There is quite a prolific belief that creating e-learning is easy.

After all, you have a PowerPoint that has worked well for face-to-face training since 1999, so all you need to do it get that online somehow, right?

No no no.


There is so much more to it. If you want to do it properly that is. And why wouldn’t you?

Surely you want to increase the chances of your learners absorbing the knowledge, passing the associated test, and putting the skills into action in their work?

This week I have even seen someone who is usually a face-to-face trainer state that with X amount of face-to-face experience, creating a course online couldn’t be that different and they were pretty sure they could figure it out (and in fact, immediately provide training on it without ever even having built an online course yet).🤔 Though there is obviously some crossover I think I can safely say my heart sank at the de-valuing of what instructional designers do.

I shall attempt to avoid donning the ranty pants in explaining why there is more to it.

Two eggs with sad faces painted on


What does e-learning creation involve?

Creating effective e-learning is something of an underrated craft.

You must implement learning theory and methodology, understand the levels of learning, pedagogy (the theory behind teaching), the development process, and the range of media types at your disposal.

You must take the time to understand both your clients and the audience, their technical competency, the environment in which they are learning, and their reasons for learning. And write in a tone of voice appropriate for both them and the subject.

You need to understand the technology options, the potential of the software you are using, the possibilities you can achieve within timescales, and a budget, how to track your learners’ progress.

You should be able to select the best media to use for the content, the amount of information to be displayed, and the technical restraints media types can bring.

In the instructional design, you need to create a story, make it flow seamlessly, provide interaction without being physically present, make the content engaging, have empathy, make it relatable, and convert complicated language into easily digestible plain language (SMEs love talking in jargon and acronyms). You need to cut down the source materials to the vital points.

You need to make sure any legislation referenced is up-to-date, and that you meet examining body specifications. To develop knowledge tests throughout that are testing information relevant to the learning outcomes. You will need to understand and strategically avoid any ethical issues.

Throughout the process, you should engage with the SME to source case studies and scenarios, and ensure content is accurate and up to date.

Then it comes to the technicalities, you need to build the course in industry-standard software, using triggers, variables, and other mind-boggling coding. You will need to adhere to the new even more boggling WCAG accessibility guidelines and implement the features.

You will have to source visuals or work with a designer who is creating them for you. Or in my case, get managing your time so you can do the whole process.

Finally, you will need to do your own quality checks as well as the amends that come back from quality departments.

And that is just for starters.


A common misunderstanding

Like the crafts of writing and graphic design, it is often considered that you don’t need any special skills to create it. You are not alone in not understanding this. Few people understand what e-learning is, let alone know what goes into it.

I have even worked with people in e-learning companies who sell the products that haven’t understood the amount of work that goes into creating a great product. They haven’t understood why it could take 8 weeks to create a module when the content has been provided by a customer or subject matter expert. There is a certain misconception that instructional designers just copy and paste content across to the authoring software and the job is done.

But as you can see this is not the case.

Not if you want a good piece of training that represents your company and values, and effectively transfers knowledge.

If you are struggling to understand whether your content could be turned into online training, how on earth you would go about it, and the timescales and costs involved, contact me and I can talk you through it.

I am offering some free 30 minute consultations throughout the lockdown to businesses looking to transfer their offering online. I have a limited supply of free slots so contact me soon if you would like to book yourself in.


​Write 52: Week 45
Write 52 is an accountability initiative started by Ed Callow, to encourage the team to create original content every week, and to commit to it. You can find more information here.
Come join us and get writing!