I’m sure you’ve had a colleague ask you a question that goes something like this:
We have this user guide here that we use for training – can you convert it into an online course for us?
Or perhaps more frequently:
We have these PowerPoint slides here that we use for presentations – can you convert them into an online course?
In such situations, I’m glad my colleague thinks so highly of e-learning that he or she is willing to pursue it as a mode of delivery.
However, I don’t see much point in converting a document or a slideshow into an online course. It’s simply a waste of time and effort to reinvent the wheel – sure, the new wheel looks bright and shiny, but does it offer any real advantages over the old one?
In my role as an e-learning consultant, I would advise my colleague to deliver the content as a PDF instead. The learner can then download it, read it, and (hopefully) learn something from it. In other words, the PDF does the same job as the proposed online course, but significantly quicker, cheaper and easier.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking… That’s not very engaging! And I agree with you. One of the wonderful things about e-learning is its ability to support engaging learning experiences. Multimedia, interactivity and non-linearity all promote the learner from sleepy page turner to active explorer.
So whenever you source content from a document or a slideshow for an online course, don’t merely convert it… transform it. Challenge every paragraph of text, every static picture. Can it be delivered in a different format? Perhaps a game? An animation? A quiz? A puzzle? Audio? Video? Should the content be split, rearranged, reorganised? Can something be cut and something else added?
My rule of thumb is to ask myself:
What will my courseware offer that a PDF won’t?
If the answer is “plenty”, then go for it. But if the answer is “not much”, then why bother?