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By Corentin Sannié
April 8, 2018
10 minutes to read
5 Online Course Formats For Content
Where “digital” simply describes the process of transposing tangible content into
digital content, “digitization” describes an intrinsic adaptation of this material.
“Digitizing content” involves structural changes to correctly adapt to a new format
with its own norms and use cases.
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Content Digitization: Choosing The Right Online Course Formats
Today, would you dream of taking a camera and simply filming a journalist from a
radio news show to run on the evening news? Of course not! Without narration,
multiple cameras, cutaway views and close-ups of the presenter, viewers would lose
interest after 2 minutes.
Training In An Online World
Check a practical guide for designing, producing, distributing, and hosting
online courses.
The same phenomenon is at work in digital media. Rather than simply transposing a
course, you have to rethink how the material is delivered. You must properly
understand digital use cases in order to create a dynamic, interactive course with
content that will engage students. Properly structuring your course is essential for
achieving these goals.
When designing a course, 3 different modules can be used: attended classes,
modules, or webinars. If eLearning modules or webinars are used, the
course can be considered “digital”. However, it is the number and structure of these
overall course format; an online training
determine the
course can certainly include classroom sessions as well.
Even in the digital era, teaching objectives remain unchanged – at the end of the
course, students must have acquired a certain number of pre-defined skills or
concepts. To efficiently digitize content, the challenge consists in identifying essential
key topics and breaking them into teaching blocks. Each topic and related sub-topics
will result in a training module chosen from 3 types as described above.
1. 100% Online Learning
Online learning can be asynchronous[1] or synchronous and consist of 2 types of
modules: eLearning and webinars.
An online-only course can vary greatly in terms of length, weekly workload, and,
ultimately, the number of course modules. On average, a course lasts 1 to 3 weeks,
with 30 minutes to 1 hour of weekly coursework. If the instructor does not want to work
synchronously, a typical course will consist of 2 to 3 eLearning modules per week.
Each module lasts on average 15 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes. The secondto-last module is used for an exam made up of various questions, with a certificate
being awarded if a minimum score is reached. The last module is reserved for
gathering feedback and for discussing course topics in a more general setting. If the
instructor wants to add webinar modules to the course, they generally take place
every 2 weeks and last 1 hour.
It is certainly possible to create longer courses or modules, but the risk of losing
student engagement increases proportionally. Your content is fighting for your
audience’s attention alongside the whole of the internet. Student’s are constantly
tempted to open a new browser tab and check out what is happening on Facebook or
YouTube. Keep courses short and punchy, that is your best weapon.
Tips And Tricks
If you transpose traditional content into digital content, 1 classroom hour is generally
equivalent to a 10 to 20 minute eLearning module. It is important to focus on key
points and essential knowledge.
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Charts: Connection loss based on course size, 2nd graph based on the module size (source: 360L
Research Institute) / Credit: 360Learning
An average eLearning module consists of ten activities: 5 or 6 documents, 3 or 4
questions, and a course outline. An eLearning exam module generally uses a
document or outline followed by 15 to 20 questions. The document should explain the
exam format and contain any needed context or instructions. Questions should be a
mix of traditional and more playful formats.
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Example structure for an online-only course / Credit: 360Learning
2. Blended Learning
In a blended learning course, also known as “hybrid” or “mixed-mode” courses,
eLearning modules and webinars are paired with traditional classroom sessions. With
this combination, students benefit from the best of both worlds. During class, the
instructor focuses on practical exercises including case studies, situational exercises,
role-playing, and one-to-one explanations. Online modules reinforce theoretical
topics and evaluate comprehension levels to generate statistics. Webinars allow
students to ask questions and are ideal for clarifying specific topics.
Blended learning courses also vary greatly in length and intensity. On average,
courses last 2 to 3 weeks and consist of the following: 2 eLearning modules per week, 1
face-to-face class per week (usually between the 2 eLearning modules), and a
webinar half-way through the course, more if attended classes are canceled. As with
online-only training, the second-to-last eLearning module is typically used to evaluate
the knowledge acquired throughout the course. The same goes for the last module,
 to gather feedback and discuss the course topic in a more general setting. As
opposed to an online-only course, the first module of an eLearning course can also be
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 for an assessment.
of blended learning is being able to show
The added value
the “before and after” effect and demonstrate what core knowledge was acquired
throughout the course.
Tips And Tricks
Be aware that all blended learning courses contain at least 1 attended class.
eLearning modules are structured the same as they are for online-only courses.
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Example structure for a blended learning course / Credit: 360Learning
3. External MOOCS
As with blended learning courses, external MOOCs can be composed of different
types of modules, although attended classes are optional. MOOCs, however, require a
specific set-up that make them unique. They last on average 4 weeks, with 1 to 2 hours
of weekly coursework. eLearning modules are used for teaching core topics and for
evaluating acquired knowledge at the end of each module. Two eLearning modules,
one halfway through the MOOC and one at the end, are used for exams. Webinars,
 Hangouts or LiveStreams, are mainly used for interviewing guest speakers or
for Question and Answer sessions with the instructor. Attended classes, called
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are designed
generate participation
and discussion amongst MOOC
attendees. Meetups can be organized by the educator or by participants themselves.
