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6 eLearning and Online Training Books You Should Read

— by Bill Cushard


For anyone who wants to be as great as they can be in a chosen field, reading books on the subject is critical to one’s development. Whenever I see a blog or article listing important books, I read the article. And more often than not, I read one or more of the books from the list. It is a key part of how I stay current in my field.

Below is a short list of books I think every eLearning designer should read. Each brings a slightly different angle to the subject, and each book can be used differently to build your eLearning and online training skills. If you have not read any of these books, and you do not know where to start, I suggest picking one at random, and go from there. That is often how great adventures begin.

eLearning by Design

eLearning by Design is the kind of book you can go to whenever you need a fresh idea or a reminder. For example, if you want to create an assessment, you can go to the section on tests and read through examples of different types of tests. If you want to create a practice activity, you simply read through the practice activities section. eLearning by Design is a practical resource that you should not do without.

Design for How People Learn

Design for How People Learn takes a broad look at how people learn and provides design examples that take advantage of that. My favorite take away from this book is the importance of getting to the problem that needs to be solved with a training course. We cannot design effective training courses, if we do so because our audience “just needs to know that.” It is a trap that is very easy to fall in to. This book reminds us to ask “why” before designing a training course. “Why does someone need to know that?” By solving a specific problem, the learning is practical and more engaging for your audience.

Better Than Bullet Points

Oh, how refreshing to read a book that shows us a different way to design eLearning courses that do not involve slide after slide of bullet point lists. Not that I have ever done that. Better Than Bullet Points is so much more than that. In fact, the tools on the accompanying CD is worth the price of the book. And since there is a new version out, I’d strongly suggest you get a copy.

Designing for mLearning

It is tempting to just take your existing courses and convert them to a format that can be viewed on a tablet or smart phone. While that may work in a pinch, it is far from the ideal way to design mobile learning. Designing for mLearning convinces you that designing for mobile learning is different. So different, that you may decide not to design a course for a tablet at all. Instead, you may create mini-tests or a collection of help files that are more suitable for a mobile device than a full course. Before you start getting too far into mobile learning, read this book.

Leaving ADDIE For SAM

No matter what process learning designers use, we need a process. ADDIE is a long standing instructional design process used by many designers. This book proposes a new design model for creating training content of any kind. And SAM is quite good. For me personally, the most important lesson in this book is the idea of creating prototypes, which is one of the foundational elements of SAM.

eLearning and the Science of Instruction

eLearning and the Science of Instruction is an important book for two reasons. First, it is based on evidence, so everything in this book is backed by research that shows what works and what does not. Second, this book breaks down effective eLearning to its essentials with a focus on removing anything extraneous from our online training courses. For example, there is no need to have text on a screen if there is audio narration of that text.

This is just a short list of books that I have found valuable. What books should be added to this list?

Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations at companies like E*TRADE, Accenture, and ServiceRocket. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

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