5 Ways That Poor Online Course Design Can Scare Away Your Learners

5 Ways That Poor Design Can Scare Away Your Online Learners
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Summary: Banish the scares of poor online course design once and for all! We'll take a closer look at the 5 mistakes that make your learners run away and how you can avoid them to create more engaging experiences.

The Spooky Side Of Poor Online Course Design

With Halloween just around the corner, are you really sure that your learners are in for a treat and not a trick or two when engaging in your online courses? Designing interesting courses can be challenging, but it's essential if you want the information to stick. It's not just about delivering learning content; it's also about how you do it. Poor design can be a "fright fest" for your online learners. Confusing, cluttered, or outdated lessons usually result in negative results, low knowledge retention rates, and high abandonment stats. Don't fret, though. This article will guide you in avoiding poor online course design so that you don't send shivers down your learners' spines.

5 Creepy Design Mistakes That Discourage Learners

1. Nightmarish Navigation

It's not uncommon for learners to lose their way in a confusing course layout. Whether it's a pile of tabs instead of a menu or a tiny exit button, poor navigation resembles feeling trapped in a haunted house or escape room. User-friendliness is key when it comes to online courses and ensures that learners find their way in the maze of learning content. Smooth navigation creates a sense of comfort and makes the process more familiar for learners. It makes learning more efficient, too, as your audience will immediately grasp the ins and outs of the content. User-friendliness also improves accessibility so learners don't miss any crucial info. Imagine the horror if they open a course and find unlabeled and broken links, unrecognizable icons, symbols that don't align with the purpose, or never-ending scrolling.

To save your audience from this uneasy experience, try having a consistent layout for all your courses. Divide your content into sections and add a brief description so that everyone knows what they're about to click on. Also, display your menus and bars somewhere they're noticeable. Try adding cues like arrows or other icons that help learners navigate through the courses the first time they open them, and have a help button ready at all times in case it's needed.

2. Haunting Content

Inconsistent content is a real challenge and is encountered more often than you may think in the world of eLearning. We're talking about different fonts and colors, layouts that change every time the user scrolls, and other changes that will make your learners think your courses are haunted. Consistency is crucial and gives learners a sense of control, as they know what to expect from their experience. Different formats between sections and modules are distracting and can overwhelm your learners. For example, if you've started your lesson with a presentation, added some external resource links in the middle, and finished it with a video, you've created a recipe for disaster. Your learners might feel confused, struggle to keep up, and eventually lose interest.

How can you change the ending of this horror story? First, you must create a style guide that will tell you what's in and out regarding fonts, colors, headings, formatting, and others. Then, develop templates based on your style guide to keep your content consistent.

3. Cursed Unresponsive Design

It is strange to visit a website or platform on your mobile device nowadays and find that it's not working properly. This is called unresponsive design, and it can be an absolute terror for learners who want to access online courses from their smartphone or tablet. Learning on the go is the norm today, so there are no excuses; your online courses must be mobile-friendly. But what does an unresponsive course look like? Imagine you're opening it on your phone. Some content might be cut off at the edges of your screen, omitting important information. Endless scrolling is another sign, along with buttons that appear to be stuck on top of each other, causing accidental clicks. Distorted images or empty spaces from unloaded graphics, slow loading times, and unresponsive forms—all of these issues lead to frustration and, in the end, lesson abandonment.

Breaking this curse is easy, as long as you design courses with mobile-friendliness in mind. First, you need to make sure that you design a course layout that functions well on most screens, especially smaller ones, and can adapt to different resolutions. Then, it's time to optimize your multimedia content. This requires compressing it to load faster without sacrificing quality.

4. Ghostly Multimedia Overload

Speaking of multimedia content, we should address what's lurking in the shadows: multimedia overload. Videos, audio clips, graphics, images, and animations are always welcome in online courses. They breathe life into the lessons, making them more engaging and fun. However, overusing them can bring the opposite results. Adding all the above elements to a single module may overwhelm learners, distracting them from what really matters. Let's say that they open a course and music starts playing, along with images flashing on the screen and a video with special effects popping in after. They might not even pay attention to what this was about. Was it an introduction? Was it part of the actual lesson? Did they miss something important?

The key here is to find a purpose. You need to ask yourself what each multimedia element is offering to the learning experience. If it's absolutely necessary, then add it. For example, you can include a video to help your learners understand a complex topic. Secondly, you should ensure the content you add is relevant to the learning objectives and not just there for entertainment's sake.

5. Zombie-Like Engagement Levels

Your lessons are well-designed and mobile-friendly, with quality content and balanced elements, but your learners are still dropping off, and those who stay don't have good performance rates. This is because a well-crafted online course isn't enough to capture your learners' attention. If they log in and scroll through the modules with no interest, feeling bored, then you're in for zombie-like, inattentive learners. But don't blame them; your modules may be uninteresting. Lengthy text elements, dull colors, and a lack of interactive material often result in disengagement. Your learners need something to look forward to when starting a course—something that puts them in the driver's seat and captures their attention.

Revive your learners' engagement levels with innovative quizzes that have game-like elements. These will not only help them achieve high scores but also provide them with immediate feedback. To make things more compelling, incorporate minigames, simulations, and even virtual environments where they can practice what they've learned. Also, add an interesting storyline here and there, with relatable characters that guide them through the modules.


A well-designed course paves the way for a successful learning experience, and you don't want your learners to get stranded. The above tips will help you steer away from those terrifying design mistakes and become an expert in creating captivating online courses that stick. So, start creating lessons thoughtfully, with attention to detail and your learners' best interests at heart, and you'll be able to keep the scares at bay.