How to design e-learning

E-learning activities are designed for teachers and students. Although online learning will not replace classroom, face-to-face learning, each year more students opt for an e-learning education (Herrington, n.d.). E-learning is growing at 30% per year, according to the 2011 "Human Systems Management" journal (Eom, 2011). Therefore, teachers and educators must adapt their current curriculum to create an optimal online learning experience and compete in this growing market. Although the easiest shortcut is a learning management system that provides discussion boards, email, course sign-in, a list of assignments and links to directed readings; e-learning design can be better (Horton, 2012). Students may eventually choose institutions of higher education based on the quality of their e-learning courses.

Benjamin S. Bloom was interested in how people think, and how they learn, which he delineated in Bloom's Taxonomy (Overbaugh, n.d.). It is interesting to note that the revised pyramid has been upgraded to replace nouns with strong verbs, a method recommended in this prospective e-learning course for more effective writing. Bloom's taxonomy aligns with Horton's absorb, do, connect activities, providing a successful skeleton for building an e-learning course (Overbaugh, n.d. & Horton, 2012).

Absorb -- Do -- Connect

Absorb activities relay information (Horton, 2012).  The most common types of absorb activities include presentations, readings, stories by a teacher, and field trips (Horton, 2012). Some of these may be characterized as passive learning, especially if students are watching a slide presentation or listening to a story. Even field trips and readings are often considered passive learning unless the participant is required to do something (Horton, 2012). But absorb activities are beneficial in preparing students to do something or for short “upgrades” in previous learning (Horton, 2012). These activities are good at explaining and demonstrating a sequence of events (Horton, 2012).  Absorb activities can be pre-recorded, an advantage for many instructors and learners. Students can access information at anytime, and stop the presentation if needed, which meets the needs of technology-based students (Guy, 2009). Absorb activities fall into Bloom's taxonomy of "remembering" and "understanding" (Overbaugh, n.d.).

The following six presentations work well for online e-learning courses (Horton, 2012).

1. Slide shows – These can be created in Power Point and narrated for the Internet using tools such as Articulate Presenter, Adobe Presenter, Adobe Captivate, iSpring Presenter, or Impactica for Power Point. Film clips, drama, demos, text, graphics, and more can be incorporated into this format. Horton has an example online.

2. Physical demonstrations – These are best done with video, though photos can be used for some.

3. Software demonstrations –Demos for explaining how to use a software application.

4. Informational films – These include short films and documentary-type films. Permissions necessary if you don’t do your own.

5. Dramas – These are nonfictional films. They require a script, actors and a good story.

6. Discussions – These can be live interviews or filmed.

For slide shows, it is important to give the learner control over the speed of the presentation and three forms of presentation: hearing, reading the text, and watching graphics (Horton, 2012). This helps meet the needs for various learning styles (Herrington, n.d.). Examples and applications of the information presented help learners grasp new ideas (Horton, 2012). Presentations are more interesting and keep the learners attention if they are not linear (Guy, 2009).  In fact, it is important to give students a "Do" activity early in the presentations, before it gets boring (Horton, 2012). Real-life situations that create a question to be solved, or a practice problem, or an activity that requires the student to use the tools he has just learned, are ways for students to interact (Guy, 2009). Learners need to have control over their e-learning experience and this can be delivered by having students learn new information by solving problems in real-life scenarios (Herrington, n.d.).

Do Activities 

These type of activities require learners to do something with the information they have acquired from an absorb activity (Horton, 2012). These include anything that applies knowledge such as practice problems, discovery activities such as virtual labs or games and simulations where learners play a game and get immediate feedback (Horton, 2012). "Do" activities can also be presented before an absorb activity to provide a basis of knowledge or a starting point so the student realizes what he/she needs to learn (Horton, 2012). After a presentation, a "do" activity provides the learner to apply the new information immediately which increases retention of the subject. This follows Bloom's taxonomy of learning -- remembering, learning, applying (Overbaugh, n.d.).

Connect Activities

Many times connections are left to the learner to make and not integrated within an e-learning course (Horton, 2012). Connect activities link new knowledge with knowledge a student already possesses (Horton, 2012). It is not teaching something new. Connect activities can happen without planning, depending on the learner. It happens anytime he/she stops to ponder and make a connection within an "absorb" or "do" activity. However, it can also be prompted by suggesting learners summarize, evaluate, meditate, or identify (Horton, 20120).  Students can be asked to recall their own experiences or stories. Bloom's taxonomy would describe these "analyzing" and "evaluating" activities, that build upon "remembering" and "understanding" (Overbaugh, n.d.). Research activities help learners connect by using their own sources that apply to the information that has been shared through a presentation or reading (Horton, 2012).  When learners create original work, they are using connect activities and meeting the final outcome of learning in Bloom's taxonomy (Horton, 2012 & Oberbaugh, n.d.).

The prospective project is an advanced writing course for students and writers, comprised of five e-learning activities. Although this course is adaptable to beginning writers, there should be a prerequisite for understanding the English language. ESL students may have grammar needs that English speakers have already acquired. This course meets the needs of graduate students and professionals who publish in peer-reviewed journals. Those in higher education often have a need to write with more clarity, having picked up academic writing styles that are not that well-written (Zinsser, 2006). For each activity, the type and learning objective will be identified, as well as my rationale for selecting these activities. I will explain how online students will learn from these five activities and finally, how the teacher or trainer will assess these activities. This course is based on an open online course offered from Stanford University and a similar one offered as a webinar.

