Learn the ins and outs of elearning for training providers in this free ebook!
Are you a training provider attempting to move into e-learning? If so, this training provider’s guide to e-learning is for you. Mastering the e-learning landscape takes up valuable time and resources, and we want to help you succeed as quickly and efficiently as possible. We specialize in partnering with training companies, and we know what it takes to thrive and grow in the competitive e-learning industry. This guide will help you transition from in-person to digital training with ease. If you need any support or information, feel free to contact us at any time.
We want to make your transition as stress-free as possible. This guide will take you through three comprehensive stages: devising a plan, designing your courses, and deploying your content. Not only will you learn the basics of being an online training provider, but you will also get a walkthrough of the best tools and practices available to complete your digital conversion. By the end of this e-book, our goal is for you to feel 100% confident in your ability to become a digital training provider.
There’s never been a more exciting time to enter the e-learning market. The market has been in growth mode for years, but then COVID-19 hit, exponentially increasing the need for high-quality education to be available from anywhere. Taking your training online will open your company to tremendous growth potential. All you need is credible knowledge, a straightforward action plan, and a bit of time.
Jumping from in-person training into the digital realm can be a formidable task. As a traditional in-person training provider, you may be overwhelmed with the vast knowledge and resources it takes to move to a digital model. However, this training provider’s guide to e-learning will simplify your path and have you on the road to a booming e-learning business in no time!
Stage One: Devise a Plan
What tools do you need?
Moving to online training will require different tools than what you’ve traditionally used for in-person training. One of the most vital is the authoring tool. With this, you can create content with little to no technical or programming experience. There are many options to consider, but mainly, you want to choose software that is compatible with the other tools you will use and that is SCORM compliant. Depending on your business needs, you may also want to look into screen-recording tools, audio/visual tools, and graphic design programs.
Another major component is your LMS, or learning management system. An LMS is a platform that will help you host and deliver your learning content. A good LMS is like a partner and will be the cornerstone of your e-learning management. As a training provider, you should choose an LMS, such as Firmwater LMS, that is built for your specific needs. When you evaluate your options, you should determine what functionalities you need. At a minimum, a training provider will require a SCORM-compliant LMS that can manage multiple accounts and has many integration options.
Lastly, think about where you’re going to be marketing and selling your online training. You need a powerful e-commerce platform that can work with your LMS, giving you flexibility and superior growth tools. Shopify, a Firmwater partner, includes everything that you need to sell online. You can quickly and easily set up an online storefront to sell your training courses. The platform also helps you get paid promptly and securely and when paired with the Firmwater LMS, delivers your courses automatically. In addition, Shopify enables you to optimize for growth with built-in tools for SEO, analytics, and email marketing.
Key skills to build
You will need to focus your team of experts to help you master the e-learning landscape. First, evaluate your current team, and decide if you will bring in any outside help for your move to digital training. Second, look for any holes in your knowledge base that would require skill-building or research. Set SMART goals, have a clear vision of what you want the project and your team to accomplish, and involve current stakeholders in the decision-making process, ensuring a smooth transition.
Most likely, you are the subject matter expert for your course material. In addition to your company’s expertise, consider adding to your team an instructional designer who has experience creating online e-learning. Having an experienced designer is vital to adapting materials for online audiences. They are an expert on e-learning theory and development and can help develop an engaging learning path for your clients. Translating course materials can be tricky, and having a skilled instructional designer will ensure that you don’t lose or misuse essential pieces of your training material.
It will also be essential to assign someone to a project manager (PM) role. Ensure that this team member has exemplary communication and organization skills to create a highly effective team. The PM will oversee the entire process, ensuring that everything stays on track and that all project pieces come together from initiation to close. In addition, they will assist in developing a plan for the project, help the team execute each step, and monitor and control all details to maintain efficiency.
