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ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: How Do I Extend E-Learning's Shelf Life?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Dear Tim,

Our company is starting to put a greater focus on e-learning and less on in-person training. However, we have an issue with our content—it changes on a regular basis, which I’m worried will result in our e-learning quickly becoming out-of-date.

So, here’s my question: Are there any best practices for content shelf life when it comes to creating e-learning material?

What a great question! This reminds me of a similar situation I had to deal with at a previous job. I had just taken over the management of our company’s e-learning functions, which also included the LMS. One of my first priorities was to inventory our e-learning catalog and determine what was current and what was out-of-date. After spending several weeks painfully sifting through several hundred e-learning courses, I learned that almost 80 percent were severely out-of-date.

Unfortunately, when it comes to e-learning (or any type of content), shelf life is something you’ll have to deal with and manage. Depending upon the complexity of your e-learning content (for example, the graphics, interactivity, and so on), updating an e-learning course can be a chore. Here are three tips that may make this process easier:

First, implement a content review strategy.

When you publish a new e-learning course, establish a regular cadence for when you’ll review (and potentially update) it in the future. This may mean reviewing the course every three or six months and making changes as necessary.


Second, focus your e-learning on skills rather than content.

You mentioned the frequency at which your content changes. Without knowing more about the topic of your courses, I wonder how much your courses focus on information rather than actual skills. Your content may change on a regular basis, but the skills, behaviors, tasks, and procedures you’re teaching tend to remain consistent for a longer period.

Finally, know when e-learning is not the answer.

It’s common for organizations to think that e-learning is the answer for everything and adopt a strategy for turning all learning content into e-learning courses. While this style offers many benefits, it’s not always the answer. Going back to my second tip, if you’re able to remove some information from your e-learning courses, you can then deliver that information in a format that’s more “fit for function.”


This may mean turning some of that content into on-demand resources, like job aids, articles, or something else that delivers on the same benefits as e-learning, but is easier to maintain.

I hope these tips help. I’m sure others will offer additional comments below. Best of luck!


We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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Engaging E-learning is great for knowledge transfer, but how do companies transform knowledge into Application and performance. I believe this must be combined with on the job practice and coaching.
Thanks for the comment, Ben! I totally agree. eLearning isn't the only answer. Well-designed training should be a combination of experiences, where learners get the opportunity to apply the skills they've been taught.
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this is totally my company's problem with screens becoming outdated too quickly!
Great article.
Thanks, Michelle! I'm glad you liked it!
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