Instructional Design

How To Convert Your PDFs into eLearning

How to market your lmsNo matter where you go, you will run into a pdf file! Be it on-the-job training or Policies, Procedures and Guidelines – pdfs come in all shapes and sizes. Newsletters and company important announcements (or instructions for new application implementation procedures) all come in portable document format, in attractive colors and impressive images embedded.

New employee orientations come in pdfs. Need to learn a new job aid? It’s a pdf again – electronic or hard copy. Need to apply for a new facility within your organization? Go through the pdf to learn “step by step” how to and several other how-to’s – all in pdfs. We cant seem to escape them.

In fact, we need them for optimum daily functions. From mundane to mandatory, pdfs have invaded our learning zone as a primary priority to achieve any incentive or goal. While they have become versatile – a decade long metamorphosis from the black and white to colored, to interactive with multimedia, they are still pdfs. So, whats so negative or unappealing about pdfs?

The very sound of the word provokes a daunting feeling of be subjected to “pages and pages” and “endless documentation” of content that could have been better recorded and heard or perhaps demonstrated in a video. With the hands-free lifestyle most of us are used to, we hear a scream every now and then when someone opens a pdf!

While the information in the pdf is vital and critical to your learning, its boring and monotonous nature is a complete turn-off! Moreover, pdf’s have a reputation of a “research document” which means it’s inevitably a long read.

In this article, we suggest some key essentials to apply on a pdf file to convert it into a mobile/tablet/notebook/desktop friendly interactive eLearning object. Depending on the content of your pdf, you can also use these essentials to implement in eLearning pdf that is instructional.

PDF to eLearning: Basic Essentials

While some of the information listed here may not be new to you, the logic and some experiential insights offered will keep you grounded. With the information flooding in almost all facets of life, portability is a desired value in learning materials. Also, with the saturated state of information resulting from continuous multi-directional influx, a tool to organize and create concise and time-effective reading materials is in high demand.

Nowadays, experts have directly connected with novice. Whether you are an instructional designer or an SME (subject matter expert) who has volumes of pdf, these essentials will aid you in defining your content and organize it into a comprehensive eLearning object/course.

Using Learning Objectives

You must be familiar with these words “… by the end of this course you will be able to …” These words define the learning objectives of your content. As a rule of thumb, establish learning objectives as early as possible in the pdf-to-Elearning-course-conversion. Its time to create learning objectives for the content in your pdf. Think of these points:

  • For your course learning objectives list three to five goals or learning objectives
  • Include these learning objectives or goals in your course summary
  • ƒMake sure that your course content covers these goals
  • ƒIf content does not cover your course goals you will need to create additional chapters or pages to your existing pdf segregation
  • For each chapter create three to five goals or learning objectives
  • ƒUse these learning objectives or goals in your chapter summary
  • ƒTie together learning objectives with content in each page of your eLearning materials and your assessment items

Begin the Great Divide

For starters, it is best to provide the content information in small chunks. Popular human cognitive psychology confirms that we typically have a 15 to 20 minute attention span when reading content on an interface. This includes web-based course. The challenge with pdfs is that they go way beyond our attention preferences.

With the key essentials listed below, convert your (well- skimmed/read) pdf into an eLearning object or course. Think: small sections!

• Break your pdf into sections that are defined with clear headings as chapters. An effective e-course or on-the-job-training will have five or less chapters. If you have more then seven chapters, consider breaking the content into multiple courses. We warn you that this will be inevitable with the typical volume of text in a pdf.

Divide a large pdf into parts. If you can define three distinct parts in your pdf, you can easily convert each part into a complete eLearning object. Then, divide each part into chapters.

• Focus on one chapter and create 10 – 15 bullet pages in this chapter. Bear in mind, if you exceed 20 bullet pages, you are defeating the purpose!

• Each bullet page in this chapter should have a unique title. Limit the number of bullet points on each page. Your goal should be three to five bullets per page, with no more than three levels of indentation. Avoid using phrases, bullet points should be made up of complete sentences.

It all depends on how cleverly you are able to sort and categorize the pdf content into sections, chapters, bullet pages and bullets with limited indentations.

Dont Forget the Multi-Media

Dividing and arranging content was the first step in converting large pdfs into eLearning material. Now its time to add layers of educational technology. It is very important to use the latest information that supplements your content.

  • Embed quizzes and assessments that reflect learning in each bullet point. Create test questions, about 5-15 per chapter.
  • Add a page for glossary at the end of each chapter. If applicable, create a glossary of between 10-15 words. Each word should have a description of one to two sentences.
  • Summarize the chapter in one short paragraph before moving on to the next chapter. Summaries help frame the material that will be presented.
  • Insert drill-down questions related to each bullet points in the form of links. Limit 5 per page. Depending on the need of the learner, these pages can be explored as external resources. Possible eLearning options include:
    • external links to websites containing pertinent information
    • Videos and audios that are extant to the content
    • Articles and other resources related to the bullet points
    • Step-by-step instructions: Information broken down into logical order
    • Images and labeled diagrams
    • Application simulations that show its working and encourage “try me”
    • Include email and contact details of the person who can provide feedback and help on this course.

To think objectively, pdf’s are actually excellent sources of content that is already researched upon. All you need is your ID (instructional design) hat and a few eLearning development skills to give this pdf a new lease in life.

Good luck.

P.S. We also have an animation of this post.


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