Begin by analyzing your current content, looking at the type and amount of content that you currently have versus the vision of your future content. Ensure that your e-learning development budget and your vision are aligned. Next, consider whether you have committed purchasers for your training products or if you are speculating. If speculative, it may be wise to test the market with a small number of course modules or allow users to pre-purchase the product within a fixed timeline. Testing can provide the opportunity to validate the market and your approach to e-learning. This validation can ensure that your content is both suitable and effective for your target audience. Ask for feedback from your test audience so you can spot any holes in your content and strategy before you begin deploying your courses.
Work with your instructional designer to thoroughly analyze your content and vision and utilize their expertise when determining your products’ end goals and learning outcomes. Developing goals and course objectives before you begin designing will guarantee that your course is organized and functional, which helps keep learners engaged and clients satisfied.
Having clear goals and objectives also helps you define other pieces of your content plan, such as considering the different types of interactive media that you want to include. Think about how you want end-users to take the course and what quizzes and assessments will ensure that users meet the learning objectives. Consider if you will use video or not, depending on what is most appropriate and affordable for the subject matter. If you have current video content, identify whether it can be used as-is or if it will need to be edited or remade for an asynchronous audience. For example, you can divide a long video into shorter, chunked video modules to improve learner engagement and knowledge retention. You may also choose to add other interactive activities, so your video is not simply a presentation.
Stage Two: Design Your Course
When you begin the design stage, decide on the style and approach to the e-learning experience that you are trying to create. The factors that determine this are the budget, content, and assets available, the modes of interaction that are most suitable for the subject and audience, and your competition. This is an opportunity to gain a competitive edge! Always build on any advantages that you can find. After setting your style and approach, begin looking for tools to help you create the courses that you’ve envisioned. Each tool has a sweet spot, and it’s essential to pick the tools that will best meet your needs.
When choosing content development tools, consider the content you are creating and what types of quizzes and assessments you want to include. At Firmwater, we take a “best of breed,” and open standards approach. While you know your company best, we are here to help, especially if you are new to e-learning. We can offer support and advice based on our long history of working with training companies. You should select tools based on what you need; different tools are better for different things. Options include:
- Articulate 360: Suite of apps and tools with everything that you need to expertly create online learning
- Adobe Presenter: Converter to transform PowerPoint slides into interactive content
- Quizmaker: Quiz builder with templates that plug into your existing content
- Adobe Captivate: High-powered course builder with PowerPoint converter and virtual reality options. Adobe also offers a full suite of apps for editing, presenting, etc.
- Note: This tool is robust and offers many options but has a steep learning curve and may not be friendly for e-learning newcomers.
- iSpring: Full suite of e-learning tools, including PowerPoint to mobile-friendly e-learning conversion
- Snagit: Screen-capture tool with editing and sharing options
- Screencast-O-Matic: Screen-capture and record tool with editing and sharing options
- Camtasia: All-in-one screen recorder and video editor
- Vimeo: Easy video creator and manager that easily integrates with Firmwater LMS
- Audacity: Multi-track audio recorder and editor
Graphic Design Tools
- Canva: Multimedia design program with customizable templates
- Adobe Photoshop: Photo editor and graphic element builder
- Adobe Illustrator: Vector-based graphic and illustration software
There are many options when it comes to tools. When deciding what works best for you, start with the overall vision for your course and your goals. What type of experience do you want to create? Focus on the interactivity of your content so it can hold the attention of end-users.
Interaction of Authoring Tools and LMS
Always follow best practices and complete plenty of testing to prevent problems between your authoring tools and LMS. Perhaps you are used to delivering in-person training, so you need to think about how to structure your course for a positive online experience. A prime example is making large courses. Creating one extensive experience can cause multiple issues, such as users not completing the course. Maintaining a large, monolithic course can be difficult, and a course with smaller modules will hold the user’s attention better. If issues arise, you may have to re-engineer the entire program.
One way to prevent problems is through content chunking and modularizing. Break content down into short, manageable chunks, which is better for both you and your users. You can easily remove and replace these smaller pieces with fresh content whenever necessary without reproducing an entire module or course. Updating will be fast and easy. Content chunking is also great for your learners. Say what you need to say with as few words as possible, and categorize information into small sections. Smaller amounts of information are more digestible and keep learners engaged. You can create easily identifiable segments for when a learner leaves the course and then returns to find their spot. However, content chunking is not “one size fits all.” Some content may work best with very short experiences, while other topics may require a significant amount of time per module. Use your best judgment, and as always, utilize our e-learning experts whenever you need them.
