Top 6 Mistakes You Should Avoid in eLearning Instructional Design


Have you ever watched a video or used a self-paced training module that was supposed to teach you something -- and it was a total fail? Undoubtedly, you have. It may have left you frustrated, bored, or even amused in a way the authors did not intend.

If you are now working on the other end—meaning you are now involved in the creation of eLearning courses—you need to know what mistakes often lead to the audience feeling frustrated, bored or not taking training seriously.

When Bad Instructional Design Happens to Good People

There are nuances in every instructional design project. Each one is different and it’s important to have a keen understanding of the audience. A style that one group immediately responds to might alienate another group entirely. It’s also important to accept, unless you’ve dazzled them in the past, most of your learners are coming to the course fully expecting to be bored, to multitask and not devote full attention.

Beyond the nuances, there are some fundamentals of modern instructional design that, if missed, will create immediate problems and decrease the overall effectiveness of the course. These targets are commonly missed, but the good news is it’s easy to correct your aim once you’re able to recognize and understand the problem.

Let’s discuss six common instructional design mistakes and how to correct them:

  • Cheesy Stock Photography: You know those pictures of ethnically diverse, good-looking business people with bright smiles and obviously impeccable phone etiquette? They do not exist in real life. Repeat. They do not exist. Even if they did exist, the average person would probably not be able to relate to them at all. Unless used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, skip the phony-looking stock photos. Instead, illustrate your content with real photos or entertaining animated characters.
  • Overdone Slides: Your eLearning course shouldn’t look like an episode of Hoarders. Remove the clutter by trimming excess text, bullet points and graphics. Keep the message succinct and design clean.
  • Boring Tone: Let’s face it, voiceover work isn’t easy. But, it’s critical to have a voiceover personality that can relate to the audience and adapt his or her style to the project at hand. Fundamentally, voiceovers should be conversational, not flat. The learner should feel as though they are communicating with a peer or superior - whatever is appropriate for the course - and are talked to, not talked at. Voiceovers shouldn’t sound like what they often are behind the scenes: words being read from a script.
  • Unrealistic or unrelatable examples or scenarios: It’s one thing to use oversimplified examples to illustrate a point. It’s another thing to overdramatize to the point of being ridiculous. Do your best to paint realistic scenarios that your learners may actually face in real life.
  • Poor UX Design: As the learner moves through a course, it should be abundantly clear what action is supposed to be taken, whether it’s advancing to the next section, answering questions or playing a game. These interactions should be clean and clear, not cumbersome or complex. Use Apple as your muse, and you’ll be fine.
  • No assessment or evaluation: You’re missing a huge opportunity if you aren’t scattering assessments throughout your course. Assessments help gauge course effectiveness and user engagement, as well as drive home important points through reiteration and application.

If you have instructional design experience, what advice would you give to others about common mistakes and how to overcome them? Leave us a comment below!

If you're interested, check out ExpandShare's eLearning Services to see how your program can be an epic success.


Will Holland