Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Convert ILT to eLearning - Estimating

I received an inquiry from a reader and I'm hoping that people can chime in on their thoughts. It relates to my post about eLearning Costs, which bases cost estimates on seat time of the eLearning course. So, the basic question is:

We current provide a two day (16 hour) classroom training course for our employees. We are planning to prepare an e-learning course based on this classroom course. How should we estimate the e-learning course duration for this lesson? What are the important criteria in estimating eLearning duration when its based on a classroom course?

Conversion Estimation

Some resources on the conversion of Instructor-Led Training (ILT) to eLearning / Web-Based Training (WBT) – found through eLearning Learning using Convert ILT as the starting point:

In What Training Costs Part I: Converting Content from ILT to WBT, they discuss compression of ILT when its converted to eLearning:

Compression ratio: What would the length of the course be if it were online vs. classroom based? There's been a lot of research on this, and answers vary anywhere from 20% to 80% of the original length, but there's general agreement that an average compression ratio is typically about 50%, or a four hour course in the classroom should take the student 2 hours to complete online.

In Costs, Donald Clark talks about seat time during conversion:

Seat time is the time spent by the learner in a learning environment. For many types of content, elearning clearly offers an advantage. The research generally shows that there is at least a 50% reduction in seat time when a course is converted from classroom learning to elearning. Brandon Hall reports it is a 2:1 ratio.

"Brandon Hall, editor and publisher of the Multimedia & Internet Training Newsletter, cites an overall 50 percent reduction in seat time required for a student to learn the same content using online training as compared to in a classroom (Puget Sound Business Journal)."

Of course, a lot of this has to with the type of content. For example, we normally read at least twice as fast as compared to someone speaking. Thus such courses as compliance training offers a seat time advantage due to rather than having an instructor do all the talking, we can now just read it. However, if we are practicing a new skill, then there is normally no real time advantage as we need the same amount of time to practice in an elearning environment as we do in a classroom.

And Donald makes a good point about the fact that it takes more time when you are listening to audio as compared to reading (or skimming).

The 50% compression ratio is similar to what I've heard, but in almost every case there are a whole lot of factors the come into play. In Case Study: Converting an Existing Course to E-Learning, they detail a series of factors. Quite a good article when you are thinking about this conversion.

  • If there is an existing ILT course, how complete is it?
  • Are there any hands-on labs in the ILT course? Will these need to be converted? Is it feasible to do so?
  • Is the person doing the conversion already familiar with the ILT course?
  • Is the person doing the conversion already familiar with the product or service being taught?
  • Will subject matter experts (SMEs) be available for consultation as needed?
  • Will the person doing the conversion be dedicated to this project exclusively?
  • How many people will be working on the conversion team?
  • How much animation is required?
  • Is the scope of the conversion effort clearly defined?
  • What is the approval process? Who will sign off on the project?
  • How will the finished product be implemented within the organization?
  • Does the organization use a learning management system (LMS)? If so, will this product be required to interface with that LMS?
  • How will learning be measured?
  • Is the person doing the conversion familiar with the e-learning software? Does the person doing the conversion have prior experience with similar projects?

What factors do you consider? Do you think rules of thumb are okay to use?

Cost Comparison

The other question the reader asked is about calculating the value of doing the conversion:

For example, the current ILT course takes 2 days (16 hours). There are 10,000 employees who will take the training. Travel is not as much the issue as it is time away from the job and trainer costs. How do we go about calculating the possible return of delivering this as eLearning instead of ILT?

I'd recommend using some of the resources from a fairly old post ROI and Metrics in eLearning such as:

They look at a whole series of cost comparison factors and the last of these compares outcomes and costs in a research study. Quite good.

Again, I'd welcome pointers on this topic.

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