How Do You Convert a Classroom-Based Course for Social Learning in Government?

How do you successfully convert a classroom-based course to be delivered online while maintaining interactivity and knowledge transfer?

This is Part 1. Read Part 2 here.

That was the question GovLoop and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management set out to answer a few months ago when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approached GovLoop to lead the development and delivery of a pilot project that would incorporate social learning (i.e. the use of web-based tools, such as social networks, blogs and online discussion forums) into a federal human resources course. In this blog post, I share the background and general outline of the course conversion process. In a subsequent post, I reveal the lessons learned and recommendations.

1. Number of Participants

The original goal was to host 30 participants in the pilot course. OPM reached out directly to approximately 20-25 potential participants who were preselected to ensure a diverse range of titles and levels in government. As the agency opened enrollment beyond this smaller group, it quickly became apparent that there was strong interest for the course as 97 participants signed up from more than 25 agencies.

2. Planning, Design and Execution

For the pilot course material, OPM selected a Department of Defense (DoD) course titled, “Performance Management for HR Practitioners.” The course had been used by DoD, vetted by OPM policy experts and was already posted on HR University. Based on an analysis of the Instructor and Participant Guides provided by the DoD, GovLoop converted the two-day, classroom-based training into six discrete modules. These modules were presented over a period of six weeks by five different instructors and followed the same pattern of delivery:

+ Webinar: Live and recorded, instructor-led, every Tuesday for one hour.

+ Readings: Self-paced, completed by Thursday of each week and included 2-3 blog posts mostly from GovLoop that featured knowledge from both experts and colleagues.

+ Group Discussion: Live, every Thursday for forty-five minutes (and available afterwards); incorporated videos, scenarios and questions from the DoD materials.

+ Peer Reflection: Self-paced, completed by Friday; each participant was paired with one person from a different agency and asked to share three lessons learned in the previous week.

The course was staged in a virtual classroom, using an invite-only, online group on GovLoop. The virtual classroom included all course content, including a course syllabus and workbook, course instructions and discussions as well as instructor biographical sketches.

GovLoop also:

  • administered a pre-course survey to determine the learning expectations of participants and their supervisors,
  • facilitated web-based orientations for instructors and participants;
  • developed and delivered weekly emails;
  • moderated weekly webinars and discussion forums; and
  • provided overall technical assistance.

OPM provided general support and monitored each of these administrative components.

3. Evaluation and Participant Feedback

GovLoop and OPM gathered feedback through individual course participation tracking, webinar evaluations, weekly peer reflections, pre- and post-course surveys (immediate and 60-day) as well as focus groups with both participants and instructors within one week of course completion. Post-course survey results revealed that:

  • 86% indicated that the “course learning objectives were met”
  • 79% said that the “level of interaction in the course met or exceeded my expectations”
  • 75% reported that the “information presented in the course was useful for my job”

Across twelve learning elements, an average of 96% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they had improved their knowledge or skills. Overall, course participants, instructors, and administrators found the course to be an effective pilot that achieved its desired objectives. Some additional feedback that summarizes the overall impact of the course includes:

  • “I have been a classroom instructor for 20 years, which is better for soft skills and practice. This system is much easier to get supervisors to do than to get them to join a class for 2-3 days.
  • “With telework and remotely located workers, this type of class is better than the alternatives.”
  • “I wanted to participate in this type of blended learning. While this isn’t immediate job performance for me, it is an approach to training that I am interested in for my agency and to that end, it was very successful.
  • “Reflecting on the course’s six weeks, it has been greatly instructional…not to mention learning from experience and discussing the issues with the experts and practitioners in the field. I’ve had a good experience from this six weeks and hope to see other courses available that I can take part.
  • “These past weeks have made me see in a broader sense how the HR specialist can make a difference in an organization.”

As a result of the success of this pilot, OPM and GovLoop are looking for future opportunities to convert traditional, classroom-based training into online, social learning modules or to create new courses based on emerging government requirements.


Have you had any experience in converting or participating in courses that were previously classroom-based, but moved to online delivery?

Have you participated in any courses that incorporated social media?

What courses would you like to see delivered in this kind of format?

SPECIAL INVITATION 1: You are cordially invited to join the Government Virtual Engagements Community of Practice to engage in ongoing dialogue about virtual events and training in government.

SPECIAL INVITATION 2: Please join us for a free online training on Thursday, August 8, entitled, “How to Transform Traditional Conferences and Training for Government.” REGISTER HERE.

Related Resources


Want More GovLoop Content? Sign Up For Email Updates

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

L. Crow

This is pretty tough navigation on this site… Part 2 loads a blank page. The Special Invitation 2 lets you register for the course, but then says this course is no longer available. Looks good on the front end, but needs testing on the back end to ensure all advertised resources are there and links are working! Best wishes!

Esther-Catherine Alexander

I’ve had a similar problem, except I don’t go to a blank page. When I click the Part 2 links, it goes to my member page. Please check these links or let us know how to access the second part. This is good information and I’d like to see more of it.