With the first three steps of the process of transferring training in the online environment already completed, you now have all the relevant information sorted out into categories (basic and additional), you know what the learning objectives are for each of the training modules and you have established the format of your course.
It’s now time to get down to the actual business – planning and developing the online material so you end up with a quality finished product, ready to start taking enrollments and share some knowledge.
The first thing to consider at this point is that the content is no longer facilitator driven, as in the case of classroom training, but user-centered. Control must shift to the learner.
The importance of planning
If you don’t build a very clear structure for your path, the learners will know. Modules that are not built in a logical succession will prove confusing and you’ll see people giving up in the middle of the course. Without a facilitator present to fix all hick-ups on the spot, the content needs to flow flawlessly and have an intuitive red line.
Carefully taking students from simple to increasingly complex subjects takes a lot of thinking and precision. Transitions are very important because the human brain works by making connections. If these are not apparent, much of the information will be lost. A good way to structure information is to use story-boards.
Make a comprehensive outline
One of the traps instructional designers fall in when they are very sure of their expertise on a certain subject is to dive into creating modules without a clear image of how the items will be structured, how many modules there will be in the end and what techniques will be employed on each one.
This results in unbalanced units and too much of the preferred rendering option of the creator – whether it’s text, video, infographics or voice presentations. The outline, at a minimum, names the learning objective, text, voiceover, and types of media for each screen. It’s the only way to make sure the end result will be really what you want it to be.
Develop the course
This is the final step of the process of transferring training online, save for the testing. When it comes to putting all the content together, there are several ways to proceed. I will present two of these models as I feel they truly incorporate all the necessary steps for designing quality learning material
This is a framework that integrates five principles of learning, namely:
- Task-centered principle – learning starts with the presentation of real-world problems. Learners should be able to relate to issues and tasks they are required to handle either in their work or personal lives.
- Activation principle – the course must appeal to the already acquired knowledge of the learners, thus helping them to make the necessary connections to retain the new relevant information presented to them.
- Demonstration principle – a module must demonstrate the presented information (this can be achieved in a variety of ways – stories, films, podcasts, case studies) so that the applicability of the newly acquired knowledge is made obvious.
- Application principle – learners have to be allowed to apply the new information on their own. In e-learning, this can easily happen in a VR environment that increases engagement and spurs knowledge retention as participants feel comfortable to make mistakes and try various approaches.
- Integration principle – the course must offer possibilities for integrating the knowledge into the learner’s reality. It’s best if this part of the module is designed in a highly interactive way so that the learner can truly have an input.
This is a framework comprising of a series of steps that are based on the behaviorist approach to learning. These events follow a systematic instructional design process, creating a flexible model where they can be adapted to generate various learning situations.
- Gain attention of the learners — with stimuli that catch and engage their brain (novel ideas or thought-provoking question, etc.)
- Inform learners about the objectives — tell them about the expected outcomes and KPI’s for measuring achievement.
- Stimulate recall of previously acquired information — leverage existing knowledge so that new material can build on that.
- Present the content — the flow needs to be logical and divided into easily consumable information morsels. Micro-learning is preferable where possible.
- Provide learner guidance — this is done with examples, case studies, videos of SMEs or, where they fit, ‘how-to’ videos.
- Elicit performance — this step refers to activating recall by engaging the learner in activities that require the use of newly acquired information.
- Give feedback — immediate feedback is crucial, whether it is informative or remedial. In e-learning, this is done easies with the help of quizzes.
- Assess performance — the information should be tested transparently, as presented in the first step.
- Enhance retention and transfer to the job — you can employ powerful infographics, summarization or even more complex projects to be ‘turned-in’ and evaluated after the completion of the course.
Even if your goal is to convert existing face-to-face material into e-learning modules, keep in mind that you are doing a whole lot more than transcribing text onto screens. The point is to use what you have but repurpose it so that it truly leverages all that technology has to offer. Even if the audience stays the same, their expectations of online learning will be different, so you need to adapt.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.