By Toby Hewitt, Head of e-Learning

It is common for Subject Matter Experts (SME) and project stakeholders to request that their e-learning contain some form of interaction. Usually a ‘quiz’. It could be questions at the end of a series of slides, or it could be an interactive scenario. They serve as a means to show understanding and competency; that the user is or isn’t ‘getting it’. But, you can also use activities to deliver instruction and activate learning.

I will show how with…

My quick 6 tips for e-learning design

  1. Start with the end.
  2. Asking SME’s questions that aren’t content related.
  3. Master multiple choice design.
  4. Put information in feedback.
  5. Create a space for considered decision making.
  6. Put activities up front.

Start at the end.

The propensity for interactive activities in e-learning is the perfect starting point for an SME and instructional designer. Conceptually, everyone wants engaging e-learning, however it is rarely easy.

e-Learning is challenging to do, even using simple designs. Assessments or quizzes will naturally have the most tracking, clicking and user effort. It is a good opportunity to start here in your discussions with an SME. It allows you to lead with the question; ‘What is it we want people to DO after completing this e-learning?’


‘What do you want in the module?’

Instead, try something like:

‘What are we hoping they will be able to do at the end of this module? What will they be doing when they apply all they have learnt from this module? We can use that to build a LMS tracked scenario that tests them applying their knowledge on the job.’

Ask your Subject Matter Expert’s questions that aren’t content related.

Find out from your SME what the observable job tasks that would show correct awareness, skills, knowledge, etc.

  • Find out what some of the common mistakes are.
  • Find out why they make those mistakes.
  • With this information you can craft realistic interactions and meaningful instruction.

If your SME doesn’t know, find someone who does. Then check back with the SME with your findings.


6 Tips Example Slide2

‘What is the name of the legislation that outlines your workplace health and safety obligations?’

Unless you are in the legal team, this is probably completely irrelevant information that will be forgotten faster than you can mash the next button.

‘Jenny is walking down the hallway to the stationary cupboard when Brian whistles to her and comments on her outfit. Is this an example of appropriate workplace behaviour?’

This is too obvious, and is not reflective of the actual challenges that the user might face in relation to this topic.

Instead, try:

6 Tips Example Slide

The option design is now based on decisions and action rather than knowledge.

Good, since reciting the legislation won’t deal with the hazard.

Notice the low-fi assets? This is prototyping.Once we get approval from SME’s and the client that the scenario is ready, then look at development.

Master multiple choice design

Use the information you learn from your SME to craft cunning activities! Since pretty much all e-learning activities are some form of multiple choice question, it is important you know how to use them to their fullest.

Try these tips:

  • Make one option correct.
  • Make one option LOOK like it’s correct but is actually incorrect or partially correct.
  • Base your incorrect options on something realistic.
  • A good way to find this out is by asking people who do the job, what makes this hard to do? Or ‘What are common mistakes?’

You are not testing them that they read the content. You want your activities to test that they know how to apply it.


Put information in the feedback

People are most susceptible to instruction when they make a mistake. Allow users to make meaningful, realistic choices and when they make an error, direct them to the relevant parts of your course content.

Provide incentive to make considered choices.

Our common go-to mechanics here are the use of ‘lives’. Pretty simple. Give the user a set of lives and if they make an incorrect choice in the assessment, lose a life. If they lose all their lives, well, this is a great time to present them a neatly chunked library of content.

If you are worried that your learners are ‘too serious’ for lives, call them ‘chances’ or something like that.

Put the activities up front

Many users mash ‘next’ until they are at the assessment anyway, completely by-passing all the money and hard work spent on generating content by skipping it or ignoring it.

It seems outrageous, but users believe they have other things to be doing instead of e-learning.

So put your instructional activities and quizzes up the front. Let users decide for themselves if they want to access content before attempting the quizzes. And if your worried they will just guess their way through, see tips 3,4 and 5.

If you apply these principles to your e-learning you will build value in your role and make your people more accepting of e-learning strategies in the future.

They also might learn a thing or two! Fancy that.

Good luck!

Courseware/Instructional Design