10 Commandments of eLearning Content Development

Helen Tyson | 11/26/2014

eLearning content development can be a daunting prospect, particularly when it’s new or you’re new to it. Even now, after years in the industry, I still need to sit down and think hard about every new project brief. But there is an unofficial list of rules I use to keep me in line on every project I work, and I have turned them into my 10 Commandments of eLearning to share with you:

1) Thou shall have reason.

Building courses with little or no purpose can lead you into frustrating circles. Are you filling a knowledge gap, or is it a performance gap? And do your learners need to ‘know,’ or do they need to ‘do?’

2) Thou shall translate the SME’s brain. 

Upon speaking with your Subject Matter Expert, you may find you have a swirling mass of content to sort through. Whether it be from PowerPoint presentations or merely a streaming flood of consciousness directly from the SME’s brain, these three little words can help: Must, Should, and Could. Organizing your content into what the learner ‘Must Know,’ ‘Should Know’ or ‘Could Know’ allows you to build a course focused on what the learner needs, rather than a mere regurgitation of the SME’s brain.

3) Thou shall organize through narration.

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Once I have sorted the SME’s brain, I begin to write the narration script. Writing the script helps organize and clean up the content while also forcing you to write a message that makes sense. Remember that it needs to include all of the ‘Must Know’ content.

4) Thou shall use pictures.

It may be a cliché, but when it comes to eLearning, a picture really does paint a thousand words. So use them! During your narration, show images rather than the words they are already hearing. Let your learners look at something that illustrates, demonstrates and complements the message.

5) Thou shall let the learner do.

Build interactivity that supports your content. Try test mode screen captures, decision-making opportunities and sorting exercises. Then make your tests and assessments reflect the real world as much as possible.

6) Thou shall remain organized.

When tackling a major content development project, you will find yourself with large amounts of documentation and resources – from videos and audio clips to images and reference materials. Create a filing system that makes sense to you and stick to it. It will only save you lots of time later.

7) Thou shall pay attention to detail.

Congruence is a word that is often forgotten, but is incredibly important to the development process. Your courses should look, feel and sound right. They should fit in with the overall styling and brand as well as the content they contain. Make sure to use correct terminology. For example: Does the company refer to buyers as “Clients” or “Customers?” Do your bullet points all have full stops at the end? It’s important not to let even the simplest of errors creep into your courses because it could influence the learner’s concentration.

8) Thou shall adhere to the almighty budget.

Many times you will find yourself with a limited budget to spend on eLearning. The powers that be think once the development software is bought, everything is free, though it rarely is. Here’s a great tip: Find licensed resources that you can modify yourself. For example: Rather than buying lots of separate images, try buying a single video and using stills from that video as the multiple images. And remember, fight for a fair budget, and then make sure you spend all of it, wisely of course.

9) Thou shall not reinvent the wheel.

Many eLearning elements can be used and reused and reused and reused. Build templates that can be copied. Create course shells so you can quickly drop new content in. If you use the same type of interactivity over and over again, create the functionality with placeholders so you can reformat it as required without breaking the way your interaction works.

10) Thou shall TEST, TEST, TEST!

Perhaps the most important Commandment of all: Test, test, test! Test it yourself. Then get others to test it. Then get the SME to test it. Set parameters for your tests and tell people where you want feedback. And don’t leave all your testing until the eleventh hour – There will always be at least a few revisions needed.

So there you go – My 10 Commandments for eLearning content development! I hope they’ll help you in all of your future course creation!

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Helen Tyson

Helen Tyson is a Lead Trainer and Consultant at Omniplex.