This morning, when I signed into my Facebook account, I found that my wall was filled with a lot of updates on the season finale of the famous TV series that has been aired recently. I step out and check my WhatsApp messenger only to find out that there were already many discussions happening in the groups on the same show. Even after 100 years, this idiot-box doesn’t fail to entertain and engage the viewers to great lengths.

Do you know that educational technology or e-learning had its first usage dated in the same period as the television? Then why is it that we are already searching for a new technology to takeover E-learning and yet serve the same purpose it was designed for? It is never the technology but the way it is used, that makes it more purposeful.

TV series and E-learning. What’s the connection?

Most of the TV series that are running successfully today are adaptations of award-winning novels. These novels generally come in series with each book not less than 500-1000 pages in size and sometimes even more.  It is not an easy task for the directors of the program to convert this huge lump of content into an engaging TV series. They take the help of several resources such as the artists, musician, graphics artist, etc., and use their screenplay wand to transform it into an exciting TV show.

Does this process sound familiar? As a part of our job, every day we receive a large amount of content in several forms, waiting to get converted into an engaging learning program. The Instructional Design approach is very similar to that of a director since we both have a common agenda of engaging our audience (even though the learning scenario doesn’t settle with engagement but also empowering with knowledge).

The reason I’m not comparing this to a movie scenario here is because most of the movies are a one-time game and doesn’t really relate to our context of developing continual learning.

Design experts say that the best design is not the one you try to create from scratch but the one that follows the trends that currently people are going after.

How to design an E-learning course that works like a TV series?

This approach is more helpful when you have a curriculum of modules packed under one big course.

  • Revamp that User Interface: User interface plays a major role in making the course visually appealing to the learner. Your user interface should speak the theme of the course and not just stand as a place holder for the course controls. If we are talking about a TV series based theme, get your UI designed to look like one. Let’s look at a video game that has been inspired from a TV series. Check this screenshot of the menu from a famous game franchise which ca be reimagined as a welcome screen for our learning program.
Image Source: Battlefield Hardline, EA Games
  • No more modules, only Episodes: We are already familiar with the concept of dividing huge content in to smaller modules according to the topics explained in each. Now remember, you have 2 ways to go with this. If all your topics facilitate learning points that are independent of each other, you can allow the learner to access the episodes (not modules anymore) in any order. In that case, provide only names for the episodes but not numbers. However, since we are following a TV series based theme here, it is recommended that you pick the content that needs to be taught in a linear fashion. Check the screenshot below from the same game and see how we can transform it into a E-learning user interaction page.


There are many more features in such video games that can very well be adapted in to a learning context. Here are a few.

  • Having the ability to leave and resume the episodes any time (bookmarking)
  • Provision to check player/learner stats at any point of time (course progress)
  • Providing rewards for episode completion and special achievements and displaying them under a separate section in the menu (This is very important especially for lengthy courses to motivate the learner on completing the course)
  • Social Connectivity to share any achievements with other players such as completing the episodes with maximum score (in our context, completing the assessments with maximum marks)
  • Comparing and competing with other players’ scores (Leaderboards)

The E-learning industry can learn a lot from other human interaction/engagement mediums such as advertisements, movies, video games, etc., which frequently go through a makeover to create better and better experiences.

Who knows, your next E-learning design idea could be lying right in that App you have recently installed on your smartphone or the video game that your kid can’t stop playing every day. All it takes, is to take a look at these mediums from a learning design perspective and once you start looking, a great learning experience awaits. How are you planning to engage your learners in your next training program? Do you think design has a major role to play in learner engagement?