Friday, September 14, 2012

Turn These Slides into eLearning

By Shelley A. Gable

Ever been handed a PowerPoint slideshow by a client, with the request to convert it into some kind of eLearning thingy?

Oh…and then also told that you only have a week to get it done? (And of course, this is in addition to whatever you already planned to accomplish this week.)

Even if you can’t influence “the powers that be” to allow more time for a proper analysis or to use a different approach, consider taking the actions below to produce a reasonably effective eLearning lesson relatively quickly.

Ask the client what learners must be able to DO after completing the training. Even if the situation doesn’t allow you to conduct a gap and cause analysis to validate the training need, asking this question helps ensure that the training has the potential to influence behavior.

Additionally, creating a quick list of what learners must be able to do can help you:
  • Write objectives
  • Create relevant scenarios
  • Chunk and organize the content around desired behaviors/tasks
  • Distinguish between critical and nice to know information

Write scenarios immediately. I’ve heard some people say that when deadlines are tight, there just isn’t time to write scenarios. I understand how writing scenarios can feel like an extra task, considering that scenarios are probably not included in the original pile of content. However, scenarios benefit learning in so many ways, it’s hard to justify spending time picking out Clip Art to decorate slides rather than writing even a few simple scenarios.

After all, consider these benefits:
  • Introducing a task with a scenario (i.e., a problem for learners to solve) offers an immediate reason for learners to pay attention to the content
  • Presenting scenarios “shows” learners the relevance of the content
  • Providing scenarios for learners to successfully solve helps learners confirm they understand the content, builds confidence, and creates a sense of satisfaction/accomplishment (i.e., scenarios help create “ah ha!” moments)
  • Describing a scenario can help learners recognize when to apply new knowledge on the job (i.e., they can potentially recognize “triggers” from a scenario when those same “triggers” occur on the job, prompting them to apply desired behaviors)

Even under the tightest of timelines, really simple scenarios likely offer some benefit compared to presenting information with no scenarios at all. If you attempt to draft scenarios immediately, you can send them to your client and allow a day or two for review, while you charge ahead with reorganizing and revising content.

Or, ask the client if a subject matter expert can write scenarios for you. If a lack of time or familiarity with the content makes you question your ability to draft decent scenarios, perhaps the client knows someone who can do that part for you. Depending on the complexity of the training, a subject matter expert might be able to draft a few scenarios relatively quickly and easily.

Cut the nice to know information whenever possible. Many of the client-produced PowerPoint decks I’ve seen include a lot of extra information that won’t necessarily help learners do a task. In some cases, it is because the deck was originally compiled for a different type of audience and/or purpose. Perhaps the extra information was relevant for that audience, and now it is my responsibility to determine whether it is relevant for my intended audience. In other cases, it may be because the client doesn’t know how to distinguish between critical versus nice to know information. After all, as instructional designers, this distinction tends to be on our minds more than it is for others.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Don’t assume that all the information in the deck you receive must also appear in training. Focus on what learners must do after training, and attempt to narrow content down to the information that directly instructs those behaviors.

How do you handle these requests?

If you have your own set of strategies for turning a stack of PowerPoint slides into an eLearning lesson, please share!


  1. Writing really makes a more sense but sometimes with writing there should be something that can grab the attention of others too and for this purpose there should be something decorative too.

  2. This website has got some extremely helpful stuff on it! Thanks for informing me.


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