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e-Learning Instructional Design Resolutions for the New Year

2020 has been especially difficult in so many ways. I hear expressed again and again, "I can't wait to get back to normal," or a similar sentiment. Certainly, in terms of threats to health and activity, we crave to get back to where we were. But, perhaps this disruption to the normal flow of life might also serve as a moment to break up from the past to apply some new thinking in areas where we've been stuck.

At the arrival of the New Year, everything is focused on change on giving up bad habits and resolving to do things differently. Habits are hard to break and so often we backslide into doing what is easy and comfortable, even when we know better.  

Unfortunately, this also seems to be the on-going pattern with the practice of e-learning design and development. We continue to expand ideas of how e-learning and new technologies might transform professional development.  Yet, inevitably, e-learning instructional design professionals still seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time creating e-learning programs that fail to engage the learner and result in little or no performance change. Too often I've spoken with instructional designers who themselves have little confidence in the e-learning courses they've created.

Yet, out of habit and precedent, designers seem to cling to models that show little evidence of being impactful. Something must change, and these are the resolutions I'd like the L&D industry to really embrace as we move forward into the new year. These resolutions shouldn't be controversial nor are they necessarily dependent on adopting expensive or challenging cutting-edge technologies.

Rather, like most New Year’s resolutions, I'm simply asking us all to own the potential in e-learning instructional design to create transformative learning. Sadly, as is the case in so many areas, the obvious bad habits are the things that instructional designers seem most reluctant to abandon.

Instructional Design Resolutions & Bad Habits to Break in 2021


  • designing e-learning programs that are just a presentation followed by simplistic test of recall.  Telling and judging alone do not comprise teaching.
  • accepting inadequate software systems as e-learning development tools.  Instead, insist on authoring tools that allow the introduction of graphical contexts, flexible branching, robust variables for simulation and delayed feedback, genuine meaningful actions.
  • targeting e-learning as the place to dump content that no one really wants to teach anyway.
  • putting the blame on 'boring content' as the reason e-learning fails to engage learners. The burden is on e-learning instructional designers to devise a compelling performance challenge associated with the performance objectives at hand.

There’s nothing much new in these resolutions, but until we finally discard these practices as patently unacceptable, it’s going to be hard to ever really create a true culture of effective e-learning.



Download e-Book by Ethan Edwards, Using Instructional Interactivity to Improve e-Learning Design, now!

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About Author

Ethan Edwards
Ethan Edwards

Ethan Edwards draws from more than 30 years of industry experience as an elearning instructional designer and developer. He is responsible for the delivery of the internal and external training and communications that reflect Allen Interactions’ unique perspective on creating Meaningful, Memorable, and Motivational learning solutions backed by the best instructional design and latest technologies.

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