'If there's one thing I never want to see again in an e-learning module, it's...'

...Complete this sentence in 20 words or less. That was the starter for 10 (well, 20) on which we kicked off a few weeks ago in the Elearning Professionals Group on LinkedIn. So far we’re over 100 responses in. They range from the simple to the profound to the directly opposing (Fight! Fight!), to the surprisingly funny (for e-learning). Some people had more to say than 20 words. That’s OK. You all obviously hate any instruction text anyway.


We’ve brought you just a taster of the comments below, left raw as you like – it’s a community excerpt, not an editorial attempt to wrap it all up neatly as it’s still very much alive. Might be a great book some day. We’ve left the names out, but if you want to see who’s saying what, and join the debate, you know where to go...
Join the eLearning Professionals LinkedIn group here.

“If there's one thing I never want to see again in an e-learning module, it's...”

  1. How to use the e-learning module!
  2. Error 404. "Not Found"
  3. By the end of this module you will have learned the following...."
    Really? Well by the end of this screen I'm so mad at your presumptuousness I am going to try really hard not to learn anything.
  4. An animated clock that says 'loading' and still does five minutes later
  5. Scrolling sideways
  6. Step locking. Making the user click everything doesn't ensure they've actually taken it all in...(unfortunately we have some clients that swear by it)
  7. No more clicky-clicky bling-bling!
  8. Pages with too much text, clipart style graphics and badly laid out content.
  9. Click next to continue...
  10. eReading.
  11. 10 pages of text and image, text and image, text and image.....sighhh....
  12. Text on the left, image on the right. Text on the left image on the right. Text on the left, image on the right. Multiple choice question. Repeat to fade.......
  13. An explanation of every single field/button which could be used rather than it being scenario based and exploratory.
  14. The check answer buttons when not necessary. Such a useless waste of a click!
  15. A robotic voice reading out paragraph after paragraph of text as they appear on screen!
  16. When it says click here....you do...with eager anticipation only to find another pdf document. I hate paper behind glass!!
  17. Fade in fade out fade in fade out fade in fade out fade in fade out fade in fade out
  18. Here's another vote for getting rid of the instructions. We all know that the next button advances to the next page :)
  19. You know, I'm with you on the instructions and the things we all know. But the other day, I was doing a training, and I had a student who had no idea what the address bar on a browser did. Yes, I was as flummoxed and flabbergasted as you are now, lol. But, what that DID teach me was to not assume what people do and don't know. I think sometimes, because we are all INSIDE the development fence a lot and see certain things over and over, it grates our sensibilities. Of course, that doesn't mean that there isn't good e-learning and baaa-aaa-aaaadd elearning.
  20. History of a subject! I'm not that bothered that the law I must comply with was introduced in 1978.
  21. Absolutely agree...storytelling and scenarios tick all the boxes for me, can still remember stories that great lecturers told me many moons ago when I was at Uni, but it was great teaching and I still remember the points they were trying to make. On the other hand I also remember the lecturers who read almost verbatim from the books they wrote...remember them but not a word they said, only that it was soooooo boring!
  22. Less text book style text, more engaging writing, tell me a story, make me interested, make it relevant, not this law replaced a previous law in 1978, zzzz...
  23. Learning technologies/e-learning whatever you want to call it can NEVER make bad teaching/learning/training good but if it’s not interesting, engaging and used effectively it can make good teaching/learning/training bad...that to me is what we need to be addressing.
  24. The opportunity to skip to the end without completing the module just by clicking the next button
  25. Fatuous multiple-choice questions peppered throughout the module in the name of 'interactivity'.
  26. Hyperactive hyperlinking!
  27. The above plus "It is essential that ...", "It is vital that ...", "It is crucial that ..." etc etc
  28. "Mary had a little lamb." "And now a quick recap. What kind of pet did Mary have? a. a little ram b. a little lamb c. a brittle yam d. all of the above." "Incorrect response. Try again."
  29. Someone narrating every single word that is on the screen with no option to move on until they finish.
  30. A Word document as a content topic....
  31. Animations (such as flying text) that distract the learner and add nothing to the learning experience.
  32. Strange to say it but looping animations that don't stop while you're trying to read are still occasionally seen
  33. Information that should be in a searchable knowledge base.
  34. Talking heads. For years a byword for boring in TV, and now it’s creeping into an elearning course near you. But I would say that because I work in video
  35. "Thou shalt not deviate" I think it's one of the ten elearning commandments. Possibly because so much elearning is migrated directly from classroom training it seems it has to have a start middle and end. Why can't I just go everywhere, anywhere, at any time? So what if I deviate, if it's that interesting I'll come back.
  36. "You may now close this window"
  37. Our company's XYZ policy is VERY IMPORTANT..."
  38. If there's one thing I never want to see again it’s a module without a narration or a sound track of some kind. I believe that an eLearning module without narration is simply not eLearning. It is no better than a plain .pdf file or a book for that matter. Reading of the screen is not eLearning. It is eReading.
  39. Step locking - has completely the opposite effect it is designed to deliver
  40. Complete audio narrative of the text - pointless and again has the opposite effect - brain just switches off and remembers neither.
  41. Copy and paste video found on the internet - if it's not made specifically for the audience then forget it unless it is very very very good. Same goes for graphics (they are meant to act as either a recall aid, simplify a complex process or be a graphical representation of the key concept of text.... not to simply fill the space)
  42. Delivering nothing more than a talking PowerPoint (if that’s all you want to do then just add your audio to Powerpoint and cut out the middle man). Content delivery which is the opposite of the most used platform of your target demographic (i.e. delivering "talking PowerPoints" to 18-30 year olds via the PC instead of a scenario based experience delivered via mobile....)
