Although online learning is hardly new, it’s still a bit of a bandwagon issue for some organizations. Some companies feel compelled to go with online learning because it’s “the thing to do.” But for other organizations, it’s a vital mode of learning that can supplement face-to-face-instruction or even stand in place of it.
But we’re not here to debate whether or not elearning is superior to classroom learning. The fact is elearning is here to stay. The demand is growing for mobile training that’s accessible anywhere, anytime. In fact, one of the most popular requests we receive is to transform classroom materials for online learning.
Before starting the process of converting materials, the big question is: what’s the actual purpose of the elearning? Will it replace the classroom training, or will it supplement it? This is a very important question, because it affects the overall direction you take.
For example, the curriculum might require participants to complete a classroom portion first, with the elearning available as a refresher or as a just-in-time resource. In this case, the online course doesn’t need to include every detail from the face-to-face training materials. But if the elearning is designed as a standalone experience that replaces the classroom learning, you’ll need to carefully construct the course so that all the essential details are included—without overwhelming the learners.
- Organize the content in a logical manner for elearning. This doesn’t mean copying the script from the PowerPoint file onto the screen and inserting the “Next” button every now and then. Start with writing learning objectives, and organize your course so that each section maps to an objective. You don’t necessarily need to reveal the objectives on screen. Consider “what’s in it for me?” language to pique their interest. For example, compare these two:
“At the end of this course, you should be able to create your intuitive exercise program using our four-part proprietary method.” versus “How do I create a custom exercise program that’s easy to follow?”
- Adapt the tone for online learning. If you’re addressing a wide range of learners with various levels of experience, the elearning should be broad enough to engage them all without isolating anyone. Adjust the tone accordingly if you know your audience is primarily made up of either experts or novices.
- Create content layers. One of the great benefits of elearning is that it easily accommodates people’s various learning modes. People read differently online than on paper; online, they rarely scroll down past the “fold” of the page. Unlike chapters in a book, elearning content doesn’t need to be available on the same level. The essentials should be included in the main content areas of an online course. Secondary information can be discovered through rollover or clickable areas. And third-level content can be organized as PDF files in a resource library for on-demand access. Keep in mind that arranging content into layers doesn’t mean you should bury it; an intuitive navigation design makes it easily accessible.
- Give learners choices for exploring content. It’s fine to provide a map, but forcing learners down a one-way road with no opportunity for side trips just promotes falling asleep at the wheel. There are exceptions, however, such as when you’re trying to teach a compliance process that must be followed in a particular order.
- Give learners the chance to practice what they’ve learned. We can’t emphasize this enough. Just like with classroom training, practice doesn’t just entail answering multiple-choice questions. It could be a game, a scenario, or a quest. A good online practice exercise sets up an appropriate context, gives the learners a challenge to solve, and helps connect what they’ve learned to real-life ways they can apply that information.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to give learners feedback on their progress. Although scripted feedback can’t really replace real, live human feedback, try to make it as meaningful and relevant as possible. For example, in a branching scenario that gives learners multiple options, create custom feedback for each option they choose. In other words, don’t just tell them the choice is correct or incorrect, but tell them why.
No matter what your reason is for converting classroom materials to online learning—budget, time, efficiency, or geographical constraints—working with a team that specializes in elearning development will help you create the best experience for your learners.