Posted by Barbara Opyt ● April 21, 2016

8 Questions When Converting Training to eLearning or Virtual ILT

convert to virtualTaking instructor-led training online with virtual ILT or eLearning carries a host of potential benefits, both financial and practical. When making the transition from classroom training to an online or blended learning program, though, it may be better to scope the project as a new build of the training, rather than incorrectly scope it as a direct conversion of existing content.

There are many reasons why converting ILT to eLearning or VILT might be a good idea. Offering the content online grows the potential audience, while reducing time and travel costs. Today's workers are used to digital knowledge transfer formats, and they appreciate being able to set their own pace. And, in the case of eLearning anyway, it's available on demand any time.

But online training formats come with challenges that in-person learning programs don't have. When taking ILT online with VILT or eLearning, it's important to thoughtfully consider the qualities that make good ILT successful, like hands-on practice and interpersonal interaction. Instructional designers must not fail to account for intrinsic differences of the platforms when converting training to VILT or eLearning.

Consider the risks of converting live training to the online environment. Without a facilitator, eLearning users can get lost in the content and may need other resources to answer questions. Additionally, distractions can be much more intrusive in VILT or eLearning, and so keeping the participant engaged becomes that much more important. Finally, there's a basic quality concern around eLearning in particular; bad ILT content can be elevated by a good facilitator, but bad eLearning is just bad.

Simply put, there is a lot more to converting live training to an online platform than simply importing a presentation deck into Storyline or sitting an instructor in front of a webcam and calling it VILT. Here are eight questions to ask to help scope your conversion effort.

1. What is the business case for the ILT conversion?

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Answering this basic question first will serve to guide the entire project. For example, the business case may be a desire to use the course as refresher training or a just-in-time resource, in which case the converted eLearning should have a modular design with easy navigation. If the original ILT was designed in two and three-hour segments, the content will need to be chunked differently and reconfigured to meet the needs of the new format.

Another common reason for a conversion project is to take ILT designed for a system or process rollout and convert it to eLearning for ongoing sustainment training. In this case, messaging and the basic approach to the content will need to be modified through new redesign.

2. Which portions of the training can be easily converted?

Sure, you can import a PowerPoint deck full of bullet points and static graphics into Storyline, but do you really want to? Not likely. While importing slides may seem like an efficient “conversion” step, each slide and graphic will require review from a consistency and screen layout perspective, at the very least. Are the graphics high-resolution? Are the screen layouts appropriate for independent learning? Are there details in the facilitator or speaker notes that need to be included?

3. Should the content be expanded or condensed?

A 126-slide presentation does not equate to a 126-screen eLearning course. Self-paced eLearning will usually have fewer screens than a comparable ILT slide deck. When converting ILT slides to VILT, plan on needing more slides than in the face-to-face classroom version. Scope your conversion project to organize the ILT content into appropriate chunks for eLearning or VILT. Also consider whether the content can be consolidated—are there opportunities to repurpose some ILT content as job aids or reference material in conjunction with learning?

4. What's the status of the content?

How much of the existing content will need to be updated or reworked? There’s no point converting content that is already out of date.

5. How will skills be practiced?

ILT courses have the benefit of time for students to practice what they are learning through exercises, activities, or discussions. With eLearning and VILT, providing opportunities to practice skills becomes trickier. For example, an ILT facilitator may be able to work through role-play practice scenarios on the fly, but coding a branching practice scenario in eLearning will require additional time for creative design and development.

6. How will learning transfer be proven?

Changing the learning format also requires changing assessment methods. Consider the role that the ILT facilitator plays in assessing how well participants are learning during the session, and plan ways to test for understanding within the course or in a virtual environment.

7. What happens next?

Skilled ILT facilitators can update content on the fly, but that becomes much more complicated with blended learning, and it's not an option with eLearning. Adding pilot testing to your plan will help to ensure that the new format hits the target, and identify opportunities to enhace learning. Avoid outdated content by developing a learning sustainability plan for the course. Identify content that may become quickly outdated, and schedule a review to update the content—or simply plan for the course to expire after a certain time period.

8. Who can advise on the conversion process?

The ideal SME for an ILT to online conversion project is an experienced trainer who is familiar with the material, someone who knows what content produces the “aha” moments in class. This is the content that should receive extra attention in the conversion to produce similar results.

Being able to leverage existing training materials provides a leg up in creating a new eLearning or VILT course, but take the time to do an initial analysis before committing to the scope of a conversion project. Plan on using instructional design processes for the new course, leverage the best and most appropriate parts of the existing ILT content, get the right SMEs involved, and plan ways to incorporate the best of the ILT into the new format while mitigating the risk of an inappropriate conversion.

Barbara Opyt is a learning solutions manager for Caveo Learning. She previously held senior management roles in corporations, higher education, and startup technology companies, implementing award-winning programs for technical and business audiences. She holds a master's in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin, where she specialized in adult and organizational learning, and a bachelor's from Minnesota State University-Mankato.

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Topics: Learning Trends, eLearning, VILT