The 4 Key Components of Quality Learning Materials

This new online learning explosion;

awesome, isn’t it? The ability to learn anything, at any time.

A heavenly new combination of accessibility, few regulations, and an abundance of information – put all your IP online! Make everything digital! Get your induction procedure online! Throw a few quizzes in, and record yourself speaking for a few hours, like you would in a face to face presentation – easy! Right?

Quite simply, NO.

If you’re worried that you don’t have a teaching or training qualification and you’re concerned about the impact this will make on your outcomes – you’re spot on. I’m definitely not suggesting that subject matter experts without teaching qualifications shouldn’t be teaching or training – but what you do need is a good framework for making a learning experience quality. Online, face to face, in house or public workshops, the same rules apply.

Universities have frameworks, High Schools have frameworks, even Kindergarten and Daycare facilities have solid, carefully considered frameworks for learning that they refer to for every single lesson.

You don’t need a training qualification. You do need a framework.

A framework gives you the confidence to create and deliver a quality learning experience.

And once you are able to apply the 12 hallmarks of quality learning in your own learning content, you’re well on your way to creating incredible learning experiences for all your clients.

So why isn’t this the norm anymore?

It’s a whole new world of being able to access and provide information, to ‘learn’ and ‘teach’ without formal qualifications, but there are few regulations or standards surrounding the quality of the instruction, content or delivery.

What does that create for the learner?

If you’re delivering in house training, there’ll be no real guarantees as to the quality or effectiveness of the learning experience – be it an online induction or a face to face workshop. Recent Gallup data shows that only 32% of the workforce is actually engaged in their jobs – do you want your training to contribute to making that figure even lower?

Being an expert in your field, doesn’t naturally make you a born teacher with the skills to create or deliver a quality online learning experience.

Add to that, that online learning fatigue is increasing.

Learners know that just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it’s any better. Pages of text followed by a written test is just as unappealing as scrolling through pages of text and doing a quiz.

We, as facilitators of learning, need to give our clients what they’re after – not just more information, but a clear path to learning new skills and being able to go away and apply it – whether that’s online, face to face or in a blended learning environment.

So how about we raise the standard?

How about we get really clear about what we’re actually delivering and what our clients are actually getting?

How about we take a look at the age old institutions that DO deliver quality learning experiences and take a few leaves out of their books? The initial intention of all those rules was to INSIST on quality.

Registered Training Organisations in Australia require teaching staff to hold an accredited Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and major universities insist on basic training in the foundations of teaching and learning; here are a few examples of mandatory training for teaching academics at our leading Australian universities: Curtin UniversityAustralian National UniversityMacquarie University. All their programs are slightly different but if you really look into the content, they’re all essentially the same.


Look at any decent course you’ve been through, and they all have the same hallmarks – they all have the kind of impact that creates real change in the lives of the people that take them.

Introducing the hallmarks of any Quality Learning Experience:

Connect, Create, Communicate and Critique.

I’ve been a teacher and a learner in hundreds of programs and courses over the years, from $50 online courses right through to Masters levels programs at sandstone universities, and regardless of whether it’s online, face to face, cheap or expensive, when it’s lacklustre, I can almost guarantee you that at least one of these 4 components is the problem.

1: CONNECT for effective Product Development

  1. EXPECTATIONS: Clearly stated
  2. OUTCOMES: Needs based, current, and solves a problem
  3. MATERIALS: Caters for various learning styles

What happens when some of these things are out of whack? You get grumpy learners.

If your ‘Connect’ is off, there’s a fair chance there wasn’t a complete picture of how the course will operate, including the complete user experience, how the teacher and learners will communicate, what will be included, how the content will be accessed, OR what the course, program or workshop series will achieve overall.

When you fail to really identify your client needs, the different ways people learn, and the exact expectations around the full user experience, you open yourself up to mismatched expectations and a minefield of ‘that didn’t really hit the mark’ type complaints.

2: CREATE with systematic Curriculum Development

  1. CURRICULUM: Outcomes based
  2. LEARNING JOURNEY: Scaffolded appropriately
  3. MATERIALS: Organised and consistent

Something that most formally qualified teachers take for granted, is a solid curriculum document. A curriculum document is part of the overall framework I was referring to earlier. Teachers use curriculum documents every single lesson, and with good reason. When they’re missing? Nightmare.

The content is disorganised, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent thread to follow, you’ve no idea what’s coming up next, the lesson is rambling or poorly connected, and the user experience leaves a LOT to be desired. We’ve all been a learner in THAT classroom – right?

If you run with a course like that your learners will know it, YOU will know it, and you’ll get to the end of the experience and completely rethink your plans to ever teach again. Forget feeling overwhelmed, confused and out of your depth. Have a plan that will keep you organised. Your learners (and your reputation) will thank you!

3: COMMUNICATE with effective Delivery Skills

  1. STRUCTURE: Engaging and scaffolded
  2. VISUAL AIDS: Clear and helpful
  3. DELIVERY: Engaging and client centred

Be they workshops, worksheets or online webinars, the structure of your content, visual aids and delivery mechanisms dictate whether or not you provide a user experience that will inspire and motivate your clients to engage with your materials, stay engaged and actually apply the new knowledge in the real world.

When you fail to create learning materials that cater to the different ways people learn, and with basic best practice teaching and learning principles, your clients get bored, drop out, or never really engage with your content.  No one wants to be in that classroom – right? Worse still, your reputation may start to take a nose dive, and you may even begin to lose hope that your content is actually as powerful as you thought it could be. Don’t go there.

Sometimes it’s a simple as a few tweaks here and there to the way it’s presented, ordered or the questions you’ve asked to get them to open that document and get the results you know they’re capable of.

4: CRITIQUE for Continuous Improvement

  1. EVALUATIONS: Transparent and anonymous
  2. REVIEW: Regularly implemented
  3. UPDATES: Regular and stated

All courses that have 5 star ratings have a solid set of evaluations embedded to source timely feedback that can enhance the user experience.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a course, then getting a tonne of feedback on items that could have been rectified in a heartbeat, saving frustration for a number of your clients.

There’s also nothing worse than being known as the type of professional who creates a bunch of content then just recycles it over and over, never adapting or improving the resources or adding any further value.

Clients can sense that sort of ‘professionalism’ (or lack thereof) from a mile off. Be sure you’re fitting into the right category.

Can you identify the hallmarks of a quality learning experience in your learning materials?


Maria Doyle
Adult Education and Training

If you are interested in learning more about Maria and her workshops on Essemy, please visit this link.