Home > Converting ILT to eLearning: Prepare, Plan, Implement

Converting ILT to eLearning: Prepare, Plan, Implement

The recent trends show that the most effective companies are using eLearning to stay on top. Other businesses follow in their footsteps but switching from instructor-led training is complicated and carries significant risks. In this article, we will make a case for moving to eLearning, present a step-by-step plan on how to do it, and warn you about the common mistakes


How Belitsoft Can Help

We are ready to bring our eLearning experience to assist you. Here’s what we can do:

  • Consulting. Assessment of your current training program, selecting the best tools, designing gamification, and more.
  • Course development. Creation of quality eLearning content in any form, from text and videos to learning games and simulations.
  • LMS. We can provide you with a ready-made learning management system to host your new digital course or develop a new one from scratch.

What is Instructor-Led Training?

Instructor-led training (ILT) refers to all kinds of learning where knowledge is transferred from person to person: school classes, university lectures, tutoring, webinars, etc. This includes both group and one-on-one training.

In the recent decade, the use of ILT has been steadily declining, while all forms of purely digital learning grew. However, it still remains widespread: 94% of the companies use it in some form, while fully digital training is utilized by 77% of firms. This is due to a whole slew of factors:

  • Some practical skills (e.g. first aid) are better taught by an actual person.
  • Corporate inertia. People don’t switch from the models that are already working.
  • Learners’ preference for communication with other people.
  • Effectiveness. ILT still ranks pretty high in terms of knowledge retention

Why You Should Switch to eLearning

There is a reason why the most effective companies include eLearning methods in their learning and development (L&D) programs. A number of them, actually.

Benefits for Business

  • Low costs. There is a number of examples demonstrating higher return-on-investment (ROI) in eLearning compared to live ILT. A computer storage media company converted its live course for technicians into a digital format and saved about USD 1.5 million over the next three years, decreasing their costs by 47%.

    A large consulting company developed an eLearning course that ended up costing USD 106 per user, instead of USD 706 with live training. Over five years they saved USD 4.5 million.

    The fact of the matter is, eLearning is much cheaper than live training due to the lack of many expenses: teacher salaries and related costs (benefits, taxes, etc.), classrooms, and other factors.

  • Scalability. eLearning is much easier to scale than ILT - just have the extra people access the same materials. Live training, on the other hand, requires extra classrooms and teachers, which makes it less cost-effective.
  • New methods. eLearning is head and shoulders above traditional training when it comes to using the cutting-edge instructional design methods. Gamification, microlearning, on-demand training, and other new approaches have proven their effectiveness in both knowledge retention and motivation, bringing value to the companies that use them.

Benefits for the Learners

  • Convenience. eLearning allows employees to study whenever and wherever they want, as long as there is a device with an internet connection. The top programs allow on-the-job training, which helps both solve pressing problems the learners might have and improve their skills at the same time.
  • Effectiveness. As shown by a number of studies, eLearning leads to better knowledge retention. The exact numbers vary from one research paper to another, but the trend is definitely there. The only caveat here is that the improved effectiveness only holds true when the eLearning programs use the new teaching methods.
  • Less training time. On average, an eLearning course is shorter than its live counterpart by 40-60%. This means less time spent training and more time with the learners’ hobbies, families, and friends.

Converting ILT to VILT

Switching training methods takes time, money, and effort. Here’s how you should go about it to make your investments count.

1. Assess the Current Situation

As you are converting your live course into a digital one, you should try to preserve the benefits of what you already have and add some more on top. In addition, you might find out that your program is too hands-on to be digitized and should stay (a common situation in the Aerospace and Healthcare domains)

One of the good assessment methods is to simply compile the components of training experience with their results. For example:

  • The teacher writes down “2x2=?”
  • The students solve the problem
  • As a result, the students learn that “2x2=4”

The main thing is to describe the actions of everyone involved and the results they should get. This will show you which parts of your live course bring the most value and should be preserved, and which can and should be changed.

2. Set the Goals

Digitizing a course for its own sake is just pretending to be productive while wasting money. You need to define what you are trying to achieve by this, be it learning outcomes (“10% more people passing the test on the first try”) or business outcomes (“25% reduction in training costs”).

