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Does E-learning Have to Be Boring? How to Create Awesome Online Courses!

“Online training. Oh, yeah. That’s what they make me take at work and I hate it. I can barely stay awake!”


We hear it all the time. And, honestly, there’s a lot of truth to it. Most e-learning is mind numbing. It’s one screen after another with five bullet points to read and a boring picture that doesn’t look anything like what the student sees on their job.


But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, more and more companies are choosing to create interactive online courses that challenge the student, engage their minds, stimulate them to want to learn more, and provide valuable, actionable knowledge.


Here are three tips to help you create awesome online courses rather than mind-numbing page turners:


Respect what the learner already knows:

Every employee you train already knows something about what you’ll be training them to do. Even new hires know something. And adult learners expect to be respected. A simple but powerful way to show them respect, and thus get them mentally involved in learning, is to acknowledge what they already know.


It can be as simple as asking them to tell you their understanding, ideas and impressions about the topic of the course at the beginning of the program. Give them a text box and let them type in as little or as much as they know. Or you can create a more elaborate exercise. Put them in a typical work scenario and ask them what they know about the situation and what they need to do next. Make it safe. Let them know it’s OK if they don’t know much about it, because you’ll be teaching them everything they need to know. But this simple acknowledgement that they’re intelligent adults and likely have some experience to bring to the job is a powerful way to bring them into the course and the first step to create interactive online courses.


Create teachable moments:

The old board game “Trivial Pursuit” can teach us lots about learning. Remember that feeling you got when you were sure you knew the answer, but you turned out to be wrong?


“How could that possibly be! I could have sworn I was right. What IS the right answer?”


That is a teachable moment. Then, when one of your fellow players reads the correct answer, it’s burned into your brain. For years, anytime the subject comes up you remember the answer you thought was right AND the actual correct answer. Why? Because the game got you emotionally involved. That’s the way to create awesome online courses. Get your students emotionally involved in learning. And one of the best ways to do that is to uncover those areas of confidently held misinformation in the material you’ll be teaching, dangle it in front of the learner, get the learner to acknowledge their understanding of the incorrect information, then present the correct information in a respectful but authoritative way. The result will be a learner that’s on the edge of their chair, wanting to learn more.


Engage the student:

Telling isn’t teaching. Listening to an instructor drone on, or sitting passively while a voice on your computer drones on, is an ineffective way to train. But integrating activities and exercises throughout the program is a great way to create interactive online courses that really do teach someone what they need to know and be able to perform. These activities and exercises need to occur regularly. A few minutes of instruction followed by an activity. A few more minutes and another activity. And they can range from something as simple as asking the student to respond to a question about the material just presented to dropping them in the middle of a simulation that looks and feels like a typical day on the job.


Stop and think, “How can I take that concept and create an activity to allow the learner to explore if further, translate the knowledge into on-the-job application, and learn it in a way that will stick with them when they’re back on the job”.

That will ensure that you create interactive online courses that are effective.

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