Illustration of a construction worker making changes to an e-learning course.

Being asked to turn existing instructor-led training (ILT) into e-learning can sometimes feel like inheriting an old house on a beautiful plot of land. It’s a great opportunity, but you know it’s going to need some work to fit your needs.

There are two typical approaches for making this shift—renovate or rebuild. And both have their own pros and cons:

  • Renovating has the potential to save time, but there’s always a chance you’ll discover halfway through that it needs way more repair work than you anticipated. 
  • Rebuilding from the ground up means you can create precisely what you want, but you might end up throwing out perfectly good work and wasting time recreating what you already had.

It’s tricky to know at first glance which will be most efficient in the long run. But not to worry—consider this article the home inspector that guides you in your decision! You’ll discover how asking two questions right at the start may make your choice surprisingly easy. And as you inspect your original course, you’ll find out what signs to look for that narrow down your best option.

Take a pulse check—is the content a good fit for e-learning

Before you go too far down the rabbit hole of can you convert the classroom experience to e-learning, you’ll want to answer a related question—should you? E-learning’s flexibility means it’s a fit for lots of different topics and audiences. But there’s no single learning format that works in every situation. Sometimes you can tell right away that e-learning alone isn’t the best match for the learning experience you want to create. If you’re on the fence, though, this article shares red flags that indicate e-learning alone likely isn’t your best option.

A second pulse check—is the current training effective?

There’s one more question to answer at the start of the project—is the existing course worth renovating? If the in-class experience isn’t meeting its goals or is deeply disliked by learners, that’s like discovering your house has a faulty foundation. It doesn’t matter how well you adapt the content or activities—your e-learning will likely be as ineffective as the original training.

So before you get started, find out if the current course is meeting its learning and business objectives, as well as how learners feel about it. If you discover it’s not working well, then you have your answer. You’ll want to rebuild in order to create a better learning experience.

But what if the current course is successful? Then you’ll need to look for a few more signs to guide your decision.

Signs You Should Renovate Your Course 

Renovations work best when the key activities and insights in the live course have easy-to-create equivalent experiences in e-learning. If you see some or all of these signs, chances are the conversion process will go smoothly.

Sign to look for

Why does this mean converting your existing course is probably easy?

The course has minimal group activities or discussions.

No surprise—group activities and discussions don’t work as is in e-learning and instead need to be reworked and reinvented. Having few (or none) of these activities makes converting a course simpler.

You can see easy ways to shift the class activities, discussions, and content to e-learning without downgrading the learning experience.

If simple renovation ideas jump out at you immediately, that’s a strong sign that the conversion process will be relatively fast and straightforward.

If there are hands-on activities or demonstrations, you can share that information effectively with text, images, or simple video.

All three of those media options are relatively quick and easy to produce.

Facilitators mention they get many of the same questions each time they run the course.

You won’t need a live Q&A to cover common learner questions. Instead, either weave the answers into your e-learning or include an FAQ resource.

The course content is fully captured in the presentation slides, course handouts, and facilitator notes.

You’ll have minimal research or curation to do since the information is all there in the existing course documentation.


If you see many of these signs, you’ll still have some work ahead of you—adapting what you have to take advantage of the strengths of the e-learning format. But the core content, learning goals, and structure of the course? They’re likely good to go as is.

For some practical ideas on making that renovation go smoothly, check out these articles:

Signs You Should Rebuild Your Course

A complete rebuild may sound like a ton of effort, but sometimes it’s the fastest option. When the classroom experience hinges on things that are difficult to replicate in e-learning, pushing yourself to make the original course concept work can be more trouble than it’s worth. To avoid that stress, look out for these red flags.

Sign to look for

Why does this indicate a rebuild?

You have great ideas for making the content more efficient—but they depend on substantial changes to the course material or objectives.

This one is pretty straightforward. Substantial changes are the very definition of a rebuild.

Group activities or discussions are a big part of the learning experience and there’s no obvious digital equivalent.

Some group activities can’t quickly shift to a solo digital experience without losing something along the way. Can you still use e-learning to guide learners to the same insights they’d have gotten from a group experience? Sure! But you’ll need to rethink the course design substantially.

The course includes hands-on activities that can only be replicated in e-learning using complex video tutorials, animations, and/or simulations.

This content can work as e-learning, but the large amount of work it’ll take to develop those complex digital experiences makes this more of a rebuild than a renovation.

Facilitators note that they get lots of questions every time they run the course.

This is a strong sign the course needs to be built out more to meet learners’ needs. You’ll need to explore which questions get asked most, what answers satisfy learners, and what ways you can weave that additional information into your course—important work, but also time consuming.

Facilitators enhance the course with off-the-cuff stories and insights that aren’t included in the presentation slides, course handouts, or facilitator notes.

You can capture this valuable information in text or video—even weave it into interactive scenarios or activities. But all that transcribing and reworking is going to take time and redesigning, making it more of a rebuild.

The most valuable insights learners gain from the live class come from facilitator-guided discussions.

This is tricky. There might be ways to take how the facilitator guides those conversations and adapt that to e-learning activities like reflections, stories, and interactive scenarios. But doing that well will require reworking your content a lot.

In other cases, though, this might signal that the course isn’t a good fit for a stand-alone e-learning course.

 Seeing some—or all—of these signs means it’s likely that rebuilding is your most efficient option. When that’s the case, these project-planning articles can make it easier to get the new version of your course out quickly


The next time you're asked to convert live training to e-learning, you won’t have to guess about whether to renovate or rebuild and hope for the best. Instead, ask yourself a few key questions and keep an eye out for these important signs. They’ll help you make an informed decision and leave you confident you’ve picked the most efficient and effective approach for your situation.

If you’re still feeling unsure, consider a blended learning approach! Renovate or rebuild the content that makes sense to move to e-learning, and use that in tandem with other learning formats to round out the learning experience. Check out these articles for advice on making blended learning experiences work:

Have any of your own signs or red flags you use to make this decision easier? Be sure to share them in the comments below. And follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

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