eLearning Transition Protocol Development: Moving F2F Training Online

Moving F2F Training Online: The 7-Step Process
Summary: The purpose of this article is to provide a step-by-step, F2F-to-online-transition path for training providers to undertake and to make their training programs available via virtual classrooms!

The 7-Step Process For Moving Training Online

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caught many training providers by surprise and without sufficient time to plan, design, test, and implement virtual classrooms. Many of the in-progress developments have to be fast-tracked dramatically. Even more dramatically, training programs that were never meant to go online in the first place, now have to be moved online literally "overnight." Along with the training programs’ delivery, supporting services (IT support, student services, enrollments, facilities, etc.) also have to be shifted online "over the very same night.’’ This poses the training providers with a previously unprecedented challenge of conquering the world of eLearning as fast as possible and continuing to deliver the benefits that they have been offering (and in some cases already got paid for, so are consequently having no other choice but to deliver) to their face-to-face cohorts.

When faced with a challenge of such caliber, it is imperative to get to work as soon as we can, and working hard is going to be of little significance if while doing so, we won’t be working smart! The purpose of this article is to provide a step-by-step, F2F-to-online-transition path for the training providers to undertake and to make their training programs available via virtual classrooms!

The Steps

While each and every F2F (Face-to-Face) to online transition is obviously a unique project, it is nevertheless possible (and essential) to have standard protocols for moving F2F training programs to the online environment. Doing so in an ad hoc mode is going to make the consistency of those protocols even more crucial for avoiding major mishaps.

Below is a condensed version of the eLearning Transition Protocol Development Process:

  1. Training delivery infrastructure mapping
  2. Business process mapping
  3. Business process grading
  4. Collecting IT infrastructure requirements
  5. High importance process development and integration
  6. High importance processing: testing and roll-out
  7. eLearning system completion, testing, and adjustments

1. Training Delivery Infrastructure Mapping

Infrastructure mapping involves the creation of the basic physical and organizational structure of an organization or an enterprise. It may be odd but many of the training providers do not have updated infrastructure maps! It may have been years since the initial infrastructure got built and implemented. As the training delivery infrastructure gets updated, so should the respective infrastructure maps. Having an updated map is the stepping stone for any further developments!

2. Business Process Mapping

Once the current infrastructure has been confirmed, the next step is to establish business processes that make up this infrastructure. Within an educational setting, examples of the business processes may include: marking attendance, delivering lectures, handing out tutorial materials, etc. As online delivery is meant to emulate the F2F delivery, the business processes need to be defined very clearly so the transition to the online environment does not result in the business proposition and the consequent value delivery to the learners being compromised! As we are translating an existing service into the new language of "cyberspace" rather than developing a new service, all the previously stated business process outcomes must be met!

3. Business Process Grading

At the times of the F2F to online transitions being ad hoc, the business process grading involves assessing the business processes and their respective roles within the training delivery framework to establish whether they are of high importance, medium importance, or low importance.

When a need to migrate a F2F training program online arises half-way through the program (a challenge that literally every college and training department around the globe is facing now), it is clear that it is not possible to achieve the complete transition of the programs within a day or two. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize the migration of the business processes that are of high importance over the other processes to make them available to both the instructors and the learners as soon as possible; some other processes may be added later. For example, if a college is one week shy of having to run a mid-semester test, the implementation of online testing tools is a high-importance task and should, therefore, be addressed ASAP. On the other hand, there may be tasks that are important but not essential in the short term and could consequently be delayed for now and made available only during later chapters of the training delivery.

4. Collecting IT Infrastructure Requirements

While business infrastructure incorporates business requirements, IT infrastructure plays the role of supporting business operations with the technologies and technology management services required to keep these operations running smoothly.

In ad hoc scenarios, it is often impossible to implement the ‘’ideal’’ technologies on short notice so interim solutions may be needed. Also, emphasis should be placed on technologies that support high-importance processes. Where the training programs are part of a larger organizational framework (e.g., training modules for real estate agencies or plumbing companies), it is important to understand how to fit the online training delivery into those respective frameworks. The training providers are likely to have a solid overall IT infrastructure already; so for instance, if a real estate agency is using a particular platform, the F2F training programs should ideally be placed onto the very same platform rather than a new one.

5. High Importance Process Development And Integration

Once the business requirements and the technologies behind those requirements are established, the development phase of the project may commence. The initial task is to develop the high-importance processes as they are absolutely essential for keeping the training programs running, even if not at full capacity. Even with limited functionality, an online program may be able to meet its core short-term objectives, while further developments and improvements are taking place.

6. High Importance Processes: Testing And Roll-Out

Once the high-importance processes are completed and can be autonomously (I am obviously not going to advocate running of half-baked processes that are interdependent with other facets of the system that are yet to be developed!), they can be tested and made available to the users.

I would like to emphasize once again that a scenario where incomplete systems are put to work are far from ideal and would not be acceptable. If not for the fact that when the unexpected (such as the COVID-19 dramatic attack) happens, the choices are limited to either not running the training programs at all or running them in a less appealing yet more feasible (in the short term) way!

7. eLearning System Completion, Testing, And Adjustments

And the last (but not the least) important step involves the completion of the online training systems and making further adjustments based on both the testing results and the user feedback.

It is very likely that given the ad hoc nature of the developments, the user feedback is going to identify a lot of space for improvements. Fine-tuning and polishing take time, so while the initial versions of the online training systems may be completed fast, closure of the online transition projects is not likely to occur within a month or two.

The Positive Concluding Remark: Rays Of Sunshine Behind The Storm Clouds

As discussed above, the current wave of the F2F to online transitions has been extremely disruptive due to being unplanned. The training providers had to come up with the right processes and technologies on very short notice and often without sufficient skills or available resources. All of this has been happening during a period of time when accessing the human and technology resources required is significantly harder than usual. Not only the training providers but the entire planet has been caught off guard. However, every cloud has a silver lining! The traumatic shift of the services’ paradigms toward online delivery may, after all, result in some positives!

Once we do celebrate a victory over COVID-19 and get a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, we will hopefully appreciate the fact that:

  • All of the major training providers are now going to be able to deliver all of the training programs online.
  • Public and private organizations have training departments that are eLearning savvy and are able to utilize learning and service technologies better than ever before.
  • As necessity is the mother of invention, we are going to emerge from the crisis with a range of new eLearning technologies.
  • The level of technical literacy across the training providers is going to increase dramatically.