TOP 10 Best Practice e-Learning Design Essentials

What course designs & delivery methods are considered ‘best practice e-Learning’? How do you make e-learning courses effective and engaging in a post-digital era?

  • This list of the 10 best-practice e-learning training course design essentials can be applied to a wide range of education topics for digital education delivery.
  • These online course design resources & best-practice e-learning course tenets are based on a compilation of best-practice digital course design theories, evolved by experts in the field of online education/digital learning delivery.

Best Practice e-Learning Training Course Designs

How to Engage and Educate Learners with Digital Delivery Methods

Best-practice e-learning design theories abound in the digital education world.

Some digital education resources are available to educators for free, but often, when they are, they are typically linked to a particular e-learning platform or software system — often an expensive one (or one that is different to the education provider/RTO subscription software platform).

So we thought we’d summarise the leading e-learning course design theories into an easy-to-use resource for online educators, instructional designers, course content writers, teachers and other education professionals who design or deliver online training courses to broad audiences.

These essential e-learning design tenets can apply to a broad range of training topics. They enable course conversions from classroom delivery to digital (online) course delivery. And they can be used for a variety of subjects normally covered in classrooms and/or blended-learning environments, with the exception of practical hands-on demonstrations that cannot be fit readily into a screen-sized dimension.

  • Best-practice e-learning course considerations are particularly relevant for online training courses for good manufacturing practice (GMP), whether related to pharmaceutical production, herbal medicines, veterinary medicine manufacturing or medical device manufacturing.
  • For more information on GMP training options and learning platforms, visit the e-learning options for employee GMP certificate-courses training pages.

Top 10 best practice e-Learning guidelines

Be sure to also read: FAQs about e-learning development 

(1) Make it memorable.

If your online training content isn’t memorable….your courses could be fruitless…why?

  • Learning success in educational settings depends on a variety of interactive factors
  • Training resources and delivery methods are only part of the training effectiveness equation
  • This learning theory holds true for classroom delivery as well as online learning programs
  • Training success factors include, but are not limited to:
    • Intrinsic motivations for learning
    • External motivators such as a job promotion or advanced qualification
    • The effectiveness of the delivery method for retention and application
    • Engagement with the training materials whether delivered through digital/online courses or other training methods

And engagement is all about interest, which is something designers need to learn to evoke when designing their training courses, regardless of the delivery format.

Example: For GMP training, we help make it memorable and inspire compliance by using intriguing case studies of companies who ‘got it wrong’ and ended up being legally and/or criminally responsible for patient harm, fatalities, and other disasters. We also highlight the benefits of compliance with GMP requirements, at the operational level and at the broader public health level.

GMP design example

A recommended method for adding interest to your e-learning course designs is through:

This theory of multi-media e-Learning is why blended-learning training methods are highly recommended.

For more on blended learning methods and the forgetting curve, click here.

(2) Make e-learning appealing to the senses.

  • We take in much of our information visually, as humans — this means your images and colours should be engaging across:
    • Your average student demographic(s)
    • A broad range of potential learners
  • Appealing to individual learning styles in e-learning course development means:
    • Offering learning materials that can be embraced through a variety of senses
    • Including, but not limited to visual senses, auditory senses and kinesthetic learning preferences
    • Which can be implemented through recorded audio narratives as well as well-selected sound effects and impactful graphics/infographics, photographs, and bulleted-text points


(3) Write in the present tense — and use an active voice.

GMP design example

(4) Chunk your topic data and deliver large sections in smaller modules (learning units).

  • Content organisation is extremely important when you have a large educational topic you plan to deliver through a digital training program
  • Time allotments for unit organsation and module planning should be sufficient to allow for:
    • Breaking the data into segments that suit a sequential delivery of smaller segments
    • Outlining key points and related training concepts (topics/themes)
    • Organising related parts of the training into smaller training-unit segments (known as ‘data chunking’)
    • Minimising the length of each module to less than 1-hour maximum (and ideally 20 to 30 minutes per unit)
    • Test-running a pilot e-learning program with potential students of similar demographics to your intended audience
  • Adjusting your order and content based on feedback from at least 10 participants who are similar in education, culture, reading capacity and topic interest to your target audience

(5) Creatively repeat key concepts or themes, but add adequate variety to your delivery scenarios.

