E-Learning is More than Just Slideshows

Over the last twelve months, we’ve seen an increase in the pace of change for training and development, moving further from the traditional model of classroom-based learning with groups of learners in the same physical location, to a model where learning is entirely online, whether entirely self-directed, or guided by a trainer via video or webinars.  As the social and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be felt, there will understandably be a further shift away from the expensive classroom model.

Taking an existing training course and turning it in to an online programme of study might, on the face of it, seem to be a quick win.  After all, the slideshow that has underpinned the training session is the same one (give or take a few spelling corrections) that you’ve used for the last couple of years and has worked brilliantly, right? 

Well, maybe.  But when you think about it, surely it’s not the slideshow that has been delivering the key value in the training session, otherwise you’d just have posted the notes to people rather than booking a training room and taking people away from their desks.  Somewhere there’s a missing “X factor” that when added to the slides provided the great experience before, and somehow you’ll need to tap in to that and adapt it to suit the very different needs of an online audience.

Unlike being in a training room, with e-learning, there is no shared physical environment.  The training room for one participant might be their spare bedroom, for another it might be the kitchen, for others it might be their garden, loft, sofa, or anywhere where there’s space to put a laptop.  There are no hard and fast rules about timings – there’s no cleaning team rattling down the corridor towards you if you work later in the afternoon, and no pressure to learn in a single extended session. You can start when you want to, take breaks whenever you need to, and replay or review material at any point.

Being able to review content and notes when they’re needed is a real advantage of e-learning.  It helps learners refresh their understanding of key topics and reduces the number of errors that they are likely to make when applying their new knowledge – it improves their experience, but also benefits the business as a whole.

Think about your slideshow again – how much of the content of your training session would normally be limited to just the text on the screen?  Probably not much.  As you worked through the slides in a traditional setting, you would elaborate on the points shown and add a human element to them, putting them in to context and sharing your experiences – and probably tapping in to the experiences of your learners too.  All of that interaction and context is lost if you stick to the existing slides, so a big element of transforming your slideshow into effective e-learning is going to have to involve reviewing the content.

Using the original slideshow as a starting point is a great idea, but you’ll find as you review it that there are going to be a lot of changes - from simple things such as the language that you use, and the way that you explain jargon or the tone that you use when explaining concepts, through to the visual tricks that you use to emphasise key points (and even, which points you emphasise).

You’ll really need to concentrate on making your key messages clear and enhancing it with your visuals. Use what is necessary but avoid overdoing it or else the visuals will become more of a distraction than an enhancement.

Remember, without you to deliver the content, the content will only be able to “speak” for itself.  This can be a huge advantage if the course is designed correctly, and with well-presented support and clear explanations your course can provide a consistently good learning experience that your learners will value. 

As you begin to develop more content and understand your learners better, the process of creating e-learning will naturally get easier.  Be prepared to test content with a small number of learners first and listen to their feedback – don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. 

If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas to help you transform your existing resources in to engaging e-learning, why not explore the content catalogue on the Development Zone, or try some of the Advanced topics relating to custom content in the DevZone Academy to find out more about the tools available to help you?

About the author

After gaining a degree in Computer Science, Tim spent nine years teaching in a number of secondary schools (11-19 year olds) in Wales.  For the majority of his time teaching, Tim led a highly successful team of teachers delivering vocational ICT qualifications and reached the level of Associate Assistant Headteacher before leaving teaching.  He has also been a senior examiner and moderator for one of the UK's largest awarding bodies.  Since 2013 he has been the senior developer for the Development Zone.

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