William Horton's E-Learning by Design is meant to be read
cover-to-cover. It outlines the e-learning design process
"according to Horton" in Chapter 1, and then proceeds to fill in
the details throughout the rest of the book.
How to use the book
Horton's website lists many examples from the book. These examples
are arranged by chapter with reference to their location in the
book. Horton's website allows access to client-designed materials
through a portal-type webpage.
Each chapter of E-learning by Design is assembled to
showcase best practices of a teaching strategy, when to use the
strategy, different flavors of the strategy if applicable, and, how
this strategy might work if used. For example, if you are new to
instructional design, the first chapter summarizes the concept of
instructional objectives, how to write them, and the reason for
needing them and using them.
A subject matter expert can easily use this book to get a bird's
eye view of the instructional design process. Horton refers to
using the ADDIE method while writing this book. However, he states,
"If you are familiar with the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop,
implement, evaluate) process, you may think we left out one of the
phases. Not true. We just consolidated Develop and Implement into
Build. Two reasons: One, since e-learning is delivered over
networks, the implementation is a natural part of development. And
two, since the process is iterative, as opposed to sequential,
implementation does not lag development but goes on at the same
Because the book concentrates on e-learning course delivery rather
than live classroom delivery. The content, examples, and references
are geared to the uses of technology in interpreting instructional
In addition, Horton devotes a good percentage of content, in this
case 70 pages, to the area of testing. This is 12 percent of the
book, versus 6 percent to 8 percent coverage of other topics.
The only topic to receive more coverage is synchronous learning in
Chapter 9, Design for the Virtual Classroom, with 13 percent or 80
pages focused on the topic. Because webinars, which are live,
online meetings using the Internet are increasingly popular,
decisions must be made whether to host course content via
synchronous delivery or on-demand, which many refer to as
asynchronous delivery. Determining the method of training course
delivery is a very important decision because the design of the
course materials is driven by delivery method as well as by
content. Horton provides a decision table to illustrate this
Should you conduct an online meeting?
Teaching explicit knowledge.
Teaching unstructured, implicit knowledge.
Content requires detailed study.
Learners have many questions.
Learners lack language skills.
Isolated learners prefer learning with others.
Learners have unpredictable schedules.
No time to develop standalone materials.
While there are other criteria that you may wish to add to the
above table, it's another example of the type of job aids available
in E-learning by Design.
Horton differentiates between design and development in the very
beginning of his book. "Design is decision. Development is doing.
Design governs what we do; development governs how we carry out
those decisions. Design involves judgment, compromise, tradeoff,
and creativity. Design is the 1001 decisions, big and small, that
affect the outcome this book is about design."
Horton states that there is no reference to particular software or
hardware vendors. In my opinion, this is a good thing because the
industry moves so quickly that a particular vendor could possibly
merge with another or simply disappear within a year or two. In the
computer industry hardware drives software development, then
software drives hardware development. Moore's law is that computer
chip computing technology doubles every 18 months. This means that
the computers get faster and smarter very quickly.
| Technology updatesMy only criticism of Horton's
earlier book (Designing Web-Based Training, 2000) was that
although it is still a great reference tool, there is some dated
material. In this sequel to that book, Horton has updated material.
As stated, this is the "Successor book to Designing Web-Based
Training. This book is about design not development. It
includes aspects of media design, software engineering, and
economics, as well as instructional design." In fact, on page 60 of
Chapter 2 Horton speaks of using podcasting as part of absorb-type
activities. Newer technology delivery methods are incorporated
along with recent teaching strategies such as storytelling.
Unfortunately the printed word, as in hardcopy books, cannot be
easily or expeditiously updated to parallel the rapidly changing
workplace learning and development industry or any other industry
for that matter. For example, websites like Horton's will most
likely replace the CD-ROM included in the back of this book.
However, I still love my books. I love being able to reach up on
the shelf to pull down one or more when grasping for that
particular grain of wisdom that I seek from the experts. But I love
the Internet too. And, to have both forms of references available
in one book is a good thing.
William Horton has done another great job in translating the
technicalities of instructional design for the pedestrian user. I
may have a graduate degree in human performance and training but I
still enjoy a refresher course in layman's language. If the Dick
& Carey textbook that I used in college had been written by
Horton perhaps I would not have had to read it twice for