ELearning Pet Peeves

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

This post was inspired by Tim Slade's post on his top ELearning Pet Peeves.


Pet peeves... We all have them. Taking a moment to reflect on the design and development of ELearning, it's time to list my top three pet peeves when it comes to ELearning design.


Of course, this isn't a one-size fits all approach but this post will also provide you with some helpful tips on how to overcome these issues to ensure your content is as engaging for your learner, as you had hoped it would be. I’ve found that these pet peeves have the biggest impact on how learners interact, engage and progress throughout courses - they have the ability to hamper engagement levels.


Let’s dive into my three Elearning Pet Peeves and create learning experiences which engage and inspire our learners.




ELearning Pet Peeve #1: Locked and Poor Navigation

Okay, so this is actually two individual pet peeves, but for the purpose of this post, I'm going to group them together as they both impact the overall navigation and experience your learner is going to have with your course.


Locked navigation is generally used when we, learning designers, want to force our learners to interact with specific elements throughout our courses. Generally speaking, this is used throughout compliance styled courses or throughout courses of a dryer nature. However, more often than not (in my experience), it occurs because of a direction set out by a subject matter expert (SME).


Poor navigation is exactly that. A course, which hasn't been designed following the laws of user experience (UX) or user interface (UI). These two laws are fundamental to online learning experiences.

What's the Impact?

In my experience, both of these elements (either together or separately) negatively impact the learners experience with courses. By locking down a course, we are inadvertently telling our learners that we don't trust them to interact and engage with the course as intended, potentially resulting in frustrated learners.


The impact of poor navigation results in our courses not being a simple and easy navigable course and spending unwarranted time in teaching our learners how to get around. In short, if you spend excessive time explaining your navigation, your design isn't as intuitive as you had hoped for - “UX is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it isn’t that good.”.


How to Overcome This

Unlock your courses. No, really... do it. Free your learner and empower them by trusting your content is compelling enough for them to remain engaged throughout the entire course. To do this though, we need to go back to basics and understand who our learners are and what their levels of learning are. If your SME requests the course to be locked, then re-work the content to maximise engagement throughout.


Take some time to truly understand your learner. Have they interacted with your courses before? Do you keep the same navigation each time? Do you follow common laws of UX? Do you use common interface elements such as icons etc.?


Take a moment to review the Laws of UX to design aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable.


“UX is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it isn’t that good.”


ELearning Pet Peeve #2: Poor Visual Design

In the world of design, we have access to a range of amazing platforms, tools and websites to develop some truly bespoke and beautiful content. Too often, however, ELearning seems to have missed the boat with this as too many courses feel and look like they are stuck in the 90ties and 80ties, and not with an intentional retro inspiration.


What do I mean by "... look like they are stuck in the 90ties and 80ties"? Let's face it, most rapid authoring tools are leveraging off the Microsoft PowerPoint interface. Even more so, courses feel dated in their visual design, using dated imagery, videos and graphic elements which are no longer "on trend".

What's the Impact?

It depends on the course, your target audience and the topic at hand. More often than not, it'll lead to a disengaged learner as they become distracted by an ELearning course which is perceived as it looks 10+ years old. There's nothing worse than thinking you've designed an amazing course, for it to be perceived as dated.


How to Overcome This

This is a hard one. Learning and Development budgets are tight and we may not always have endless budgets. Outside of this, graphic design may not be a natural talent.


My first recommendation would be to engage in some form of self-development to up your game in graphic design. There are tons out there and they'll teach you the basics of graphic design. Next, investigate your options to begin creation with design programs / tools such as Canva, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and so on.


"There's nothing worse than thinking you've designed an amazing course, for it to be perceived as dated."


ELearning Pet Peeve #3: Treating the Learner Poorly

Our learners are smart. It is our job to provide them with content which will empower and enhance their knowledge even further. Too often, I've seen courses which speak down upon learners and treat them with no understanding of their level of learning, prior knowledge or experience.

What's the Impact?

This is one of the quickest ways to loose your learner and disengage them. If our learners begin to feel that our courses speak down upon them, don't account for their own knowledge of experience... well then, you've lost them.


How to Overcome This

Take some time to understand your learners. Make sure your language is pitched at an appropriate skill level. Don't speak down to them.


"Take some time to understand your learners."


So, these are my three Elearning pet peeves and I've found these have some of the biggest impacts on learner engagement throughout ELearning courses. Set your learners free and empower them to discover your course, provide them with a beautifully modern course and treat them with recognition of their skills, knowledge and talent. Let's free the world of boring ELearning courses and present our audience with a true experience.

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Learning Experience Designer

Troy Ashman

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