You’re using an older browser version. Update to the latest version of Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge for the best site experience.

9 eLearning Content Types and When to Design Them

14 minutes
elearning content development

Table of Contents

Super easy course authoring
Explore iSpring Suite

You've been tasked with developing your first training course, and the time frame is tight. What next? That’s a very abrupt first sentence for an article - but that’s how it can feel when an eLearning content development project is dumped on you for the first time.

Where to start? What type of end product is required? What is even feasible in the project’s time frame and budget? There are so many questions that need answering but one of the main ones is ‘what type of eLearning content will you be developing’?

You may wonder if there is a perfect roadmap for relevant and engaging eLearning content, but given the unique variables of each project, it’s difficult to cover everything in a single plan.

Varying factors include:

  • Your team size
  • Amount of content
  • The subject at hand and ideal mode of content delivery
  • The audience’s knowledge 
  • Your business goals

Let’s look at the different types of eLearning content so you can make an informed decision about which ones might be a good fit for your project.

Quick and Easy eLearning Content Types

We classified the first set of content types that we’ll look at as ‘quick and easy.’ This means we consider them to be fast and simple to develop – with no technical authoring skills required. 

Some of these types can be created even faster by using a modern authoring toolkit such as iSpring Suite, so we’ll also look at ways this tool can help in each context.

1. Slide-based courses

Slide-based courses are what most people think of first when they hear ‘eLearning’. They involve the user taking a self-paced course where learners view slides with interactive units and possibly narration and other multimedia elements. Such courses often have a look and feel similar to PowerPoint presentations.

This kind of content might be preferable in a number of different scenarios. Consider using it, for example, if you:

  • Have existing learning materials in presentations, documents, PDFs, or other formats that you can easily repurpose into an online course
  • Need to get some offline training into an online format fast
  • Want to put new employee onboarding on autopilot
  • Need to get a refresher training on a new product or service out quickly

How iSpring can help

There are a couple of things you want to avoid with slide-based courses. The first is making them like a boring presentation that won’t engage learners. The second is spending too much time developing them. Fortunately, iSpring Suite can help in both cases. With iSpring you can import existing slide content, complete with all transitions and animations, and turn it into a course in a couple of clicks or build a course from scratch in a matter of minutes.

Here’s a demo of a course created with iSpring Suite.

How to Create Online eLearning Courses – The Definitive Guide to the Development Process →

2. Quizzes

Quizzes, tests, assessments, or knowledge checks – whatever you choose to call them – are an essential component of most eLearning courses. Why? Quizzes allow you to track your learner’s knowledge and ensure the learning objectives of your training are being met. They are also a fun and interactive way to break up the content in your training modules and provide a natural breakpoint between main topics that will give learners a sense of progression within your course.

How and when you use quizzes will depend on the type of courses you are building and whether they are formal or informal, accredited or not, and a number of other factors. Generally, when you are planning your course, consider:

  • For short, informal courses, knowledge checks at the end of topics or modules may be more appropriate than a long final quiz.
  • For longer courses, consider a more formal final assessment with feedback and info slides.

How iSpring can help

iSpring Suite has a powerful built-in quiz maker with 14 distinct question types, including interactive sequence questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and hotspot questions. By combining different types, you can make complex assessments that will really challenge your learners. 

iSpring also has an advanced drag-and-drop question builder, so you can create activities that require your learners to sort items – for example, to see if they understand basic merchandising rules and can grab buyers’ attention as in the demo below:

Knowledge Checks in eLearning: Assess to Success →

3. Training videos

Video content is more popular than ever, and with good reason – it’s always more engaging than text or pictures alone. There are several ways you can use video content in your eLearning:

  1. Standalone training videos. You can use video as the only type of content. For example, you could record a series of videos on a soft skill like speaking in meetings.
  2. Embedded videos. You can embed videos in your eLearning course. The video could be content that you created yourself, or public domain, or stock footage. The nice thing about this approach is that you can use video for certain topics and mix up more interactive elements within the course.
  3. Webinar or live training playback. This method is simply providing recordings of previous live or virtual classroom training and making them available online via an LMS or other platform. This is a great and inexpensive way to incorporate video into your eLearning content. 

