The role of a training content developer isn’t easy. Not only do you have to be a teacher, but you also have to be part businessperson and part entertainer. You have to understand your clients’ needs and deliver content that will meet those needs and ensure that learners are engaged, motivated, and ultimately, successful.

Furthermore, you have to do all that in a limited amount of time and with the recognition that the conditions and environments in which learners complete a course may be less than ideal. For example, did you know that the average adult learner has only about 1.4 hours per week for e-learning? That means when you develop online training modules, you will be competing for learners’ attention and their time.

As a training content developer, you’ll need to be highly focused and strategic in your development process. While that will require you to pay significant attention to the overall course design and the objectives, needs, and requirements of the course as a whole, it’s far from your only priority. In fact, the course modules, or those elements that comprise the course, will likely require the greatest amount of attention and effort. Let’s go over a few best practices for developing online training modules.

1. Understand How the Part Relates to the Whole

A learning module is a component of a larger course, and the efficacy of the module will depend on your ability to integrate it with the entire course. This means that each element of the module must contribute clearly and substantively to the course’s overall learning goals and objectives.

To facilitate course integration, you should have your module begin with an introduction of the content to be learned, the requirements for successful completion, and a brief explanation of how the module contributes to the achievement of course objectives. It’s also a good idea to provide a brief summary of previous learning content, which will aid learners’ content retention and mastery and serve as a sort of bridge between old and new content.

Online content developers include a preview at the end of each module as a best practice to prepare learners for the next one. This will help ensure that learners are always well-oriented in the course and clearly understand the relevance of each constituent element and how those elements connect with the larger whole.

2. Capture Your Learners Quickly—and Keep Them!

Experienced training developers know that if you don’t engage learners quickly, it will be challenging to gain, let alone hold, their attention later. So, when you’re building your learning modules, one of the most important best practices that you can do is provide ample opportunities for learners to interact with the course, especially in the opening moments of each module.

Engage your learners with interactive elements within the first minutes of the course and intersperse these activities throughout the module. This should include multimedia resources to appeal to learners with diverse learning needs and styles, including audio and video clips. Some learners will fare better with audio, while others will absorb more from text or graphics. However, all learners will benefit from multiple opportunities to engage and interact with the content, allowing them to apply the information learned and test their content mastery and retention.

3. Remember the Learning Environment

When you’re developing content for adult learners, you’re creating for an audience that is likely mobile, busy, and in all likelihood, more than a little distracted by the demands of the day. Life happens, and training developers need to create learning modules that can be integrated easily into the learners’ daily lives and busy schedules.

For example, adult learners need to be able to access courses at any time and anywhere. This means that you must develop modules for multiple modalities, including PC, laptop, smartphone, and tablet. To make this work, though, you will need to test your content for all these modalities, ensuring functionality, harmony, and quality across learning platforms.

Learners are not likely to sit down to complete a course in a single session. Instead, they’re probably going to snatch study time whenever, wherever, and on whatever platform they can—from completing a module on their tablet while waiting to pick up their kid from school to watching a short section of a module on their smartphone during a quick coffee break at work. Chunking module content into discrete elements that can easily be searched for and called up on demand will help ensure that learners can complete the module successfully while optimizing their overall learning experience.

Remember that learners are likely to face disruptions and distractions when accessing courses. Because of this, they should be able to pause, rewind, and locate content that they may have missed. Along with these capabilities, learners will also benefit from the opportunity to track their progress through the course as a whole and throughout the module itself. This will help reassure them that they are moving successfully and efficiently through the material, while also helping them plan their study schedule for the days and weeks ahead.

4. Keep Online Training Modules SMART and Simple

One of the best module design strategies that trainers can use comes from the field of cognitive-behavioral therapy and its technique of SMART goal-setting. SMART is the establishment and achievement of goals that are Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Incorporating SMART goals in your module helps underscore the utility, attainability, and necessity of course and module goals. It also enables learners to track their progress toward those goals through frequent and specific milestones, assessments, and activities.

Activities should be low risk and low pressure in the early learning phases, building toward a higher-stakes assessment at the end of the module, which may serve as a prerequisite for accessing the next module. Use microlearning to avoid cognitive overload, promote learner engagement, and facilitate scalability within the course, as learners systematically work toward achieving each of the module’s SMART goals.


Today’s adult learners are confronted with unavoidable distractions and time constraints, so it is imperative that online courses are designed to accommodate these challenges. Course modules must be cohesive and contribute to the overall learning goals and objectives. They also need to be designed in a way to engage learners from the moment they first launch the course. Training providers need to develop online training modules that are cohesive, multimodal, interactive, granular, and SMART.

Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with our clients, giving them the tools and insights they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, growth, and delivery. We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help.

Ready to use an LMS that’s designed for the way YOU work, with a team dedicated to YOUR needs? Book a no-obligation consultation directly with our team today!