Choose Your E-learning Tools: Essential Dos and Don’ts

Guest post by: Robin Neidorf

If you’re asking yourself, “Is running a distance learning program for me?” then read on. Use the following as a checklist while you’re evaluating online education tools. It’s an excerpt from the book Teach Beyond Your Reach by Robin Neidorf. The e-learning guide takes a practical, curriculum-focused approach to setting up and running successful online classes. The guide for new and experienced distance educators allows them to develop and deliver quality e-learning courses and training sessions.


Ask informed questions.

Demo a tool before you commit to using it.

Try freeware or open-source tools.

Go for low tech whenever possible.

Ask potential students for their input.

Network with other instructors; ask them what they use; compare notes, success stories, and battle scars.

Keep up with changing technology; treat yourself to an occasional seminar or conference.

Stay open, creative, and flexible about your teaching.

Assume that you will find the right solution (although it may not be the one you thought you’d find).


Use technology for its own sake; it must enhance the learning and instructing experience or it will be merely distracting (at best) or a barrier (at worst).

Change your requirements, objectives, or audiences without keeping your partners (especially your technology partners) informed.

Assume everything will work as promised; test and retest (preferably with members of the learner population) before the course begins.

Ignore the unwillingness of your students to use a tool; sometimes they’re not just ready and you may need to take smaller incremental steps than you’d like.

Let failure or challenges discourage you from believing in the possibilities of distance education.

“Get married” to a particular tool or solution; it might not be all things to all situations.

Use the tool as a substitute for good course design and delivery.

Migrate content from one tool to another in a cut-and-paste approach.


Robin Neidorf is the author of Teach Beyond Your Reach: An Instructor’s Guide to Developing and Running Successful Distance Learning Classes, Workshops, Training Sessions and More (Information Today, Inc., 2006), soon to be published in an updated second edition. She has taught communications and writing through the University of Phoenix Online and has co-taught creative writing online through the University of Gävle in Sweden.  As a consultant, she has helped organizations develop and implement successful distance learning and self-paced tutorial programs. Robin holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Teach Beyond Your Reach Free Book Contest

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Contest time

[Update! Congratulations to David, who won the drawing for Teach Beyond Your Reach by Robin Neidorf. This contest may be over, but you’re still welcome to keep sending ideas for picking a learning management system or exercise ideas.]

You could win a free copy of Teach Beyond Your Reach as part of Talance’s Customer Appreciation Month, courtesy of e-learning pro and author Robin Neidorf. How can you be entered to win? Just add your favorite training exercise, lesson idea or experience to the comments below, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win.

Deadline for entries is Jan. 16, 2012. We’ll pick one winner at random from all entries on Jan. 17, 2012 and will notify the winner via e-mail. You must leave your name and a correct e-mail address to qualify.

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