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6 Thoughts on Reviewing Content Before Converting Training to eLearning

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Instructor led training is a great way to engage your learners and assess their ability to apply the knowledge contained in your classroom curriculum.  This tried and true method still has a place in the training world, but trainer fees, materials and travel costs add up quickly and weigh on the budgets of corporate L&D teams.  Operations teams struggle with the indirect cost of lost productivity as your learners step away from their desks for a half day, full day or more.  eLearning offers companies a means to condense classroom content into more manageable, self-paced modules and save this time and expense.   This requires investment, but it is quickly recovered in the savings achieved by decommissioning the classroom training activity and it’s associated costs.  While the benefits of classroom training conversion are clear, not all classroom content is suited for, or is easily converted to, eLearning.  This article will outline what to consider when you converting training to eLearning.

 

1 – It is primarily a ‘tell’ topic

If your classroom training requires less discussion and more instruction, it could signal that your course content is a good fit for conversion to eLearning.   Read through the participant guide and look closely at what the learning objectives are and how they are exposed to the learners.  Identify stepwise instructions, objective learning themes and concrete examples.   Curricula containing broad or nebulous concepts, peer discussion and subjective points are likely more difficult to convert to eLearning, but still possible to do.

Examples of training that might be a good fit for eLearning conversion would be topics such as: product pricing, supply and demand, systems training, and compliance training.  Each of the examples meet the criteria of having discrete steps, rules and/or formulas as learning topics.  In comparison, courses such as negotiations training, conflict resolution and management skills training are likely to have learning objectives that are less discrete, subjective and based to some extent on the personal experience, capabilities and behaviors of the learner. 

2 – It has a quiz or assessment

This one is pretty straightforward.  Classroom training that has a quiz, assessment, knowledge check or other empirical measurement of learner knowledge could indicate appropriate content for ILT to eLearning conversion.  Online learning that is built in SCORM compliant formats and deployed on an LMS will produce learner data in the form of quiz scores and pass/fail records.  eLearning quizzes or knowledge checks help learners validate what they know without an instructor present.  Automation and LMS integration can direct learners to review a section or an entire module based on quiz results, something you cannot expect of classroom instructors to manage individually.

If existing classroom content does not have these items, it does not disqualify the content for conversion, but consider that you may need to call upon a training consultant or instructional designer to design quizzes and assessments for the existing content. 

3 – Does the leader guide match the participant guide?

Review the leader and participant content for the classroom training.  Does the flow of each match?  Are the learning objectives exposed to the learner in the “visual” content at same time the instructor delivers the key messages?  Take for example a classroom training that uses a scenario, storytelling approach. The story could be introduced to the learner in the classroom as a case study or given to the learners as a pre-read.  The instructor may then reference this case study throughout the class, bringing up discussion points throughout the classroom event.  This asynchronous approach is very effective in exposing the learner to additional insights about the content and testing learner knowledge with practical application and critical thinking.  It is however this asynchronous approach that could make it difficult to port directly into eLearning. 

Case studies and scenarios are very effective tools in eLearning too.  Your instructional designers and training consulting team can develop those scenarios into eLearning content.  The use of scenarios supported by knowledge checks is a great way to incorporate experiential learning into online content.  One caveat – if your classroom learning has many scenarios, it may be better to consider a blended learning approach.  We will touch on that more a bit later

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4 – Images, brand standards and portability

Any learning program you undertake should focus first on the learning objectives and instructional content.  This is always to be supported by visual content that is appealing, meaningful and relevant to the learning objectives and the learners themselves.  Inspect the images, graphics, fonts in the ILT and consider the extent to which they can be re-used for an eLearning module.  Modern authoring tools make porting existing content into eLearning content easy, but use caution as there are a number of things to consider when looking at your imagery before you assume it can be used in an online course:

  1. Design ‘Theme’ – does each slide in the participant guide adhere to a consistent look and feel. Are the colors consistent from slide to slide?  Is the depth of each color appropriate for viewing on a pc or mobile device?  Consider that colors in print can look different on screen.  If the theme colors are too dark or too bright it might make button text and on screen animations difficult to see and read. 
  2. Brand Standards - Are the images, template and font up to date with brand standards? Are the colors aligned with brand and logo design? In some corporations these standards change annually or perhaps more frequently than that. 
  3. Image and Graphic Portability - Pictures and graphics used correctly make a big impact in eLearning. The images in your classroom content might look great on paper or in the PowerPoint slides, BUT your instructional designers and eLearning developers will want to use them for interactions and animations. To do this the graphics must be decomposed into component pieces with separate text that overlays the graphics.  Dealing with an image in components allows your developers to introduce concepts in stages to the learner. 
  4. Translations Impact –If there is text overlaying graphics that cannot be ‘ungrouped’ and edited then the image will need to be decomposed, the text translated and rebuilt for translation. This can be done, but is a key cost driver in eLearning translations projects.  If you wish to take your classroom content and convert it to a global eLearning curriculum this analysis of the graphics and images is very important.

5 –Instructional Designers can help

After a review your classroom learning against the points noted above,  you may findthat it meets some or all of the criteria for conversion to eLearning.  If it does not pass one or more of the filters, don’t despair.  There is a path forward.  The use of an instructional designer and training consultant will help identify how to deal with the existing content.  These experts may suggest ways to reorganize, reorder and/or extract certain elements of the content. 

6 –When to go blended? 

Your content review may result in the conclusion that there is still value in the contribution of thoughts, opinions and ideas that a group of learners can make to a classroom discussion. This may suggest that the classroom curriculum be converted to a blended approach.  Look closely at the content and determine if there are topics, modules or segments which aim to develop a foundation and background of understanding for the learner.  Perhaps some content is more procedural, or technical.  These content segments might be very good candidates for eLearning and still leave the opportunity to foster classroom discussion and case study review.

Once the theoretical aspects of learning are effectively conveyed and practiced in an eLearning setting, use the classroom to delve deeper into concepts that may have multiple nuances and require a more experiential scenario to drive the learning home. A good instructional designer can identify this and build a curriculum that segments the content with pre-class work in an online format, classroom only learning, followed be reinforcement and knowledge check/assessment after the classroom via eLearning.  This approach offers countless benefits and a low compromise, ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.  Read more in this related case study.

Some final thoughts on what To Do and Not Do

  • Classroom content is often devoid of multi-media, look for and leverage other ways to engage your learner with eLearning

  • Remove “fluff” and distraction – seek to condense the classroom training and focus on your core messages

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t make your eLearning look just like a regular PPT.  If your learners expect the layout to look identical on every screen, tune out opportunities will rise. 
  • Don’t waste time converting every single bit of your classroom training into one giant, lengthy eLearning module- you’ll lose your learner for sure. Consider breaking up your classroom training into condensed, manageable, topic based eLearning modules.  This will definitely impact learner consumption and engagement.

Summary

It is possible to convert nearly any classroom program to eLearning, but not all programs are equally ready for conversion or are as easily converted.  Hopefully the tips provided here will provoke some thought and help you take a more critical look at your classroom content.  Contact me at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com or the Matchstick team via our website for some advice. We would be glad to spend some time discussing your unique situation.  

Good luck!

 

PETER MATAMALA