Designing for Distance

The last 10 years has been quite a journey with respect to adult education. As a university trained physiotherapist that took a lot of post-graduate courses to better my skills. I remember being taught about the sacroiliac joint and wondering why I was never advised about some of its features in that much detail. Years later when I reviewed past notes to write an advanced exam, I found out that I was provided the information. But without active use and repetition, I soon forgot this important information.

With all the course taking experience, I believed that I knew how to produce education. However, after critically analysing some of the courses I created, I realised that they did not provide the results I expected and I could not come up with an explanation. Almost 10 years ago, on the suggestion of a friend, I enrolled in the St. Francis Xavier certificate in adult education. There I learned about instructional design and performance consulting. Continue through the years and my most recent accomplishment was completing my Master of Education in Open, Digital and Distance Education from Athabasca University and defending my thesis on the effective use of distance education to provide office ergonomics education/assessments.

Now I listen to the same comments that I once used such as “how can I make an eLearning course pop”, “what is the best slide layout to use for learning in eLearning”, or “can you create a quick video on how to do that?”? Now I can say with certainty that the answer is that it depends on the overarching instructional design. Instructional design makes sure that objectives are identified, best learning strategies are used and courses are assessed as no course is ever perfect, especially on the first try.

Have you ever used a YouTube video on how to build something or how to stain your floors? Were you an expert after watching the video or did you have to view it a few times and then practice? If you did not practice, how did the project turn out? For most of us, not that well. Even in my thesis project the majority of the participants needed feedback to employ the workstation ergonomic advice that was provided. This is the limitation of a simple video or words on a slide. Without the ability to practice and receive feedback there is little learning. Think about it this way. Would you encourage your child to watch a video of how to drive a car and then give them the keys to your brand new car and send them off on a road trip? 

One quote from Mayer (2018) that sticks with me is, “It is worthwhile to acknowledge that instructional media…do not cause learning but rather instructional methods cause learning” (p. 153).

Now add the complication of trying to provide training for someone who is 300 kilometres away. How do you encourage practice? How do you provide feedback for the lesson? How do you make the learning active and not passive? Again, we need to go back to instructional design.

I ended up creating my design for distance course to provide an overview of the instructional design process. It does not go into great detail and if you find it interesting, I would suggest seeking further knowledge through a diploma in adult education to begin with or jump right in and complete a Masters in Education. I am hoping that this course can assist you in seeing why we do not create a PowerPoint-like eLearning course and think that it is learning. No matter how many animation effects or transitions you use, the content is still being provided passively.

So feel free to follow this link and take the course. The course itself is free. Where I transfer the content from my storyboard to Articulate Storyline 360 is not. There are over four hours of videos that took a lot of my time to create. If you wish to view my videos, a subscription will be required. The videos in combination with the course create context to make it easier to follow. But a list of the videos is provided in the course if you would rather look the information up on the Articulate eLearning heroes community website or Google it and see if there is something on YouTube or Vimeo.

I hope you find the course helpful.


Mayer, R. E. (2018). Thirty years of research and online learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 33(2), 152-159.