Arguments and concerns such as budgetary restrictions, resource constraints, and business priorities may make it impractical to start from scratch on every project. Frequently, training specialists, instructional designers, and media specialists receive requests or directions from their managers or their customers to use existing content and existing course assets when creating a new product or making enhancements to existing assets. This can seem daunting, but it need not be so.

Seventy percent of my instructional-design projects require rebuilding courses from one modality and one specific purpose to a different type of modality, purpose, and audience. This tip will explain my process for approaching these projects.

Most of my update projects involve conversion of content from a retail product to an academic product. Our retail products are primarily self-led and involve one assessment at the end of the course for a certain number of continuing education credits (CEUs). Retail products typically include two major element types (modules and conclusions) and several sub-elements, specifically:

  • Modules
    • PDF Text
    • One presentation
    • One 10-question review quiz
  • Course conclusion
    • One practice exam
    • One final exam (must be passed with a score of 70 percent for CEU achievement)

Academic products have more depth and must meet different specifications. Typically, these courses are for secondary, vocational, or higher education institutions. They have standard requirements, contact-hour requirements, and a need to include more experience; additionally, they need to have flexible delivery modalities for individual schools.

In both cases, retail and academic, the content may be in the form of various physical or digital media. At the start of the conversion process, the media are not a consideration, only the instructional nature of the content.

To achieve the transition, one of the first steps in my conversion process is to identify or “map” what exists currently in the retail product compared to what must appear in the academic product. In the example for this article (Figure 1), I have used a simple template to map the existing items in Module One of a typical retail product. The template can be a form on paper, or a spreadsheet or table in an online document.

Figure 1: Mapping from a retail product to an academic product

Module One has one hour and five minutes of student contact (gray highlighted line) in its retail form. The revised (academic) course must provide five hours per instructional module. The template allows a designer to visually map out and provide brief details for the items that will need to be added to the module in its academic form.

Here are some of the considerations that we need to incorporate in the academic version of this course:

  • Contact hours (five)
  • Learning strategy for in-person, hybrid, or online delivery
  • Ease of use for instructors
  • Resources for students
  • Development of concepts
  • Formative and summative assessment opportunities
  • What we need to create
  • How can we create it cost effectively and support the learning strategy?

The second section in the template (marked with the blue fill in the header row) shows the original outline of Module One. The third section (marked with purple fill in the header) indicates the revised Module One. The red text in the third section identifies the additional assets needed to meet the academic requirements; the third section also indicates the time, delivery requirements, and notes about the resources. 

As mentioned, this is the first step of this process. The objective is simply to identify the goal and requirements, and the template helps to visually outline and organize these specifications. After each module has been successfully mapped (Figure 1 shows one module only), the next step is to identify more specific requirements for each asset. For example, the best text for this particular course should read at an eighth grade level and have corresponding outlines to the text. The asset requirements become more specific in the second step of the process. 

It is very beneficial to visually map out the existing course and the conversion requirements to increase the effectiveness and organization of the process (and to reduce the designer’s frustration levels).