How to Become a Better E-Learning Designer
One of the unique aspects of the e-learning industry is how often it changes and how quickly you have to adapt to that change. Regardless of your background, education, or professional experience, becoming a better e-learning designer requires a willingness to learn new things.
In recent free webinar on the 10 Lessons Learned My First Year in E-Learning, I talked about my realization that the field of e-learning is so much more than just the practice of instructional design. Becoming a better e-learning designer required me to learn the subtlety of graphic design, the art of visual communications, the technical aspects of user interface design, and much more! Instructional design was just one piece of a larger skillset that I needed to master.
If you’re relatively new to the e-learning industry or want to expand your skills, here are four things you should study to become a better e-learning designer.
1. Instructional Design
The foundation of an effective e-learning course is solid instructional design, and if you’re like me, you might not have a formal background in training or instructional design. Prior to my career in e-learning, I spent several years working in retail loss prevention, which has nothing to do with instructional design.
Understanding how people learn, how to design learning content, and how to measure the effectiveness of that learning content are all critical to becoming a better e-learning designer. Instructional design isn’t just about writing good learning objectives–it’s about creating engaging learning experiences that result in long-term behavior changes.
Instructional Design Resources:
- Be Aware of Being Aware
- The Thinking Behind a Branching Scenario
- Three Things to Include in Your E-Learning Storyboard
- How to Organize Your E-Learning Content with Sticky Notes
- How to Create E-Learning Quizzes That Engage
- My Favorite E-Learning Resources
- Four Lessons Learned as a First-Time E-Learning Project Manager
Instructional Design Books:
- E-Learning Fundamentals: A Practical Guide by Diane Elkins & Desirée Pinder
- The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean
- Design for How People Learn (2nd Edition) by Julie Dirksen
2. Graphic Design
Graphic design is one of the skillsets that most e-learning designers struggle with the most. Understanding how colors, shapes, images, typefaces, and layouts work together to create a cohesive design can seem like learning a foreign language.
Becoming a better e-learning designer means learning the philosophies and techniques of graphic design: how to select and edit images, how to create custom graphics, how to pair fonts and colors, and how to create balanced layouts.
Graphic Design Resources:
- Graphic Design for Non-Graphic Designers
- PowerPoint for Graphic Design
- How to Create Icons in PowerPoint
- Seven Ways to Use Stock Photos in E-Learning
- Five Quick Rules for Using Fonts
Graphic Design Books:
- Visual Design Solutions by Connie Malamed
- Graphic Design: The New Basics (2nd Edition) by Ellen Lupton
3. Visual Communication Design
It’s easy to assume graphic design and visual communication design are one in the same, but that’s not the case. Graphic design focuses on how individual visual elements (fonts, colors, images) work together, whereas visual communication design focuses on how information, data, and complex ideas can be communicated visually.
E-Learning and visual communications go hand-in-hand. It might be easier to create a slide with a long list of bullet points to explain some process or idea, but it won’t be as effective as a carefully chosen graphic or diagram.
Visual Communication Design Resources:
- Three Tips for Using Bullet Points in E-Learning
- Three Quick Tips on Graphic Design in E-Learning Courses
- 5 Ways to Make PowerPoint Sing
Visual Communication Design Books:
4. User Interface Design
E-learning is most effective when it’s interactive and easy to use. This lets your learners focus on the content, rather than trying to figure out how to get to it! Creating better e-learning and becoming a better e-learning designer require you to consider how your learners will interact with your e-learning course and you can make it as user-friendly as possible.
Every time you create an on-screen button, click-to-reveal interaction, or branching scenario, you are making decisions regarding the user interface design. Understanding the principles of user interface design help you create a course your learners love to use.
User Interface Design Resources:
User Interface Design Books:
- Interface Design for Learning by Dorian Peters
E-learning is more than just instructional design. Becoming a better e-learning designer means exploring (and sometimes mastering) different types of design. What have you done to become a better e-learning designer? Share your tips by commenting below.