The 10 Commandments of Online Training

The Ten Commandments of Online Training

Learn the top 10 rules successful trainers use to create online training that actually works!

Creating online training is no mean feat, but it doesn’t need to be hard!

Anyone can ‘do’ online training or e-learning, but not everyone knows how to create cloud-based learning solutions guaranteed to build trainee’s confidence and create sustainable habits that teams can easily translate to the work environment.

We know what good looks like, and we know a thing-or-two about how to create online training courses, and we’ve come up with the ten most important things you need to remember when creating your next course.

Keeping these in mind when you’re building your course will ensure that you’re creating training that is engaging for your trainees, and guaranteed to stick.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Increase comprehension,
  • Improve engagement, and
  • Improve pass rates.

1. Scribble First, Train Later

You should always set aside time to map out your course before you begin anything else.

Roll out the butcher’s paper, grab a permanent marker and go for it (if you’re into your tech like we are, you might even like to give Mural a whirl).
This step will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls associated with creating online training courses because it will help give you a birds-eye view of the course before you invest time and resources into building it.
Once you start, don’t stop until you have a clear idea of the key points you need to cover in your training and in which order you need to teach them.
Having a good brainstorming session is a great way to get all of your ideas down in one place. In the initial stages just think, ‘the messier the better’.
Once you’ve got all your ideas down you can begin to group ‘like’ ideas and start to piece together a logical course.
Think of the process as a funnel. Start with broad ideas and slowly refine your course map.
Distil it all down to just the key information.
Creating online training courses is like telling a good story. There should always be a beginning, middle and end.You’ll be surprised by how often a logical order is an afterthought when creating training programmes.
Remember that in order for your training to be effective, you need to build the foundation skills first and then add the fancy stuff on top.
For example, if you’re teaching your staff how to sell products in a retail store, there’s not much point in teaching them how to close a sale before you’ve taught them how to open one.
Once you’ve got the structure refined to a point where you are happy, you can then begin to draft your training content. 
the 4 principles of brainstorming - title

Rule Out Criticism

Instead, encourage openness in your brainstorming sessions by making sure all participants are ready to come with an open mind.


Welcome Ideas

It’s far easier to tone something down than it is to amp it up so encourage crazy ideas!


The More the Merrier

Brainstorming is a numbers game. The more ideas you get down, the more likely you are to come up with something great.


Mix & Match

Encourage participants to consider how different ideas could be combined or grouped into another idea.

2. Make it Relevant

What are the skills that your trainees need to know now?

If the training is relevant to what the trainee does in their day-to-day work then it will engage them more, be more likely to stick, and they’ll be more likely to see value in completing it.

Before you begin to write your course content, source image, write scripts or create animations, you need to make sure that what you’re teaching your teams is not only relevant but also appropriate for their current level of skill.


62% of employees who have training available to them believe that it is not applicable to their job

So how to employees with regular training feel about their workplace?

  • 48% feel more committed
  • 45% feel happier
  • 30% feel more excited about work

When you’re writing each training module, follow the ‘What, Why, How’ thought pattern:

The What Why and How Process for Training

If something is relevant to the learner, they are likely to retain more of the information… and you do want to make sure that it’s the right information.

So, how do you do that?

Make sure you have regular knowledge checks throughout your training. It’s not just about giving your team the right information. It’s also about making sure they’re retaining all the important stuff!

What’s a ‘knowledge check’?

These can be things like drag and drop activities, quizzes, practice activities and workbook questions.

Placing these strategically throughout your online course will help to create a ‘rhythm’ to your course. It’s important to keep this rhythm consistent throughout the course because the back and forth between active and passive learning keeps your trainees engaged and improves their overall learning experience.

3. Make it Manageable

Keep it Simple.

When you’re designing your course remember that simple is good!

Break your training course down into small manageable chunks.

The benefit of completing courses online is that it can be easy to ensure that they’re paced evenly and always have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Within the RedSeed LMS, you can use blended learning to control the pace of a course.

Practice activities and workbook answers both require sign-off by a coach before the trainee is able to move on to the next module. This allows greater control over knowledge retention and competence.


So, how do you decide what’s manageable?

