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Tips and Advice when developing e-Learning materials

Most organizations have a workforce today that is geographically diverse across multiple time zones. To meet the learning needs of these audiences virtual learning is a flexible solution. Technology has improved the quality of how virtual learning can now be delivered, providing a learning experience that is engaging and impactful. A virtual learning solution can be a combination of synchronous webinars or asynchronous (on-demand) e-Learning modules and can be blended with more traditional classroom training.

Before diving into a project to develop on-demand e-Learning materials, we suggest you review our simple tips. For anyone who has developed e-Learning materials, it is a very time intensive endeavor! We hope you find this information helpful. 

When first deciding to develop asynchronous e-Learning materials ask yourself:
1. Who is the audience? Will they want to and be able to access online materials? Is their computer equipped with audio play back?
2. What are your learning objectives? Do your goals lend themselves to online learning? If you need to develop hands-on skills with your audience then online learning is probably not the main solution, although it can be a great reinforcement to traditional classroom training.
3. What degree of interactivity do you need? Some learning materials are geared towards dialogue or need open Q&A time. If this is the case, you probably want to choose webinars versus actual asynchronous e-Learning modules.
4. Is this training mandatory or voluntary? If it is mandatory for your audience to complete the training, then you will want to incorporate a mechanism to track completion.
5. What is your timeframe and budget? Developing fully asynchronous learning materials is time consuming and can require involvement from a number of vendors with specialty services. Those can include:

  • Copyediting: If you do not have internal capabilities for a thorough editorial review (i.e. spelling, grammar; typos; flow; correct vocabulary, etc.) than you may need to pay for this service.
  • Narration: Do you need professional narration (voice-over) of your e-Learning modules? If yes, this typically requires the development of detailed scripts.
  • Do your e-Learning materials need to be 508 or ADA Compliant? Videos should have the audio transcribed and the transcripts easilly accessible. You may also need to provide Close Captioning of your videos. All pictures should have text descriptions of exactly what is seen in the picture. Text documents should be in a PDF format and then put through a process called Remediation. To understand more about what Remediation entails please read this detailed explanation from our partner – CommonLook:

PDF accessibility goes beyond making sure people can find the documents and open them.  It also means making sure that everyone can read them.  And we mean everyone – including people who are blind, visually impaired, or have any other disability.
To ensure that your documents are accessible & compliant you want to know what accessibility standard you are trying to achieve. These standards include WCAG 2.0 AA, PDF/UA and HHS. Each of these standards has a list of check-points that must be met. This includes providing text for all non-text content as well as providing ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are. There are many PDF accessibility checkers including PAC 2, Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker, and CommonLook’s Validator.
Once you are aware of the issues you can fix your PDF. This is often referred to as remediation and is the process of making your PDF accessible and compliant to accessibility standards. This is a process that is not intuitive to most people. It can be done using Acrobat alone but can be very time consuming. Using CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess will walk you through the remediation process making remediation easier and faster but most importantly ensuring that your PDF’s are fully accessible. Information on document accessibility as well as web content accessibility can be found here. This can be a lot of information to take in at once especially if you are new to accessibility. It is always recommended to reach out an accessibility expert if there are questions or concerns. As the Institute'ss preferred vendor for PDF remediation, CommonLook is here to help.

If you have detailed questions about developing e-Learning materials and/or would like support, please contact Kathryn Swaim at  

The Organizational Development & Learning Solutions group of UMass Donahue Institute advances organizational learning and productivity by bringing together needed expertise to work collaboratively with our clients to build solutions. We apply our expertise in the corporate and public sectors; consulting to community organizations, government offices and global corporations. Using technology as a tool for delivering interactive instruction, ongoing collaboration, and insightful conversation we’re able to engage with clients and partners in a way that inspires learning and provides creative and customized solutions.

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