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Fighting digital fatigue with great online learning design

In the last year, we have experienced an abrupt immersion into the online environment for work and study. As beneficial as this might be for our safety, there has inevitably been at least one downside in this transition: digital fatigue.

Described as "a recognized state of mental exhaustion and disengagement," digital fatigue happens when we spend long hours in front of our screens, shifting between many tools and apps.

This can also translate to digital burnout, resulting from excessive self-awareness issues, extra effort to process non-verbal cues, difficulties maintaining a work-life balance, and missing face-to-face interactions.

This phenomenon was experienced by people who could do their jobs remotely and learners of every kind. Working and learning online requires a strong motivation to reach goals.

Suddenly, online course creators have noticed that engagement levels have dropped, with learners failing to reach course goals. With this realization came the need to adjust the whole instruction to suit the new challenges laid in front of us.

To counteract the negative impact of digital fatigue on learners, you have to design learning experiences that are engaging and facilitate a seamless acquisition of information.

Fighting digital fatigue with great online learning design

When your course is 100% online, you need to design it in such a way to align the why, how, what, and who of your course into a logical and coherent structure. This means that the learning goals need to be connected to your delivery methods, with the content you include in your course, and with the protagonist of each segment of your delivery: you, the instructor, or the learner.

When you consider the learning design, you need to be aware of its impact on the outcome of your course. You want to have a successful course that engages and keeps your learners involved throughout the learning experience, so no effort is in vain.

Read more: How to design great online courses? Begin with the end in mind!

Learning design - useful tricks

To every problem, there is a solution, or so we hope. When it comes to learning design, following consistent guidelines will improve your learners' engagement levels.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Set clear course outcomes;
  • Provide content in multiple media formats;
  • Create tasks that help learners connect, learn, practice, discuss, assess, and reflect;
  • Humanize your course content and tasks;
  • Set enough time for feedback.

However, you also need to consider the type of instructions and visuals to maintain or increase learner engagement.

Make sure your instructions are short, interactive, real, and simple. Learners want and need content, tasks, and directions that are easy to follow and grounded in real situations.

Throughout the course delivery, you should also consider the visuals that make your content more appealing. Use the same visual aspects (fonts, size, colors, layout, tools, etc.) to create a sense of continuity and familiarity. This way, learners dive into your course content without any visual obstacles to hinder the learning process.

Read more: 6 Tips on using visual elements in online course design

How an LMS can help

Learning management systems (LMS), as structured platforms, offer features that diminish the impact of digital fatigue and facilitate a straightforward and engaging learning experience. With their easy-to-use interfaces and fully responsive designs on any device, you can deliver a simple and efficient course that is suitable for learners' needs.

Not every learner can organize the content they receive and manage their time to solve tasks promptly, so on such a platform, you can structure your content into modules and allow learners to go through it at their own pace. This alleviates the exhaustion triggered by chaotic course structures and poor time management skills.

Read more: 3 Types of self-paced online courses that could work for your business

LMSs also increase learner motivation through game-like tasks, certificates and badges as rewards, collaboration and communication tools like chats, forums and groups. A motivated learner will have greater chances of completing the course without developing digital fatigue.

You can create the feeling of continuity throughout the course with the LMS features that allow you to design your content consistently throughout multiple modules, provide personalized feedback, variate content types and tasks while following a red line with goals to reach. LMSs provide an engaging background for your course that eases some of the causes of digital fatigue.


Digital fatigue is real and is probably affecting more people than one might think. Knowledge entrepreneurs have to pay special attention to online learning design while creating their courses, as it can both increase learner engagement and limit the harm done by digital fatigue.

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