Converting learning from paper to digital

Converting learning from paper to digital

Not just rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic:

From guest writer: Judy Bloxham.

I have recently created a set of induction modules for a geographically, distributed company. The material to be covered was written up and delivered face to face as an initial trial which worked well, but the geography prohibited meeting every new employee to do an induction like that. So the decision was taken to use the company’s online learning provider platform for delivery.

This made me consider how I needed to go about converting the mainly paper based material for online delivery and not just uploading documents into a repository. Simply adding documents to an LMS can be seen as a quick way to digitise content. However to be truly engaging you need to think about how you could present that material in the most effective way to draw in your learners and improve their learning. Static documents alone are not engaging and effective material. You can copy and paste text into other applications to help speed up the process but check that it will make sense to the learner as a stand-alone experience. It’s like converting a document into another language, you don’t just feed it into Google translate and hope for the best.

So here’s six top tips for converting material for online learning.

  • Digital is a very different media to paper, so make use of the extended possibilities. Paper is linear, you can’t interact other than turning a page. With digital the possibilities are opened up. Look at ways of providing interaction for your learner, it will engage them better. Allowing users to change or pick their path gives them a feeling of control.
  • Think about your explanations. With face to face you can expand and re-contextualise to help understanding. As what I am building will be stand alone, it needs to make sense to the learner as it is. Get others to read and re-read your content to help you develop the best way of phrasing to get the point over. And although I say ‘read’ this applies to audio as well.
  • The LMS I’m using is limited in its interactivity and design possibilities. However I’ve found that you can use embed code and add in iframe content, this opens a lot more possibilities and allows you to vary content and design far more. But a word of caution. I started working with one platform and then decided to see what it would look like, then found that content wouldn’t play. So ensure you test the iframe content on the delivery platform with the learner’s level of user permission. Try to embed an existing example before you spend time developing only to find it won’t run. If you need information or help on this please contact us.
  • Engage learners visually as much as with words. Our audio channel is not only responsible for decoding sounds, but it also decodes written words. This channel is linear, so taking information via it can be slow and easy to overload. Our visual channel can work in parallel and produces stronger memory links,that are better for learning. Typically we will remember 10-20% of information through audio channels alone. Visually we will remember 70-80% and the way we associate and build visual information into memory means we will retain it longer.
  • Build in ways to check the learner’s understanding. The LMS I’m using gives the possibilities of adding ‘gates’ which require the learner to declare they have done or read something (like a policy) or score a pass on a quiz. This gives two advantages, the learner can validate their knowledge, and the organisation has a record of learning.
  • Check the material runs on all the platforms you expect your learners to access the learning through. Most applications now automatically produce content which adapts to mobile formats. However your local network may restrict content due to bandwidth or policy application. Again a quick check early on in development can reduce frustration.

Some of the tools which are free to use to easily create engaging and interactive content are:

Emaze_logoEmaze a new application this year but my current favourite as it produces interactive presentations, and even 3D ones if your system will run them.


prezi_horizontalPrezi an old favourite which has a much improved developer interface and range of templates. This is great for creating learning objects which allow the user to ‘explore’ rather than be stuck to a linear pathway.


powtoonPowtoons allows you to animate you main concepts. Changing to a different format like this can help to make compliance material far more engaging.


zaptionZaption allows you to make use of video and add narration, drawings or quiz elements to it.

And don’t forget YouTube as a source of ready made videos or a place to upload and store your own. If you want these to remain relatively private set them to ‘unlisted’ then only those with the link will discover them.

If you are still shuffling deckchairs (paper) waiting to be rescued from the 20th century, what better time to begin making your own life raft and start going somewhere!

Judy Bloxham
Training Manager

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