Concretely, an external MOOC generally consists of 2 eLearning modules per week, 1
to 2 Meetups, and 1 to 2 Hangouts. MOOC content consists mainly of videos; this is
one of their defining characteristics. The eLearning module will therefore be
comprised mostly of (optional) audiovisual material and 2 to 3 questions to validate
acquired knowledge. At most, they are composed of 10 to 15 activities.
Upon completion of an external MOOC, a certificate is awarded. It is generated
automatically by the platform and contains a unique ID number that can be verified
by an employer. This certificate serves as proof that the MOOC was completed and
that minimal exam scores were obtained.
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Example structure for an external MOOC / Credit: 360Learning
4. Internal MOOCS
As with external MOOCs, internal MOOCS can be composed of different modules and
have a very similar structure overall. The differences are found in course length and
the public they address. Whereas external MOOCs target all users, internal MOOCs
target smaller, niche audiences. They generally aim to align employee skills with
market needs and industry standards. Internal MOOCS use the same teaching
methods as external MOOCs but apply them in a closed environment, with business
They are often presented in groups because of their multitude.
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 should not
 Each training module should be short, on
last longer
than 1 or 2 weeks.
average 5 to 15 minutes. It is better to produce more, shorter, internal MOOCs, than
fewer, longer courses.
Example structure for an internal MOOC / Credit: 360Learning
The Small Private Online Course, or SPOC, appeared shortly after the MOOC and has
a very similar structure. They also last on average 4 weeks, with 1 to 3 hours of weekly
What characterizes a SPOC?
Each SPOC has a limited number of participants, on average 50. As a result, there
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may be multiple
SPOC per year.
of the same
Each participant is coached daily, either in-class or via LMS. During the course, all
participants work on an ongoing project, either individually or in groups. For
example, during a course studying new tools for improving productivity, students
could be asked to identify daily tasks that are unproductive and suggest how the
new tools / software could improve the situation.
These specificities require a slightly different course structure, focused on individual
coaching and overseeing projects. Attended classes and webinars are used to
monitor projects and take place more frequently, on average once a week. As with
MOOCs, SPOCs are composed mainly of audiovisual content and 2 or 3 assessment
questions. They contain at most 10 to 15 activities. Ultimately, SPOCs are slightly more
intense for students than other formats.
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Example structure for a SPOC / Credit: 360Learning
If you want to learn more about designing, producing, distributing, and hosting online
courses, download the eBook Training In An Online World.
1. Synchronous learning requires that individuals be present at the same time, either
in person or online. For example, during a webinar or classroom session.
Asynchronous modules are available at any time, you do not have to be in a
specific place at a given time. For example, training videos.
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Top 5 Tips To Convert Your Traditional
Course Into An eLearning Format
Several eLearning professionals in the eLearning industry want to convert their f2f
courses into an eLearning format. However,
some of them do the same mistake
again and again: they simply move their content such as PowerPoint presentations,
videos, audios, and documents to a Learning Management System using an
eLearning Content Authoring tool. In my opinion, they have just converted their
traditional courses to an electronic
format. In this article I'll present the top 5 tips to
convert your face to face coursesINFO
into an eLearning format.
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How To Convert A Face To Face Course Into An eLearning Format
During my MBA program at BGSU I remember Dr. Garcia saying "Cash is the King". In
our case, you should always remember that "eLearning Content is the KING". As a
result, I assume that in your f2f course you use the most amazing content.
What are the criteria for determining if a face to face course actually is convertible to
eLearning? And assuming the course is convertible, what are the considerations when
determining whether synchronous or asynchronous learning is best? So here are
the top 5 tips that will help you convert your traditional course into an eLearning
1. Identify The eLearning Course Format
A f2f course can be converted in the following three eLearning formats:
a) Asynchronous Learning
Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently
with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet, Q&A
mentoring, online discussion groups and email. A primary area of investment in
corporate eLearning development is asynchronous learning. As opposed to
traditional instructor-led training or even distance learning that centers on
teleconferencing and online presentations, asynchronous learning occurs in an
environment where a single learner interacts directly with the content via a
system, maximizing flexibility in timing and access by allowing learner
control of pace, schedule, and location.
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b) Synchronous Learning
A real-time, instructor-led eLearning program in which all participants are logged on
at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom
setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on"
participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see
work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video
conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts. Commonly supported
by media such as videoconferencing and chat, has the potential to support
online learners in the development of online learning communities. Online learners
and teachers experience synchronous learning as more social and avoid frustration
by asking and answering questions in real time. Synchronous learning sessions help
online learners feel like participants rather than isolated.
c) Hybrid Or Blended Learning
Learning programs that combine synchronous and asynchronous learning, and faceto-face instruction.
