11 STRANGER THINGS: Moving From Face-To-Face To Online

11 STRANGER THINGS: Moving From Face-To-Face To Online
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com
Summary: 11 STRANGER THINGS that can go wrong when entering the upside down WORL&D of eLearning while moving face-to-face content online...

11 STRANGER THINGS: Entering The Upside Down WORL&D Of eLearning

So, your senior leadership has decided to move an Instructor-Led (ILT) course to online. It will save a lot of money, it will be accessible to all, any time, anywhere, and it’s going to be fun! Really, really, fun! What can go wrong?


Here are eleven things that can go wrong. Really, really, wrong:

1/11 The Voice

While in the face-to-face session a real-life facilitator talks, for the eLearning course, you need to decide on the voice. Male or female? Accent? Age? For some reason, real-life people are allowed to bring the session to life with jokes, humor, and natural conversational tone. eLearning courses often end up with boring, brochure reading unnatural marketing speech. Be aware!

2/11 The Length

Honestly, your 6-hour face-to-face session is now going to be a 30-minute course? What were you doing for the other 5 and a half hours? You can’t just magically put the ILT content in a mixer and compress it to 30 minutes. Guess what goes first? Interactions. Believe me, 1 minute of brain-wasting reading online is comparable of 1 hour of blunt-force trauma in a face-to-face session.

3/11 The Content

The content is a beast! Do not move the content online! It’s painful to wait for the next button while you’re chained to listen to the “content”. Don’t try to transfer the content, translate the experience instead! The advantage of eLearning is interactivity and personalized feedback. Context, challenge, and feedback will result in engagement. Without these things, you’re probably just making an ILT cheaper, yet less effective.

4/11 The Interactions

The most valuable part of a face-to-face session is the interaction between people and collective reflection. DIALOG is worth more than any content coverage. This is what you completely lose online in a “course”. Your learner will be surrounded by empty chairs. Alone. What’s your plan to address that? Hint: try something like this.

Avatars can open a can of worms. First of all, why do you need an avatar? Is the purpose to enhance learning? You may or may not know but research shows that in some cases not using any avatar results in the same (or even better) effectiveness. And there’s the choice: cartoon, realistic, or real? Cartoons are silly. Marketing wants realistic or real people. Then HR wants diversity. Okay, then you’ll have two avatars, and the user can choose. Best would be actual workers but Legal warns all about the traps (what if they leave the company). Cut-out people don’t wear company uniforms. They need to be customized. Their expressions are exaggerated anyway. Now, what? Let’s hire actors! Dress them up, and do an all-day photo shoot. Oh, but now we have to go back to the VOICE. It needs to match! 🙂

6/11 The Cost

One of the main reasons companies go with eLearning (good or bad) is because of cost. Once the course is “created” online, it’s accessible and available for “free”. Therefore, the more people “take” the course, the “cheaper” it gets. With rapid authoring, you can even reduce the upfront cost and increase speed to market. No, you won’t be able to turn your scary-boring courses more engaging with a rapid authoring tool. You’ll still create more scary-boring courses. Just faster. There’s a hidden cost we often don’t talk about. It’s not measured in dollars. It’s measured in morale and reputation of our industry. Not everything should be “content in a course”. Start with Cathy Moore’s action mapping. ACTIONS in MEANINGFUL CONTEXT is what you need start with, not things people need to know.

7/11 The Branding

Oh, every eLearning must adhere to your branding guidelines! Colors, logos, white space, tone and all. To save money, you create a template. Templates will help you increase speed to market even more! You carefully lay out all the elements, colors, navigation, and all for the CONTENT to be plugged in. Then you realize it works only for “slide show”-type of courses. Your stakeholder wants to change the interaction. You don’t have a template for that. But overall, your courses look great!

8/11 The Facilitator

In real life, your facilitator controls the room, the people, the show. He or she is the driver of the experience. The facilitator can skip things, alter things, tweak things, or screw up things. Inconsistent, but there’s control in the room. No need for forcing people to listen to a slide until they move on because it’s all controlled by the facilitator. You give up all that power in eLearning. Thanks to modern apps, you can lock users in a screen until the audio finishes to make sure they hear every word at gun point. Learning does not happen in a slide. Learning happens outside the slide, outside the course. Show relevance, challenge knowledge or skill, provide feedback. Then, you’ll have engagement and motivation. Forcing people to listen to audio should be banned like forcefeeding animals.

9/11 The Maintenance

We live a world of constant change. Remember that great template-driven, marketing-approved, good-looking course that was cost-effective in two paragraphs above? This is what it looks now. Did you calculate the maintenance cost when you decided to include those videos? Oh, by the way, the Sr. Leader left the company, could we cut out that intro in the middle of the clip that includes him? The product has changed. We need to update the game…

10/11 The Fun

The was a British group in the 80’s, called Madness. Best-known songs (by me): Our House and House of Fun. Welcome to the house of fun! Instead of taking you out of your daily work, giving lunch and a warm room with others to joke around, now you can hang a “Please don’t bother me, I’m taking a course” sign on your cube. But wait, we gamified the boring content for you. You earn clown badges for each multiple-choice questions if you wait until the audio finishes. Not everyone ends up being a super-clown! See the leaderboard? You’re on 235th place. Don’t gamify boring content! If you truly want to change behavior, start with actions. What people need to do! Actions and decisions. Gamify that through meaningful challenges, and use the content to give feedback and provide support.

11/11 The Nose Bleed

Spoiler Alert: if you have not watched Stranger Things (1 or 2), you may want to skip the Nose Bleed section! Okay, the dismal, “horroristic” pictures above make you want to go back to the classroom. That’s not the intent here. A face-to-face session can also be just like a frozen waffle: bad. The point is, bad learning design is bad learning design. Whether you’re in the downside WORL&D, or the upside WORL&D, it can make your nose bleed. And you know what happens then! Eleven bad things can happen.


Before you do anything about transforming your classroom training to an online course, you may want to start with the following questions:

  • Do you need the course at all (whether offline or online)?
  • What do you expect people to be able to DO (action or decision) after taking this course?
  • What part of the course supports learning and applying that knowledge or skill?
  • Why do you want the course online? How will you measure success?
  • What’s working today?
  • What’s not working today?
  • Why?

Moving content from offline to online is like reading a book on TV. That is not a movie. Start with the end in mind, not with the content in mind. Video tape the face-to-face session. Watch where participants are ACTIVE throughout the recording. That is your target! And please, don’t spoon-feed your participants frozen waffles!

Originally published at bit.ly.