Purnima Valiathan

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ILT to E-Learning Conversion: Getting it Right


As organizations increasingly move towards rendering training in the online mode, there is an increasing need to convert existing classroom training to the online mode i.e. ILT to E-Learning conversion.  While doing so, questions that managers often ask are “how much training time will it save” and “what would be the learning hours involved if the training goes online”?


If you look up the Internet, you will find that a lot of people suggest the ideal ratio to be 1:2, which implies that if the classroom session is 2 days, then the online training will be one day. This is probably because there is one research study published by ASTD that cites this as the ideal ratio. However, this research must be understood in context – the training that was converted in this situation is software application training – this type of training is typically straightforward conversion (Demonstration + Simulation), which is also the strategy adopted in the classroom (Instructor-led Demo + Lab exercises).


So then what is the ideal ratio for ILT to E-learning conversion? Is it even possible to have a formula?

No, there can be no straightforward formula for ILT to E-learning conversion.  It can range from 20% (1:5) to 80% (1: 1.25), depending upon the situation.


Why should we NOT apply a formula?


1. Source Material varies in Quality

For this we need to go back to some principles of learning, specifically the Cognitive Load Theory, and the three types of Cognitive Load.

  • Intrinsic Cognitive Load: Intrinsic cognitive load refers to the fact that some concepts are easy to learn while some are difficult. In other words, all instruction has an inherent difficulty associated with it. This inherent difficulty may be broken down and explained to make learning easier. For example, mathematical operations (for instance, 10+10) are easier to learn as compared to algebra.
  • Extraneous Cognitive load: This form of cognitive load is a direct result of the technique adopted to present information to learners – in short, learning design.  For example, the water cycle in nature (Evaporation, Condensation & Precipitation) is better understood and recalled through a diagram as against verbal explanation.
  • Germane Cognitive Load: Germane load is the load used to process and construct schemas (organized pattern of thought).

Source material designed by Subject Matter Experts may vary in quality vis-à-vis Extrinsic and Germane Load. On the other hand, when Instructional designers work on this material they can influence extraneous and germane load – by identifying strategies that limit extraneous load (reduce load on working memory) and promote germane load (help develop schemas).


2. Content that has a high Intrinsic Load may need more elaborate explanations

For courses that are complex and highly technical, you will need to anticipate all doubts and queries that learners may have and add these to the E-Learning course. Such courses would need more examples, illustrations and exercises. Software application training, for instance is procedural, and doesn’t require much explanation when compared to courses that are highly technical (example, chiller principles).


3. Not every activity (in the source material) can be rendered online

Some classroom activities and exercises cannot be rendered online in the self-paced mode, and may need to be dropped from the E-Learning solution. For instance, you may need to drop a discussion activity or a collaborative activity if you are creating a self-paced online course. If the source material contains many such activities, then the online course may be much shorter. On the other hand, if the source material has no such activity, there may not be much of a difference in the learning time between the two modes.

If it is software application training, then calculating the learning time will be quite straightforward, because the design is almost the same when converted. However, hard-core technical training, such as engineering related training will require detailed explanations and maybe a change in design.

Similarly, in self-paced E-Learning that addresses soft-skill content, such as Leadership, Change management etc. may need to be padded with many stories and case studies. In addition, some strategies, such as team activities may not get converted ‘as is’.


Here are a few questions that you must address during ILT to E-Learning conversion.

  • What is the nature of content?
  • Is the source content complete and adequate for online learning?
  • What is the solution? Is it self-paced E-Learning only or is it going to be blended?
  • What sort of interactivity is being proposed in the E-Learning course?


Here are some links that address Effort Estimation.

How long to develop one hour of training?

Development Time for Corporate Learning: A Reality Check

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