Alas, gas is no longer the affordable commodity it once was. Sunday drives have become as obsolete as the tape deck that played the Beatles tunes. Now I don’t put the key in the ignition until I know where I’m going and I’ve got my GPS programmed. I can’t afford to make a wrong turn or take the scenic route! I’ve got to know my destination and the most efficient way to get there.

The same is true of designing an elearning course. The goals and objectives have to be established first so that all the elements of the course will contribute to that outcome. If the end isn’t clearly defined, the instructional designer will start designing a course with only a vague sense of direction. Worried she’ll miss something, she might compensate by throwing in extra content here and there. The result is a lengthy course that gives the learner too much to process. Unable to retain everything, the learner’s brain will pick and choose what to store. It might keep the unnecessary bits and lose the vital stuff. The project sponsor won’t be happy either: it’s costly and time-consuming to build a bloated course.

That’s why we establish our destination first. Once we know that, we can plan the route the learner should take. That is, what practice activities should a learner complete? What information will he need? How should we develop the course so that we optimize our time in building it and the learner’s time and energy in taking it? Our thorough planning even takes detours into account – such as evolving content or changing deadlines. Having determined the destination and plotted the waypoints, we can hop in the car, rev the engine and start the journey.

Here are a couple resources that keep us on the right path.
Cathy Moore’s action mapping
Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn
Our own reminder to avoid scope creep

This article was written by one of our Instructional Designers, Alison Hass.