As 2018 winds to a close and the Learning Solutions team plans content for 2019, we took a look back at what readers were most interested in over the past year. This content roundup highlights the top topics of 2018—L&D news and ideas that generated the most interest—mentioning a few popular articles in each area. We’ll pay attention to these subjects again in the coming year—as well as informing you of innovations, emerging technologies, and people who are making a difference in eLearning in the months ahead.


Instructional designers are eager to build great stories into their eLearning. Stories with relatable characters and plot lines that feature realistic scenarios and incidents that could actually happen on the job are a great way to grab learners’ attention and ensure that learning sticks. Popular articles in 2018 that highlighted the power of storytelling included:

Using Storytelling in eLearning Can Drive Behavior Change—Find out what makes a “good” story and why it helps change learner behavior.

What Are Narrative Podcasts? Why Use Them in eLearning?—Bring the power of story to a popular, versatile mobile learning format.

Design thinking

Learning Solutions readers are thirsty for an understanding of design thinking and how to apply its principles to instructional design. Design thinking can bring a multidisciplinary approach to instructional design that fosters creativity and innovation. These articles were popular:

The Design Thinking Journey: Create User-Focused Learning—Focusing squarely on learners, this article applies design thinking themes to every stage of eLearning design and development.

A Designer Addresses Criticism of Design Thinking—Any hot topic is bound to have detractors. Here, Connie Malamed responds to issues and myths that push back against design thinking.

Better instructional design

No matter how good they already are, Learning Solutions readers want to become better at their craft. Several articles addressing the value of instructional design or offering tips for improving were among top performers in 2018:

Marc My Words: Ask 10 Questions Before Starting Instructional Design—Asking the right questions is the surest way to start a successful project. It’s also important to learn from past mistakes, both your own and others’: Marc My Words: Lessons From the Worst Training I’ve Ever Seen.

Why Instructional Design Matters In eLearning—Instructional design not only remains relevant, it’s essential to creating coherent learning programs (and individual courses).

Darwin Would Approve: Levels of Learning Adaptation—The design and development of eLearning are not formulaic. IDs must adapt to meet the needs of the learners, of the environment where learning occurs, and the goals of the eLearning, training, or performance support they are creating.

Learning Agility: Building Learning Organizations—Arun Pradhan describes learning agility as the ability to quickly learn and change mental models and practices—and apply that learning in fluid contexts.

Focus on the learner

In 2018, eLearning professionals dug into ways to improve the learner experience. This focus might be as broad as studying learner experience (LX) design, or as narrow as examining how to adapt eLearning to the needs of a particular industry:

LX Design Shifts Emphasis from eLearning Content to Learners—LX design merges skills from instructional design, user interface design, visual design and more to create a complete package that meets learners’ needs.

eLearning Must Evolve for Technical Training—Zvi Guterman describes how current training approaches fall short in addressing an enormous skills gap in IT—and suggests solutions.

Learning styles—and why not to teach to them

Despite being thoroughly debunked, the idea of teaching to learning styles remains a curiosity. Readers eagerly dove into research and articles on why content and the learning environment should guide eLearning approach—not learners’ professed learning styles:

Let Content, Not “Learning Styles,” Determine eLearning Format—A learning style is just a preference; instructional designers have more important factors to consider when selecting modalities for eLearning.

Though Debunked, Idea of Teaching to Learning Styles Endures—Learn why the idea of learning styles has such staying power.

With 71 Models, Defining Learning Styles Is a Challenge—It’s odd that people are so consumed with the idea of learning styles when they cannot even agree on a definition or model for determining learning styles! This provides even more fodder for instructional designers fighting the idea of teaching to each individual’s learning style.

Using new technologies in eLearning

The readers of Learning Solutions are a curious bunch interested in learning about new technologies that can enhance eLearning. This year was no exception—readers explored artificial intelligence, VR, data visualization, and even comic characters:

Using AI in eLearning: Foundational Concepts—Before diving into any specific aspect of AI-powered eLearning, many readers brushed up on basic terms and concepts.

Using Pixton to Create a Comic Book eLearning Universe—A couple of animated characters can inject new life into potentially dry eLearning.

3 Basic Data Visualizations L&D Pros Should Master—Everyone is collecting data on learners; here are some ways to communicate it in a way that learners—and L&D managers—can understand and use.

12 Ways to Design Better Infographics for eLearning—Are you sold on including data visualizations or other infographics in your eLearning content? Great! Follow these visual design guidelines.

VR Training Solutions Offer Risk-Free Skills Development—Immersive learning environments offer a safe place to practice skills and fail—and improve! That’s as true for soft skills as it is for practicing flying an airplane or putting out forest fires.