I recently received a text from someone very close to me that read, “I hate eLearning!” This wasn’t referring to training I created, but I still went through a multitude of rapid-fire emotions. I felt insulted, angry, hurt, sad; and then, finally, curiosity took over. Why did this person feel this way and how could I, as an eLearning developer, avoid triggering feelings of anger and frustration?

I wanted to defend eLearning and remind her that we collaborated on several projects in the past, which she loved. But no, now she was the learner, not the SME, and feeling very frustrated. She couldn’t control the navigation; there was no audio; it was too long; the text on the screen either went too fast or too slow. I thought her list of grievances would never end.

Her text set me on a path of self-reflection. I thought about past projects as I pondered this question: How do I ensure that I have put the learner experience first, and then organize the content around that experience to minimize learner frustration?

Here are five tips I came up with:

  • Identify learner characteristics.

Who’s your audience? Identifying the learners and their characteristics is vital to the success of the course. It will allow you to structure the course to fit the learners. For example, if some of the learners are already familiar with the content, allow them to choose their starting point.

  • Keep the length of the course in mind.

Can the content be broken down into bite-size learning? Allow the learners to work through the content in small increments so they can process it before moving on to a new topic.

  • Give the learners control of their learning.

Do the learners have any sort of control over their learning? Give the learners ownership of the course, whether it’s something simple like controlling the navigation, allowing them to choose where to start the course based upon their previous knowledge, or something more in-depth such as applying what they have just learned.

  • Allow learners the opportunity to engage in and reflect on what they are learning.

Is the content something that must be thought about critically or immediately applied? Provide stopping points throughout the course. It can be a question they must answer, a scenario they must think critically about, or even an external opportunity where they must stop to apply what has just been learned.

  • Pilot the course with learners who will be taking it.

Do you have access to learners who can pilot the course and give feedback? For the pilot, choose learners who will actually be taking the course. You can gather data via a survey with open-ended questions, a focus group, or individual interviews. Learner feedback is priceless. It will enable you to make adjustments to the course to ensure that the learning experience is meaningful and engaging.