Tips Books Offer Help Moving Learning Out of the Classroom

Moving training from face-to-face classroom sessions to eLearning is not a matter of simply converting content to an online or mobile format. The eLearning Guild asked members to share their tips and experience of converting classroom training to eLearning. What emerged is a wealth of suggestions, which the Guild has now published in two eBooks, with a third on the way. Here, Learning Solutions delves into comments that address recurring themes about when to trim content and how to fill gaps left by the absence of an instructor.

Less is more

Think of this as a wonderful opportunity to cull the content, revise it, and package it in a way that is engaging. Too often, people treat the classroom content and syllabus as sacred. Make sure that anything you are moving to the new environment should be there.

Valary Oleinik, Weil

Cull, edit, trim, think small. Not all eLearning fits a microlearning approach, but all eLearning should be focused and clear. That means that the content of a face-to-face course must be analyzed before instructional designers convert it to eLearning: Not every element of face-to-face training can or should make the transition to eLearning.

Rather than moving an instructor’s materials, wholesale, to the eLearning course in development, IDs should carefully review them—with the instructor or an SME—and choose only the components that directly support one or more learning objectives in the new course.

Less is not more

Make sure you fill in the gaps from what was spoken in class to what someone might read or say in the web-based training. Too often, I see people try to just dump their classroom presentation into an “eLearning” and not add in speakers’ notes and content, or stories from the classroom are missed.

Andrew Marsula, UPMC

Narrowing the focus is one goal when converting course materials to eLearning, to eliminate content that is not absolutely necessary. But less is not always more. A second goal points to the need for balance: While striving to keep content short and focused—to avoid creating hours-long eLearning modules—IDs must also avoid leaving out critical information. When trimming material, eliminating sections perhaps, eLearning designers must also ensure that the remaining content is complete and thorough.

In practice, that means, once the initial culling is completed, a second content review needs to identify what’s missing. When preparing for face-to-face teaching, many instructors create a PowerPoint or written outline. These notes are then fleshed out during the class sessions with stories, examples, questions that draw out the students’ knowledge and experience, and more details. The instructor’s materials are likely to form only an outline of the course. In creating eLearning, the instructional designer must identify and fill in these gaps.

Some of the examples and stories can be turned into interactive activities, such as games, flash cards, and test-your-knowledge quizzes. Others can become linked, carefully curated, supplementary materials. Case studies are a useful way to illustrate the application of information or skills taught in the core materials, but in-depth case studies might also be good candidates for linked resources, rather than required elements of an eLearning course.

Mind the gaps

In the classroom, you are a big part of a leaner’s scaffolding. You answer questions and provide background or alternative views when your learners don’t quite get it. Think about what you can include in your online lesson to fill these gaps. Things like case studies or online forums might be ways to provide this support.

Pete Brown, Cooee Productions

In addition to course content that the instructor provides naturally during a face-to-face class, which might not be documented in her notes, the absence of an instructor creates an additional gap in eLearning: In class, learners can ask questions to fill in details that are missing or unclear in the instructor’s prepared materials, stories, and examples. When working through asynchronous eLearning, learners are on their own. Even in virtual classrooms or synchronous modules, spontaneous interactions between learner and instructor are less common than in a classroom where learners and instructors are in the same space and can share information on the spot.

Instructional designers can address this gap within the eLearning in many ways, among them:

Interview the SMEs and instructors, taking pains to ask specifically which areas generate the most discussion or questions. Ask the instructor for notes from discussions or suggestions on where to add detail. Build this information into the course materials or add as resources.

Ask an SME to recommend supplementary materials that can be linked to the course; learners with questions or a desire to dig into the topic more deeply will appreciate the curated, targeted content.

Ask the instructor to help create an FAQ. While this does not have to be an integral piece of the course, gathering and answering questions that have come up often enough that they can be anticipated—and providing the answers in a linked, easily searchable format—can help fill in some gaps.

Provide online discussion forums where learners can ask and answer one another’s questions, When creating courses that will be offered synchronously to large groups of learners, ask an SME or instructor to review the discussion forum periodically and address recurring or challenging questions. In larger companies where significant numbers of learners take the same asynchronous training, a discussion forum connecting co-workers could also be helpful.

Create a human presence

Personality. When you are in a classroom setting, your personality as a facilitator or trainer comes through. It’s your human characteristics that are sometimes missing from eLearning. Intentionally adding a conversational voice and flow makes your course more human-to-human.

Ruth Fidino, Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Short, focused, and clear don’t have to mean dull or mechanical. IDs can give eLearning a voice, a human “presence,” by creating characters and scenarios that learners will identify with or a visual design that creates a specific feeling. The eLearning might use games, role-play, branching scenarios, chats, quizzes—any number of approaches to presenting and reviewing content will contribute to the voice and flow. The days of text-filled screens, connected by the next button are (or should be) left in the past.

Sculpting content around learning objectives is necessary—but only the beginning. When creating eLearning based on face-to-face courses, IDs can be more effective if they move beyond merely meeting content goals and think about who learners are and how they will use the eLearning—and designing something that will succeed in engaging that specific audience.

Read more tips on converting classroom training to eLearning in Moving to eLearning: 154 Tips on Getting Started and Moving to eLearning: 283 Tips on Shifting Content and Experiences.

And don’t miss The eLearning Guild’s Super Spotlight on eLearning fundamentals, Get All You Need to Create Effective eLearning, online December 12 & 13, 2018.

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