Designing a Student Centered Course

The Why?

Learner-centered design focuses on the quality of student learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995). It is based on the understanding that each learner has different characteristics and these characteristics should be employed to elevate both training and learning. Consider the question of Marcia Powell, “If students could choose to attend your class, would they?” Student-centered instructional practices can shift students’ engagement and achievement by placing the focus of and responsibility for learning on them. Quintana et al., 2000 further explained that learner-centered design “considers learning while doing; it supports learners in the ways of using the software and throughout the use of it. It also indicates how and why to do the learning tasks. Moreover, these authors have defined learner-centered design as “the new challenge for human-computer interaction, with the goal of providing support for both learning a task and doing it.”

Where to Start

  • Chart The eLearning Course And Then Let Online Learners Take The Wheel
    Online learners must play an active role in the eLearning process. Empowerment fosters motivation, which leads to online learners engagement. However, you still need to achieve the eLearning course objectives. This means you have to strike a balance in order to reach the desired outcome. Create a list of eLearning activities and modules, or develop a clickable eLearning course map. Then allow online learners to pick and choose the materials that suit their needs. For example, an online learner needs to improve their sales skills. They select the negotiation simulation and product knowledge demos to bridge the gaps, while another sales employee may opt for the compliance online training module because they need to brush up on company policy.
  • Instructor Presence Look at your role as that of the coordinator of a cooperative: give initial directions and guidance, but also constantly pop in to give kudos for good student postings, suggestions to help their learning, and applause for discussion or team postings that developed into long threads from one initial student’s thoughts. Be sure to point out the importance of supporting and thanking fellow classmates for ideas. All of this will go a long way in keeping students engaged and helping them to learn more.
  • Create social interaction Learner-centered eLearning courses are usually associated with asynchronous study. But this isn’t always the case. In fact, you can integrate social learning activities so that online learners can benefit from online group collaborations. Create social media groups, online forums, and eLearning blogs that facilitate peer-based feedback. Divide them into teams and then ask them to create an online presentation. Group members are able to share their experience and skills, as well as improve their level of comprehension.

Practical Matters

  • Post mini-lectures that translate into ultra important. If I were to see lecture after lecture posted by a professor, I’d sooner take out my eyes with a hot poker than read them. Lectures like this become so much blah-blah-blah, and students soon find it difficult to absorb all the information. But by posting mini-lectures (one to three paragraphs centered on one subject), the students will recognize these as important because of their infrequency, be more eager to read them, and will certainly absorb–and remember–their contents easier. (Hint: you might want to mention these in your welcoming email.)
  • Offer an engaging variety of assigned and supplemental readings. Choose your assigned readings–and how much to read–wisely. And also always offer a variety of supplemental readings that are engaging, interesting, and perhaps fun—the students won’t have to read them, but you can make them want to.
  • Offer reality-based education approaches to material covered in class. By stressing connections between what students learn from the assigned material and its use in the real world, you are telling students they must rely on their critical thinking, interacting with others in class, and further research to “fill in the blanks” of what they have not been implicitly taught. Hold them responsible for getting this information–but don’t punish them if they get it wrong: you want them to have “A-ha!” moments of learning, not “What’s the use of trying?” thoughts.

Student Perspectives on Learning

  • Step Into Your Online Learners’ Shoes. You have to see things from your online learners’ perspective. What are they looking for in your eLearning course? What are their goals and objectives? Are there any personal preferences you need to consider? Conduct audience research through surveys and interviews to learn as much as possible about their backgrounds, experience levels, and expectations. Step into their shoes and look at your eLearning course design from a different angle. For example, you may discover that your eLearning course needs more interactive elements or social learning opportunities. Another great feedback tool is pre-assessments. They allow you to determine what online learners know now and how much you need to cover in your eLearning course.
  • Students with disabilities
  • Students with a lack of high-speed internet connection


Papas, C. (2017) 8 Best Practices To Create Learner-Centered eLearning Courses, eLearning Industry

Admin, (2019) Learner-Centered Design: The Secret of Creating Engaging eLearning Experiences, Shift Disruptive Learning