If you have designed and administered successful in-person, Instructor-Led Training (ILT) modules, you may want to convert those classes into online courses to reach a wider audience. Or, if you’re a teacher with a great ILT track record or an expertise in a popular subject, your institution may ask you to adapt your lessons for digital students.

This might seem like a simple idea. Just take your PowerPoint slides and create a separate web page for each slide, right?

Not so fast!

There’s more to creating a successful online course than a literal point-by-point conversion of what works in an ILT lesson plan. Luckily, you don’t have to throw away everything and start completely from scratch, either.

Effectively transferring your in-person courses to an online format requires a deliberate strategy, planning, and execution. Here’s how to get it done right.

Think About Inventory

First, you need to know what information and media you already have available for the course, and what you’ll need to create anew.

Take inventory of your plans, notes, slides, videos, audio files, infographics, handouts, quizzes, etc. Then divide those resources into three categories:

  • What works for your ILT classes, and will also work as-is in an online format?
  • What works for your ILT classes, but will need to be redesigned for an online format?
  • What online-specific needs are unmet, which you’ll need to create from scratch?

Think About Delivery

ILT classes are live and linear, while online courses may be delivered in several different ways:

  • Synchronous courses take place live, in real-time, with instructors and participants interacting online.
  • Asynchronous modules provide communication between the instructor and students on an infrequent basis, with students largely autonomous and self-directed in what they learn, when and how.
  • Blended settings allow for a mix of Synchronous and Asynchronous approaches, with live interactive learning supplemented by self-directed coursework.

Decide how you wish to deliver your adapted course. Your delivery method will determine how to best convert your existing content so it matches the technological needs and the student expectations of the delivery mode.

For instance, synchronous delivery may more closely mirror ILT, so your conversion effort may be comparatively minimal… but if your online students would be better served by finding their own way through asynchronous modules, your extra effort in converting those resources will be worth it.

Rethink “Control”  

What works well in person doesn’t always work as well online, where you can’t guarantee that you’ll have your students’ undivided attention in real time.

For example, in PowerPoint-based courses that are led by an instructor at the head of the room, s/he can:

  • control the flow of the course
  • introduce new material at will
  • skip or gloss over content
  • ad-lib content where appropriate
  • address student concerns or questions as they arise

Online courses (even if they are predominantly Synchronous) are largely student-driven, and online instructors must therefore reconsider letting students control the flow of their own learning. This can be done by designing learner-navigated courses instead of serially flowing modules. In these cases, large chunks of your existing lessons may need to be “chopped up” into bite-sized content and linked through various navigation features. This way your learners can consume them on-demand and in the order they prefer, and repeat or revisit them as necessary.

Re-Check Your Tests

If you rearrange the order of the information in your ILT courses to suit an asynchronous online audience, you may also need to reorganize your preexisting tests and quizzes.

Which questions need to moved later in the syllabus, or grouped differently based on the topics or experiences of each module? Does the restructuring of your lesson obsolete some questions, or invite new ones? Does the use of interactive media create opportunities for new kinds of tests, or more hands-on application of ideas that could previously only be absorbed on paper or in lecture form?


Remember, online courses should be fun, engaging, and interactive. They must also feel satisfying to the learner, who faces many more distractions online than in the physical classroom. (And if they’re not satisfied, opting out of your online class is just a click away.)

Given these needs, converting your existing ILT content into eLearning content is not simply about copying material from one format to another. Rather than just “transferring” your content, think of this process as “transforming” it from a static module into a creative and interactive online experience.

CourseArc was created by instructional designers to help you build innovative and results-oriented eLearning modules without feeling trapped in the PowerPoint “look-and-feel.” Sign up for a demo and see what you can create with CourseArc today.

Images: “UX Pile” by Alper Cugun and “Full Lecture Hall” by Southern Arkansas University via Flickr Creative Commons License