Learning Design Best Practices

Strategic delivery of content is the most important factor in measuring whether learners internalize the skills and information. It is where content development should begin. The practices below will help to engage learners and enable them to retain the content. For those reasons, you should always keep the seven practices below at the forefront of your mind:

1. Create a Hook

Try framing your content in a way that has an immediate impact on the learner.  

Why: Creating a hook immediately frames the content (why it’s important) and why learners should care (emotional impact). Framing content is different than telling — it’s showing. This strategy provides learning context and ideally creates a more self-motivated learner.

2. Chunk Your Content

Break your content into relevant bite-size pieces. You can do this page-by-page and through grouping like-content into parts.


Why: Chunking creates natural learning breaks in the content, and it is the foundation for the table of contents (navigation) for each resource.

3. Summarize Content with Lists (Make It Sticky)

Distill information into an easy-to-read-and-remember bulleted list (and use headlines or tight titles like: 5 Keys for Student Success).  

Why: Bulleted and numbered lists are mnemonic aids that help learners remember important information. Well-written bullets also encourage readers to delve deeper into the referenced material. 

Check out this example from the AP Language unit on Food and Culture:

4. Be Selective with Your Content

Your wealth of knowledge can be one of the biggest obstacles to creating effective learning experiences. 

Why: It can be difficult to whittle the content to what is MOST essential. When your content does too much, learners are overwhelmed and find it difficult to synthesize. Remember, the more focused your content, the easier it will be for learners to master, remember and apply the information. 

5. Design Culminating Activities

As often as possible and practical, learning experiences should contain a closing or final activity.


  • Culminating activities prompt learners to synthesize and use the information they have learned.
  • Culminating activities act as a formative assessment for any coach or instructor.
  • Culminating activities provide a concrete assessment to content development can be mapped.

6. Leverage Scenario-Based Learning

Whenever possible, integrate real-world situations into the learning experience.   

Why: A realistic scenario is engaging and sticky. It makes the content concrete and relevant for learners while also providing them with an opportunity to apply what they are learning about.

7. Use Learning Tools 

Strategically use discussion boards, journals, group activities, assignments, quizzes, surveys, polls and custom multimedia interactions, allowing content to guide the most effective learning activity. 

Why: Active learning allows learners to analyze, synthesize and evaluate what they’ve learned. Active learning sets up learners to apply what they’ve learned in a meaningful way.

Tool Best Used When
Discussion Board You want learners to interact with each other and share information or viewpoints.
Breakout Rooms You want learners to collaborate with each other and/or with an instructor.
Quizzes, Surveys, Polls You want to provide learning checks or gather data.