Designing Effective E-Learning (On a Shoestring Budget!)

Designing Effective E-Learning (On a Shoestring Budget!)

Successful e-Learning strikes a balance between quality and price. With appropriate planning, creative thinking, and the proper tools, you can give your learners a great experience that won't break the bank.

Follow these steps to make your e-Learning go further.

1. Analysis & Objectives

"Well begun is half done." This saying is true for efficient e-Learning, as well. Analyze the project requirements, develop clear, measurable objectives, and prepare a design document that breaks down the work scope into smaller tasks.

Before beginning the design process, also take time to analyze your learners' needs. It might feel like an unnecessary step, but in reality, this will and should inform every choice you make during e-Learning development.

If possible, conduct interviews with your learners or send surveys to gauge training gaps. These insights will help you be more efficient during the design, writing, and production of your e-Learning course or program. The ability to "think like a learner" is the best way to deliver value while protecting your budget.

2. Timeline & Storyboards

Spend more time planning your e-Learning course at the beginning. Create a timeline for work and a list of requirements to avoid lengthy revisions.

Before beginning your e-Learning design, storyboards should be cleared and approved by the subject matter expert (SME) or client. Remember that every task has a cost associated with it; so, if you've planned a cost of 'X' for a course or program, avoid doing work that triples the original budget.

3. Templates and Visual Assets

Can you repurpose any existing media assets (graphics, audio, or videos) or use a Rise, Storyline, or Captivate template? This can save an incredible amount of time and effort in designing and developing learning content.

Does your company or learning institution maintain visual assets created for previous projects or elements purchased from licensed vendors? Consider reusing them with modifications that fit your new project! 

4. Consider Microlearning

Most learners have short attention spans. On average, learners prefer to consume five minutes' worth of content at a time. Quick, easy-to-digest modules are also more affordable and efficient to design and develop.

Consider microlearning for your project -- an approach that offers bite-sized learning with just the necessary amount of information to help learners achieve a goal. Done well, microlearning can be a win-win for both IDs and learners.

5. Free Tools 

When developing e-Learning on a shoestring budget, check out free and open-source tools. (Check out these lists: and

Pexels, Pixabay, and UnSplash also offer free-to-use images and videos to enhance e-Learning.

Is AR and VR-enabled e-Learning Possible?

Though hardware used to view Augmented Reality (AR)* and Virtual Reality (VR)**-enabled solutions is becoming more accessible, the technology used to design these solutions aren't likely to fit into a small budget. Remember, AR/VR should not be used as a cosmetic addition to your e-Learning program -- only use it if it genuinely adds value to your learning content.

*AR systems incorporate models into the real world by locating them precisely with respect to the real environment, giving the impression of solidity as viewers move around them. **VR systems immerse users in a computer-generated world where they can navigate and interact, viewing complex operations clearly and convincingly.

If your budget allows it, consider and price-compare the Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens, HTC Vive, and Google Cardboard for a great AR/VR experience.

In Summary

An effective e-Learning solution includes engaging content, striking visuals, and assessments to reinforce learning. Intelligent thinking, creative writing, and intuitive design all contribute to the success of any e-Learning project.

How do you create e-Learning solutions on a shoestring budget? I'd love to hear your ideas and feedback. Leave a comment below!

Dr. McNeill

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