It’s a pain when something breaks right when you need it. If you’re lucky, whatever it is will start working again when you try to show the problem to someone else. (You know, just so it can spite you and make it you look like you’re crazy). eLearning is no exception. But it’s a bit more complicated than a broken vacuum cleaner. If the vacuum is working, it’ll work for anyone. If it’s broken, it’s broken for everyone. Seeing as eLearning is digital, it has the not-so-fun gray area of “it can work for some people and be broken for others at the same time.”

Why is that? The short answer is that there are a lot of different pieces that need to work together for an eLearning course to run correctly. If any of those pieces isn’t quite right on the particular computer, tablet, or smartphone you’re using you’re going to run into problems.

Here’s a table to help break it down. Let’s use the example of a click-to-reveal interaction that doesn’t do anything when you click it. Keep in mind that these are troubleshooting steps that are usually run by the programming and/or quality assurance teams. They’re not necessarily something a learner or project manager would need to know details about.


































* There are also some issues, like completion marking in an LMS, which will show up in the LMS but are related to the course file.

** Flash vs HTML5 doesn’t always apply, since courses can be created using one or the other. This mostly applies to cases where both are being used together.
*** The device type also influences Flash vs HTML5. As a general rule, mobile devices run HTML5 instead of Flash.
**** LMS bugs like this example are pretty uncommon. An LMS bug would be more likely to affect “big picture” functionality like how the eLearning file launches when a learner selects it, as opposed to something as specific as how an interaction on a specific screen works. This example was used here to remain consistent with the example used throughout the rest of the table.

As you can see, there are a lot of different places where technology can decide “not to play nice.”

In regards to reviewers, it’s a good idea to have them list what browser and type of device they’re testing the course on. That way if a reported issue needs to be investigated further the programming team has a good starting point. “Click-to-reveal not working on screen 5, Internet Explorer, laptop” is much more helpful than, “Click-to-reveal not working on screen 5.” It’ll help narrow down the investigation and make it easier and faster to pinpoint what’s causing the problem.

There you have it, a behind the scenes look at some of the basic considerations that go into troubleshooting eLearning difficulties.

If you’d like to read more about training, learning, and instructional design check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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