The general rule we follow is to keep online training sessions to 30 minutes maximum with a good mix of training material and knowledge checks. If 30 minutes doesn’t suit your business, then consider how much time you can realistically allocate to your staff during a normal working day.

What’s the purpose behind this?

Keeping your training sessions to a manageable length will provide you with a team that holds their knowledge and skill level over a greater period of time.

Too short and trainees won’t see the value in it. It’s hard to motivate a team to complete training where they see no value. Being too short may also mean that they’re not being given sufficient time to properly learn the new skills being taught.

If a course is too long, you’re probably expecting them to retain too much information, which means you won’t see the changes in behaviour that you want.

Good training will always focus on sustained changes in behaviour over a long period of time.

4. Embrace Whitespace

This rule applies to text and images alike!

But why is this so important?

Web Designer, Paul Boag explains that whitespace can benefit you by providing:

  • Improved legibility
  • Higher comprehension
  • Increased attention

Human Factors International conducted research in 2004 which found that appropriate use of whitespace can increase comprehension by up to 20 per cent!

Did you know…

Effective use of whitespace can increase comprehension by up to 20%!

Long, wordy paragraphs are tiresome to read and can make even the simplest training seem like a chore.

If you want to create truly engaging content that is guaranteed to help you see a return, then you owe it to yourself (and to your team) to harness the power of whitespace to create tidy, engaging and accessible training.


Coaching Roleplay example in RedSeed

5. Be Dynamic

Text-based slides are useful, and sometimes necessary.

But, think about the length of your course and consider whether or not you think it’s manageable (or even fair) to subject your trainee to page upon page of boring text.

One of the most common problems course builders face is the task of having to convey meaning in a limited number of words.

This means that, quite often, the course creator has to pack as much information as possible into a screen that doesn’t allow for it (whitespace is important!). On the other hand, one of the common frustrations trainees face is having to complete a course which is heavily weighted with wordy content.

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then it stands to reason; using rich interactive content in your online course is a far more efficient way to train your staff.

Image vs interactive activities in online training

One way you can do this is through animation.

Think beyond text-based training.

Think beyond simple static images.

Be dynamic where it’s appropriate and utilise engaging animations to say in a few clicks, what it would take a few pages to explain.


6. Harness the Power of Video

Video content engages a learner in a way that other mediums simply can’t.

Since we’re talking about engaging images…why not make your training just that little bit more awesome and use some video footage as well?

Putting theory and skill-demonstrations into a visual format appeals to a wider range of learning styles, incorporating visual, auditory and written stimulation.

Here’s an example of how we’ve used video in our Retail Sales Training course to improve training engagement.

Don’t be afraid to get creative here!

If your business has its own specific personality or voice, make sure this comes through in your courses.

Videos are a great tool which allows your trainees to feel like you’re talking with them rather than at them.

If you opt to use video, it’s probably a really great opportunity for you to get in front of the camera and send your trainees a personal message.

Fronting up to the camera with a quick ‘Welcome to the team’ or ‘You’re an important part of the team’ holds a lot more weight than a generic letter with a digitised signature…or worse, nothing at all.


The World Loves Video!

YouTube is now the second largest search engine with over 1 billion unique visits per month.

75% of executives watch work-related videos at least once per week.

7. Use Talented Talent

Since we’ve convinced you to use video in your online course, let’s talk about who you’re going to put in your videos.

Generally talent is sourced one of two ways; identifying talent in-house, or through a talent agency. If you’re going through a talent agency there are a couple of things you should consider:

Screen Test Your Actors

Don’t rely solely on showreels or agency recommendations, they’ll only ever show you their talent at their best. If you’re using in-house talent, know that some of the most extroverted people become the biggest introverts when they’re put in front of a camera.

Beware of T's & C's

Some agencies will charge based on where in the world their talent will be used. If you’re providing online training, in most cases it can be accessed from anywhere through a secure login. Check that your agreement covers this.

Check for Licensing Fees

Some agencies will charge you ongoing licensing fees for use of the talent in your video over an extended period of time if you plan for your course to be around for a while…you probably don’t want to have to do this!

If you’re selecting talent from within your organisation, why not make it fun?

