Training magazine Events: Donメt Get Caught Looking

Honing the craft of instructional design and development for online learning.

By Jason Bickle, Manager, Instructional Design & Development, Experlogix, Inc.

I used to get caught. Frustrated and feeling guilty, I would reply, “Still working on it,” when asked if I had finished developing a course. I was like a kid daydreaming in school, thinking about the afternoon beyond the required school day. Was the course too long, or the material too difficult to organize? No. I simply had gotten caught searching for the “coolness factor” or “interactive game” that would inspire me and my learners. I wanted new and novel, and in the meantime lost sight of my goals: to teach, ensure learning occurs, and spur performance change.

Over my many years as an e-learning guy, the No. 1 question I am asked consistently is: “What’s the one e-learning development tool I should buy?” Hoping for an answer that would promise online learning success, the person posing the question would anticipate my answer by listing respected tool choices. My response over the years evolved to, “It depends on what you are trying to build and your skill level. Does a carpenter have only a hammer or a saw? No, they use the tools that meet the need.” But even knowing that, I searched and surfed for that miracle learning development app.

Then it happened: the realization that I needed to improve my skills with the tools at hand and that the tools themselves don’t necessarily build successful courses. Too often, our perception is that “new tech” is better, and novel is considered engaging. We spend too much time searching for the perfect course, method, and tools.

Honing the Craft of Instructional Design

So I began to practice creating and arranging the building blocks of our trade for online learning. They include:

Stories: Narratives, scenarios, and business cases

Images: Models, infographics, scene, and animation

Audio: Recorded narration and sound effects

Interaction: Learner decisions and responses

No matter what device we are using, we arrange these elements into relevant and beneficial knowledge. When we have trouble writing an interesting story, we don’t jump online looking for new letters to add to our 26-character alphabet. We practice and work hard to use the letters we have in novel and engaging ways.

And that’s why these are the building blocks at the heart of Training’s upcoming Online Learning Conference to be held September 17-19 in Chicago, as sessions will include:

  • Designing Engaging E-Learning
  • Creating Must-See Video
  • Adapting E-Learning for Mobile Devices
  • Mastering the Virtual Classroom
  • Leveraging Scenario-Based Techniques

Letting Tools Be Tools

In the end, tools are exciting, and can make our development processes easier, but they should never be a substitute for strong instructional design—whether it is for a classroom course or an online module. Find the tools that enable you to create the building blocks above. Become an expert in those tools. Then, if a new development tool comes along, you will be able to see its benefit to your organization, and decide whether you should invest time and money in it.

Learning from Others

Finally, glean new methods of instructional design, development, and tools from the communities around you. Listen and adapt what you learn into your courses and materials, and then go back for more. Find those trusted advisors outside your organization who will inspire new arrangements of the building blocks.

Don’t get caught looking for what doesn’t exist. Create, practice, revise, and hone your instructional skills, and use what you have to build better courses. To find a community of people who do what you do and will collaborate on methods, challenges, and solutions, join us at Training’s 2013 Online Learning Conference ( I look forward to seeing you there and sharing our experiences.

Jason Bickle is the manager of Instructional Design & Development for Experlogix, Inc., and a presenter at Training’s Online Learning Conference. He has more than 16 years of experience in classroom instruction, e-learning/m-learning instructional design, and multimedia/graphic design. Bickle has implemented many learning management systems, and now focuses on dynamic learning structures and instructional design. He has been an adjunct professor of Speech Communication and Computer Graphics/Multimedia. For more information, visit and Bickle’s blog at


Online Learning Conference

Certificates: September 16-17, 2013

Conference: September 17-19, 2013

Chicago, IL

Training 2014 Conference & Expo

Certificates: Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2014

Conference: Feb. 3-5, 2014

Expo: Feb. 3-4, 2014

San Diego, CA

Learning Live + Online

Certificates and Clinics

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.