There are also several types of video content that are typically used in training and include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Video tutorials. These are the familiar ‘how-to videos’ and often feature additional on-screen text, call-out boxes, and other elements.
  • Presenter screencasts. These feature your screen and the video from your webcam simultaneously.
  • Software tutorials. These are used to teach how to use software. Typically, the video capture tool will automatically detect when you move the cursor, press keys and click screen elements, and will add visual cues for these actions to the video, like highlighting boxes on data entry fields.  

How iSpring can help

If you opt for video-based learning only, you may wish to use a standalone video editing tool. But if you’re also going to create other types of eLearning content like slide-based courses and quizzes, then an authoring toolkit can be a better and ultimately cheaper option. iSpring Suite includes a built-in video studio that can create high-quality videos by recording your screen, webcam, and audio and then editing the clips all inside a single platform. 

How to Create Employee Training Video: A Practical Guide and Tips →

4. Podcasts 

Podcasts have risen in popularity to become a mainstream form of media familiar to just about everyone. They are already used in various spheres of business, so organizations have also started using them as a convenient tool for learning and development. 

Podcasts are mobile and available 24/7, so employees can listen and learn whenever they want. They also offer a number of opportunities to improve employee retention, since they don’t require a specific time to listen – the audience can listen to podcasts while doing virtually any other activity, including working. 

Podcasts are great for non-assessable training, particularly skills that revolve around mindset, motivation, and other ‘soft skills.’ They can also be useful for presenting longer format use cases and scenarios in the form of ‘stories’ that would be way too long to present in, say, a dialog simulation.

5. Dialogue simulations 

A dialogue simulation is an eLearning content type that simulates a real-world conversation with a customer or other third party. It’s great for teaching customer service, sales skills, and any type of training scenario that involves the need for conversation between two parties to establish facts, negotiate, and reach mutually beneficial conclusions in a risk-free environment. Good dialogue simulations tend to use branching scenarios, where each decision an employee makes has consequences that affect the outcomes and the next stage of the sim. 

How iSpring can help

iSpring Suite makes creating outstanding dialog simulations simple and quick with no need for technical coding. To make them more realistic, you can add backgrounds, characters, and voice overs for each scene. You can upload your own images or use the built-in collection of assets. A great way to save time on course development is to use iSpring Content Library, which offers a large set of characters of different ages, ethnic groups, and professions, and a huge collection of locations suitable for different situations.

Check out an example of a dialog simulation built with iSpring below.

Black Belt In Negotiations: How to Improve Your Employees’ Skills with Dialogue Simulations →

6. E-books

This type of eLearning content is not seen as often as the others mentioned, but it’s a very quick and easy way to share things like standard operating procedures, step-by-step processes, and other manuals with your employees, and provide a good reading experience.

This is a great option if you have material sitting around in Word or PDF format that is underutilized or simply not available to learners in a format that is easy to access and consume. 

How iSpring can help

iSpring Suite has a built-in tool that quickly turns your documents into interactive digital flipbooks. You can upload them to an LMS, share with your learners, and track as they read.

Books are great to read on mobile devices. They automatically adapt to screen size and orientation, so it’s comfortable to read them on iOS, Android, and Windows tablets and smartphones.

Here’s an example of such a flipbook:

How to Create a Digital Flipbook →

Advanced eLearning Content Types

The next set of content types requires more of everything to develop. More skills, more time, more budget, more human capital, and in many cases, more technology. 

These are the types of content you might consider for an especially important cornerstone training program. Although you might not use these immediately, it is worth knowing about them and how they may fit into your wider learning program or roadmap.

7. Interactive videos

In normal training videos, learner passivity or lack of engagement can become a drawback, particularly in longer format videos. This can be where interactive videos fit in. Technology now enables us to provide interactions with videos, such as hotspots and quizzes. This could be a good choice if you want to add the ability for users to click, drag, scroll, hover, gesture and complete other digital actions to interact with the video’s content. 

For example, Samsung created an interactive video that walks customers through the different features and navigation buttons for their phone’s camera. An interactive menu prompts the viewer to choose which features they want to learn about and tells them how to enable the features on their own phone.

