5 Ways To Transform Distance Learning Content

5 Ways To Transform Distance Learning Content
Summary: Sick and tired of distance learning being the old way? Many organizations are stuck with providing students with text-heavy materials. In this article I suggest ways to transform text heavy distance learning materials into engaging digital learning content.

How To Transform Distance Learning Content 

Isn’t it amazing how old distance learning is? According to some articles it’s been used to teach students for over 200 years! In the old days, students applied for a course with a university or other educational organization. They’d be posted their text-based distance learning course materials and maybe get some tutor support by mail and/or phone (when the phone was invented, of course).

In recent years, many organizations may have extended their distance learning offering to provide more support by email and/or discussion boards. A learning platform may have arrived where more text heavy materials were added.

But... and here is the big BUT. This is where some organizations remain stuck. Whether in paper format or online in PDF format, text heavy materials are given to students to wade through. In this day and age how effectively can students learn from this text heavy approach? Do distance learning organizations feel they have no choice but to adopt this approach because of the vast curriculum that has to be delivered?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The choice of learning technologies is endless. So the possibilities of creating digital learning content are also endless meaning organizations do have choices. Many choices.

A distance learning course is the perfect learning product for using eLearning. There will be a specific curriculum which needs to be taught, so a large pool of content already exists. It’s not about starting from scratch. It’s about thinking creatively about how distance learning content is designed.

Here are five suggestions on how to transform distance learning content into engaging digital learning content – all of which I have used or come across being used effectively.

  1. Give case studies an interactive scenario make over.
    Case studies are often used in distance learning content to illustrate a theoretical perspective of a topic and give students questions to solve around the case. A suggested model answer is usually provided so students can compare it with their own answer. Transform these case studies into an interactive scenario. Make students the protagonist in the scenario giving them the opportunity to make decisions or apply concepts as they would in the real world. Build in feedback around the decisions a student has made, choices they have selected. After completing the scenario, students can then discuss it with other students to share their experience.
  2. Covert examples into a story.
    Expand on key examples used in course materials and convert them into a visual story. For example, in a recent animation project for a university I worked on, a key project management framework has five steps. In the course materials, each step has a different industry example explaining how the step can be applied. In the real world, students would be applying the framework from one perspective i.e. one industry example. With this in mind, one industry example was used for all steps and a story created telling students how the whole framework was used. The animation is a bite-sized piece of digital content; is audio driven, highly visual and has no student interaction as such. However, because of the media used, the animation allows students to step back from all the text heavy materials and learn about the topic from a different perspective. Using different approaches to teach, creates those “Aha” moments when a student says “I finally get it”. This animated approach also benefited the teaching faculty hugely.  As subject matter experts, they were urged to think differently about the way they teach particular topics.
  3. Design show and tell content.
    The foundation for a subject like Accounting is built on numerical concepts and principles. Trying to learn the numerical concepts purely from text narrative can be challenging. Students struggling with these concepts may need to be shown in detail how to apply formulas and interpret numbers. Design worked through solutions which demonstrate how to solve such numerical problems step by step. Present the data, show formulas being applied, explain where numbers come from and illustrate the business impact of results. There are many software tools which you can use to create this kind of solution for distance learning delivery – such as whiteboard tutorial software, screen recording tools.  This approach can be used for many subjects.
  4. Develop interactive exam practice questions.
    For distance learning programs which are assessed by examination, students will typically go through past papers and model answers. Develop interactive resources around past exam questions which guide students through the key stages in answering questions. They can compare their answer to a model answer and see examples of different levels of answers; some low graded answers and some best practice answers. Provide hints and tips on answering exam questions for specific subjects and topics.
  5. Go 100% digital with all content.
    This is the bravest and boldest option. It means saying goodbye to most, if not all, paper based / text heavy materials and rethinking your course content strategy. It means investing in a future which is aligned to the ever growing digital world. It means embracing the many possibilities of learning technologies and delivering education for the next generation of distance learners. The College of Estate Management took this brave and bold step in 2014 and won the 2015 Bronze eLearning Award for Best online distance learning program.

One Final Thought 

Organizations offering distance learning programs need to change their game… and quickly. If they’re not already here now, the next generation of distance learners will be here very soon. They will not have the time or motivation to go through those text-heavy materials. They will demand variety of media in their learning and more importantly will be used to learning digitally.

Make sure your distance learning organization is ready for them.