6 Creative Ideas for Designing Learning Experiences (Borrowed From Copywriting)

Designing learning experiences is both an art and a science. There’s more to it than just learning popular instructional design models and e-learning tools. To do it successfully, you must borrow elements from different fields, such as copywriting, visual design, and UX.

Designing learning experiences is both an art and a science. There’s more to it than just learning popular instructional design models and e-learning tools. To do it successfully, you must borrow elements from different fields, such as copywriting, visual design, and UX.

Combining best practices from related fields enables you to build effective and engaging training that gets results.

In this guide, we explore how you can elevate your instructional design skills by applying these six copywriting techniques when designing learning experiences.

Keep reading to discover:

Interesting copywriting techniques to steal when designing learning experiences

Any experienced instructional designer knows how critical writing is when designing learning experiences. It needs to be clear, concise, and compelling enough to hook learners, simplify complex topics, and create a seamless learner experience.

And when it comes to precise and persuasive writing, nobody knows better than the copywriter.

Here are six copywriting techniques that will make you a better instructional designer. Scroll down to deep dive into each tip.

6 copywriting techniques you should keep in mind when designing learning experiences.

1. Know your audience

Copywriters understand the importance of knowing your target audience. Really knowing them.

Creating buyer personas, social media listening, competitor analysis, market research … they make it their business to understand exactly who they are writing for.

And by doing this, they can reach their audience without writing too much.

Instructional designers can learn a lot from this approach.

Drilling down to exactly who your target learner is will enable you to make more of an impact while cutting the amount of content you’re creating.

So, start by creating detailed learner personas so you can better understand their needs and preferences. Also, make it your mission to gather all the data you can about your learners, e.g., from LMS reports, learner surveys, and feedback.

Copywriters will also consider market sophistication when writing content. High market sophistication means the audience has a deep knowledge of your topic, whereas low market sophistication means they know very little.

This data helps copywriters dictate how much copy they need to write.

Apply this when designing learning experiences too. Simply get to know how much your target learner knows about the training topic, and use this to determine the level of detail to go into.

2. Use the “Rule of One”

The “Rule of One” is a copywriting principle that focuses on just one thing in each piece of content that you write. In other words, “say one thing to one person.”

In copywriting, that means focusing on one reader, one big idea, one promise, and one offer.

It basically focuses your writing, so you know what to write and your reader knows why they should care. That allows you to be concise and tailor your writing to your audience.

This is a great principle to apply when creating learning experiences.

Before you begin creating e-learning content, try to define one:

  • Target learner – What does this learner need? How can you connect with them?
  • Main learning objective – What’s the key takeaway
  • Core topic per module – Stick to one key concept in each module or lesson
  • Path to success – Create one learning path that takes learners from beginner to mastery

Applying the “Rule of One” to learning experience design prevents cognitive overload and boosts learner retention. It also creates more tailored training courses that solve a specific performance issue.

3. Create a hero’s story

Copywriters tell stories. It’s the single best technique to engage an audience emotionally, causing them to relate to and remember your content.

Typically, the story begins with an attention-grabbing introduction that identifies a problem or challenge. Next, we have conflict to build tension and hook the audience further. This is followed by a resolution. The problem is solved. Finally, there’s a call to action that compels your audience to take the next step (sign up for a service, make a purchase, hit subscribe, etc.).

Applying this structure to content makes it more relatable and exciting for the reader.

Within storytelling, there’s a popular archetype: the hero’s journey. The best copywriters use this as a framework to build compelling stories that resonate with audiences.

Applying the Hero's Journey framework when designing learning experiences can be extremely effective.

Applying the hero’s journey to designing learning experiences is extremely effective.

Your learner is the hero, on a learning journey with challenges to overcome and new skills to acquire.

Start by introducing the learning challenge (aka the knowledge gap you’re trying to plug). This should hook your learners because it’s relevant to them.

As your learner starts their journey, the learning content will be their mentor, guiding them. Each module is a new stage of the journey, with new challenges to overcome.

Of course, the hero’s journey ends when the learner has acquired the desired skills or knowledge. A final quiz or assessment will solidify the final transformation.

Before your learner hangs up their boots, you’ll position a call to action (continue learning, use their new skills in the real world, do further research, etc.).

