5 Key Instructional Design Tips for E-Learning

Whether you were prepared or not, making the move to virtual training wasn’t much of a choice. But you’ve done it, and it is undoubtedly going great! Now that you have settled into somewhat of a groove, how can you dig in further to fine-tune your training regimen and keep it fresh for learners?

Enter Instructional Design! These fundamentals can be applied to help you create or revise e-learning without having formal training in graphic design or technical apps. It’s a straightforward way for you to create effective learning that will impress your learners right away.

The Bob Pike Group team has compiled our top five instructional design tips that focus specifically on virtual training. Take a look and think about how you can apply these to your own e-learning courses.

Instructional Design Tips for E-Learning

  1. Use engaging yet consistent imagery & colors

As you begin designing your course visuals and slides, come up with a consistent color theme and scheme to carry throughout the whole presentation. Changing the theme or colors every few slides can be distracting for learners. Use the right images to support your content—powerful photographs are a great way to leave a lasting impression on learners!  Instead of bullet pointing out lists, use a series of images to illustrate the content, for instance. Think about consistent fonts, color palettes, imagery, and layout to create a captivating course that motivates your learners.


  1. Incorporate some white space

What is white space? Most of us refer to it as a part of the page or screen that remains blank—an area intentionally untouched by color, words, or art. Including it as part of an effective virtual learning design can turn a slide or screen into something that is interesting and sophisticated—offering learners a bit of a break from the content clutter. Plus, it’s a great way to keep your information organized and prioritized. Adding in a blank slide while you talk over content is another method of incorporating white space. It’s is just as important as the e-learning content, as it offers a bit of time for learners to retain what they have just learned!


  1. Don’t lump all content together

People often make the mistake of trying to cram a lot of content into one slide. If you have a lot of content that is best to present as text, just be sure to break it up into shorter chunks. Don’t feel like you need to fit a whole book on each slide. Use lists, short phrases, tables, and interesting images where you can. Break ideas into short text blocks while keeping in mind white space. For example, a number or bulleted list should have no more than 7-8 items. If you keep your text short and thoughtfully separated, it is much easier for learners to digest and prioritize the content they really need to take away.


  1. Incorporate C.O.R.E. elements in design

Applying C.O.R.E. elements as you design and organize your online training will ensure continuous participant engagement,  increased retention, and reduced training time! Sort out the “need to know” information from “nice to know” and “where to go.” Hone in on only what your learners need to know. Next aim for every activity to align around desired learner behaviors. Our live online Interactive Virtual Trainer workshop offers all the how-tos of using C.O.R.E. design in course planning:

  • Closers: Tie training activities/content together and examine next steps.
  • Openers: Break preoccupation and get learners mentally and physically “in the room” from the start.
  • Revisiters: Reinforce the content effectively and gauge comprehension throughout.
  • Energizers: Reduce tension to increase retention! This is sure to keep learners engaged.
  1. Keep learners focused on the end goal

Last, but not least, keep in mind that every element of your course should focus on gearing the learner toward the end goal—the takeaways and action items they can take out into the real world. Try not to get too caught up in the design/colors of your presentation. Many courses can also easily fall into the “information dump” category which isn’t helpful for anyone. As you design your course, focus on the actions and content that will keep your learners engaged and curious. Think of the activities you can build into your course that mimic real-world decisions and actions, too! Upon the completion of the course, every learner should walk away with clear goals and actions to take back into the real world.

These are just a few instructional design tips you can use to enhance your e-learning courses! Want more tips? The Bob Pike Group has a lot of instructional design resources. Plus sign up for an upcoming instructional design workshop to dig into more details on the process. 

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