Making the switch from face to face instruction to e-learning is a necessity for most training and professional development programs offered by colleges, universities, graduate programs, corporations, professional associations, and not-for-profits.
How do you use existing resources in your face-to-face training and professional development programs so that they are both effective and cost-efficient in an e-learning / m-learning environments? What kind of e-learning will be most effective for your learners?
Perhaps the largest challenge is to design and operate a system that is both affordable and results in measurable outcomes where you can track the progress of the learners.
Here is a step-by-step that allows you to create an effective, customized solution, and it can be as inexpensive (read, "almost free") or as expensive as you want it to be.
Step 1: Infrastructure:
What do you have now? What will you need in the future?
Learning Management System: The first step is to make an inventory of existing materials. Do you have a legacy LMS? Something like "Course in a Box" or a now-obsolete version of an open source solution?
Cheapest solution: Don't use an LMS at all. Simply use modules that can be downloaded from a site on the web (you can even use Facebook for delivery of modules). A learning management system is useful if you need to integrate numerous applications and keep them together in a protected environment. It's also good if you need to keep records of all interactions of your students with their instructors, their course materials, collaborative activities, and graded activities.
Low-Cost solutions: If you do not have a large organization, you may opt to use the open-source solution, Moodle. If you do not have the time or staff to maintain a Moodle server and all the affliated tasks, you can do a cloud-based solution, with a provider such as Moodle Rooms.
Robust solutions: Blackboard has become the dominant learning management solution for educational applications. For professional applications, there is Meridian Knowledge Systems, which is used by many Fortune 500 companies.
Content Management System: I'd put this first on the list. You'll need a CMS in order to organize and reuse the materials you already have. You can also use it to organize new instructional materials, and to start identifying where you need to update your content. What do you put in a CMS? I'd recommend making it a learning object repository (LOR), and also, consider using a professional solution for it. You may want to host the content on your own server if you are confident enough of your security.
Security Systems: Not only do you have to worry about your instructional materials, it's important to keep a good security system in place in order to assure confidentiality of your learners.
Registration and Records: What kind of online registration system do you have? What kind of archiving / transcripting capabilities do you have? Be sure that what you have is interactive and works well with all the databases.
Compatibility Alert! The best approach is to look at an integrated database solution and to make sure that all your infrastructure elements are compatible. Some of the most expensive and frustrating problems occur when legacy systems are included and they do not truly integrate with your core database.
Talent Management / Learner Archives and Progress: Do you have a curriculum map that shows the courses that are needed to become specialists in certain areas? If you can offer this service, you'll be very useful to the organization as a whole, whether you're a corporation, a college, or a professional organization.
Certificate programs: Certificate programs may be appropriate. However, once a certificate program is in place, it can become stale rather quickly. It's important to maintain something of a boutique operation within the standards in order to provide timely, up-to-date, and relevant information and training.
Web Server: It is becoming increasingly less attractive to maintain your own web server, unless you're a very large organization and can provide Akamai-type cloud service that has multiple backups and redundancies.
Step 2: Curriculum Design
You may be able to reuse your existing curriculum, or modify it for elearning and mlearning.
Programs and Certificates: If you're trying to help learners establish competencies in a field, track, or special area, it's usually necessary to take more than one course. Further, it's important that the courses can be completely quickly, and to reinforce a sense of accomplishment.
Courses: What are the objectives of the program? What do your learners need to be able to demonstrate after they've finished their course? Be sure to include measurable learning objectives.
Modules: Modules can be used in different courses and programs. It is good to have a relatively uniform size and orientation of the modules.
Assessments: Mastery learning approaches are very important, and the kinds of assessments (quizzes, performance, portfolios) are dependent upon the kind of competencies the learners need.
SME: Identifying your subject matter experts early in the game is very useful. You will need them to review material, and to make sure that your programs and certificates are up to date and contain the right kind of material.
Course writers: Course writing is an art and a science. Do you have course writers who can create engaging materials that encourage learners to read?
Instructional Design: Making sure that the materials and the instructional strategy are appropriate for the desired outcome will help assure that your training and professional development programs are effective.
Step 3: Instructional Materials
Identify your existing materials and start designing a repository that you can access easily, and which will allow you to use and re-use objects in a number of locations simultaneously.
This video addresses the issue of identifying existing instructional materials in order to fast-track the development of an e-learning or m-learning-based training and professional development center.
Simulations and Role-Playing
Digital Flashcards (include images and video)
Digital Glossaries (include images and video)
Step 4: Prepare the Instruction
Please take a look at the pdf that is attached to this article.
Instructor Talent Management: existing competencies, specialties, training
Identify suite of courses for instructors to take.
Train the trainer material:
Specialized course for e-learning and hybrid (online and face-to-face)
Prepare main training course.
what is the ideal length? Two-week blocks?
Learners: Develop sequence and schedule for most in-demand content first
Which courses are the most important from a content / concept perspective?
Sandbox LMS: Provide space in the CMS and LMS for instructors to take course in the environment in which e-learning will take place.
Which will have the most positive impact?
Exemplary course: Provide model of exemplary module (or full course), with content, lessons, discussion questions, assessment, instructor interaction, etc.
How does instructor training tie into the deadlines for training?