5 Levers Of eLearning Design

levers-of-elearning How can you continually improve the learning experiences you design? Pull these levers a bit more with every new effort.

1. Motivation

When you pull the motivation lever, you’re committed to connecting with the learner on an emotional level. Researchers think motivation is affected by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as the individual’s level of interest in learning as well as getting points toward promotion or higher pay. Motivation is also influenced by the importance and usefulness of the learning experience to the person’s job.

You can boost motivation by creating relevant and learner-centric experiences. These go beyond mere content transmission to focus on helping people attain their immediate or long-term goals. In addition, here’s help if you need some motivation.

2. Action

Brain dumps are out. Taking action is in. When you pull the Action lever, you focus on improving mastery and performance on the job. Action-oriented eLearning is streamlined because it concentrates on gaining skills for tackling job tasks.

Action-oriented implies the smart use of interactivity. Build your course around the most important interactions learners must master. This can be done through simulations, problem-solving or decision-making. Ensure that feedback is adequate and moves the instruction forward. See Alternatives to Correct and Incorrect for ideas.

Rather than creating bloated courses, the knowledge component of action-oriented eLearning is limited to what is required to improve performance at work. So get out your instructional design knife and slice away all the extraneous content.

If you need help doing an analysis that focuses on what learners need to do, see When Your Content Resembles Spaghetti.

3. Strategies

Pull the Strategies lever to design effective instructional strategies aligned with the goals of the learning experience. Successful strategies for workplace learning are those that engage the learner while facilitating learning transfer.

Instructional strategies consider the organization of content, creative treatment, approach to learning transfer, delivery mediums and opportunities for practice, feedback and assessment.

Consider some of these strategies if appropriate for your content, audience and goals:

  • Robust interactivity that simulates work tasks
  • Branched scenarios where learners choose actions and reap the results
  • Learner-generated content to practice skills learners want to acquire
  • Collaborative online projects, such as building a Wiki to capture knowledge
  • Skip training and provide job aids
  • Short free-form tutorials with assessments taken in any order
  • Thiagi’s Four Door Approach

For more ideas, see these book reviews.

4. Individualization

Pull the Individualization lever to acknowledge each learner’s uniqueness and autonomy. You can recognize these qualities by providing space for the unique backgrounds, interests and challenges of the audience. Some ways to support individualization are to:

  • Avoid lock-step eLearning so individuals can choose personal learning paths.
  • Provide options to test out of lessons so people aren’t forced to repeat what they already know.
  • Collect and provide access to resources (see Support below).
  • Promote opportunities for self-directed and informal learning.
  • Provide information and training in a variety of formats to use on varied devices.

People become empowered when you pull this lever.

5. Support

Pull the Support lever to provide learners with job aids, cheat sheets, resources, supplements and tools that will move them closer to competence. Learning transfer from training to work is a continuous process. It can’t occur in one course or session.

You may be only one person, but you can probably find ways to improve the learning environment and support at your organization. Some ideas:

  • Build an internal community of practice
  • Encourage networking across departments
  • Use social media (internal or external) to promote discussions and answer questions
  • Connect novices with experts

See How Your Workplace Can Support Learning Transfer for more ideas.

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  1. Ann H. Shea says


    Solid ideas, as always. You more than any other eLearning professional make me want to be a course designer! I only wish you’d illustrated your post with more of your own keen and compelling graphics, teehee, as they are so good. Each point really is well taken, and I am sharing in hopes that others who ARE tasked with the challenging but rewarding processes of teaching digitally can enjoy and absorb.


    PS…do you ever do webinars? So many people have constricted budgets for live events, and would love to hear you speak and see you present. Include me in that group.

  2. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Anne,
    You’re absolutely right that more graphics would help this article! I have time limitations, however. As to webinars, I just did three: eLearning Guild, ISDNow and ASTD-LA. If you’re a member of the Guild, you can see all their free webinars recorded. Check with ISDNow for a recording too.

  3. Ann H. Shea says

    Ah, Connie, sorry I missed them! I will try to catch the recordings. As many of us are time starved like you (tho’ YOU DO make a good example of maximizing where you spend it), and visual processors, too, I will make an appeal for you to convert future content again to your SlideShare account. Link for others: http://www.slideshare.net/cmalamed/presentations
    Not quite the same as hearing you in real-time, so I definitely will try to review of recent or along for the info on current webinars of yours.



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