By Diane Elkins, Co-founder of Artisan E-Learning
It might seem like it would be quick to create an e-learning course from an instructor-led program. So much of the work has already been done, right? It’s not always that easy to get it right. Here are a few tips to make sure you get off to a good start.
1. Plan Enough Time
Most instructor-led materials only have a small fraction of the information actually conveyed in class to the students. It’s not uncommon for the written materials to only document about 20% or 30% of what is actually conveyed to the students in the classroom. A few talking points in an instructor guide can lead to a 10-minute conversation in class. For an e-learning course, you’ll have to script out every word that needs to be communicated. That’s going to take a while, so be sure to plan for the effort.
2. Plan for Different Approaches
Not only will you have to script out every word, but you’ll have to get all the stakeholders to agree on every word. When stakeholders review classroom materials, they are only reviewing/approving that small fraction of the content that gets written down. And some people may stay silent about disagreements in the content, choosing instead to just teach it “their way” in the classroom. We had one e-learning project get completely stalled because regional trainers had been saying “this is how we REALLY do it” from the front of the room, rather than formally expressing their concerns about what was being taught. In an e-learning course, everyone will be taught the exact same way. Approving the content to this level of detail might shine a spotlight on differences of opinion you didn’t know existed.
3. Find the Hidden “Fix-It” List
Most instructors have a mental list of things they’d like to change about a program they teach. Sometimes it’s a written list; sometimes it’s mental one. Plus, there are probably several little “tweaks” they make during delivery–changes that aren’t documented anywhere. Try to find out what these items are so that the improvements can be incorporated into the e-learning course.
4. Rethink the PPT
In a classroom, the primary visual is the presenter. Sure, there may be a PowerPoint, but most of the time, the participants are looking at the presenter. A good presenter can carry a class’ attention and interest with a bad PowerPoint. In e-learning, your slides are the only visual. Bad visuals are really going to stand out. You may be better off setting your existing PowerPoint aside completely and starting fresh with your visuals. For each side, ask yourself: “What am I trying to accomplish with this slide?” and “What visual will best help me accomplish that?
5. Remember the Stories
In a classroom, sometimes the most memorable part of a presentation is that great story the instructor tells to drive a point home. It’s funny. It’s memorable. And it helps the class really understand why the information is important. That great story probably isn’t in the written program materials. So when you are converting a program to e-learning, don’t just cover what’s written down in the instructor guide and student guide. Talk to the people delivering the content to get some of those great stories.
6. Anticipate the Questions
In a classroom, you can look out at the participants to see if they understand. They can ask questions whenever they want. In self-paced e-learning, you lose both of those things. When building an e-learning version, talk to the instructors about the areas where there tends to be some confusion and what the most common questions are. Anticipate those needs and build them into your content.
7. Convert the Activities
Hopefully, your classroom course has lots of great discussions and activities. Some may work well in a self-paced online environment, but some of them might not. For activities you can’t reuse, make sure you find ways to incorporate the learning your students would have gotten from those activities. Then think creatively about what other activities you can use instead. Think about more than just the ever-common multiple-choice question. Rather than just quizzing on superficial facts at the end of the course, incorporate activities throughout where learners can really explore the content. Don’t limit yourself to questions you can grade. If, in the classroom, you ask students in a leadership class to think about their favorite boss and write a list of what made that person a great boss, why not include that same activity online. Not everything has to be tracked and reported to be valuable for learning.
If you take the time to plan properly and use these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to having an effective course conversion project.
Diane Elkins is the co-founder of Artisan E-Learning, a custom e-learning development firm specializing in Captivate, Lectora, Articulate Studio, and Storyline. She has built a national reputation as an expert in graphic design and e-learning, speaking at conferences such as ASTD TechKnowledge and Learning Solutions. She is also co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.
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