It’s also vital to check settings before deploying your products to prevent certain issues. Ensure that the settings are appropriate for the content, such as default time mode for content interaction. For example, if you have a video longer than ten minutes and the default time mode is set to ten minutes, the LMS will time them out. You also want to ensure that your attempts and scoring settings are correct. Will learners be given just one attempt at a quiz or multiple tries? Is there a passing score? If so, is the correct passing score being displayed when a user completes a module or course?
Data Tracking and Reports
When dealing with data tracking and reports, you should know the exact data points that pass between authored content and the LMS and what specific data your client needs. Ensure that you can provide reports on what the client wants right from the start. Firmwater LMS has many report options available, including activity, assessment, login, and order reports. There may be other options through your authoring tool.
Also with your authoring tool, you can set the completion status of a course when you publish it for an LMS. These statuses are expressed in pairs of values: passed/incomplete, passed/failed, completed/incomplete, and completed/failed. The pair that you choose will determine what values get reported. Be sure to always test your content and see if it reports statuses as expected.
Between the authoring tool and LMS, you have many tracking and reporting options. However,
be aware that there are certain limitations. For example, some authoring tools provide multiple types of assessments and knowledge checks, but the question and response data is not always reported to the LMS. With this in mind, it may be better to use knowledge checks in tandem with a final quiz or exam, which can be reported as the learner’s official score.
As a training provider moving into the e-learning landscape, you’ve no doubt heard of SCORM, the set of technical standards developed to help e-learning content and an LMS work well together. As it is the most widely used standard, most of your tools and LMS must be SCORM compliant. As a result of this forethought, you will prevent hours of wasted time by using tools and an LMS that use SCORM standards, as it guarantees interoperability.
There are two main options when it comes to SCORM: version 1.2 and version 2004. Both are widely used, giving you plenty of options. However, 2004 is the newer, updated version and is ultimately the better choice. 2004 has more data available to save to the LMS and removes some of the limitations from SCORM 1.2. For example, the suspend data limit is much larger in 2004. This limit means that more data, including quiz questions and responses, can be reported to the LMS.
Common Conversion Issues
When converting in-person content to digital, it’s essential to change your training mindset from presenting to users to engaging them. If you simply plug old content into an e-learning format, you will quickly lose the user’s attention. Instead, you must replace the engagement of a face-to-face instructor. A 2014 MIT study shows that there are many ways to do this. MIT found that cutting video content into shorter chunks that are quick and easy to grasp (ideally, six minutes or less) made it more engaging. The study also found that editing videos to display the instructor speaking about the slide content throughout the video helped students pay attention.
In a traditional classroom setting, learners are in a dedicated educational environment, making it easier to give their full attention to an instructor or even to a video. In contrast, a learner can access your material from almost anywhere using a digital environment, and the competition for their attention could be fierce. Long-running videos will not do well for these users, as you’ll need to work extra hard to draw them in and help them get into the right frame of mind to learn and digest the material. Also, pay attention to how the audio is mixed so the viewer can hear the presentation clearly. If you must have a long video, ensure that there are simple controls for pause/resume, and add playback controls so learners can jump to particular sections. Keeping these issues in mind and developing with an engaged training mindset will help you create highly effective courses.
There are a few common technical conversion issues that you should keep in mind. First, while PowerPoint slides can be loaded directly into an LMS, they only provide a static and unengaging experience. Instead, get creative by using an authoring tool to convert old slides into new, interactive content. Secondly, dealing with larger video files can be complicated. While mp4s can be directly loaded to the LMS, the recommended method is using Vimeo for longer videos. You can upload videos straight to your Vimeo account and simply include the link to the LMS. Vimeo is preferred because it automatically adapts factoring in the playback device capabilities and current bandwidth availability to provide the best viewing experience to each user, with little to no delays or glitches that you may experience using mp4s. Vimeo has adaptive playback, which takes into account a user’s device capabilities and bandwidth so it can provide the best viewing experience for each person. Using this powerful hosting and sharing platform guarantees high-quality content with any connection speed or device.
