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ATD Blog

Excel in E-Learning Design and Emerge as a Skilled Leader

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In 1960, Donald Bitzer introduced the world to the first computer-based education system. That system served one classroom for most of the 1960s. By the early 1970s, that system could support 1,000 users simultaneously. The power and reach of e-learning has grown exponentially since then. Today, organizations are harnessing that power to reach their employees with consistent and flexible online learning options.

E-learning is being used in 90 percent of organizations, and the number of talent development programs distributed through this modality continues to rise. The percentage of top companies that made most of their learning portfolios accessible by e-learning tripled over the past five years and is expected to double again by 2022. As e-learning availability increases over time, correlations to market performance and learning effectiveness also rise.

Delivering engaging development for high-potential workers is a perennial challenge for talent development functions. But nearly half of respondents in the ATD survey from market-leading companies rated e-learning an effective means of delivering engaging development for high-potential workers. The benefits of reach, scale, and timeliness are clear. But e-learning also offers the unparalleled ability to embed learning in the workflow and provide tailored, personalized experiences based on a learner’s role or proficiency level.

Next-level e-learning design can change the performance of your learners and positively affect business results for your organization. But addressing the needs of these populations is not simple. Advancements in learning technology are enabling us to reach learners in ways that are more relevant, timely, and meaningful. But skill development isn’t keeping pace with e-learning’s evolution. Nearly 90 percent of respondents surveyed in ATD’s research report Next Generation E-Learning said that these changes have left them in need of new knowledge and skills.

Today’s e-learning designers need to be strategic with their design decisions to engage their learner population and achieve business outcomes. The best e-learning designers not only participate in design but collaborate with developers, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders throughout the full development life cycle to deliver e-learning programs that will achieve that goal.


Next-Level E-Learning

There are thousands of e-learning designers who are proficient at using the tools available to develop good e-learning. However, to change behavior and engage today’s learner, designers must take their design to the next level. Talent development leaders expect e-learning to change and expand in the future, including greater levels of personalization, more interactivity, expanded use of videos, and an increased focus on content presented as microlearning.

“We already have a broader view of e-learning,” says Dan Lovely, former chief learning officer of global insurance firm AIG. “It can be microlearning, video content, articles, whitepapers, book abstracts, and other learning assets. Increasingly, I think we’ll look at e-learning to be even more multifaceted, and to be able to be much more effective at delivering learning that’s personalized to the individual. As this is evolving, I see us actually redefining what e-learning is.”


Strategic Design

Designers need to understand the business and performance outcomes expected from an e-learning program. They must choose the right content and technical strategy for delivering that content. Access to new delivery platforms, decisions about engagement such as using scenarios or games, and considerations for program size (microlearning), translation, and accessibility all need to be considered when designing an e-learning course.

End-to-End Involvement

Project management and consulting skills are key for e-learning designers to take their courses to the next level. To deliver a successful solution, designers must understand how the business and performance goals will be measured—what data are needed from the course and how will it be used to measure effectiveness? Designers must often project-manage the development of e-learning assets such as video and audio or newly designed graphics. A solid understanding of the process and the right questions to ask to provide the right information to developers is critical.

To help e-learning professionals navigate the move from e-learning order taker to strategic partner who positively impacts business goals, ATD is expanding its popular Master Series to include the Master E-Learning Instructional Designer designation. This program introduces an e-learning design model that will take your initiatives to the next level while working through every stage of the process to design courses that motivate, inform, and, most importantly, change behavior and performance. This three-part, assessment-based program provides you an opportunity to strengthen your skills in the most cutting-edge techniques, evaluate your existing e-learning projects and processes using an ATD-exclusive rubric, and collaborate with your facilitator and peers to plan, design, and decide how to build the most engaging and effective e-learning course leveraging the software of your choice.

Learn more and become part of this exclusive group here.

About the Author

Jeff Surprenant is senior manager of curriculum development at Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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