Adapting Existing Training Materials for Online Learning

When you begin the transition to online learning, don’t throw away existing training materials. Traditional training materials can still have value in a new training program, they just may need a bit of massaging. And proper planning and execution can optimize almost any training material for its new role in your online training software.

Identifying training objectives

Before attempting to adapt or convert existing materials, look through your training manuals and learning documents, and consider what each piece of content aims to accomplish. Doing so represents the first step in deciphering your learning goals. Max Yoder, our CEO, covered this beautifully in our Lesson, “Your Guide to Creating Great Lessons,” so I’ll cherry-pick a few of his words:

It’s all about clarity of purpose. Defining your learning goal and objectives is the key to creating impactful Lessons. When we do so, we get clarity on why the Lesson matters (the goal) and how we want it to specifically impact employee behavior (the objectives).

You should have a clear goal and objectives in mind, if your want Learners to truly absorb the information. Maybe your salespeople can’t accomplish their jobs without deep understanding Salesforce; that becomes the learning goal. Build training materials to teach them Salesforce, which represents the learning objective .
And we aren’t alone in this advocating approach. In her white paper, 3 Simple Steps to Move Training Online, training consultant Cindy Huggett says, “Learning objectives will tell you which topics belong in a virtual session, and which topics can be moved to a pre-class or post-class assignment. In other words, learning objectives guide the foundation of the virtual class design.” This is good news! With a little bit of a critical eye, you can deprioritize or eliminate existing training content that doesn’t align with your learning objectives or goals.

Adapting existing training content

You’ve decided which learning documents should move forward to become online training courses. But, before you dive in and start copy-pasting content into your online training software, you’ll likely need to edit them slightly.

Bulleted lists have been a staple of PowerPoint presentations and Word documents since those applications have been around, but such lists aren’t great for learning. Ask any college student how much they learn when a professor reads a bulleted list—word-for-word—from a presentation. , bulleted lists often strip meaning and context from the presented information, creating a disconnect.

Mending this disconnect starts with filling in that missing context. A combination of multimedia and more explanation can vastly increase the amount of context your information brings. Inside a Lessonly Lesson, we often adapt a bullet point into an entire page of information. This makes for shorter pages that are easier to digest for your learners.

The next step in adapting your training content, is to address those long videos, lengthy word documents, and novel-length training manuals you’ve had forever. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of content that needs to be covered, but cramming it into one course or lesson isn’t always the answer. Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, notes in an article for Time magazine, that long lectures and lengthy videos prove unfit for learning because attention “maxed out at around 10 or 15 minutes.” So try to shorten existing documents and videos because shorter content means learners can digest the information better. Shorter content provides another benefit: it’s easier to update. Reshooting a 2-minute video takes much less work than a 10-minute version.

Optimizing training material design

Adapting existing training material to an online training software like Lessonly also presents an opportunity to enhance the content—and Learners’ experience and engagement—through the use of interactive elements. For example, short quizzes between informational sections give Learners time to reflect on what they’ve learned. And data supports that Learners prefer these strategies. Information technologists Mohamed Ibrahim and Osama Al-Shara state, in Impact of Interactive Learning on Knowledge Retention, “It has been observed that [the] one-way communication method of lecturing with limited or no opportunity for feedback from audiences has a major impact on their attention span and retention level.” Notice the correlation between feedback and retention.

Also consider the account of Eric Mazur, who, at the time of his post for Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, had been teaching for many years. Seven years into his teaching career, Mazur was tired of students’ failure to grasp concepts in his classes. So he began asking them to take two minutes and discuss their questions with one another.

The effects were startling.

“I was able to show that [by introducing this], I doubled the learning gains. In fact, learning gains tripled once I got better questions to ask in class and also much longer retention,” Mazur said. “I’ve never looked back.” So by encouraging Learners to interact and problem solve in your training via quiz questions or chat options, you’ll see knowledge retention rise. And adding quizzes and asking questions isn’t hard to do either. If you need some help crafting these questions, we’ve got a great Lesson on that very topic.

So remember that creating effective Lessons from existing content usually requires a little more than simply copying and pasting into sections. But by keeping your Learners in mind, making content bite-sized, and adding engagement, you can still craft effective Lessons very quickly.

Get started adapting your existing training materials for great online Lessons with Lessonly. See for yourself with our free product tour. Sign up today.

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