How to turn face-to-face sessions into successful online courses
There are many excellent reasons for offering courses online as well as face-to-face. If you want to convert your existing face-to-face training into online courses, all you have to do is follow a few simple rules. The good thing is that you have already prepared all the course content, and this “only” has to be adapted for another medium. And you will have based your content on a thorough analysis of who the course is suitable for, what its aims are, and the precise make-up of the target group. If you want to offer your face-to-face courses online, you will have to make sure you take account of the particular educational and technical requirements of eLearning. This article provides step-by-step instructions on what special requirements you need to consider, and how to turn face-to-face sessions into an inspiring and successful online course.
Why it’s worth converting face-to-face training into online courses
Any time, anywhere
Learners can access training courses at any time and from any location, so they no longer have to learn at a specific time and in a specific place. This gives participants the flexibility to learn whenever best suits their day-to-day lives.
With online courses, there’s no limit on the number of participants. In addition, you only need to be design them once and they are then permanently available, whereas face-to--face sessions always involve new organizational costs. There are also no costs associated with travel, accommodation, or downtime.
Online courses can be translated easily into a wide range of different languages, making it straightforward to offer training on an international basis. Integrated translation management supports you with translation and facilitates collaboration with agencies and service providers.
There are no longer any fluctuations in the quality of training, since you are no longer dependent on the trainer’s form on the day.
The digitalization of courses avoids generating emissions through travel, while also saving paper.
On average, creating an online course takes 50% less time than putting together a face-to-face session.
Is the content of the session suitable for an online course?
First of all, you should analyze whether the content of the face-to-face training is suited to being delivered online. Not all content can be presented digitally. In particular, if training involves a combination of theory and practical experience, it may be useful to digitalize only parts of the course and deliver them in a blended learning environment. So you will need to look at your content section by section. Please note: Practical content can be digitalized, and special features are available to help with this. However, participants have to try out activities such as experiments, procedures, and exercises themselves, of course, in order to learn from them.
If your current face-to-face sessions can be presented as an online course, the process of converting your content is very similar to what an eLearning author would do when creating a purely online course from scratch. You have one major advantage, however: The basic research and analysis work has already been done. But you should still double check that you have covered the following research and analysis issues before you start creating the online course itself:
Defining your objectives
Even if you have already set your learning objectives for your face-to-face sessions, it may be helpful to restate them clearly when creating the online course. What should learners know or be able to do after completing the course? Answering this question precisely will help you decide what content to include and whether you need to add additional content.
A learning objective might be formulated like this, for example:
—“Course participants should be able to create and schedule tasks for themselves and other team members in the new project management software, enter progress with work, assign files to projects, and archive completed projects.”
This objective can then be used to develop specific course content and to evaluate learning outcomes. Alternatively, if it were to be formulated as
“Employees should be able to handle the new project management software”,
you would probably find it more difficult to decide which content would be really relevant for the basic software course. It would also not be possible to evaluate the success of the course with any clarity afterwards.
Target group analysis
Since you already know from face-to-face sessions who will be participating in your course, you have in effect already analyzed your target group. Even so, think again about the following questions:
- How old are the learners?
- What technical needs and knowledge do learners already have?
- What types of learners are the participants?
- Do they include learners with disabilities?
Your answers will determine which media you use, how interactive the course can be, what the scope of the individual sessions can be, etc.
Analysis of learning environments
While you were familiar with the previous learning environment, digitalization is now changing things:
- Where are participants doing their learning?
- What devices are they using?
- And do they already have devices or will these need to be provided?
If, for example, the participants are primarily studying as they travel to work, it would be better to offer individual lessons in short nuggets. The devices used by learners will also determine how you present content. Here, it is beneficial to work with software that can offer a fully responsive version of online courses from the outset.
