The Lazy Trainer’s Guide to Designing Effective eLearning Courses

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Robert Heinlein had it right when he said, “Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”

Working hard is overrated. Working smart is where it’s at.

lazy tropical holidays

As a trainer designing eLearning courses for your organization you don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time, and you shouldn’t be spending months and months on every little piece of content. Instead, you need a process to create great courses in a timely manner.

Easy and effective.

The list below will get you started on the path to designing awesome courses faster, easier, and in time to meet your golf foursome for lunch before teeing off.

These are the things you need to do to make that happen:

Don’t!

The ultimate answer for the lazy course designer: don’t even build the bloody thing.

There are plenty of reasons why designing this course is actually not the right thing for you to be doing right now anyway.

For instance: is it tied to specific performance metrics that you can articulate? No? Then it’s a waste of time that won’t generate results no matter how well-constructed it is.

Is it just a rehash of information your audience could find elsewhere within the organization or via performance support material? If so, maybe you should build a course teaching them how to access the information already available to them, instead of building this one.

Steal!

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Yup. Steal as much as you possibly can. There’s plenty of material out there that can serve as fertile soil for eLearning content ideas.

While this doesn’t mean directly rip off content and package it as your own, it does mean reuse and repurpose ideas that already work.

You should be stealing:

  • Graphic ideas: Does the instruction manual that came with your TV have a crisp design and easy-to-follow graphics? Copy its style!
  • Graphics themselves: Free, professional-grade eLearning graphics are abundant online. Why spend time making (or money commissioning) graphics of your own when you can get great ones in seconds?
  • Content ideas: Tons of educational sites online offer free eLearning content that you can troll to spark ideas of your own. Government websites like NASA and the Botanical Garden even have whole sections devoted to giving this stuff away for free* (*well, for tax dollars, but TANSTAAFL).
  • From your own organization: What training material has your company already created? Does your sales team have product collateral you can repurpose? Has Marketing built an awesome PowerPoint template you can jack? Is there another course in your course authoring system that you can reuse?
  • From your audience: Put out a quick and free survey to your potential learners and ask them what they want in a course and if they have ideas on how to build it.

Templates!

Pre-made course templates generally already meet page design and usability standards, making the course effective and saving you time in coming up with designs yourself.

Here’s where to get free eLearning templates:

Pre-made courses!

Again, why reinvent the wheel? Is your course for a basic business skill or something generic enough that others have already built similar courses?

Then outsource, baby!

You can always tweak the course material once you buy/download it to be more organization-specific if needed.

Here’s where to find free and paid pre-made eLearning courses:

  • Skillsoft’s Course Catalog: Well known as one of (if not the) biggest catalogs of ready-made courses, their classes also integrate with their Skillport LMS. Their recent acquisition of MindLeaders only adds to the depth of material.
  • BizLibrary: Over 6,000 courses on 25 different topic areas like healthcare training, ethics training, and telephone skills training.
  • OpenSesame: This site aggregates training courses from around the internet, and claims over 20,000 classes from companies like BAE, HR.com, and 360 Training.

Other shortcuts?

Have you found any other great resources or ways to make course design easier? Add them in the comments below if, you know, you can be bothered.

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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JP Medved

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J.P. was formerly content director at Capterra.

Comments

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The article has some very useful ways of creating e-learning courses with the least time and effort. Time and moneys are often restrictive when it comes to creating e-learning courses continually for the audiences. Here are some of our tried and tested ways of developing e-learning content when the available budgets are limited.

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