We’re not saying you need to turn every training course into a Lord of the Rings-style event. But applying storytelling to learning design can create a more immersive and engaging experience.

Start by integrating real-life scenarios, characters, decision points, and a compelling narrative.

4. Formulas and frameworks above templates

Templates are every instructional designer’s best friend when it comes to e-learning development, right?

Not so much.

Sure, templates offer a great jumping-off point and ensure your training courses are cohesive. But they can also lead to generic courses that lack personalization.

Now, before you toss all your templates in the trash, we’re not saying there’s not a time or a place for them.

Storyboarding, creating specific re-usable pages (pass and fail pages, welcome pages, etc.), and quiz questions … these are great examples of when templates pay off.

But in other instances, you may want to steal a tip from copywriters: frameworks and formulas are better than templates.

Frameworks offer a flexible guide that keeps you on track but doesn’t pen you in. When it comes to building an e-learning module, it ensures you’re following ID best practices without churning out the same page on repeat.

So, next time you feel tempted to copy and paste your previous slide, why not try something different instead?

The same goes when writing text for a course. Following tried-and-tested copywriting formulas can speed up writing time and ensure your content grabs learners’ attention from the first word.

In short, formulas and frameworks provide more space for personalization while still keeping the wheels on track.

5. Remove friction

If you’re a Mad Men fan, you may remember when Betty Draper did the Coca-Cola commercial. Betty wondered why the bottles she held in the ad had the caps removed.

The creative director explained that opening a cap suggested there was work involved in drinking Coca-Cola.

This is a common principle in copywriting. You want to avoid anything that can cause your audience friction or make them feel like your product requires effort.

Whether that’s too many on-screen distractions, words that suggest effort, or unclear call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

Applying this principle to learning experience design can drastically improve your training courses. How? Well, it can be as simple as these short hacks.

  • Ensure navigation is clear by using a color to make your navigation buttons stand out and placing them in a visible location
  • Remove any on-screen distractions that can pull learners’ attention or lead to overwhelm
  • Divide content into easy-to-consume chunks with clearly distinguished categories and short sentences and paragraphs
  • Have a visible progress bar so learners know where they are and how to get to the next stage
  • Avoid words that suggest work or effort; these may make learners drop off before they complete the training

In summary, ensure your learning experiences are as frictionless as possible by considering your word choice, navigation decisions, and on-screen visuals.

6. Use the four C’s

The four C’s of copywriting are a framework for creating great content. Following it, your writing should be:

  • Clear: Have an easily understandable message and avoid jargon or confusing language.
  • Concise: Remove any unnecessary words and ideas, focusing on the core message.
  • Compelling: Engage your audience through storytelling and by establishing an emotional connection.
  • Credible: Build trust by offering testimonials, references, and evidence to back up your claims.

You should definitely apply the four C’s to learning design.

Removing the fluff and honing in on the “Why” behind the training creates more effective and efficient learning experiences. Action Mapping is a great example of this.

It’s a flexible and iterative instructional design process that focuses on solving performance problems and meeting specific business goals. While other frameworks can get bogged down in creating lengthy courses, action mapping is all about being clear, concise, and compelling.

It creates targeted solutions that address tangible needs and produce measurable results. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • Identify the performance problem and set a learning goal to address it
  • List the behaviors or actions that learners must take to achieve the performance goal
  • Design targeted practice activities that enable learners to apply the knowledge in a realistic environment
  • Pinpoint only the essential knowledge learners need to achieve the performance goal. Cut the rest.

Action Mapping enables you to apply the four C’s because it changes the mindset from “Here’s a bunch of information; turn it into a course” to “Here’s a specific performance problem; help us solve it”.

The end result is a more concise, compelling, and credible course because learners can see its benefits firsthand.


When designing learning experiences, you need to borrow best practices from graphic designers, UX pros, and, of course, copywriters. These copywriting techniques will empower you to create clearer, more compelling training experiences that resonate with your target learner.

As a result, you can streamline development processes and achieve better training ROIs. And your learners will thank you. Get more instructional design insights on the blog.

Nicola Wiley

By Nicola Wylie

Nicola Wylie is a learning industry expert who loves sharing in-depth insights into the latest trends, challenges, and technologies.