  43. Ineffective attempts created by trainers wasting their time designing something simply to satisfy their own curiosity or personal learning agenda when they could have reached more people and had a greater impact with ILT in less time.
  44. Questions at the end which are designed to hide the inability and apathy of the content creator rather than stretch and challenge the learner.
  45. A screen shot of a table or Excel spreadsheet.
  46. A screen..with just text...and a cross section diagram. Like that's meant to excite me?
  47. Teeny tiny text that makes me reach for the magnifying glass. Is it my age?
  48. I know this is more than 20 words but I just can't believe how poor most elearning still is considering it has been doing the rounds for well over 15 years, when I know kids who can create 3d immersive virtual worlds with off the shelf freeware, college students in 3rd world countries who have created training environments in 2nd life and companies in semi-rural northern China who deploy their entire content on mobile phones. Delete PowerPoint from your desktop and then throw away your Captivate licence and go pick up a copy of iClone, crazytalk, Panda3d etc and see what our delegates want to see when they open up that module.
  49. A timeline the learner can't control - i.e audio with no text alternative! Trapped! Aaaaaaagh!
  50. Text entry type of interactions...I won't bother with it...not if there is no one in real world reading and responding to it...
  51. Screens with bullet points. Bullet points have their uses when kept to a minimuml. But I've never seen anything less engaging than bullet point after bullet point.
  52. Interesting thoughts and views in the comments above - many of which I can't help but agree with BUT having asked the question of some 'learners' it would appear that these views are not necessarily shared by users. I suspect a contributory factor is a developer becomes immersed in the world of e-learning and subject delivery and sees a lot of good, poor and indifferent examples which they can compare the merits of very easily - as they say familiarity breeds contempt.
  53. A) Click next to read more stuff you could have worked out with a half decent exercise.  B) Sorry you can't complete the assessment of stuff you already know until you've completed A). C) Click every pixel on this screen to prove you are actually here.
  54. As you submit something, receiving the message 'Sorry your session has timed out' resulting in everything you had produced disappearing into the ether. Yes I know I should have saved it somewhere else first, but it was still damned annoying.
  55. PowerPoint presentation as eLearning with bullet points
  56. Audio that repeats exactly the text that is on the screen. Make the audio optional as necessary for 508 compliance.
  57. "Hang on, we are having technical difficulties....” then a frozen screen.
  58. My gripe is unimaginative video. Recently I edited experts talking to camera about an industrial process for an elearning course. This was time hungry in the edit suite as I had to trawl through all the bad takes, because amateurs find autocue awkward. It was illustrated by daft animations on a loop. Why not film the machines and show the process, with an expert explaining what you are seeing? If you didn’t spend your budget on hiring a broadcast video camera, lights, 2 man crew and autocue – you would have plenty of money to film and edit in cutaways. Prosumer cameras are now very good.
  59. Asking learners to read a company policy and passing it off as e-learning
  60. "... boring cut and paste from a book!"
  61. Unable to open http://www.whatever.wherever. The internet site reports that the item you requested could not be found.......where's the valium!
  62. I have to say that I would rather have a pdf that I can read quickly and answer the questions than I would have to go through the annoying interactive pages that have me doing things I already know how to do before I can move on. I guess its horses for courses. But I adore this thread ...it surely shows that a huge amount of investment in time and software is required for exceptional material to be produced.....I just wonder do you think any government body reads this!....answers on a postcard!
  63. Statement of learning outcomes which is incomprehensible, abstract, boring, alienating and demotivating. (Why are we still blindly following Gagné after all these years? Telling students what they're going to get out of your course, and why they should bother to study it, is GOOD; copying and pasting text from the administrative tool you used to plan and approve the course is BAD. I've just found some lovely guidance on learning outcomes by Phil Race at http://phil-race.co.uk/most-popular-downloads/ - radical idea: he thinks learning outcomes should be for >students<.
  64. Personally, I'd ban flying/fade in graphic introductions with no "skip straight to the content option". Often they only contain the company logo and the title of the course anyway, something that I'm sure the user could suss out pretty soon anyway...
  65. Just a thought.....is the material you get on line, in whatever form you get it, really the learning? Surely the activities you undertake from the knowledge you have gained is the real learning. I mean to say peeps you can read the highway code till you are blue in the face and you can use all the simulators you want, but you can never say you learned to drive until you do it for real, can you? Or can you?
  66. Has anyone else noticed that the majority of the respondents on this thread, whilst agreeing with several comments, also have differing ideas about what makes for 'good/bad’ e-Learning. My own thoughts are that e-Learning/TEL is just one 'tool' from my 'toolbox' that aids learning. There are many other tools. The point above is spot on in my opinion - we learn by doing. This is very well know yet we still ask learners to work through some e-Learning activity, watch the video, listen to the audio and then answer some questions - how do we know they really understood unless their understanding is demonstrated in a physical/mental manner I can give a lecture on thermal comfort for example, to inform learners of the 6 criteria that need to be controlled to achieve comfort, but it's not until they enter university campus buildings, question staff and take field measurements that they really begin to 'get' it. It’s the same with e-Learning; you can provide students/learners with all kinds of learning ‘activities’ such as simulations, guided ‘walk throughs’, video clips, audio, animations, stories and more but the proof of the pudding is when they demonstrate that they can do what the activities were trying to get across to them in order to determine a successful e-Learning activity occurred - poor e-Learning is just as poor as a poor lecture.
  67. Just to really rock the boat....I think that you can understand a topic and gain the knowledge you need from e-learning quite easily and for those of you that scream at pdfs - I like them....after all this is all writing but we are all learning from the threads!!!!!