Transformation vs. Conversion of Virtual Learning

virtual learning transformation

If there is one thing the coronavirus has taught us all, it is that training, as we know it, is neither resilient nor flexible. Classroom training that requires facilitators and participants to fly to various locations and pack shoulder-to-shoulder in a classroom is no longer an option.

But as organizations consider replacing their current programs with virtual training, do they understand that simply converting existing materials is not effective or efficient? Do companies realize that virtual distribution of learning requires a much different instructional design methodology—a transformation?

Probably not. Corporations have never faced a crisis like the one we’re experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic. Corporations have never been forced to totally redesign their training to focus solely on virtual distribution.


So, what exactly is training conversion and why is it not the answer to our current challenges? Simply put, training conversion means trying to duplicate everything you previously did in the classroom. If you used slides, convert those for use in a WebEx. If you used facilitator lectures, convert to virtual or recorded lectures and have learners watch those. If you used specific exercises, convert those for participants to complete remotely. Companies tend to utilize conversion because it is fast and efficient. In doing so, the assumption is that, if it worked in the traditional classroom, it should work in the virtual classroom.

This assumption is where effectiveness begins to diverge. A traditional, instructor-led classroom is a much different learning environment. The facilitator has the participants’ undivided attention and can see facial expressions and reactions. Group activities are simple to conduct. Participants are a “captive” audience for the duration of the program.

Creating virtual classroom training by attempting to duplicate instructor-led classroom training fails to consider all the dramatic differences and challenges of virtual distribution of learning. Classroom training cannot simply be converted. Instead, it must be transformed.


Conversion means trying to duplicate everything you previously did in the classroom. Transformation means not only duplicating but improving the learning outcomes from your previous classroom program. The traditional classroom cannot be directly converted for virtual distribution. Instead, the classroom must be transformed for maximum learning effectiveness.

So, what is the difference between conversion and transformation? Transformation takes the existing content and uses a blended approach to produce highly effective virtual learning. Step one is to determine which parts of the current content can be transformed into digital, self-paced learning modules. This is normally foundational knowledge such as introduction to processes, overview of products, etc. But these self-paced modules can’t be traditional “page-turners” in which learners read page after page and then take a quiz. Instead, they must be engaging, problem-based modules that result in application of skills and knowledge rather than simple memorization of facts.

Second, identify which content can be utilized for interactive virtual classroom. Again, this is not the traditional lecture format. Rather than focusing on the facilitator, interactive virtual classroom puts the impetus for learning on the learners. Give the learners exercises to complete, problems to solve, etc. Then, rather than lecturing, the facilitator can facilitate these activities by relaying their experiences, providing guidance, etc. This M-Pact Learning approach results in higher levels of learning and is much more engaging for the participants.

The third step is to identify content that can be transformed into performance support tools. For example, under the current environment, many sales associates cannot conduct face-to-face sales presentations. So, create tools (using phone, Skype, etc.) that support their performance from home. This combination of digital self-paced modules, interactive virtual classrooms, and performance support tools will allow your former in-person classroom programs to be transformed into innovative, highly effective virtual learning solutions.

The Future?

Knowing that the coronavirus crisis will eventually pass, some organizations believe the movement towards virtual training will be temporary. But, when done correctly, using a transformation strategy, virtual learning can actually be more effective.

In addition, virtual learning programs provide both resiliency and flexibility. The logistics and costs of flying people to training events, providing their lodging and meals, etc. will be a thing of the past. Your programs will actually be more effective while simultaneously saving you money.

Organizations that want to thrive and prosper in the future will not only transform their current training for virtual distribution, but will continue this approach to ensure they can withstand further adverse global events.

Are you interested in transforming your training for virtual distribution? Contact S4 NetQuest to discuss how we can help transform your programs!