Stage Three: Deploy Your Training Content
Deliver and Sell
You’ve made it through the tough job of planning and creating your e-learning courses. Now it’s time for the fun part: selling and success! With the ease and availability of e-commerce platforms, this stage is relatively uncomplicated. Even better, Firmwater LMS has a partnership with the biggest and best ecommerce platform around, Shopify. With Shopify, you can build a beautiful online store and be ready to deliver your courses automatically in no time at all. Everything that you need to market, sell, accept payment, deliver, and optimize your sales approach is included. In addition, this e-commerce giant offers powerful marketing tools built right into your account, like SEO tools, email marketing, and social media ad campaigns. Combine this with robust LMS tracking and reporting, and you will always be one step ahead of the competition.
Why an LMS for Training Companies Is a Must
As a professional training provider, you have specific needs for servicing each of your distinct audiences. If you use an LMS for training professionals, they will have powerful assets to help you build and grow your business. An LMS built with training companies like yours in mind should be your partner in selling and delivering your e-learning content.
At Firmwater LMS, we pride ourselves on helping training companies succeed and thrive. With our Shopify partnership, you can create and manage all your client sites from one place and skillfully market and sell your courses online. Our platform supports multiple delivery options for clients of any size, and you can deliver to various user populations while maintaining separation between them. Additionally, you’ll have access to robust tools and support from our in-house e-learning experts whenever you need them.
Using our training provider-focused LMS, you can brand and customize client sites, as we are a complete white-label solution. Our platform will provide you with a clean, simple interface to manage all your clients so you can provide course access quickly and easily. We also offer options for external LMS integration for clients who have their own LMS, while you maintain control and ownership over your content. In addition, you can provide single sign-on for enterprise customers so they can effortlessly manage their users’ access to your courses. These seemingly simple details will give you greater peace of mind and make being a digital training provider stress-free!
Lifecycle Approach: Maintaining Your Content
It’s important to take a sustainable approach to your e-learning content management. The growth rate within the e-learning market means that things can change quickly, and you should offer the newest and best content available to stay in front of the competition. Keeping the lifecycle of your content in mind right from the start will grant you an extra layer of adaptability that others may not have.
Your most important task after deployment is monitoring. Check and test your content and systems continuously, so you can always be a step ahead of any issues that may arise. For example, do all your multimedia and interactive pieces continue to function properly as internet browsers evolve and update? Do any outside resources or links need to be replaced? It will also be necessary to routinely check accessibility, including navigation and visual design.
E-learning content is rarely evergreen, particularly if you work in a specialized market. With that in mind, set specific times throughout the year to reassess your content for relevancy and completeness and republish when appropriate. It may also make sense to reevaluate learning outcomes and objectives once in a while. Keep any audience or client feedback in mind when you go through this process; they are your best resources for market research.
You now have all the information you need to begin your journey from a traditional in-person training provider to a digital training provider! Use the professional resources that you already have and work them into a new digital strategy that will give your business longevity and greater market share in the e-learning industry. There’s never been a better time than now to get into e-learning. With this helpful guide and the power of Firmwater LMS, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Use this training provider’s guide to e-learning to build your best approach to providing training in a digital landscape:
- Devise a plan for your digital training materials to ensure that you use the right tools, partners, and content to meet your goals.
- Design your content using “best of breed” tools that are the right fit for your business, focusing on how they will interact with your LMS. Ensure that the tools you choose are SCORM compliant and enable you to track and report the data that you need.
- Deploy your training content using an LMS explicitly built for training companies with a dynamic e-commerce partner, and maintain fresh and relevant content.
Get started today using this guide, and find yourself confidently navigating the digital training world!Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with our clients, giving them the tools and insights they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, growth, and delivery. We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help.