Designing eLearning

Learning Platform

A learning methodology is a set of procedures composed of methods, principles, and rules for enhancing individual capacity and performance.

Yet some designers mainly focus on the technology and content when it comes to building elearning platforms; however, this normally leads to a page-turning design — the learner reads what is on the screen and then clicks the next button. While this can bring about knowledge, which is important, the design often fails to follow-up with the next step — performance — having the learners practice the skills in order to gain experience.

While there are a number of means of achieving a rich and interactive learning platform, one option is using a design architecture composed of the six types of content and the six categories of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy:

Six Types of Content in eLearning

Content normally comes in one of six forms (Clark, Chopeta, 2004; Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer, Pintrich, Raths, Wittrock, M.C., 2001):

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

Each type of content normally has several degrees of difficulties of learning, depending on how the learners will be expected to use the content. For example, they might have to 1) know about an outside process and how it relates to a process they are involved with, 2) perform a process, and 3) create a new process.

The revised Cognitive Domain of Bloom's Taxonomy provides a good guide for six types of learning (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer, Pintrich, Raths, Wittrock, M.C., 2001):

Bloom's Revised Taxonom

Architecture Design Matrix

Putting the above two concepts in a matrix gives us an idea of what type of activities the learners need to perform in order for them to master the required performance skills. The matrix below lists various instructional options or activities for matching a specific content with a performance level:

The Knowledge Dimension Remember Under-stand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
Facts list para-phrase classify outline rank categorize
Concepts recall explains show contrast criticize modify
Processes outline estimate produce diagram defend design
Procedures reproduce give an example relate identify critique plan
Principles state converts solve different-iates conclude revise
Meta-cognitive proper use interpret discover infer predict actualize

Note that the activities are not locked in, but are rather suggestions that are aimed at improving the learning platform so that it supports the learners in their quest to master the required objectives.

The activities listed in the matrix can be categorized into four types of Design Architectures (Clark, 2002):

Thus, we normally use the first architecture to learn about something and then move on to one or more of the last three so that we can do something with it.

Thus, the final design of an elearning platform should normally contain the first Design Architecture, Receptive, so that the learners can gain the minimum basic knowledge; in addition to containing one or more of the last three Design Architectures, Directive, Guided Discovery and Exploratory, so that the learners can master the required skills.

Designing eLearning: ADDIE plus More

While the ADDIE model is quite useful when it comes to designing effective elearning platforms, the design does require extra attention as compared to classroom platforms. Unlike classrooms where instructors can adapt to the learners' needs; elearning platforms must be designed to take care of the learners' needs, unless they are synchronous. Note that elearning is often divided into two types, asynchronous and synchronous:

Since each of the two types of elearning have their advantage, good designers often combine self-paced learning with either synchronous elearning or classroom learning. This hybrid method is normally called blended learning.

Another effective method is to build an asynchronous elearning platform supported by social media tools. Note that a learning platform implies an architecture or framework that is stably structured so that it supports the learners.

Thus, social learning is juxtaposed to it with media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and wikis that allow the learners to communicate with their peers, instructors, experts, etc. While these types of social medial are not quite as synchronous as face-to-face or live on-line chats as they are normally not real time, they do create a close approximation if they are supported properly.

Next Steps

Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map



Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.

Clark, R.C. (2002). The new ISD: Applying cognitive strategies to instructional design. Performance Improvement, v. 41, n. 7. pp.8-14.

Clark, R., Chopeta, L. (2004). Graphics for Learning : Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Clark, R.C., Mayer, R.E. (2007). eLearning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Quinones, M.A., Ehrenstein, A. (1997). Training for a Rapidly Changing Workplace: Applications of Psychological Research. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.