Making the Leap from Classroom to Self

Here’s the scene: you’re charged with converting a classroom training program (or an online webinar) into a stand-alone self-paced e-learning program.  The classroom trainer hands you his or her PowerPoint deck, lovingly patting it and saying “It’s all there. Let me know when that e-learning is done, won’t you?

But it never is all there, is it? Sometimes there’s too much, sometimes there’s not enough. What can you do?

The best classroom instructors and online presenters never just read the text bullets off the slide, do they? Instead of endlessly droning on and on and reading something that you could very well read at home at your own pace – thank you very much – they instead share stories, engage their audience, and provide context.  They transition from idea to idea.  They’re non-linear and respond to learners’ needs;  if they’re good. And these are nuances that can easily get lost as you make that conversion to a self-paced experience.

Let’s explore some ways to capture the essence that actually gives this content life and makes it real—and relevant—to your learners, so you can retain it in your e-learning design.

Listen in

Sounds obvious, but if you’re only working from classroom slides or notes, it’s like reading the transcript of a sporting event. You kind of had to be there. So ask to be there. It’s a time investment, sure, but really you have no business designing the online version of a course we’ve not attended. Ask to observe the instructor in action (this could be live or on a webinar, depending on the delivery format).  Record the session if you can and take wicked good notes. It helps to have been a court stenographer – failing that, perhaps pair up with someone, and divide the tasks between transcribing and observing reactions and questions. You need to find out:

  • What are all the extra bits he or she shares that aren’t on those bulleted slides?
  • What questions do the students ask and where do they seem stuck? What questions are you asking yourself and where are you stuck? Where do you need more?
  • How does the instructor make it come alive? What examples does she share? What stories does he naturally tell?

Pick up on the subtleties

You know that the magic isn’t in the slides. As you listen, write down the actual word she uses. Slide decks are often written in business speak. Listen for the conversation and the turns of phrase that make her sound like a real human being. When you go to write your e-learning program, use those exact words and share those same stories. It adds the humanity and context into the program. These touches keep it from being an information dump.

Get your own session

If you really can’t join in on a live session – and we know that logistics often make this impossible —make sure that at the very least you can run an initial design workshop with the instructor.  Never just let them hand you their decks and then just disappear, never to be heard of again!

During the workshop, ask these types of questions to help you better make the leap from classroom to self-paced:

  • What stories do you tell?
  • What mistakes do people typically make?
  • What questions do people ask you? Where are their gaps in understanding?
  • What practice opportunities or exercises do you run? How do people perform in those?
  • What feedback do you get – which bits do you and learners feel are too long, what do you wish you could spend more or less time on?

Add the juice

If you follow these steps, you should find lots of juicy additional material that’s never going to be in the slide materials. So take the juice and mix it into your design that keeps the focus on what you want the learner to actually be able to DO – remember action mapping approaches as we’ve talked about before.  This will take you a long way from just spitting back an instructor’s original PowerPoint deck (which anyone could do) and publishing it in the authoring tool of  your choice to a self-paced experience that actually creates an impact – which, of course, only YOU can do, because you’ve got all the juice…