SMART is one of the good ways to set your goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Attainable
  • Realistic/Relevant
  • Timeframe

3. Define the Methods

Now that you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to think about the ways to achieve it.

Start with brainstorming. The same idea could be implemented in a myriad of ways. Let’s get back to our simple math problem. Here are some examples of how it can be taught:

  • A video on multiplication methods
  • A learning game
  • An interactive test
  • A webinar

Research each of these to see which method would be the best for the type of knowledge or skills that you want to teach - some approaches show better results in certain knowledge areas.

4. Select the Tools

There is a variety of ways to deliver your digital learning nowadays. This stage is to pick the ones that fit your business the best.

Examples of what you might need include a learning management system (LMS) to host the courses, a separate eLearning platform, authoring tools for actually creating digital training content, etc.

Alternatively, you can select a vendor who will do the conversion for you.

5. Create the Plan

The plan for the conversion is pretty much the same as for any other project. It should include the following:

  • The goals;
  • The activities and their timeline;
  • The responsibilities of the people on your team and of the vendor (if you hire outside help);
  • The communication plan (meetings, their participants, communication methods, etc.)
  • Escalation plan (how to contact the superiors if the problem can’t be solved at the current level)

It is very likely that the timeline will shift due to miscalculations inherent in any estimating process and real life bringing unexpected circumstances - “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” and all that. However, it is still important because it gives you a benchmark to measure your progress, as well as a structure for the work in general.

6. Convert and Test

Now that you know what you want to achieve, and how you are going to go about it, it’s time to put the planning to use. At this stage, you should already have a clear understanding of what you need and when so no sense in putting it away any longer.

The second part of this is user acceptance testing (UAT). Your predictions might turn out to be even partially untrue, so it is recommended to gather a group of people from the target audience of your course and actually test your new digital course on them. This will show the potential weak spots and areas of improvement, as well as the advantages of your new course.

Best Practices

Here’s what you should include in your conversion program:

  • Expert involvement. If you are training people to operate new coffee makers, for example, it would be best if an experienced barista is on board. They can give advice from personal experience and point out things that an outsider wouldn’t think about.
  • Content transformation. Don’t just blindly copy and paste content, even if it is good. Sometimes it can be improved by converting it to a different medium (e.g. text into video or audio).
  • Microlearning. Instead of having 10 hour-long lessons, have 40 ones that take 15 minutes each. Not only it will make training more convenient, but having more specific and condensed information on hand will improve learning outcomes.


  • I’ve determined what’s working in the live program
  • I’ve determined what doesn’t work in the live program
  • I’ve determined the improvements I can make
  • I’ve rechecked the expected learning outcomes to fit with the new approach
  • I’ve determined whether the new program will be blended or fully automated
  • I’ve reviewed the material and picked the most important parts

Common Mistakes

These are the typical mistakes that companies make when switching from ILT:

  • Mindless conversion. Digitizing the live training program without making any changes is undermining yourself at best and a waste of time and money at worst. Many benefits of eLearning are realized only when the full extent of digital capabilities is used.
  • Not using the new approaches. Gamification, microlearning, story-based training, and other innovative teaching methods dramatically improve the efficiency of an eLearning program and are very cost-effective.
  • Trying to convert everything at once. Like any new endeavor, switching from ILT to eLearning carries risks. So it is wise to convert gradually, improving on things as you learn more about what works for you. The MVP approach would be helpful in this regard.


What is the business case for ILT conversion?

The most common cases for this are increasing the effectiveness of an existing program, saving money on training, and updating the information along with empowering the course with innovations in instructional design.

What can be converted?

Some forms of content can be converted more easily than others. For example, you can just upload PowerPoint slides to an authoring tool and turn them into a video. Other training, like practical first aid exercises, can’t be digitized at all, although digital tracking of live exercises is possible.

Should you condense or expand content?

eLearning content tends to be more condensed than the one used in live training. However, the main thing you should do is restructure it to better fit the new delivery model. As we’ve mentioned before, microlearning approach works best.

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Written by
CTO / Department Head / Partner
I've been leading a department specializing in eLearning applications and Business Intelligence for 14 years.
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