How to nail your next elearning project: Top advice from 10 experts

‘If you’re starting a digital learning project, the place to start is not digital.’ That’s the resounding message coming from top influencers in the workplace learning industry. We asked 10 independent experts, researchers, psychologists, innovators and learning managers what they think is critical to elearning project success.

10 elearning experts

What advice would you give to anyone embarking on a digital learning project this year?

This was the first of three questions we put to 10 industry experts at the Learning Technologies conference in London this year. We’ve distilled their insights and advice into 6 key areas to be mindful of as you set out on your next elearning project.

1. 6/10 said: get your goals in order

The importance of having clearly defined objectives at the start of any project was the overwhelming message coming from our experts, and clearly fundamental to the overall success of the project.   


“You have to analyze the problem before recommending a solution, full stop. Only 55% of us do that.” – Laura Overton: CEO and Founder, Towards Maturity

“If you’re starting a digital learning project, the first place to start is not digital. The first place to start is: ‘who is my target audience?’, ‘what do they need?’, ‘what is the problem that we are solving?’ That’s usually a business problem.” – Jo Cook: editor of Training Journal

And if you don’t? Well, David Perring, Director of research at Fosway Group, puts it simply:

“If you don’t know what the business objectives are, you’re going to do a nice project, but it won’t make any difference.”

Tweet this

2. Don’t be a moth

Tempting as it is to fly towards the ‘shiny thing’, you need to turn around and head back to the problem. Target your ideas towards the solution or the technology you’d like to try, and focus on, first and foremost, what needs to be fixed.

Don’t be led by technology.  You can easily be attracted by the ‘shiny’ thing that may deliver nice looking outcomes, but is not necessarily related to what you’re actually trying to achieve.” – Stephen Walsh, Director: JamPan and AndersPink

“Everyone is looking for a silver bullet – the latest and greatest development that is going to be the next biggest and best thing. But often it is the basics that people fail to address. What is the business need, how do you make it easier for people to learn, what might be getting in people’s way?” – Fiona Quigley: Digital Learning Innovator, Logicearth

3. Dig down to find the right hole

Finding the source of the problem or gap that learning and development are looking to overcome is as important as finding the right solution. But it’s not always easy to spot. At least, not without some digging:

“Is it performance? Is it behavior? Is it competence? Is it skill? Is it knowledge? And what’s the context of that problem? Who’s involved with that problem? You have to have that conversation before you even think about getting anything right.” – Laura Overton, CEO of Towards Maturity

Such detailed analysis is often skipped, yet is crucial to a learning project’s success. Our free guide to capturing project and audience needs helps those embarking on a (e)learning project find their goals, step-by-step. A big part of it is creating clear audience profiles, and we aren’t the only ones who are keen to focus on the end users…

4. Lead with learners

It’s no surprise that learning specialist, psychologist and author, Stella Collins, had learners in mind when we asked her some questions. She recommends that those embarking on a digital learning project have to grasp ideas about how people learn, before going too far.


“Find out how people learn before you design your digital learning. Work with the learner, not the tech.” – Stella Collins, Creative Director of Stellar Learning and author of ‘Neuroscience for Learning and Development’

As a learning psychologist, Stella knows what it takes to make learning stick and build into longer-term behaviors and habits. Whether you’re an expert in learning psychology or not, there’s still an age-old trap in L&D that people fall into:

“Too often, people focus on the content without focusing on what the learner needs.” – Sam Taylor: Digital Development Manager, Hitachi Rail Europe

Experienced digital development manager and designer, Sam Taylor, also reiterates this advice. Her key piece of wisdom is to “Think of the learner, not your source material.”.

5. Take small, smart, but specific steps

Dr. Ben Betts, from learn-tech innovators, HT2 Labs, encourages people to break away from the norms but still have a crystal clear focus on their target:

“Try something for the first time. Push the boundaries of what is currently possible in your business and make it a project that has a clear business impact – reducing the time it takes to make someone competent in their new role; reducing churn in a call center; increasing average transaction values. Be small, but specific.” – Dr. Ben Betts, CEO of HT2 Labs.

dr ben bits quote

Founder of JamPan, David Wood, echoes this view:

Challenge the norm. It’s important not to just jump on a bandwagon and follow trends, but to use common sense. Step back and consider what you need for your business.” – David Wood, Founder of JamPan.

6. Curation over creation

In line with working smarter not harder, Paul Westlake of Kineo advises not to ‘re-invent the wheel’ when it comes to creating your content:

“Have a look at what’s already available. There’s a lot of content around on YouTube, Vimeo, Google and so on. So you might want to look at what’s already there and curate something together, rather than going off and spending a packet trying to reinvent the wheel again.” – Paul Westlake: Solutions consultant, Kineo

However, it’s important to consider your context when curating content; don’t leave it all down to what’s ranking on google right now, or you could find your learning straying away from your internal culture, context and focus. Learn more about why we think this is key in 2018.

Final thoughts

With so many trends, technologies and buzzwords to leap upon, it’s crucial to step back and take a common sense approach – something too many designers and content creators can forget. Find the real problem, focus on the project’s goal and what learners’ need. Most importantly, take smart, perhaps small, but specific steps to meet those goals.  

Look out for our upcoming posts with our expert’s answers to:

  • ‘What’s a tool you use in your team you couldn’t live without?’
  • ‘What’s the big trend everyone’s talking about, but you think might be more noise than substance?’.

Subscribe to our newsletter for useful insights, resources and elearning examples straight to your inbox.

Why not try…

Our Capture Needs Template helps you identify your core problem and audience needs before you shape and test your digital learning solution.

A big thank you to our experts for sharing their insights and advice!

Laura Overton, CEO of Towards Maturity (@lauraoverton)

Stella Collins, Creative Director of Stellar Learning and author of ‘Neuroscience for Learning and Development‘ (@stellacollins)

David Perring, Director of research at Fosway Group (@davidperring)

Dr. Ben Betts, CEO of HT2 Labs (@bbetts)

Jo Cook: editor of Training Journal (@lightbulbjo)

Sam Taylor: Digital Development Manager, Hitachi Rail Europe (@samt_el)

Stephen Walsh, Director: Jam Pan and AndersPink (stephentwalsh)

Fiona Quigley: Digital Learning Innovator, Logicearth (@fionaquigs)

David Wood, Founder of Jam Pan

Paul Westlake: Solutions consultant, Kineo (@paulwestlake)