The question is "What eLearning format is best for me?". According to research and to
my own experience, the learning format that has most advantages is the hybrid or
blended learning format because it uses the pros of both synchronous and
asynchronous learning. If you still want help to answer this question, I highly
encourage you to analyze your learners' needs. This analysis will help you choose the
right eLearning format for your course.
Boost your Learners' Experience with the Best LMS for Blended Learning!
Discover, choose and compare the top Learning Management Systems with Blended Learning
2) Research The Instructional Design Models
I am sure that you are familiar with ADDIE, but it is not a universal solution! Based in
experience, Robert Gagne's instructional design model, which is best know as the
Nine Events of Instruction, is the most appropriate Instructional Design Model for
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a traditional
course into an eLearning
format. However, to find the best
Instructional Design Model you have to do some research!
And again, the question is "Why is it crucial to use an Instructional Design Model?".
The answer is really simple. Because using an Instructional Design Model you will
ensure that learning is more safe, certain, thorough, and expeditious than otherwise.
At the same time, you will facilitate the learning process, as learners will require less
time, incur less risk, and invest less energy than those who learned from the raw world
without assistance.
3) Use Of Interaction
Interaction is the most important aspect of an eLearning course. However, you should
know why you use interaction and what you want to achieve. I have seen several
eLearning courses full of interaction that is waste of time... Moore (1989) believes that
interaction is a central component of online education and he describes 3 types of
a) Learner To Content
The "learner to content" interaction refers to the interaction between the online
learner and the content or subject matter. Moore believes that if a learner interacts
with the content or subject matter, then changes in the learner's understanding occur.
b) Learner To Instructor
The "learner to instructor" interaction refers to the interaction between the online
learner and an instructor, tutor, mentor, or content expert. The second type of
interaction occurs via print, electronic dialog, e-mail, computer conferencing, or
electronic online classroom discussions.
c) Learner To Learner(s)
The "learner to learner" interaction can occur outside of or in group settings with or
without an instructor present. The third type of interaction occurs when online
learners engage in discussions moderated by the instructor. At the same time, online
learners' groups may be given responsibility to act autonomously for conducting
group projects, or other forms of group-lead activities.
Based on the eLearning Course Format and the Instructional Design Model that you
use you will be able to choose the type(s) of interaction that you will use in your
eLearning course.
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4) Choose The Right Educational Technology
In my opinion learning becomes more effective when people are mutually active with
the learning materials, with the learning environment. Learning, by manufacturing
innovative materials for other learners and by communicating with them about these
materials, enhance their learning abilities. For example, based on social
constructionist pedagogy, eFront offers several interactive course features that will
enhance an eLearning course. The three types of interaction are built into eFront to
accomplish certain learning objectives.
Interaction between L2C
YouTube video
Add Blocks
Interaction between L2I
Quiz (Test)
Conference (video chat)
Quick email
Interaction between L2L(s)
Technology is the media and you should definitely do your own research to find the
 appropriate educational technology that you will help you achieve your
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5) Revision Procedures
After you convert you f2f course into an eLearning format you may believe that it is
time to offer it to your online learners. WRONG! You should definitely revise your
eLearning course before providing it to your learners. The following revision
procedures worked for me and I highly encourage you to follow them.
A participant evaluation form should be created and address effectiveness of
each eLearning module in four areas: Course and Site Design, Navigation, and
Design Aesthetics. The survey should have both qualitative and quantitative
questions on topics such as, but not limited to, usability, interface design,
accessibility, audience analysis, content materials and instructional design
standards. If you need help with the creation of a Survey, try
using SurveyMonkey, an easy-to-use tool for the creation of online surveys. Its
primary strength is its intuitive Web interface, which makes it easy for even nontechnical people to create surveys and export the collected data.
Implementation Of Alpha Testing And Expert Panel
A panel of experts should review your eLearning course. Experts include subject
matter experts, instructional designers, eLearning developers, etc.
Revision Of The Web-Based Course
Based on their constructive feedback you have to begin the revision of your
eLearning course.
Implementation Of Beta Testing And Expert Panel
After the revision of your eLearning course the same experts should re-test your
eLearning course.
Analysis Of Data
Based on their constructive feedback you should further improve your eLearning
Revision Of the Web-Based Course
Now is the time to do the final revision and make your eLearning course available
to your online learners.
In addition, keep in mind that you should always revise your eLearning course based
on your learners' constructive feedback.
Now you have decided to migrate your program into an eLearning course. But how
you create an eLearning course, even if you don't have much prior experience?
Read the article 6 Steps To Easily Create eLearning Courses to discover the steps that
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help you to
create eLearning courses that will help your
online learners achieve their learning goals and objectives.
Asynchronous Learning Advantages
eLearning Benefits
Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Learning
Synchronous Learning Advantages
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