15 learning design mistakes you should avoid when creating online courses

I compiled this list of Learning Design Mistakes to Avoid based on the messages I received and conversations I had recently. Read about others' mistakes, learn from them, and avoid making these mistakes.
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I have recently shared a confession on my social media, admitting to some mistakes at the the early stages of my career. I received loads of messages from other course creators, trainers and instructional designers sharing their horror stories. We al encounter various challenges and make mistakes, but sharing these experiences is valuable. Thank you to every single person who emailed and messaged me!

I decided to pul all these different experiences together and share here, so we all can learn! Here are some common mistakes:

  1. Neglecting Audience Analysis: Failing to thoroughly understand the target audience’s needs, preferences, and learning styles can lead to content that doesn’t resonate with learners. It leads to high drop out rates, unfinished courses, refund requests. The consequence for a course creator is a likelihood of re-designing content focusing on your audience.
  2. Lack of Clear Objectives: Designing without well-defined learning objectives can result in content that lacks focus and fails to deliver specific learning outcomes. You may end up delivering content that is not needed, or going off topic. Not good!
  3. Ignoring Feedback: If learners aren’t engaging with the content as expected, not making necessary adjustments can lead to persistent disinterest. Dismissing feedback from colleagues, stakeholders, or learners can hinder improvement and limit the effectiveness of the learning materials. Alway listen. And if in doubt consider AB testing as one of my follower did. Doing this at the early stage of the development saved a lot of money.
  4. Overloading Content: Trying to include too much information in a single course can overwhelm learners and hinder comprehension. Bite-sized, focused content is more effective. More in case of online learning is not better. Focus on your goal, use it as compass and stick to it!
  5. Overlooking Accessibility: Not designing with accessibility in mind can exclude learners with disabilities from accessing and benefiting from the content.
  6. Poor Time Management: Underestimating the time required for various design stages can lead to rushed or incomplete projects. That can lead to real disaster, especially if you are managing the project and everyone depends on you! Always assume things take longer than you hope. Be realistic, not optimistic.
  7. Overusing Technology: Introducing too many complex technological elements can overshadow the learning content and confuse learners. Technology and tools should be used to enhance learning experience and suport learners. If they don’t add to that anything positive, forget about them.
  8. Neglecting Storytelling: Failing to use compelling narratives or real-life scenarios can make content feel dry and less engaging. Stories help to remember information, facts and connect with the content.
  9. Copying Templates: Relying too heavily on templates without adapting them to suit the specific learning objectives can result in generic and uninspiring content. It can also lead to possible mistakes that are repeated – especially if the QA is not implemented as it should be.
  10. Underestimating Pilot Testing: Skipping pilot testing can lead to discovering issues only after the course has been fully rolled out, requiring costly revisions.
  11. Overlooking Emotional Engagement: Neglecting to create an emotional connection with learners can lead to content that fails to resonate and be memorable.
  12. Avoiding Collaboration and Making Assumptions: Not seeking input from subject matter experts, colleagues, or other stakeholders can result in content that lacks depth and accuracy.
  13. Ignoring Evolving Trends: Failing to stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in the field can lead to outdated and less engaging learning experiences.
  14. Not Reflecting on Mistakes: One of the most significant mistakes is not taking the time to reflect on failures and learn from them for future projects.
  15. Your mistake? I don’t have 15 mistakes, so if you want to add another in the comments, that would be brilliant! We would appreciate it! 

These are just a few potential mistakes. Remember that learning from mistakes is a crucial part of professional growth, and every challenge provides an opportunity to learn and improve.

Note, that this post provides general information about learning design mistakes to avoid.

It is important always to consider the specific context and requirements of your learning projects. If you have any questions or would like to delve deeper into the topic, please email me or book a free online consultation via my contact page.

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Make sure to check out my other posts related to planning online courses, designing and developing learning content and delivering training. I share strategies and tools that you can use and many practical tips. 

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