Samsungs' interactive video example

8. VR and AR sims

Virtual reality and augmented reality are new and effective ways to offer learners real-life experience. VR is great for training both human interactions and practical training in real-world physical scenarios. Simulations allow you to replicate real-life scenarios and practice the best way to react in those situations. 

This is a great way to train people who risk their health at work in a safe environment. VR also has many use cases in the medical and health fields – for example, a simulation of blood-borne pathogen cleanup could feature spills and scenarios of exposure that simply could not be replicated in other types of eLearning.

9. Serious games 

We first need to make a distinction between ‘gamification’ and more serious games. Gamification is very much a part of most LMSs and you may be familiar with the term and its main use cases – leaderboards and badges. Those are great, but there is a whole other subset of more complex games that can be custom developed and look more like what you would expect to find on a games console. These feature rich graphics and complex gameplay that rewards the learner for completing tasks or scoring points within the game.

The use cases for serious games really depend on your imagination and creativity. But bear in mind that simply gamifying something doesn’t necessarily make it a better learning experience – that boils down to your skill as an instructional designer and not just ‘throwing technology’ at a course and seeing what sticks.

For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big 4 auditing companies, uses a gamification approach for cybersecurity training. They have developed a “Game of Threats” – an interactive game that helps both coaches and the executives they train to learn about defending from data breaches in a fun and engaging environment.

Also read: → Best 30 e-Learning Examples

Game of Threats interactive game

Tips on eLearning Content Development

Now that you understand the different types of eLearning content you may be working with, let’s take a look at some tips and best practices for ensuring that your content lives up to your, and your learners’, expectations. 

Pinpoint gaps

Before you begin developing your content, consider surveying your audience to learn more about their backgrounds and experience levels. Having learners take a pre-assessment test can help you identify skills gaps that you can then address in your training. Knowing this can allow you to supply additional information or resources to specific areas for improvement. 

Plan a strategy

If you’re working with an SME, you’ll probably come away with a lot more information than you need – so you will need to be diligent about planning. Create a list of significant topics and sub-points and break them down into 3 categories:

  1. What learners must know – Content that is considered critical in order to achieve learning outcomes.
  2. What learners should know – Content that covers key concepts that learners need to know as a core part of the training.
  3. What learners could know – Content that could add value to learners’ understanding of the subject matter, but is not critical or cornerstone knowledge. This could also be categorized as ‘nice to have’ knowledge.

Planning course content by listing topics is one of the key ways you can help your team visualize the scope of each section, topic, or lesson in your training.

Conduct a content inventory

It’s good to know exactly what you have in terms of existing content before starting out on any new project. The opportunities for reusing and repurposing existing content are endless once you know exactly what you currently have in inventory. So go down your list and check off the items available in your organization and highlight the ones that are missing. This will also help you check for:

  • Outdated material, inaccurate material, and incomplete material
  • Feedback on how existing content was used previously and how it performed
  • Problems that may make the current program perform sub-optimally
  • Anything else that may be missing from the content

Here is a sample inventory of eLearning asset types:

A sample list of eLearning asset types in inventory format
eLearning AssetAvailable? (Y/N)File LocationCurrent/Needs Updating
Illustrated charactersYIntranet/Training/eLearningNeeds updating
Illustrated backgroundsNN/AN/A
PowerPoint trainingYIntranet/Training/PPTNeeds updating
Quick reference guidesYIntranet/Training/QRGCurrent

Create a storyboard

Use storyboarding to lay out the direction of content, and try not to load too many concepts into one course. With a storyboard, you can follow an outline while you create your course. This level of organization ensures that you include all the key points and avoid less important topics.

eLearning storyboard example

An eLearning course storyboard in PowerPoint

To Sum Up

As instructional designers or training developers, you always aim to deliver eLearning solutions that will help elevate your learners’ knowledge level using the best methods available. For this, it is important to present content in a manner that is easy for the learner to understand and retain. 

We hope this overview has given you some helpful ideas on how to move forward with your eLearning development. If you decide to create interactive eLearning courses with quizzes, videos, and dialog simulations, take iSpring Suite for a free test drive.

iSpring Suite

Fast course authoring toolkit

Create online courses and assessments in record time.

Fast course authoring toolkit