The good, the bad and the ugly of e-learning templates

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What are e-learning templates and why do they exist?

E-learning templates are available for free or for purchase from a vast number of websites. They are usually a downloadable collection of slides with the nuts-and-bolts of the design completed. These slides are then ready to be used and inserted into your e-learning authoring tool of choice. Some authoring tools provide templates themselves too. For example, if you’re looking for slides to house your course content and media, then e-learning templates should be able to offer you a simple content slide, assessment slide and a graphics slide – possibly more. The user-interface and -experience design (UI/UX design) should be completed along with the look-and-feel; perhaps some added triggers or simple functionality in place too.

The illusion of design-free

Templates do not create top-shelf learning experiences, but not every e-learning course has to be a blockbuster movie

These templates cater to those who might be on a tight deadline or those who are not yet confident in their e-learning design abilities. Most websites offering these templates will explicitly tell you that too. They’ll tell you about the time you’ll save or that their templates will allow you to focus on the content so you won’t have to worry about the design. But there’s a subtle implication that the design phase would no longer be necessary. And that’s where they’re wrong.

Templates are meant to save some of the time in design, but not eliminate the design phase of the project completely. Furthermore, in our experience at TTRO, templates usually require the skills of a senior designer to improve and correct any of the errors found in the template. And there will be errors.

The good, the bad and the ugly

E-learning templates, generally, do not create top-shelf learning experiences – and not every e-learning course has to be a blockbuster movie, that’s why we use our maturity matrix at TTRO. We also understand that sometimes, deadlines are tight or other factors in a project would leave any amazing design to seem unnecessary and over-wrought.

There are amazing design templates out there, we’re sure of it (please let us know in the comments section below if you know of any) but what we have found so far hasn’t impressed. At TTRO, most of our projects demand the creation of bespoke e-learning design and a tailored visual language for each project’s target audience.

This does not mean that e-learning templates don’t have their place. Just know that in design terms, using a template is kind of like using a sledgehammer to hammer a nail into a wall. It’s going to get the job done, but it lacks accuracy, finesse and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up knocking a hole through the wall.

Author: Simon Pienaar

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