Learning Activity

Learning Objective

Write in Active Voice

Slide presentation with voice-over: examples of active and passive voice sentences.
1) Ten sentences in the passive voice and students must change to active voice. Answers immediately follow.
2)Quiz – identify if a sentence is passive or active. Answers immediately follow.
Write a 300 word paragraph using active voice. 
To write in active voice.

Cut Unnecessary Words
Slide presentation with voice-over: First review of parts of speech – adverbs, prepositions. Student can skip if needed.
Examples of sentences with unnecessary words, and then how to streamline the sentences and remove extra words. Look at extra adverbs, long phrases, jargon, needless prepositions, negatives, and avoiding “there is” and “there are”
1) Ten sentences that need editing and students correct. Answers immediately follow.
Correct a 300 word essay and look for unnecessary words.
To write with more clarity and ease of reading.

Write with Strong Verbs
Slide presentation with voice-over. First a review of nouns and verbs, can be skipped. Next examples of nouns that should be verbs: “obtain estimates versus “estimate.”
Ten sentences with needed corrections, students correct them, answers follow.
 Correct a 300 word essay.

To write with more emphasis on action.

Improve Punctuation
Slide presentation with voice-over. Review of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, phrases.
Write ten sentences with these forms of punctuation.
 Write a 300 word essay with these four punctuations.
To use and understand the correct use of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, and phrases

Use Parallelism
Slide presentation with voice-over. Show examples of sentences with parallelism and those that are not constructed that way.
Correct ten sentences that need parallelism.
 Correct a 300 word essay, using parallelism.
To improve readability of whole texts by using parallel structure in sentences.

For the first activity, I have chosen a slide presentation for an absorb activity, which will present information on active and passive voice (Horton, 20120).  This is often difficult to recognize at first, and requires practice to become proficient. Students will see written sentences with voice-over reading of the sentences and explanations of  how to change a sentence from passive voice to active. After a number of examples, learners will have an opportunity to try to do it. This will address the "Do" activity (Horton, 2012).  One sentence will be presented in passive voice, and the student will have time to write it in active. The next screen will give the answer so that the learner has an immediate confirmation and explanation. The student will have ten sentences like this to re-write in active voice. At the end of the activity, a quiz will give students a chance to identify sentences in active and passive voice. Answers will be available immediately for reinforced learning (Horton, 2012).  The final connect portion of this activiy will be a paragraph written in active voice. This will be sent to the instructor to grade and give feedback (Horton, 2012). The final learning mode in Bloom's taxonomy -- creating -- will be fulfilled when students write their own essays in the active voice (Overbaugh, n.d.). Analyzing the sentences is achieved in the step just prior to writing/creating an essay.

The second activity involves learning how to cut excessive words in writing to make it more precise and easier to follow. The same presentation method, using a slide and voice-over  will be utilized for an absorb type activity (Horton, 2012).  Sentences in peer-reviewed journals will be used as examples and then corrected; more precise edits will also be shown. Practice activities will give students a chance to participate in a “Do” activity, having hands-on experience in editing sentences. The course will be available at any time and through any mobile device, making it easy for students to access the material, which addresses the needs of the newer generation that is competent with mobile technology (Herrington, n.d.). The final connect activity will give learners a chance to edit a 300 word writing samples which will then be sent to the instructor for feedback. While this final assessment is not "creating" it falls more into Bloom's category of analyzing and correcting (Overbaugh, n.d.). 

The third activity follows the same plan as the first two. This time addressing the writers needs to use strong verbs and avoid turning verbs into nouns. Academic writing often utilizes this method which makes sentences and journal writing less effective (Sainani, 2012). The following two activities will follow the same format, absorbing through a slide presentation, examples, and then "do" activities to engage learners in applying the new information, and "connect" activities to further use the acquired knowledge (Horton, 2012). Through all five activities, the learner will go through Bloom's modes of learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, creating (Overbaugh, n.d.).

With the availability of mobile technology, learners will have access to all the learning activities at any time and after the course (Herrington, n.d.).


Eom, S. (2011). Relationships among e-learning systems and e-learning outcomes: A path     analysis model. Human Systems Management. Retrieved from http://iospress.metapress.com/content/u721kw83767j3568/

Guy, R. (2009).  The Evolution of Mobile Teaching and Learning. Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press

Herrington A., & Herrington, H. Authentic mobile learning in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/her07131.pdf

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Zinsser, W. (2006). Writing Well. New York, NY: Harper Collins

1 comment:

  1. Good use of digital multimedia. Can you identify a theoretical perspective of elearning to use a theoretical frame for this discussion? See for example

    Lim, C., & Yeon, E. (2009). Review of current studies in instructional design theory in Korea: major trends and future directions. Asia Pacific Education Review, 10(3), 357–364. doi:10.1007/s12564-009-9027-y

    Regarding your discussion of presentation tools a current favorite is Brainshark which turns a dead end PPT into an interactive narrated presentation . One excellent feature is that viewers are not required to download bulky files.

    Check out this blog post which discusses Web 2.0 applications in the context of supporting the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.


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