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Best Practices to Follow When Designing High-Quality eLearning on a Tight Budget

eLearning as we know it today has evolved significantly from where it was two decades ago. From early learning content bundled onto CDs and DVDs to Flash-based videos and interactive elements and modern mobile-first responsive design; the transformation has been swift and evolving for the better. People working in L&D would be familiar with the multitude of tools and software available today to help create beautiful and functional digital learning solutions. In this blog post, we will offer insights into some of the best practices that individuals and small and medium businesses can follow when they are tasked with creating high-quality eLearning solutions on a tight or shoe-string budget. We will also list some open-source and freemium tools that can be used to design better eLearning experiences.

Barriers to Effective eLearning Design

Most often than not the following factors serve as barriers in effective eLearning design:

  • Lack of clarity regarding the target audience

  • No or poor training needs analysis

  • This results in mismatched training content that does not meet the learning objectives

  • No ownership among decision-makers in designing and deploying the eLearning solution

  • Poor communication between the content and design teams or between the L&D organization and the external vendor

  • Lack of planning and budgeting

Best Practices to Follow When Designing an eLearning Program

There is no standard solution or magic process to ensure that you get the perfect eLearning course each time you work on a project. Instead, we can offer some guidelines or a basic framework to follow that makes eLearning design and development easier.

  • Be thorough with the training needs analysis, identify the target audience, and set the learning outcomes or goals clearly

  • Let one person take complete ownership of working on the project and interacting with the vendor (external) or design and content teams (internally) and spearhead the project

  • Work with a clear project plan and budget in mind and stick to it and the effort / people-hours planned to complete it. Quite often the time and effort over-shoots the original plan. What is essential is that the budgets do not take a significant upward hike

  • Every requirement is unique. Some may need an employee training program, others may need a sales-partner training module, or a customer-centric product user-guide. Design eLearning in small units: bite-sized learning or microlearning modules. This helps in both facilitating design and making changes to it based on feedback

  • Keep the learners at the center of the design philosophy. Provide a learner experience that makes the learners appreciate the training content. User-friendly, simple, and aesthetic design goes a long way in providing a great learning experience

  • Future-proof your learning, avoid Flash files, design responsive and preferably mobile-first learning experiences that ensure a seamless learning experience across devices and operating systems

  • Choose the right platform to deliver your eLearning content. It could be the office intranet, LMS, LXP, dedicated mobile learning app, or even email

  • Be receptive to feedback. Keep the best interests of the learners in mind and ensure that they get the best learning content possible

Modern eLearning Design Tools

There was a time not too far away in the past when designing an eLearning program was a Herculean task that would involve multiple people with different skill-sets and using five or six different tools to design an eLearning module. Modern technology has made the process of eLearning development much simpler and more effective. Tools like Articulate Rise help an individual to create a complete eLearning course and publish it with ease. Course-authoring tools have evolved extensively and SCORM-compliant files are easily published from right within the tool. Some of the popular eLearning course-authoring tools available now are:

  • Articulate Storyline 360

  • Articulate Rise 360

  • Adobe Captivate

  • Camtasia

  • iSpring Suite

  • Lectora Online

  • gomo

Note – That this is by no means an exhaustive or complete list of such course-authoring tools. Several products are now available that integrate a course-authoring tool within the LMS itself and offer a complete package for organizations looking for an integrated learning solution. Read this article to find more options for eLearning course-authoring tools.

Open-Source Tools for eLearning Design

There are a bunch of resources available for freelance and independent instructional designers and learning experience designers to make innovative and aesthetically pleasing eLearning content. The resources listed below feature a mix of free and nominally priced solutions. Some resources are listed below:

  • Moovly – A powerful video-creation tool that helps you with your design and marketing efforts

  • isEazy – An all-in-one integrated toolkit that helps businesses design and deploy eLearning

  • CourseLab - A powerful and intuitive e-Learning authoring tool that offers a programming-free WYSIWYG environment for creating high-quality interactive eLearning content

  • EdApp – A powerful mobile-first course-authoring and deployment solution

  • H5P – A powerful tool to develop and publish HTML5-based eLearning content that works across different learning platforms

This comprehensive list allows people to filter out and find course-authoring tools that offer a free license. Use a tool that matches your needs and fits your budget.

S4C – Delivering High-Quality Cost-Effective eLearning Solutions

At S4Carlisle, we believe in working on eLearning solutions that help organizations foster accelerated learning at the workplace. We use a wide variety of open-source and proprietary tools to deliver a learning experience that your employees or product end-users will love. Get in touch with us at to learn how we can design an eLearning program for your organization that does not leave a huge dent in your training budget.


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