Most of the time, I have talked about some big learning platforms like MOOCs, online short courses, distance learning, online corporate training, webinars and so on. Do you know all these platforms or training tools are unique designs in themselves? Can we think of enhancing their value through some training patterns, which compliment them in various aspects? You might be thinking why I came up with this idea. As e-learning keeps to grow, increasing number of people in organizations find themselves playing a role of e-learning designer with no experience to solve specific design problems; one of the findings of my research. How can those be helped to the field for quickly delivering some effective and reliable learning solutions? In search of this question, I found some complementary training patterns that go hand in hand in e-learning design. The only difference is that, though being slightly minor, they greatly complement the session or a program through enhancing the quality of the end learning outcome.

I am going to discuss some complementary design patterns that would help the designers and instructors creating an effective and interesting e-learning design without having any formal training or knowledge in technical applications, visual designs etc and can manage to impress their learners right away.

Incorporating the visuals appeal

Even if you don’t include much visual in your instructional design, you have an idea that with text as the primary data, images are great complementary training elements to make the required emotional impact.[1] You don’t need to be an expert designer to design your training module this way; just make sure you use the right images to enhance and support your training content. I came across some research, revealing that right images greatly help retaining information 6 times more than normal. With such complementary elements, the training patterns can surely be made unique. To begin with[2]:

  • Rather than using bullet points to present some list of content, consider using image series for the same purpose
  • Rather than using clip art images, use photos to give a more engaging and professional look to overall design
  • Rather than using the random images, choose some powerful ones that trigger the required emotions, especially the positive ones.

Using a distraction free template

Design is not just about decoration. Effective complementary training design is the one that motivates the learners to focus on content instead of decoration. One of the renowned graphic designers and corporate training writers, Nancy Duarte, says “90 percent of what you create as an e-learning developer is destructing” [3].  You need to carefully and slowly peel away all the redundant elements. It is always good to be with the essentials of the training design when developing a template, and avoid the irrelevant distractions that always strike your learners’ minds.

Do you have enough white space?

As per my experience, taking lessons of some renowned and experienced designers, I see white space as equally important as the content of a training program. White space is good; there is no need to always fill this up[4]. The importance of white space is in the fact that it helps learners to have a better understanding of what is significant and what is not. In addition, it paves the path to better presentation and comprehension of ideas, along with highly effective learning design.

Splitting up the content into meaningful blocks

People usually do a mistake of cramping of all the content in their initial sessions. There are also people who start off the training design on a very low pitch; too little content, and later as the session moves ahead, burdensome the learners with excessive content. Both these practices don’t complement your training pattern.

Even if there is a need to present a lot of content at a time, design the training pattern in a way that splits up the content into various blocks or chunks. Along with ensuring better readability, this design pattern also adds great look and feel to overall training design.

Colors show your intelligence

Color is one of the most important elements itself as a complementary training pattern. It has the ability to trigger the suitable responses from the learners[5]. I would recommend you using soft and subtle backgrounds and colors for your training design and dark colors for text. It is never wise to use a lot of colors since it makes content distracted and affect the training goal. Choose colors wisely and they would end up in complimenting your training pattern to the fullest.

Your training pattern must be consistent

Instructors or training design developers who don’t have much design learning or experience, often mistakenly create courses that have mismatched themes, patterns and colors[6]. Changing the theme quite a lot of time in the course make the learners confused and adjust themselves. Eventually, they end up losing their focus.

Ensure consistency in every single detail, from overall design patterns, colors, templates, spaces, texts and images to videos, themes, and intended objectives of a training program.

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

[4] E-education Applications: Human Factors and Innovative Approaches  edited by Claude Ghaoui.
[5] ttps://


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