Monday, August 24, 2009

Short Cuts for Converting Classroom Courses to Online Courses - Ask an Instructional Designer

I recently answered an email question from a reader named Barb that might interest other readers as well:

Question: Eric,

I ran into your site through the Internet and would like some advice on the following.

I am a trainer and am currently working with a couple of other trainers on converting our Instructor led courses into online self paced courses using Captivate.

We know there will be work to re-design some of the content etc. However, I am looking for shortcuts. the content has already been approved by SME's.

I wondered if we could "storyboard" the content out in Powerpoint and then bring it into Captivate. In other words I want to avoid extra steps. Instead of using Microsoft Word to storyboard content, we would just place the graphics and text within a Powerpoint world and then bring it in. Or do we even need to use Powerpoint?

Your suggestions would be appreciated.



Hi Barb,

You have a good question here. In my view it all comes down to how you envision the finished product meeting the needs of your target market. You mention that you are developing instructor-led training into an online self-paced course; however, you do not mention the topic of the course, the types of students that you are serving, or your proposed course delivery strategy.

So I will make a few of assumptions in answering your question.

Assumption 1: the topic of the course is some type of training on how to use a computer system or a piece of software.I make this assumption (or guess) because you are choosing an audiovisual-based authoring tool like Adobe Captivate to present your training.

Assumption 2: your students are established employees at a company that will be required to use this new software or computer system in their job.

Assumption 3: if you are looking for shortcuts on how to re-engineer existing classroom materials for use in a online self-paced course, then I assume your time is limited to complete this project. Perhaps your budget is limited as well.

Assumption 4: the SME-approved classroom materials that you have available to you are print-based materials. Perhaps in MS-Word format.

So if these above four assumptions (or predictions!) hold then this is my advice to you.

Use a print-based framework for your finished product; however, augment the print-based material with short audio-video tutorials (created with Adobe Captivate) that show students the piece of software in action. By choosing this route, you take a major short-cut of being able to re-use some of the existing course materials in MS-Word format. You only need to invest your energies in augmenting the paper-based course materials with appropriate audio-video tutorials. This solution also circumvents the need to use Powerpoint. Last I checked people still prefer reading material on paper vs. the computer screen.

In the end you can upload a series of Captivate Videos to YouTube and then mail-out a paper-based workbook to students. That way students can keep the workbook and consult it when they are back in the workplace for 'just in time training', and similarly, the YouTube videos are accessible 24/7 from work or at home. There is no need for you to have a specialized learning management system in place to deliver such a course either. That saves on budget as well.

I hope this answer helps. Take care.


Do you have other recommendations for Barb? If so, post a comment below.


Anonymous said...

Assumption 1 is faulty. Captivate is not just for software demonstrations. It is great for branching scenarios for example. Captivate can present scenarios that allow application of methods presented in the print content then branch the learner to appropriate responses to the learners choice. Captivate content can be embedded in a PDF so that the learner can read the print content then take this assessment.

Dave Ferguson said...


I want to reinforce what you point out at the beginning of your reply: what's important is not the tools involved (PowerPoint, Word, Captivate) but the nature of the desired learning: what's the topic, who's the audience, and what's the strategy?

I'd go on to say: what will the participants do once they're back on the job? That, more than anything else, is the searchlight to use when you're examining an existing course with an eye to transforming it.

One suggestion for Barb and her colleagues: do something small. Give yourself the opportunity to combine the best of what you know as designers (ways to help people learn) with your own learning by doing.

In particular, don't start by asking "how can we use Feature X in the course?" Instead, ask "how can we apply Strategy Y, which looks great for Skill Z?" What that means is let your need guide your search for a tool, rather than letting features make the decision for you.

Invite your experts and stakeholders to help. If your organization hasn't done much online learning, both the process and the results may be unfamiliar to them. An online course is not instructor-led stuff transported to a web server (though sometimes you sure get that impression).

I see that Eric has included Cathy Moore's excellent Making Change site in his blogroll. So my second suggestion to Barb would be: set PowerPoint and Captivate aside for half an hour and browse through Cathy's ideas.

Finally, although Tom Kuhlmann's Rapid E-Learning blog deals with Articulate rather than captivate, he consistently shows creative and effective ways to use online tools to foster learning, as in this post about branching and learner choice.

Eric said...


Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed comment. It's good stuff. I also appreciate that recent post of Tom Kuhlmann's about branching and learner choice. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Take care


DFerriero said...

A lot of interesting points in this post, Eric. This article from SyberWorks (a customer e-learning content and solutions provider)may be of interest to you and your readers as well: "10 Instructional Design Tips for e-Learning Development".

Julien said...

Hi Eric,

Nice summary of the issue!

I'd like to share with you a couple of more detailed definitions of LMS and LCMS. It would definitely benefit your readers by providing a deeper coverage of the topic.

LMS guru Nic Hinder wrote a comprehensive 2-page article on LMS, LCMS, how they are different and how they overlap. I would really appreciate if you could link this article onto your blog.

Here’s the link to part 1:
And to part 2:

Thanks a lot and have a good one!