Converting face-to-face training to eLearning


"We want to convert our current face-to-face training to eLearning, can you do that?" This is one of the most common requests eLearning companies hear from their clients.

To answer the question very simply - Yes, we can do that.

However, I do need to expand on the underlying meaning of the word ‘convert’ in giving this answer. Converting face-to-face content into effective eLearning will involve changing the form, character, and function of the existing training material so it is appropriate for delivery online. It isn’t simply a case of taking the existing material, pasting it into an authoring tool, adding some learning checks and publishing it for allocation to learners.

Any material that was used to facilitate the training will be the source content used in creating a specific eLearning solution on the topic. This is often something that is very challenging for the organisation and the SME’s to accept, but once everyone becomes comfortable with letting go, the chances of making an effective piece of eLearning increase greatly.

What this means, is that we need to take a few steps back when it comes to understanding the audience, what the goals are for the training and how to best approach the project.

There are some fundamental questions we need to ask to better understand what the end goal looks like, as well as the reason for deciding to down down the path of eLearning for the training.

What is the need for the change in delivery?

It’s important to understand the need behind an organisation looking to change existing face-to-face training into eLearning. Understand this is important as it will shape what the final eLearning solution looks like.

Some of the more common reasons for converting face-to-face training are:

  1. Face-to-face sessions are inaccessible to learners
  2. The facilitator is spending too much time on the ‘theory’
  3. We want a more on-demand learning approach

While each of these needs can be addressed by using eLearning, each solution would look quite different. If for example, we want to create eLearning to cover the heavy theoretical material to allow the facilitator to focus more on the practical aspects of the training, our approach would be less reliant on scenario and practical activities.

If the need is that the face-to-face sessions are inaccessible to learners, then we would know that our approach will need to effectively introduce practical activities as there will not be another training opportunity available to the learner. What is common to all of these, is that the end goal is to improve the learning experience in some way.

In reality, there is often one more common reason organisations are looking to adopt eLearning in favour of face-to-face training:

    4. It’s cheaper

While in the long term this is usually true when comparing face-to-face training to an equivalent eLearning solution, it can’t be the key motivator for the change. Our goal should be to add value for the learner, rather than looking how we can save money.

If you are simply looking to save money, it means that there is little value put on staff training and this is something eLearning will never be able to fix.

Where does the engagement come from?

This is the question that helps an eLearning provider understand how the facilitator is engaging the audience and how this can be used to build engagement in the eLearning solution. At the end of the day, the content itself is not what engages the learner, the delivery is.

Facilitators who are great at their job know how to capture every learner’s attention and hold it throughout the session. They are also adaptable and seem natural in their delivery.

Understanding what worked and what didn’t in the face-to-face training is a great way to start understanding the audience better, but it can’t be expected that we will be able to deliver engagement in eLearning the same way.

The key thing to understand from an engagement perspective is that in eLearning we can’t rely on a charismatic, energetic and interesting facilitator to engage our audience. We have to work a lot harder create an engaging experience for our learners as we miss out on being able to use that ‘human connection’ you get in a face-to-face session.

But we can use stories, humour, emotion, scenario questions and various media types to build engagement. We can also create an environment in which the learner is totally in control of their learning. They can explore, revisit material, set their own pace and access more information as they need it.

One of the biggest benefits of eLearning is that it can be highly adaptable to the individual learner’s needs.

Our goal for an eLearning solution isn’t trying to replicate what happens in a face-to-face session but rather is designed something based on the merits of the chosen delivery format and what will provide a more valuable learning experience.

How will this change be perceived by learners?

Something that is often overlooked when changing how training is delivered from face-to-face is how the learners will perceive this change. The trap to avoid here is thinking the change is going to have the intended positive effect on learners. It’s not always received in that way.

Unfortunately, eLearning is not something that causes people to jump up and down with excitement or motivation. Learners could perceive the change as simply a way of cost cutting and a way of shifting the responsibility of understanding a topic solely onto them.

Communication and quality are key in ensuring the change is perceived in a positive light. The individuals in the organisation have to be able to see why this change will deliver a positive impact on their learning experience, and how it will help them contribute to the business goals.

At the same time, your learners are able to differentiate a quality product from something that was found at the bottom of an eLearning sale bin.

If you present your learners with something that looks a bit B-grade, this is effectively telling them the organisation doesn’t see much value in this training topic or their professional development. Your learners will invest much time into the topic as they think has been invested in creating it.

So very simply ‘yes’, we are able to ‘convert’ face-to-face training into eLearning. But the key thing to remember is that the process of ‘converting’ the existing material is a lot more complex than copying content from a powerpoint into an authoring tool. It actually involves treating the current material to its base content, categorising it as being critical, contextual or fluff and then designing the eLearning solution from the ground up.

Once you are comfortable with that as an idea, you are ready to create positive change for your learners and your organisation.