teo-duldulao-Shanghai-Performing-Arts (2)


Here are some considerations when developing e-learning courses.

A training program may aim at developing different types of skills:

  • cognitive skills, which can involve knowledge and comprehension (e.g. understanding scientific concepts), following instructions (procedural skills), as well as applying methods in new situations to solve problems (thinking or mental skills);
  • interpersonal skills (e.g. skills involved in active listening, presenting, negotiating, etc.); as well as
  • psychomotor skills, involving the acquisition of physical perceptions and movements (e.g. making sports or driving a car).

Most e-learning courses are developed to build cognitive skills. Within the cognitive domain, thinking skills may require more interactive e-learning activities because those skills are learned better “by doing”.


Some questions to ask when choosing among e-learning, face-to-face instruction or other types of informal learning:

  • What is the relative cost of each type of training?
  • Is learning best delivered in one unit or spread out over time?
  • Does it address a short-term or a long-term learning need?
  • Do participants have access to needed computer and communications equipment?
  • Are participants sufficiently self-motivated for e-learning or self-study modes of learning?
  • Do target participants’ time schedules and geographic locations enable classroom‑based learning or other types of synchronous learning?


E-learning is a good option when…

  • there is a significant amount of content to be delivered to a large number of learners;
  • learners come from geographically dispersed locations;
  • learners have limited mobility;
  • learners have limited daily time to devote to learning;
  • learners do not have effective listening and reading skills;
  • learners have at least basic computer and Internet skills;
  • learners are required to develop homogeneous background knowledge on the topic;
  • learners are highly motivated to learn and appreciate proceeding at their own pace;
  • content must be reused for different learners’ groups in the future;
  • training aims to build cognitive skills rather than psychomotor skills;
  • the course addresses long-term rather than short-term training needs2;
  • there is a need to collect and track data.


The quality of an e-learning course is enhanced by:

  • learner-centered content: E-learning curricula should be relevant and specific to learners’ needs, roles and responsibilities in professional life. Skills, knowledge and information should be provided to this end.
  • granularity: E-learning content should be segmented to facilitate assimilation of new knowledge and to allow flexible scheduling of time for learning.
  • engaging content: Instructional methods and techniques should be used creatively to develop an engaging and motivating learning experience.
  • interactivity: Frequent learner interaction is needed to sustain attention and promote learning.
  • personalization: Self-paced courses should be customizable to reflect learners’ interests and needs; in instructor‑led courses, tutors and facilitators should be able to follow the learners’ progress and performance individually.


© FAO. 12 March 2017.

Re-published from sections 1.1 and 1.5 in FAO publication’s ‘E-learning methodologies’. See: http://www.designtoolbox.co.uk/strategies/e-learning-methodologies-guide-for-designing-and-developing-e-learning-courses/

Published with permission.

Photo of Shanghai Performing Arts Center, Shanghai, China by Teo Duldulao. Used here with permission.