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The Art of Creating Short, But Effective eLearning Courses

As eLearning has evolved, in recent years there’s been a move toward microlearning. Organizations are embracing shorter and more abbreviated learning, in a move toward greater efficiency. Not only are shorter eLearning courses less time consuming, but what organizations are finding is that they’re also more effective.'

Today’s learner has less time and a shorter attention span, making it unrealistic to assume employees can sit for an hour or more to complete an eLearning course without interruption. This is what’s driving the shift toward just-in-time, bite-sized learning.

The thought is that it’s better to engage a learner for 10 minutes of truly productive learning time where information is absorbed and retained, as opposed to presenting them with an hour-long course that has no impact.

Read: E-Learning study: Short bursts and rapid assessments boost learning 

Instructional Design Tactics to Create Shorter eLearning Courses

There’s undoubtedly a large amount of information that you need to convey to employees during training, but to trim it down, keep it manageable and maximize effectiveness, it’s important to keep it short and to-the-point.

Here they are:


1) Organize

When designing eLearning, begin by laying out specific objectives and a strategy, and then move forward from within this framework. To avoid overloading employees and learners, it’s imperative to organize. Use storyboarding to determine the direction of content, without trying to load too many concepts into one course. With a storyboard, you can maintain an outline while you create your course. This level of organization ensures you include all main points without venturing into less important topics.

When you’re creating a storyboard aim for screens that convey only one idea at a time. This prevents it from becoming visually overwhelming, and it also streamlines learning and directs attention to what’s most important.

2) Rewrite to Remove Unnecessary 

All text and written information presented in your course should be as concise as possible before your learners go away. Keep your tone conversational and ensure text flows as it naturally would when being spoken. Also, avoid too much formality or wordiness.

To keep content more concise, a bit of pruning can do the trick. When you prune text, you’re using simplified verbs and minimizing wordiness.

For instance:

  • Eliminate wordiness by swapping nouns for verbs. For example, "The yoga teacher gave a suggestion for modifying the pose" can be changed to "The Yoga Teacher suggested modifying the pose."
  • Create punchy sentences. Typically sentences should contain anywhere from 15-20 words, and it’s always good to vary the length of sentences to maintain interest.
  • Remove needless modifiers. Take out words that don’t serve a specific purpose, such as “really,” “totally,” “actually”, and “much.”

While the above are simple ways to shorten content, it’s important that you never sacrifice clarity or meaning in exchange for brevity. The key to success in eLearning creation is striking a balance between the two.

Read more on how to write concise sentences.

3) Keep it "Need-to-know"

Everything you include in an eLearning  course should be what your employees absolutely need to know.

The question then becomes how do you decide what stays and what goes? Evaluate content using the following standards, to determine what must remain and to remove:

  • Is Content Clear and Accurate? When content is designed to educate employees, always look for a combination of clarity and accuracy. If anything muddies the waters and makes a salient point unclear, it can be removed. The same goes for accuracy. If there’s anything that can be confusing or potentially inaccurate, it should be the first to go.
  • Can Your Audience Use All Information? Ask yourself whether or not the material is going to have a real, tangible impact on employees’ performances and daily lives. If the answer is no, take it out.
  • Are You Over-Explaining? Examples are good in workplace training if they’re relevant. Avoid having too many examples or ones that don’t fully support content.
  • Is The Level of Difficulty Appropriate?: If you’re creating content for an introductory-level audience, refrain from bringing in higher level concepts. Save those for later courses, when your audience has the necessary building blocks.
  • Is The Information Available Other Places?: If your audience can find information from other sources, such as a news site, a blog post or an employee guidebook, take it out of eLearning. This would be considered “nice-to-know” information, rather than must-know.

4) Say it with a Visual

Could you say it with a picture?  If content can be better explained in a visual manner, eliminate the text and convert concepts into a visual. Get creative with visual design and along with graphics, consider the implementation of live action videos or infographics. This can be an ideal way to condense what would be a lot of long, boring text into something that feels manageable and engaging to the learner.

5) Eliminate Repetitiveness

Let’s say you’ve included a text- slide in your course and this same text is included in a script read by a narrator.

You’re not only boring your learners with repetitiveness, but you’re also demonstrating the idea that they’re not able to read for themselves. This is a big turnoff in eLearning courses.

Everything—audio, text, graphics, and videos—should all serve to enhance and build on one another, rather than repeating concepts.

6) Spaced, Bite-sized Chunks

Let’s say you’ve gone through your entire course and deleted everything possible and it’s still too long.

The solution?

Break it up into shorter segments.

If you have an hour-long course, breaking it up into six 10-minute modules, or three 20-minute courses will help you keep your learner’s attention and content is more likely to stick with them.

You see, with a little strategizing you can deliver workforce training that will resonate with employees over the long-term. Cut your eLearning courses and you’re going to see a significant improvement in your training ROI, along with employees that are engaged and enthusiastic about training.

       writing tips for elearning


Elizabeth Macfie.  Shortening Text: When, Why and How. 2013


Karla Gutierrez
Karla Gutierrez
Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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