Design Rules for e-learning

The design rules for e-learning can vary widely.

As e-learning professionals, we want to create environments where learners can thrive. That is the worthy goal. So, which rules do we follow to achieve higher learning outcomes?

Donald Clark wrote a blog post, Mayer & Clark – 10 brilliant design rules for e-learning, based on Richard Mayer and Ruth Clark’s research on media and media mix hypotheses in online learning. In this post he describes several key areas of design and their research findings. Below we’ve summarized some of the major points.

design-rules-for-e-learningSummary of Design Rules for e-learning:

Eliminate Redundancy
It is not necessary to toss in every media mix known to mankind to bring e-learning environments to life. In fact, research shows it has the opposite effect. Too much media mix can lead to cognitive overload.

White Space is Key
Research shows that less is more. Allow for breathing room with information. To do this, be concise and thoughtful in how you lay out the content. Keep words to a minimum. Organize words using bullet points, subheads, bolded keywords and pithy paragraphs.

Audio and Animation
To help a student achieve learning, use audio along with your animation rather than text. Using text with animation can causes cognitive confusion and can impede learning.

Graphics and Text
When text is located away from its associated graphic, learning can be decreased. When the learner has to scan the screen to read text that sits apart from its graphic, their learning can be disrupted. The trick here is to keep the text close by the graphic that it is complimenting. When this is done, according to research, problem solving is increased.

Keep it Conversational
Using first-person and second-person language keeps things conversational. Keeping it in a dialogue format opens up the learning environment to one that is interactive.

Design Rules for e-learning in a nutshell

To be effective, e-learning environments need to keep a learner’s attention focused on the topic at hand, need to minimize distraction, and need to help increase cognitive connection. For a more in-depth analysis of the research conducted on this area, please visit Donald Clark’s blog.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. Please share your thoughts. Which one of the design rules for e-learning do you agree with the most?

The Future of the ISD Industry – an interview with Dr. J. Marvin Cook


Dr. Greg Williams, Director of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) program recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. J. Marvin Cook, the program’s founder, for a video series. Dr. Cook, a noted author, professor, consultant and entrepreneur, discussed a range of topics, including the UMBC graduate program in Instructional Systems Development, ISD competencies, and the future of ISD as an industry. When talking about the future, he reminded viewers how important it is to never forget the needs of an organization. He also talked about how the industry has a bright future ahead.


Dr. J. Marvin Cook, UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program Founder

ISD Professionals Should Never Forget the Needs of the Organization
Regardless of the economic conditions, businesses still have the desire to improve performance. Instructional developers can help them achieve this. Now, more than ever, instructional designers must continue to focus on the need of the organization—not just using a particular medium (say, the the latest and greatest software). Often, when asked about the future of learning (or future of anything, really), it’s easy to jump to an obvious answer: technology. While technology has clearly changed how we learn, Dr. Cook reminds us that maintaining focus on needs is still critically important.

ISD – A Bright Look Ahead for Instructional Developers 

As the economy continues to pick up, companies will continue to generate jobs, Dr. Cook pointed out. As a result, new employees will need training, creating more opportunities for those in ISD roles.

The video below includes Dr. Cook’s thoughts on the future of ISD:

View the entire video series here.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

5 Ways to Learn A New Skill

When we learn a new skill, we grow.

To grow, we have to be willing to stretch beyond what feels comfortable. Learning a new skill can intimidate many of us. Irrational fears can run around our minds and make us question if we have what it takes to push ourselves to the next level.

Getting stuck in this phase is easy. The problem with staying in this comfort zone too long is that we grow stagnant as the rest of the world develops around us. So how do we get unstuck and finally make that leap?

learn a new skillAccording to a recent article written by Amy Gallo, these are some important principles to follow to learn a new skill:

Ensure the new skill is attainable
To answer this truthfully, think about your current workload, your schedule, any outside demands and tally how much time you are willing to invest. Do you have the time required to learn a new skill? Can you commit to it wholeheartedly?

Find the method that compliments your best learning style
We all learn differently. Some prefer visual over auditory, while others learn best in a hands-on type of situation. Think back to previous times when you’ve learned new skills. Which were most effectively learned? In what type of environment did you learn it? Was it in a classroom, online, or in a one-on-one workshop? Find the system to learn a new skill that works best with your personality.

Learn from a trusted mentor
Find someone doing exactly what you want to be doing and model after him/her. Talk with this person. Ask open-ended questions that will get the conversation steering down a path that will enrich your learning experience. Shadow him. Many are willing to take others under their wing and teach them lessons that they may have worked years to learn.

Tackle one or two skills at a time
Many times we overwhelm ourselves by trying to tackle too much at once. It’s unrealistic to create too many challenging goals and expect to sustain the drive and motivation to achieve them all at once. Pick one or two actionable items, at most, and focus on them. Once you’ve mastered them, move on to the next set.

Take what you’ve learned and apply it by teaching it to others
When we learn a new skill, a great way to cement it in our brains is to put it into practice right away. A great technique to doing this is to teach someone else what you’ve learned. This action may open up new questions you have on the process and cause you to dig deeper to understand and learn it even more proficiently. It also offers you the ability to connect to action right away by illustrating the skillset to someone else.

Instructional designers can apply these tips to their personal learning goals, and keep them in mind when they’re helping others acquire new skills.

Most important THING to remember when you want to learn a new skill is to take action on it!

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. Let’s turn this over to you… Do you use any of the above tactics or have any additional ones when you learn a new skill?