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Considerations When Converting Government Courseware to Virtual Delivery

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Tue Jan 27 2015

Considerations When Converting Government Courseware to Virtual Delivery
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With increasing frequency, I’m asked to convert existing instructor-led, brick-and-mortar courses to e-learning offerings. I’m not sure when the perception developed that we can just run existing course materials through a magic tool and the course is transformed, but that just isn’t the case.

Indeed, importing three days of PowerPoint slides into a virtual classroom or your favorite e-learning authoring tool and adding narration just won’t provide the desired results—for the course owner or the learner. Instead, looking at the desired results are the better starting point of any learning conversion effort.

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Re-Evaluating Learning Objectives

Ultimately, in its simplest form, training is about behavior change. We want to get people to do something they aren’t doing or stop doing something they’re currently doing—with the goal of improving organizational performance. The redesign process is an opportunity to re-evaluate learning objectives and ensure that they align with organizational performance goals.

In many cases, I find that learning and organizational objectives are not aligned with one another. As the course is edited by the various subject matter experts making additions and priority changes, the course veers off the desire path. Or, sometimes the organizational goals have simply have pivoted since the original course was developed. In any case, this is the opportunity to realign.

Once the learning objectives are clarified during the redesign, they can be used to assess which portions of the original course can be repurposed and which need to be retired. Additionally, the higher cognitive learning objectives will tend to require either more advanced e-learning development, and many may still require an expert instructor. This key point is often missed; some material and teaching methods are still best delivered in real time, by a live instructor—their expertise, knowledge and interpretation cannot be discounted. Keep in mind, though, that the live instructor may be teaching within a virtual classroom.

Understanding Your Expectations

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Low-level cognitive learning objectives are best be repurposed as a job aid to augment the on-demand learning modules. I’ve seen too many live courses that spend an inordinate amount of time on acronyms, terminology, and rote memorization of procedures. Adult learners can cover this type of material much more efficiently on their own. If the information does not require memory recall, it is better presented as a job aid checklist for just-in-time access and use.

Meanwhile, mid-level cognitive learning objectives are the sweet spot for on-demand e-learning modules. If the material must be recalled from memory, then an on-demand module can be created to train and assess mastery of the recall, without wasting valuable class and instructor time. Tracking successful completion of this material ensures this fundamental information is possessed prior to the class resulting in more productive instructor-led segments.

Other real-world considerations, such as time and budget, also play a part in deciding if material is best converted to an on-demand module or with instructor-led modules. Developing effective e-learning takes plenty of resources, and expecting fast food-like results will lead to disappointing content—or worse, complete project failure.

Setting expectations is vital to successfully managing a conversion project. It’s equally important to select an initial project that is large enough to be meaningful, but not so large as to become a death march. Measurable results in a manageable timeline should be the goal.

If this strikes a chord with your situation, I’ll be presenting this process in more detail during an upcoming webinar, “Translating Brick & Mortar Courses for a Virtual Delivery,” Februray 17, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. EST. Register now.

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