Everyone thinks your association’s popular pre-conference workshop would make a great online course. Converting it should be simple, right? Just take the PowerPoint, import it into an authoring tool and, presto, you have a new online course. But is converting instructor-led training to e-learning really that easy?
If only. We learned the real deal from Diane Elkins, co-founder of Artisan E-Learning, during an ASAE Technology Conference session. The advice she shared will prepare your association for the content conversion process—a process which is more about reinventing and reconfiguring than reformatting.
Benefits of converting instructor-led training to e-learning
Now you might be thinking, if it’s going to involve that much effort, maybe we shouldn’t bother converting instructor-led training (ILT) to e-learning. Don’t give up on the idea yet until you consider the benefits.
Expand your audience. Many members and industry professionals can’t or don’t want to travel to attend in-person educational events. They may not have the travel budget or the time off from work. Online learning is accessible to everyone in your market.
Free yourself from instructor scheduling hassles. Your association can offer a new asynchronous online course year-round. You no longer have to work around instructors’ schedules.
Fit your learner’s lifestyle. Online courses are accessible any time and on any device (mobile, tablet, and desktop). Learners can easily participate when it’s convenient for them.
Provide a more efficient learning experience. Learners save time. Every hour of ILT converts into about 30 minutes of e-learning.
Deliver a more effective learning experience. You can better engage learners with a thoughtfully designed online learning experience. They can go through the course at their own pace, and revisit content as needed. Spacing out the information in chunks and providing opportunities to recall and apply new information makes the learning sticky. An online community gives learners the opportunity to discuss and practice what they’ve learned with their peers.
Increase non-dues revenue. Once you develop your online course, the delivery costs are minimal, compared to the costs of ILT. Year-round promotion to a larger audience brings in a steady stream of revenue.
5 tips for converting ILT to e-learning
The structure and format of ILT is not the best design for online learning. You can’t just load the slides into your LMS and be done with it. You have to review the content and transform it into a more engaging and interactive e-learning experience.
Before taking on a conversion project, make sure you know what lies ahead. These five tips from Diane Elkins will prepare you and your team for critical decisions and discussions.
#1: Plan for the time it will take to convert ILT to e-learning
It will probably take longer than you originally thought. Artisan E-Learning did a time analysis of their e-learning projects, and compared the time it took to convert content from ILT to the time it took to start from scratch. Sometimes conversion saved time, and sometimes it took longer. Here’s how different phases of the project compared.
Where you can save a lot of time converting ILT to e-learning:
• Writing course objectives – but you still need to revisit them.
Where you save little time converting ILT to e-learning:
• Needs analysis
• Planning instructional strategies – but not all strategies translate to e-learning
• Writing storyboards and scripting
• Writing test questions
Where you save no time converting ILT to e-learning:
• Gathering technology requirements
• Design interface
• Preparing graphics
• Building in the authoring tool
• QA and testing in the LMS
On more than half the tasks involved in conversion, no time was saved. For most of the remaining tasks, only a little time was saved.
#2: Fill in content gaps
You need more than slides to hook and engage learners. To develop a complete package of e-learning content, you need the instructor’s words. A recording makes excellent raw material because you can hear the instructor’s comments, examples, and student questions.
Diane recommends reviewing attendee feedback and interviewing instructors to learn more about the content and classroom experience.
• What do people struggle with? (Solve these problems.)
• What’s working and not working in ILT?
• Which parts excite learners?
• Which parts drag?
• Which activities provide the most value?
#3: Identify areas for improvement
Figure out how you can better engage learners in the online format. Ask instructors what they would change and why.
You also need to find out before the review process which instructors differ the most in their approach to the content. Talk to them ahead of time about the approach you’re taking so they don’t present a problem during the review cycle.
Are certain parts of the content likely to change because of legal, regulatory, or technical issues? Present that information in slides. Slides are easier to switch out and update, plus you can add a voiceover.
#4: Design the slides
Be ready for possible resistance from instructors when they find out you’re not using their slides. Try to avoid creating a “your baby is ugly” scenario, said Diane.
Slides serve as cues for instructors. But they’re only one element of the raw materials needed for converting ILT to e-learning. You’ll also rely on the instructor’s words (both “scripted” and ad-lib), interactive exercises, and student Q&A’s.
Good instructors can sometimes get away with bad slides. However, in e-learning, you can’t get away with bad slides. You can’t bore people. If they’re zoning out, they’re not learning, said Diane.
Visuals must engage and teach. What are you trying to accomplish? What visual will best help you get there? Performance-based, context-driven content is easy to illustrate. If the content is difficult to illustrate, you may need to revisit it. Using a combination of visuals and words provides two channels to process information—and that leads to more effective learning.
#5: Convert interactive activities
Find ways to get learners to practice. Give them opportunities to recall and apply their new knowledge. Diane said not to obsess over grading or tracking everything. Let learners do some activities just for practice—for them, not you.
Converting instructor-led training to e-learning is a project, not a simple task, but don’t let that dissuade you from attempting it. Take advantage of the opportunity to repurpose and improve existing educational content so you can give more people the chance to learn in a way that fits their schedule and budget.