The skeletons in my learning design closet

October 26, 2021 Off By admin
The skeletons in my learning design closet

It’s Halloween season, and there’s no better time than now to admit that my learning design closet is like a scene from Poltergeist. These ghosts and skeletons haunt me every day, and I’m sure they’ll give Chucky a run for his spookiness.

Borderline perfection

Nobody is perfect, but when you want to impress a client, you try to dig the perfection out of your soul because your name and reputation are on the line too. Guilty as charged! I can’t tell you how many times this tendency of mine has delayed projects! Or how many times I created things that ended up in a drawer or were never published or released! “Perfect” is the enemy of “done!” One imperfection breeds another. 


There’s no harm in striving for perfection. You just need to be sure that you’re not getting carried away. There will always be room for improvement if you look closely. You need to ensure that you’ve chosen the right strategy and clearly stated your goal. After you achieve your goal, move on to another one. Perfectionism is a real ghost. Don’t let it trick you.

Too much content

I always have to stay super focused and strict about the amount of content I put in courses. I used to have this tendency to include content and resources because they were cool or nice, in my opinion. But “Too much of anything is bad.” 


Don’t do it. Course creators must always link content with course learning outcomes. Define the goals of your course and every single unit, and make sure that your content serves these goals. Using bite-sized chunks will help learners digest the content, but it will also help you stay focused on these goals. When incorporating visuals, infographics, and interactive videos, make sure they are clearly linked with the learning goals. You don’t want to bore your learners and have high dropout rates, but when adding content, keep it to a necessary minimum, delivering promised learning!

Underestimating and devaluing myself

Naming your price can be daunting when you’re a freelance designer with not much experience. It certainly was not easy for me—especially at the beginning of my freelance career. At that time, I had no idea how to value my work and skills. I wasn’t sure what the rates were in general. Then, when I got an idea of the common rates, I didn’t want to overprice myself, and I was unsure which bracket I fell under. Finally, how was I supposed to estimate how long things would take? So many questions! 


Don’t be afraid to name your price. Those who know your value will either pay it or try to bargain—so you need to have ground to stand on. The trick is that you need to do your research. Find out about learning design in your country and globally. Look at what people with your skills do, how long they take to deliver, their work quality, and how much they charge. Ask your close network. And then charge accordingly. At the beginning of your career, consider running a project or two, approaching them as “test projects.” Even if they are not 100% profitable, they can bring you valuable knowledge, learning, and connections. Do not do this regularly, though. Once you know what you can contribute, price yourself accordingly! 

Trying to do EVERYTHING

Oh, goodness! You’ve probably done it too. I used to assume that I must do it all and do it myself to gain experience, not to mention the trap of taking contracts I was not happy with just because I feared an uncertain future. It is difficult, but try not to do it!


Do what you can manage.

  1. Do not accept work when you can’t finish it. You will be stressed and tired, and you will deliver mediocre work.

  2. Do yourself a favour and manage your time adequately. Delegate and outsource. You don’t have to do everything yourself! 

  3. Do not underestimate any responsibility that you’ve agreed to.

Overdosing with technology and tools

Technology is the invention that keeps on giving. I was always fascinated by it and have always been keen to learn new things. I also tended to overcomplicate my products or services with technologies (unnecessarily!). You need to know when to draw the line. Consider and use only what’s necessary!


The user’s learning experience is of the utmost importance. Do not overcomplicate course navigation or use technology that is too advanced for your target audience. They want to learn in the most efficient and straightforward way possible. Select the right tools, and utilise them only where needed. 

Not being familiar enough with your target audience

By all means, you cannot afford not knowing who you’re creating a course for. This is a recipe for disaster.


Know your audience and deliver impeccable work. You have to visually see and interact with your target audience. Know what their interests, technical skills, learning needs, and challenges are. You can work alongside the brand you’re commissioned by, but I would also recommend that you conduct your own research so that you deliver impeccable work. 

Having misaligned or non-existent objectives

If we’re being honest, I used to just jump to creating content. I was impatient to do the nice stuff. Today, I don’t even think about starting without having a clearly defined end goal. All questions lead back to: What are you trying to achieve? 


Don’t lose focus. Create your objectives at the beginning, because they’ll serve as your guide. Your goals should be concise, student-orientated, and measurable. 

Now that you have a few treats and tricks in your learning design bag, I hope you’re ready to fight those ghosts and let your skeletons rest in peace. 

One more thing: Learning design, or any career for that matter, is best done in a community setup. After fighting ghosts and burying skeletons, find people who will take your career to the next level with advice, recommendations, and help. Please don’t take this for granted. Even a little help goes a long way. Attend virtual workshops, talk to people, get information, bounce ideas off other people—do not be afraid to put yourself out there. In the same vein, be resourceful and contribute: lend a hand where necessary, offer advice, recommend a useful tool, etc. 

Remember: Whatever milestone you’ve achieved this year, celebrate it. Celebrate yourself. Acknowledge the small strides you’re making, keep your energy positive, and rest!

Join my network, stay connected, get in touch!

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