Sometimes that theme is obvious, such as onboarding a new employee to the company and walking them through an actual day in the life of a worker in your business. Other times the training may not have an obvious theme, such as training factory workers on how to identify defective products. This is where the creativity of an instructional designer can come into play to help craft a design that fits into the narrative they create for the training.

[DO] Tell a Story

eLearning Design tell a storySpeaking of narrative, telling a story across your design is a great way to keep learners interested and engaged with the training. The story could be as simple as a person walking through the steps of a process and how they handle each of the tasks put before them, or as complex as embarking on a mission to save the planet by learning about ways to reduce waste and use renewable energy.

Just as a great plot in a book or movie can hook its audience and keep is want to read/watch more, so too can an engaging story help your eLearning course maintain interest among its target audience.

[DO] Be Interactive

One of the most drastic shifts in eLearning design has been from passive knowledge transfer towards engaging interactions that share much less and expect much more from the learner.

Interactions can range from clicking hotspots on the screen to access hidden information, answering quiz questions, clicking on multi-media buttons to view recordings, or playing a game where the results change based on your choices.

Adding well thought out interactions to your eLearning design can keep learners interested and increase the likelihood they’ll retain the information you’re providing through the training.

[DON’T] Overstimulate your Audience

eLearning Design don't overstimulateOne of the pitfalls designers can encounter when creating eLearning content is trying to put too much information or too many things onto a slide that it becomes overwhelming and difficult to focus on any one item.

Shortening textual information can greatly clear up that clutter when paired with strong narration and well thought out color and image choices. Sometimes a few words paired a powerful image will evoke a lot more in a learner than multiple paragraphs and a slideshow of pictures.

[DON’T] Over-Engineer Interactions

Another challenge some designers run into when trying to adapt to more modern eLearning design choices is to take interactivity too far, forcing people to click through content that might be better displayed in another way. We call this over-engineering.

Just as too little interaction can bore learners, too much interaction can frustrate learners who feel they are being called upon to do too much related to the type of training they are receiving. This is why it’s important to know your audience when designing eLearning, so you can better anticipate their needs and how best to adapt your design to meet those needs. Sometimes it may take multiple iterations to get it “just right” but when you find that sweet spot, your learners will thank you for it.

[DON’T] Railroad Learners

eLearning Design don't railroadRailroading is a term used in tabletop games that refers to the Game Master forcing the other participants down a very strict and linear path rather than letting them have more freedom as to how to participate, much like how railroad tracks force the train to follow only where they lead. This phenomenon happens often in eLearning as well, as well-meaning designers wish to ensure all of their content is presented in a very specific linear format.

However, this can be detrimental because many learners want to be able to jump back and forth through content, so locking them in to a predetermined path at a predetermined pace ends up causing disengagement rather than interest.

As Debadrita Sengupta from eLearningIndustry puts it, “A course should progress smoothly, as one immersive learning environment where learners can move forward and backward as they choose. Forced and linear learning are best kept for novice learners who need a lot of guidance.”[1]

[DON’T] Knowledge Dump

You’ve probably encountered someone in your life who was just so excited about a topic that they started to share way too much information about that topic without you being able to stop them. This is known as knowledge dumping and it can happen in eLearning when the primary focus of the course is on slide after slide of bullet point data, infographics or other content that’s just about throwing as much information at the learner as possible without any breaks to rest, test or digest that information.

Final Thoughts

eLearning Design final thoughtsAs modern eLearning design continues to emphasize interactivity, simplicity and learner engagement, it’s important for your company’s training to reflect the needs of the modern learner so you can get buy-in from your trainees, increase ROI and better accomplish your goals.

Positive Results™ is comprised of instructional designers who can meet with your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), identify gaps in your business process, address those gaps, and design training that will convey what your learners need to know in a way that will keep them interested, engaged and help them retain the information for when they need it most. If you need help in designing or modernizing your training, consider reaching out to our team for assistance.


If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:


Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions




[1] https://elearningindustry.com/bad-elearning-course-design-avoid-5-types

Scroll to Top