ATD Blog

How to Turn Expert Knowledge Into Stand-Out E-Learning

Monday, April 26, 2021

The purpose of corporate e-learning is to ensure that workers gain the skills and knowledge they need to perform work tasks safely and efficiently. Typically, an organization will call on subject matter experts to explain complex concepts or regulations to achieve this goal. But how do you translate expert knowledge into a usable, engaging format that gets through to the workforce?

Fortunately, as technology evolves, e-learning authoring tools are rising to this challenge. With a robust authoring suite and an efficient learning management system, it’s simpler than ever to create courses that give learners everything they need to increase their performance and remember key concepts for a long time to come.

Outstanding authoring tools (like Lectora) are a great place to start, but you need more than just good software to showcase authoritative content in a way that allows workers to understand and take advantage of that expertise. Here are a few strategies to level up training through careful planning, design, and creativity.

Invest Enough Time

Training is often planned when there is an urgent need to fill, so it seems logical to set tight deadlines and create courses as quickly as possible. This might be a mistake. For expert knowledge to drive learning outcomes, it’s important to take the necessary time and effort to understand the subject matter.

Spending time diving into the course objectives makes a world of difference in the effectiveness of the final training. Allowing subject matter experts, course designers, and other stakeholders to have meaningful dialogue and touchpoints over the course of a few weeks or even months contributes to the strength of the overall project and positive return on the training development investment.

When the C-suite or managers are reluctant to invest in the necessary time to create a truly effective training program, showcasing examples of what is possible can help convince them. Additionally, presenting the cost of restructuring training and emphasizing the need for learning that promises to achieve critical business objectives over several years is a solid strategy when negotiating for realistic deadlines.

Create Intuitive Navigation

A corporate learning program is useful only when learners are able to understand and act on the presented material.


An effective learning course is designed visually and instructionally to provide a positive user experience. How workers access and navigate through a course has a profound impact on what they learn. Frustrations with the design may lead users to mentally check out or even give up entirely.

Unlike the course material itself, which is designed to engage learners, course navigation needs to be intuitive and predictable. Learners should never get lost or be unsure of what they are supposed to do next.

This doesn’t mean that learners never have any choices. Break up course material into manageable modules and give workers individual control of when, where, and how they learn. Just ensure available options and choices are easy to find, and that learners always know where they are headed.

Surprise Learners

A predictable interface does not mean a predictable course. In today’s learning climate, corporate training is fighting against short attention spans. Workers are used to digestible video clips, motivational presentations, and entertaining mobile apps.

Adding an element of surprise within your courses creates a powerful kind of engagement that is hard to get any other way. Give learners different things to look at, allow them to use their critical thinking skills, and tell compelling stories.


Surprising content might look like a game that users can play and interact with. Gamification has been shown to be a powerful tool for corporate training. Even more simply, varying the way that learners answer questions (spin a wheel, multiple choice, a scavenger hunt, video clues) and where things are on the page stimulates the brain and creates better learning.

Look Beyond Existing Tools

It’s easy to fall into rote patterns of course building, repeating the same courses over and over. In many situations, templates save time and energy. And if you know what works, why change it?

But remember to take a step back at the start of each new course to ensure you are designing around the true objectives and the information you are trying to convey and not just fitting that content into a prebuilt model or starter course.

Sometimes the knowledge you are trying to translate into e-learning might require a more creative or robust format. In these cases, it pays to look at tools you may have overlooked. You may even need tools that would not normally be applied to e-learning. For example, using JavaScript to supplement plug-and-play course design tools can give you more control over how objects are used within a web-based course. Tracking learner behavior through xAPI can provide unique insight into learner performance and future learning needs. Think outside the box.

Virtual reality (VR) is another technology-pushing tool that can turn expert knowledge into an immersive, engaging learning experience. Particularly where safety is concerned or any kind of hands-on training is occurring, VR is worth exploring. For remote workers, some of today’s VR experiences can be delivered to a worker’s desktop computer or via their phone without requiring a headset.

When a dense training topic comes up, it may be tempting to present the information as a thick manual or text-heavy presentation followed by a quiz. Don’t give in. There are better ways to turn expert knowledge into engaging e-learning content.

With careful planning and intentional course design, plus an element of surprise and even innovation on the part of instructional designers and course creators, there’s no reason that workers can’t quickly and easily absorb difficult material and meet every learning objective. They may even have fun doing it.

About the Author

Chris Willis is the director of content for eLearning Brothers. Previously, Chris founded and led Media 1, an award-winning e-learning firm. For over 20 years, Chris has performed a hands-on role designing and leading development of innovative learning solutions for global enterprise businesses across a wide range of subjects and vertical industries. She has earned numerous recognitions for her personal leadership, the way she conducts business, and the work she produces.

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