Transitioning from Paper-Based to Online Learning

August 23, 2018 | 2328 Views

Transitioning from Paper-Based to Online Learning

John Poulos

Vice President, Customer Success | Crunchtime

Have you decided to take the leap from paper-based materials to online learning but are not quite sure where to start? You’re not alone. Since this transition can seem overwhelming, many companies find it helpful to approach the shift to online learning in phases. Often, Phase 1 is simply putting your paper materials online. Next, Phase 2 could be exploring ways to make your online materials more visually appealing and engaging. Finally, Phase 3 could focus on developing interactive e-learning courses, like incorporating gamification or knowledge validation. The key is to remember this is not a mad dash to the finish line, but rather a purposeful evolution that continues to assess, respond and adapt to how the new programs are being adopted and used by your learners. In this article, we’ll focus on best practices for Phase 1.

Determine Benchmarks

Establishing benchmarks will help you assess your new training method and measure the results of e-learning. To measure results, you’ll want to evaluate how your current training is doing and how long your training methods are taking. Look at how long your current training takes from the time of initial hire to scheduling an employee for a solo shift. Additionally, assess the cost to maintain your paper materials and how much time it takes to cross-train an employee in other departments. These initial measurements are essential for analyzing results and comparing the two methods.

Select the Right LMS Provider

Choosing a learning management system (LMS) is not an easy task. There are hundreds of providers out there, but only a few focus on the hospitality industry. It’s best to look for a provider who is willing to start small and help you grow into this new adventure over time. Explore companies who will work with you every step of the way and give attention to the changing needs of your organization as you gain confidence and become more sophisticated in e-learning techniques. Transitioning to online training is a daunting task, and your training department may want to take it slow to prove the value proposition and help the rest of the organization adopt this new way of training over time. Be mindful of what level of support and industry knowledge you need from an LMS company to support a phased adoption and don’t rush the decision process. For more advice on selecting an LMS, see this 3-part series that explores often overlooked factors to consider.


Find Your Starting Point

Rather than putting all paper materials online and rolling out a new training solution for every position, consider identifying one or two positions to serve as a short pilot. You can also incorporate validation tools such as exams, surveys, and checklists to assist with the pilot. Creating a pilot will allow you to evaluate which positions could benefit the most from e-learning. Is there a position experiencing a problem that you could impact with access to online training? Or is a certain position filled with staff who would eagerly embrace online training? These may be good candidates for the pilot. Additionally, you will need to set a time frame for how long you want to run the pilot. This will allow you to get feedback from the staff, measure your results, and determine if you need to adjust as you put the rest of your materials online.

Avoid the Data Dump

As you begin to transition your paper-based training into online training, think about breaking up the manual into smaller sections. Additionally, create corresponding checklists, exams, quizzes, and surveys will help to reinforce the concepts learned. Employees will find it easier to retain information if it is broken up into separate quizzes on each section instead of one giant test at the end.

You should also consider whether every single page of your operations manual needs to be converted to an online format. Often, operations manuals will include everything the learner needs to know about a position, but many of these things can be easily covered by a hands-on trainer. A good rule of thumb is if the learner can pick up a new skill within minutes of working with a hands-on trainer, you probably don’t need corresponding online training. For example, the manual may have the steps for brewing coffee, but most people can learn how to use your coffee pot after one demonstration from the trainer. There’s no need to make the learner read/see/experience it again online.

Accept the Reality of our Modern Attention Span

When it comes to e-learning, less is more. In general, people have small attention spans, and are more likely to tune out after a short amount of time. According to research, only 4% of page views last more than 10 minutes. Additionally, only 49% of web pages with 111 words or less were fully read and this percentage drops in half when you boost the number of words to 500 or more. This means you’ll get better results if you identify the most critical information the learner needs to know and put that material online. If your online training is excessively long, employees will get bored and click-through to get a completion.

Measure Results Before the Launch

Once you’ve chosen how to chunk your paper materials for online learning, make sure to time how long it takes you to read the materials to validate that your materials are the length you intend. Don’t just go by number of pages because, depending on the material, one three-page section on food safety may take longer than a three-page section on cash register functions.

Additionally, before you introduce the new online training ask someone who is unfamiliar with the material to go through the content and take the exam. If they cannot pass the exam, you may need to adjust your questions or break the training into smaller chunks.

When you decide to transition from paper-based to online learning, remember to look before you leap. If you already have an LMS provider, partner with them to create a plan tailored to your unique situation. If you haven’t chosen an LMS provider yet, look for companies who see you as a partner more than a transaction. Taking the time to develop a strategy will give you a greater chance of long-term success.


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