Whether your organization is totally onboard the e-learning bandwagon, or using it as a stop gap to deliver training until things “return to normal,” COVID-19 has made it clear that the training programs we design—particularly the instructor-led components of blended learning programs—need to be flexible enough to quickly adapt for asynchronous delivery. Many of you might already be grappling with the decision of whether to adapt your instructor-led training for a virtual space or convert that content entirely to e-learning. So when is it smarter to convert classroom training solely into e-learning? How do we do it?
Let’s start with the first question: When is it smarter to convert instructor-led training to strictly e-learning? To understand this, let’s take the example of a typical instructor-led new-hire onboarding course. The goal of this kind of training is to get new employees up to speed with the company culture, policies and procedures, and systems and resources. Instructor-led training for this kind of topic is more costly to deliver, it doesn’t scale well to accommodate a geographically distributed workforce, and it’s time-consuming for trainers to schedule, maintain, and deliver. Even if you transition this training into a virtual instructor-led course, it’s still going to require more time and preparation for a trainer to schedule, organize, and deliver. In this case, delivering new-hire onboarding solely via e-learning probably makes more sense because it’s much less costly and time-consuming, and it scales better for reaching remote workers.
For the rest of this article, let’s focus on the second (even more timely) question: How do we convert instructor-led training to e-learning? Following are a few tips for restructuring your existing instructor-led training materials for independent exploration to make sure the e-learning you’re creating is fun, engaging, and effective. Let’s get to it!
Tip #1: Always Focus on the Outcomes
When you’re converting instructor-led training into e-learning, it’s not about taking the in-person experience and materials and simply creating virtual, digital equivalents. Before you start importing PowerPoint slides into an authoring app and hitting Publish, take a little time to consider what learners would be able to do after completing this training (or a segment of that training) in a classroom setting. What were the desired outcomes? What was the instructor’s role in achieving those outcomes? Reviewing the instructor’s notes and talking points to understand that information is helpful for zeroing in on these learning outcomes.
With the desired outcomes as your guide—both what they are and how they’re achieved in the classroom—you’re ready to take things a step further.
Tip #2: Streamline the Material
The challenge with e-learning is obviously the lack of an instructor to provide context and guide learners through the material. Simply throwing all of the instructor’s talking points onto a screen will end up being overwhelming to learners. When people feel overwhelmed, they struggle to pay attention and eventually give up. So how do you know how much information to share with your learners?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Start by sorting classroom training content into “need to know” and “nice to know” categories. The e-learning you create should focus on the “need to know” content since “nice to know” information can be provided supplementally.
- Once you’ve pared content down to the essentials, it can be helpful to pull together a quick training outline with all the top-level topics to make sure the content flows well and is broken down into easily digestible chunks.
- When you’re diving into lesson content, consider how the material could be rewritten or edited to be even more concise and engaging for a reader. Remember, with no instructor to add warmth and personality to the learning experience, you’ll need to create that feeling by using a conversational, personal writing style for both onscreen text and narration (if you’re using it).
- Break down text-heavy content to make it easier for learners to parse. For instance, instead of slides full of dos and don’ts read by a droning narrator, consider restructuring text into a tabs interaction or an accordion interaction that invites learners to click, explore, and absorb information at their own pace.
Tip #3: Make It More Interactive
In a classroom setting, key lesson content is usually reinforced with small group activities or large group discussions followed by a debrief with the instructor. Depending on the activity, learners may find themselves practicing new skills and ideas, getting peer feedback on their performance, or it may simply give them pause to reflect.
With e-learning, you won’t have dynamic group activities. That means you’ll need to come up with some ways of adapting the existing activities, or creating new ones that achieve the same goals.
For example, if the objective of a reinforcement activity like an in-class role-play is to give learners practice using communication skills with customers, you could swap that out for a branching scenario or an interactive video in your course.
Here are some other examples of classroom to e-learning activity swaps:
- Turn a decision-making practice into an interactive drag-and-drop sorting activity.
- Morph a series of group discussion questions into knowledge checks questions.
- Transform a self-reflection exercise into a compare and contrast exercise.
- Change a group activity for identifying dangers or risks into an interactive video or a game-like activity with clickable hotspots over images.
Wrapping It Up
Just because you’re changing the method of training delivery, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice learning outcomes, make tough trade-offs, or spend weeks or months exhaustively redesigning your course. Furthermore, now probably isn’t the best time to focus on creating the ideal e-learning course. If nothing else, consider this an extended pilot—an opportunity to meet the business needs now, while planning for iterative improvements later.
These are uniquely challenging times. Be sure to take advantage of resources like the free downloads available here on E-Learning Heroes, or customize Content Library 360 templates to save you some time and stress. Hopefully these resources and the simple tips I’ve shared here will help you and your training team tackle the shift from classroom instruction to e-learning with a little more confidence.
How are you converting instructor-led training into e-learning during COVID-19? Share your tips and experiences with me in a comment.
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