Making the Change from Classroom to Virtual Training Delivery

These are challenging times for everyone. As Learning & Development professionals we’re under immense pressure and it’s more important than ever that learners get access to remote learning. This may be a massive shift in strategy for some organisations who are used to delivering training face to face, in the classroom.

Making the change to virtual training is not as simple as taking your classroom course content and pushing it through a rapid authoring tool. Yes, if you have PowerPoint presentations, for example, this can quickly give you an online deliverable, but without the classroom trainer it becomes a flat presentation. There’s no interaction with the learner, so it won’t be as engaging as a classroom course.

The good news is that if you have classroom content, you don’t need to start your eLearning design from scratch. However, we recommend that you use this content as your start point, not the end point. There are several approaches you can choose when converting your classroom content. The direction you take will depend on many factors, including time and budget. Based on our knowledge and experience of eLearning instructional design, these are the options we would discuss with our clients.

Option 1 - Basic PowerPoint Slide Conversion

This option is quick and affordable. However, it’s not as straightforward as a simple import and it’s done. This process needs to include reviewing and updating the content to align with online delivery, to ensure the best learner engagement. It is relatively fast; our experienced developers could complete the conversion of about 100 slides per day.

If you want to track and assess progress, and prove learner understanding of the subject matter, you should also incorporate assessments. Again, you can use your existing classroom content, recreate it in your rapid authoring tool and assign it to the course or module. It’s a relatively straightforward process and an experienced developer should be able to create 25 assessments per day. The resulting content should not be considered eLearning, however, rather classroom content, delivered online. We would only ever recommend this approach if the Project was time sensitive.

Option 2 - Analysis and Conversion, with SME Review

This option recognises the original slides have been designed for classroom delivery in that the content within many of the slides is multi-faceted, containing multiple messages. Prior to conversion of the slides, the content would be analysed (ideally with a subject matter expert) to identify where it could be restructured and/or presented in a more engaging format, to reflect instructional design best practices.

This approach will of course take more time and usually results in a restructured course, with the content presented in smaller ‘nuggets’ which are easier to consume via eLearning. There could also be a requirement to extend the assessments for this content, reworking the original questions across the extended structure.

Option 3 - Facilitated Virtual Training

If your learning objectives dictate the need to offer facilitated training, rather than self-service eLearning, you may need to consider a virtual classroom set up. This traditionally comprises:

  • Facilitator
  • Script, set up, timings, etc.
  • Sharing of online resources including migrated PowerPoint Slides
  • Access to a virtual classroom, including a development environment (as well as access to the target application if it’s systems training), where exercises are completed to consolidate understanding with the support of the Facilitator

The structure of your virtual training course will be defined by a Lesson Plan, much the same as it would be for classroom delivery. For example, introduce the context/scenario, demonstrate the feature within context and then ask the learners to work through the interactive simulations to understand the step by step. At the end of each session you may set a hands-on, scenario-based exercise to be completed in a sandbox environment, ideally with the Facilitator available.

As with options one and two above, the classroom presentations could be used as the basis for creation of the virtual deliverables. Session times would vary depending on the course content but an average eLearning delivery time of six presentations of 10 minutes duration is recommended, interspersed with hands-on learning which would total a 3.5-hour course. If we were to develop this course content, the first Pack would take two days to prepare and subsequent packs, using the first as a template, would take approximately one day to develop.

If you are intending to use a Facilitator to deliver your virtual training, you should also consider the development of Facilitator Packs. This would support the Facilitator in delivering the course, rather like Instructor Manuals for classroom courses. The Facilitator Packs contain an outline of the revised structure with lesson plans, presentation slides, timings, scripts, plus hints and tips to assist classroom trainers in the migration to on-line course facilitation. A train-the-trainer session is also recommended (delivered as a half day workshop), to prepare your Facilitator for online delivery.

Learner content could also be published into MS Word or PDF format - often learners appreciate the opportunity to make notes on the documentation to aid understanding and retention of their knowledge.

Option 4 - Recreation of Content for Mobile Devices

If you’re considering making your classroom content accessible to learners from any device (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile) then a straightforward conversion of your existing presentation slides won’t be suitable. The original PowerPoint slides used in the classroom provide an excellent starting point for the storyboarding of content to be developed via an eLearning tool.

Designing eLearning for multiple devices does take more time and effort than building a traditional desktop course. Most importantly, you need to plan your content and consider exactly what you want your learners to see on different devices before you start to develop your course.

Finding the right tool that supports responsive design will save you time and help guide you through the development process.

Option 5 - Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality (AR)

With the evolution of technology, the possibilities for transforming classroom-based training really are becoming endless – the only restrictions being your resources and budget. One ‘blue-sky’ option you might consider, for example, would be a VR or AR solution.

If your subject matter is practical or interactive, rather than system or management type training, then VR is an excellent option. It provides learners with a real-life experience, usually supported by pre-training discussions and post training assessments.

AR is the practical version of performance support. Key in situations where learners need on the job support, live on a production line, for example.

The approach you take to convert your classroom content to a virtual training solution will depend on your business requirements and the needs of your learners – there is not one solution for everyone. Your project may be time sensitive, in which case option one above could be the best solution in the short term. However, if you have more time or the budget to involve a content development partner, then one of the other options may provide a more comprehensive, future-proof solution.

Shifting from classroom to virtual training delivery is going to require an investment in time, resources and budget in the short term. But in the longer term the benefits should outweigh this significantly as your overheads (travel, expenses, venue hire, IT support, etc.) are reduced and learner engagement as well as knowledge retention increases.