Repetition is a key part of retaining knowledge. Creative repetition and should be added to e-learning to help improve retention (per researcher Hermann Ebbinhaus).

  • No training is worth its weight when topics are not repeated OR repeatable
  • Repeat key themes, topics and theories to improve retention and encourage repeated access to your training modules
  • Vary the scenarios, however, using creative approaches — it helps to continue to improve and modernize your training, however, by adding current ‘hot topics’ in the industry as case study scenarios (example for Workplace Health and Safety e-learning – RoundUp legal cases resulting in billion-dollar punitive damages awards— since reduced to millions — and other pesticide toxicity legal cases)

With Hermann Ebbinhaus’s memory research indicating a large majority of learners will forget up to 90% of what they learned within mere hours of their training experiences, repetition cannot be ignored.

(6) Use intriguing case studies your learners can relate to.

  • Nothing improves training engagement — including retention and knowledge application — as well as a juicy case-study or disaster story
  • Use multiple case studies that are directly relevant — or at least interesting — to your learners
  • When possible, include ‘best case’ scenarios as well as ‘worst case’ scenarios for your presented case studies
  • If your training modules cover a lot of topics in-depth, try to weave the same case study — or case study stories — throughout the training
  • Yet still add a few additional case study examples for diversity and interest

(7) Ensure Online Assessments are appropriate for the level of learning

  • Online assessments help the learner identify learning gaps as well as improve retention
  • Assessments provide an opportunity to offer Certificate Courses indicating course completion to a suitable level of learning
  • Learners can gain a sense of achievement and/or course completion satisfaction — as well as a printable/downloadable certificate of training (an indicator and/or proof of training completion)
  • Assessments can often be arbitrary, however, and the best are validated as being suitable for purpose and industry-appropriate
  • Educators should not make claims of applicable skills as this requires a visual assessment (in-person assessments) unless this is a separate service

(8) Make it easy to enrol online and to track course progress.

This can be a challenge for best-practice manufacturing training courses delivered digitally…because some employees, or human resource departments, simply won’t know where to start when it comes to getting their teams trained in current GMP (cGMP). 

But in general, here are the best-practice promotions and enrolment process guidelines for e-learning courses.

  • Allow online training course purchases using a credit card (without requiring the creation of an extra financial account or mandating a login to PayPal)
  • Ensure the training order confirmation page is working (e.g. a ‘your order was successful’ confirmation page) along with an automatically generated invoice/receipt for tax purposes
  • Ensure course access log-in information is automatically delivered to the learner, ideally in an email within minutes of the order completion
  • It can help to minimise paginations and limit the number of pre-filled tick-boxes before the checkout process is complete (this will also save on e-learning course refunds administrations)
  • Create clearly-labelled digital training courses with detailed course descriptions (at least 1 to 2 paragraphs of content descriptions)
  • Offer training packages or ‘e-learning training bundles’ to meet industry needs, which can be especially helpful for people new to regulated industries (GMP sectors)
  • Allow learners to STOP and START an online training course by ensuring your Learning Management System (LMS) enables ‘continue/restart from where you last left off’ options or ‘restart course from the beginning’

(9) Offer refresher courses and email reminders.

  • Refresher courses are a great idea to (a) improve retention and (b) encourage ongoing engagement with your learners
  • Adding ‘game-like’ engagement to refresher courses can make the idea of a ‘mini-course repeat’ more appealing and more effective

(10) Have a clearly-defined refund policy on your website.

Follow best-practice refund policies and ensure your online course refund policy is clearly stated on your website, per government policies and consumer protection regulations.

  • Allow the appropriate number of days for a user to request a refund
  • Don’t create unnecessary refund barriers but DO collect data as to why the student is wishing to gain a refund
  • Allow an easy method for transferring course funds to another course (if the learner accidentally purchased the wrong course, for example)
  • Use automated email systems to remind purchasers of your online course refund policy
  • Where feasible, implement automated drip-email systems to encourage course involvement in a timely manner (not pay and forget; avoiding the ‘got too busy/forgot to complete the online course’ syndrome)

For best practice manufacturing training courses delivered online (GMP e-learning courses), visit the GMP Training Store for GMP Training / Certificate Courses.

Be sure to also read: FAQs about e-learning development. 

Last updated on July 6th, 2023 at 11:03 am

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