How To Convert Classroom ESL Training To An eLearning Format: A Step-By-Step Guide

Convert Classroom ESL To eLearning: A Guide
Summary: The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has compelled many ESL training providers, who previously delivered in-class learning, to rethink their delivery approaches. Learn-from-home is likely to be around for some time to come. If you are one of those trainers that haven’t already done so, now might be a good time to consider moving your classroom ESL training to eLearning format.

Why Convert Classroom ESL To eLearning?

With learners shut-in—likely for some time to come—moving your in-class ESL training makes sense. Why? Because, if/when the lockdowns ease, there’s no guarantee that learners will immediately show up for classes. It could be months before it's “teaching as normal!” How will that impact your income?

COVID aside, from a long-term perspective, offering ESL eLearning as an option to choose makes for an alternate income stream that many of us could use in this gig economy. Selling such courses as a stand-alone class or offering them (either for free or as a paid additional resource) to your classroom students may also be a great income booster.

Conversion Guide: 7 Best Practices To Consider

When it comes to moving classroom training online, the approach for ESL trainers to follow is primarily the same as for other remote professionals looking to develop online courses. However, given that teaching a language has certain additional nuances, which teaching other courses like photography or painting don’t pose, it may be prudent to adopt a slightly custom approach to course conversion best practices:

1. Think About Niche Offerings

Simply saying, “I’ll teach English online” may not work for ESL eLearning. And simply digitizing your entire existing ESL curriculum won’t cut it! Instead, think in terms of a modular approach, such as “Conversational English,” “Grammar and Punctuation,” etc.

2. Assess The Demand

Before investing a lot of time/effort in converting your classroom materials, do some research to see if the courses you plan to offer (whether in a single niche or multiple domains) have enough demand. Using a tool like Google Trends may be a good place to start your research.

3. Decide On Format

Before you begin revamping content, consider what format your courses will take. While the more “technical” aspects of the English language, such as teaching punctuation, lend themselves well to slides and text-based delivery, teaching conversational English online works well through podcasts, videos, and MP3-type resources.

4. Re-Tool And Enhance Existing Content

If you already have classroom materials across multiple domains, now’s the time to collate and organize them into niche modules. Most in-class ESL courses tend to have extended content in single sessions—that won’t do for eLearning. Reorganize them into main topics (e.g., “Conversational Greetings”) and then refine further (“Greeting friends/family”; “Introductions with Peers and Colleagues”; “Professional Greetings,” etc.).

5. Get Personal

While teaching in class, it’s easy to “connect” with your learners because you’re in the same room as them. With eLearning, you’ll need to find alternate ways to get personal with a remote audience. You may need to convert some of your classroom-delivered notes and handouts into an audio-visual format so learners may hear/see you. If you are concerned that your voice might not be ideal for vocal delivery, perhaps you can hire a professional voice-over artist to record select parts of the course.

6. Focus On Practice

Like all eLearning, ESL courses rely upon learners’ ability to comprehend what they’ve learned and then put it into practice. To accomplish that, embed plenty of reading, writing and elocution exercises, and assessments into the curriculum. Making reviewing renowned English newspapers, online broadcasts, and social and business websites a “must do” task is a good idea to compel learning of practical English.

7. Think 24/7 Instead Of “In Class”

When teaching ESL in a classroom setting, instructors deliver lectures and elicit learner feedback during the session. With eLearning, you’ll need to broaden that focus to “learning anytime.” So, where you’d throw up a picture or graphic on a whiteboard and get feedback from the class, convert those slides into digital photos and post them on an online site. Then, encourage learners to comment by using social sites like Flickr or Facebook. Instead of interacting in class, learners may now leave feedback anytime and from anywhere!

4 Success Strategies That Work

Implementing the 7 best practices highlighted above will put you on track for a successful classroom-to-eLearning conversion path. However, here are 4 strategies that’ll ensure your success:

1. Understand Your Audience

Is it younger learners aiming to start college/university? Mid-career professionals? New immigrants looking to start a life in an English-speaking country? Each group requires a customized approach—less theory, more writing skills, greater emphasis on vocabulary, less punctuation, and more emphasis on pronunciations, etc. That understanding will fuel content-conversion decisions.

2. Choose Your Teaching Platform Wisely

There are several online learning platforms to choose from. It’s worth remembering, however, that your teaching format has a big influence on your choice of platform. Some of the platforms might work well for text-based tutorials, others may lend themselves best for interactive-style English conversational learning.

Launching a successful ESL course also depends on how well your platform supports you (and your students) when it comes to mode of delivery. For example, if you intend to deliver one-on-one coaching sessions, a WhatsApp video call might be a great way to deliver personalized learning. But for larger group sessions, Skype or Zoom may be a better fit.

3. Think About Marketing

As you’ll discover from exploring the links provided above, there are a host of online learning platforms out there that you can tap into to launch your ESL eLearning program. However, success often comes through strong marketing and sales support. For example, of the tools covered in the link provided here, platforms like Thinkific offer great course marketing features. But, even though Udemy is one of the top learning platforms, it’s marketing support to course authors is nonexistent.

4. Price Reasonably

A final success strategy is to price for success! This one is especially pertinent to keep in mind based on your learning audience. If your learners are students or fresh immigrants looking to start life from the ground up, it’s unlikely they’ll afford a high price tag—unlike the corporate clients you may target.

Summing It All Up

Whether it’s the current pandemic that’s forcing you to rethink moving your classroom training to eLearning or whether you’d like to make ESL training a gig for the future, making the switch isn’t about digitizing content and hosting it on the cloud. It requires following some conversion best practices and implementing some successful strategies.

Hopefully, you’ll find our thoughts in this post, on both these aspects, enlightening and helpful. Good luck with your conversion!

Get a copy of the Instructional Design for eLearning: Essential guide for designing successful eLearning courses book to learn more about converting classroom training into eLearning.