Who out there is a self-made e-learning instructor extraordinaire? While I would not call myself an e-learning wiz, I have learned an immense amount about how superb e-learning design can promote the success of an e-learning program.

When I first started creating e-learning courses, I was in a training role for a large organization and I was told that we needed to figure out a way to cut down on face-to-face training costs. I had to turn to e-learning, but I had never designed a course without a real-life instructor and I did not know e-learning software. Talk about a challenge! I learned by jumping in. Sometimes my designs worked and sometimes they did not. I learned what participants liked and what they didn’t through course evaluations and from talk around the office. The true results, however, showed on the job.

During my work with new hires, I discovered that when the learner had to do something (a task or procedure) rather than just click through slides, the learning stuck. When I mentored trainees who completed the e-learning courses that used this technique, I received fewer questions about processes and tasks. Those who took the courses that were not well designed asked questions that were covered in the content. Their learning management system transcript showed they had completed the course, but they did not retain the key information.

So, I guess you could say I learned by trial and error. It didn’t take long for me to realize that good e-learning required more than just a set of PowerPoint slides to be clicked through. The learner needs to experience real-life scenarios, try out tasks, and receive feedback along the way. A smiley face and a good job at the end aren’t enough.

It was not until I attended ATD’s E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program and read Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning that it all made sense. I had been designing e-learning with no real guidelines or structure—only my own strategies for what had worked in the past.

The e-learning instructional design course will validate what you already do in terms of e-learning design. It will tell you what you need to stop doing and what you need to start doing. It will provide a structure for how to outline your e-learning course. The CCAF (context, challenge, activity, feedback) model ensures that you have all the elements required for your learners to walk away with not just new knowledge, but new skills.

This course introduces seven keys to e-learning success. Some of the ideas may be familiar to you, while others may be completely new. For example, I used to take the approach of giving feedback after every question. One of the keys is delaying judgment—allowing learners to make mistakes and then helping them understand why the mistake happened and the consequence that occurred. I implemented this idea into one of my programs with trepidation, but it has proven its worth. Learners are forced to problem solve and learn and retain information through this process. Let them have their aha moment!

The e-learning instructional design course enables you, as a learner, to experience good and bad e-learning with the use of real organization examples. I will let you test out the example e-learning courses and judge which cases work the best for you. Once you experience what it is like as a learner, you will get to practice the techniques that make e-learning instructional design a success. Looking back, the way I started my e-learning design career is similar to how we want participants to feel during this e-learning program. I learned best by doing, trying, and exploring, and I think that this may be true for our participants as well.

Join me during the next session of ATD’s E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate! Build learning programs that are meaningful, memorable, motivational, and measurable. See you in class!

About the author:

Nikki O’Keeffe is a dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need.

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her most recent role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.

Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers.

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness.

She understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

This article was first published here.

We’re now taking registrations for the upcoming E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate course which begins on 26 September at 4 p.m. GST. These evening courses are international time-friendly, reaching a whole new global audience—making the interactions, collaborations, and learning invaluable. Download the brochure here