You could hold a talent quest and let your team audition in person, or send in videos.

Scout for people who look at-home in front of a camera!

Try not to take filming too serious – it’s a great chance to have a bit of fun with your team…and it gives you a great blooper reel to share with the business too!

8. Bust the Boredom Factor

This might sound like it should go without saying…but we just can’t stress it enough!

Keep your training interesting by mixing things up a little. Break up your training with interesting questions types and wherever possible, encourage face-to-face interactions between your trainees and their coaches.

We use a variety of different question/assessment types throughout our courses to keep things interesting and break the monotony that can come with completing poorly executed online training.

Quick knowledge checks are captured through short multi-choice quizzes and drag and drop activities, while trainees are also required to show a deeper understanding of theory through long answer ‘workbook’ style questions. They’re then required to show how they can practically apply what they’ve learnt to their role through Practice Activities. The fantastic thing about these last two is that they require feedback from a coach who controls the trainee’s access to subsequent training sessions depending on the skill level of their trainee at this point.

Think this looks boring?

Here’s what you need to know:

A study completed at Penn State found that course completion marks increased by an average of 25% for programs which were adapted to have a blended-learning approach.

9. Always Run a Pilot Program

Awesome training is awesome because it’s created and implemented in a carefully considered way.

You should always, always, always run a pilot of your course to a select number of users before you ‘go live’ to the whole team.

This allows you to pick up on anything that may be a barrier to completing the training for your wider audience.

An important step which could save you from ‘failure to launch’.

Resist the Urge to React

The beginning of a pilot test might raise issues that make it tempting to overhaul your plans but, remember, these findings are only preliminary.

Wait until the pilot is finished before you make any major decisions. Make moderate adjustments as necessary, but resist the urge to make sweeping predictions or assumptions about the full-scale implementation based on these early findings.

Some of the benefits of piloting your course include:

Gauge Readiness

A pilot test will help confirm if you are ready for full-scale implementation. Your pilot testers may find content errors that you’ve missed, or pick up on any bugs that need to be fixed prior to going live.

Testing the Waters

Pilot testing is an opportunity to gauge your target population’s reaction to the programme – take notes here, you’ll get valuable insight into how a full rollout can be done!

Making Informed Decisions

Pilot testing can help you make better decisions about how to allocate time and resources for training once the course is live.

Measuring ROI

Pilot testing can help ensure that you are well prepared to measure the success of your program.

Once your training is live it’s hands-off from that point, right?Well… it can be.But we’re not interested in creating everyday run-of-the-mill training. We’re talking about training that is engaging, proven, and guaranteed to stick. 

10. Plan a Post-Pilot-Review

How do you make sure it’s going to stick?

Well, step one to realising that implementing awesome online training isn’t a quick process. Don’t get us wrong, implementing online training can be as quick as you want it to be. But quick and easy isn’t necessarily the best option.

How do you know that your trainees are getting the most out of their training experience? How do you know that you’re getting a good return on your training investment?

Consider a ‘piloting’ phase and plan a post-implementation review. We like to use the ADDIE model for training, and the last step in this process is to ‘Evaluate’ your project.

The RedSeed LMS provides you with a comprehensive reporting suite to assess the quality of your course.

Don’t rush this.

Give yourself time to get a few of your trainees through the course and then schedule a time to review the course.

Make sure you know in advance which factors are the key deliverables for the success or failure of your course. This will give you a clear idea of the outcomes you’re likely to expect and a clear idea of how you’ll measure them.

RedSeed Reporting Examples - Manager Dashboard

How do you know if your project was a success?

Did you know that 80% of all R&D projects aren’t reviewed after completion while the remaining 20% are reviewed without established guidelines. Do yourself a favour; plan, plan, plan!

Anya Anderson - RedSeed CEO

Anya Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of training specialist company, RedSeed, which has been built on her own personal experience working in the Learning and Development industry for over twenty-five years.

Making content relevant, and of high-quality are the most important factors for Anya when developing new programme content for large corporates, hosted on the RedSeed LMS, a proprietary learning management system developed by RedSeed out of the need for a system that was easy to use, while being flexible enough to meet the training needs of a wide variety of business types.