2. The educational workflow for your online course
You will have based your face-to-face sessions on a scheme of work. However, digitalization requires a broader scheme that takes account of eLearning specifications. Please note the following four recommendations:
Structure the course in sections and subsections
To enable you to reuse individual modules in other online courses, you must create them as separate sections (sharable content objects) in the authoring tool. The smaller the modules, the more easily you will be able to recycle them later. To do this, you simply transfer the table of contents of your face-to-face training into a section. It’s important to refine your structure and check that you have learning objectives for each section and subsection.
Subsection 2.1.: Creating the project
Subsection 2.3.: Adding team members
Subsection 2.3.: Creating subtasks
Subsection 2.4.: Assigning subtasks to team members
Specifying the learning path
In contrast to face-to-face sessions, online courses give you and your participants the opportunity to review knowledge and identify any gaps in a timely manner during the course. Specifying the learning path, will enable you to decide how to evaluate each section. Do learners have to complete a section successfully before they can unlock others, or can subsections be completed independently of one another? And which sections also require learners to pass a test in order to complete them successfully?
Use of media to suit learning objectives and target groups
Professional authoring tools offer a wide range of interactive features, media, and gamification tools. Select these to suit your learning objective, target groups, and learning environment. Then decide which media are most likely to help learners achieve your learning objective and which are best suited to your participants. The benefit of incorporating a variety of elements is that you can appeal to different learner types.
Creating your storyboard
Once you have defined your sections, learning path, and media, you can choreograph your course in a storyboard. This can take the form of a simple Excel table or even a digital visualization. The following information should be added to each individual subsection:
- Title of (sub)section
- Text and elements (rough outline)
- Contents of audio or video files (roughly formulated)
- Interactive features
- Navigation and potential offshoots
- Notes on learning path and dependencies between subsections
3. What makes a good eLearning course: 5 tips
Less is more
While participants in face-to-face sessions do sometimes miss a few sentences of what’s being said, the interactivity of eLearning requires one hundred percent attention. So learners are more likely to feel overwhelmed by the flood of information. In order to prevent this and avoid demotivation, the order of the day for online courses is “Less is more”. So you first need to reduce texts to a minimum, steering clear of filler words and redundancies. Your authoring tool should (ideally) also include a lot of features to help you prepare interactive content and reduce pure text sections.
Whereas we tend to forget text that we have read relatively quickly, we retain information much better if we can have a direct influence on what happens in an online course. Whether it’s through interactive tabs, drop-down boxes, image and text carousels, accordions, buttons, hotspots, interactive flip cards, or videos, the more learners can interact with content, the faster they will climb the learning curve. So don’t be afraid to take full advantage of all the features on offer.
Quizzes and tests
You need to assess learning on a regular basis to ensure that learners consolidate their learning. Before you present them with an actual exam, however, quizzes and tests are a playful way of helping them prepare. Not only to enable learners to demonstrate what they know and check their progress, but also because doing quizzes progressively reduces the fear of major examinations. Test questions can be integrated at any point in a course and can cover whatever material you like. Using different types of questions allows you to design tests that are varied and cover a variety of content.
While interactivity is the first stage in getting participants involved with what is happening on the screen, gamification goes much further: Knowledgeworker Quiz, for example, enables employees to compete against each another or a bot, in challenges and duels. Curiosity, ambition and competitiveness motivate people to rise to the challenge. As they play, participants revise and consolidate the knowledge they have already acquired from the courses.
When using features, make sure that you always provide alternative delivery options, to enable learners with disabilities to take full advantage of your courses. Solutions can include the provision of speaker texts as audio files, keyboard controls to enhance usability, and the provision of descriptive texts for image media. If learners use assistive technology such as screen readers, these can be very helpful.
The bottom line
Digitalizing face-to-face sessions offers numerous benefits. It not only protects the environment by eliminating travel, accommodation, and downtime costs and the use of materials, it also makes your educational project more sustainable and efficient. At the same time, digitalizing face-to-face sessions is easier than creating them from scratch, because you already have all the content and you can skip most of the analysis phase.
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