Levels of Learning Interaction

Elearning courses are unique; some are filled with multimedia whilst others contain simple animations and a few pieces of text. Choosing the right strategy for an elearning course should be based on the learners needs, pedagogy and the learning outcomes.

For example, if I were creating a piece of elearning where the objective was “After this course, the learner should be able to Install Windows 10” then the best method for this would be step-by-step guides, simulation or a video tutorial.

However, sometimes it’s not always possible to create the right training if you are constrained by time, money and resources. There can also be security or licensing constraints. In this post, I will be talking about levels of learning interaction, when they work and when they don’t work.

Good elearning can be created very cheaply; as technology and software applications improve, become cheaper and more user-friendly. However, I find that time is often the biggest constraint to developing effective elearning.

In the proofreading and editing world, levels of editing are often set to define how much editing should be completed on a document e.g. do you simply want it read and checked for spelling and grammar, or do you want it edited and fact-checked. The more editing that needs to be performed, the more time and money it will cost. This impacts the end result – do you end up with a better document at the end? Perhaps not! If you’re a good writer, the proofreader may not need to edit so heavily. However, you may end up with a document that holds more integrity – if names and facts have all been checked and verified.

I’ve often come across the term levels of interaction, in regards to elearning and I’m torn between whether or not it’s an approach that should always be followed. For example, some companies I’ve visited only develop the minimum amount of training material because it’s quick and easy – basically an information DUMP. The instructional designer in me says you should always create the best elearning experience possible – matching the content and learning outcomes to the right pedagogical approach – BUT if you’re working with a client who just wants something quick sometimes you have to go with an agreed compromise.

Learning interaction levels are useful reference tools for scoping a project and quoting for work. They help to break down work and provide clients with an overview of what can be expected at the end of a project (and how much time and money goes into the different development areas). They can also help the instructional designer to understand quickly how much effort the project is going to take.

According to a survey aimed at L&D professionals:

49 percent design and develop Level 1 E-Learning.

49 percent are involved with Level 2 E-learning.

29 percent say that they or their team design and develop Level 3 E-Learning.

12 percent of respondents or their teams are involved with Level 4 E-learning.

Association of Talent Development – How Long to Develop One Hour of Learning?

Let’s look at each of the levels in more detail.

level 1; Not my favourite type of elearning because you might as well give your learners a book and send them on their way. But I’ve seen some very good examples of level 1 elearning in the past and when it includes some basic transitions and animations. If the client wants something done very quickly and cheaply (or more commonly, has a PowerPoint presentation they want turning into an elearning course) then sometimes this option has to work. This type of elearning is quick and easy to put together as it requires less specialist skills and time.

Level 2: In my experience, this is the most common type of elearning I see. There is nothing wrong with this type of elearning, but it doesn’t always assess the learner’s knowledge, skill or attitude.

Level 3 & 4: This is where elearning becomes more involved, complex and potentially tricky. Video learning, simulation, gamification, VR, AR, all the buzz words are here! Some are easier to implement, such as basic gamification, however they take time and money to develop.

It’s also easy to forget that just because your elearning course contains everything – AR, VR, games, assessments, videos, audio, you name it! Doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the best learning experience. You need to get the learning objectives right, analyse your audience and the problem your elearning is meant to solve.

3 Levels of Elearning

The eLearning Brothers and Articulate have both published articles on defining elearning levels, in these examples, they define 3 levels; Level 1 (Basic), Level 2 (Intermediate) and level 3 (complex).


Articulate E-Learning Heroes – Get to Know The 3 Levels of E-Learning

These are both examples of typical terminology you’ll come across when working on elearning development projects. I particularly like the E-Learning Heroes example here, as you can see examples of each level. Go check it out!


The levels of interactivity should not be used as the sole approach when designing your elearning courses. Begin by looking at the learning outcomes, write the objectives, work out what content needs to be included, then use the levels of interactivity as a framework for scoping the rest of the project.

For example, maybe the client wants to teach employees how to use a new piece of software. Without knowing the in’s and outs, the best method for maximum effectiveness would be to create simulations and videos. But wait! Maybe the client wants it tomorrow and doesn’t want to pay a lot of money? This is when you can apply the levels or interactivity. Maybe in this scenario a FAQ, guide or presentation is the solution. Also, remember that sometimes elearning is not always the answer.

Always design your courses as an instructional designer – work out what is really needed. Always offer the best advice to create an effective and engaging experience. Use the levels of interactivity to assist in defining time, cost and effort, for quoting work and project scoping.

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