From the desk of Zafirah Jeetoo,
Training & Education Partner, Pierpoint Financial
Are you considering e-learning solutions for your clients, employees or yourself, but not certain yet? Read on!
E-learning is here to stay, so get used to it!
It has become commonplace to use digital content regularly in the form of e-learning, to provide information that is accessible for multiple learners at the same time. Cloud-based “Software as a Service” (SaaS) E-learning solutions can be an attractive option for businesses as this technology does not require installation and maintenance by IT departments.
For the L&D specialist, it is particularly appealing as the choice of technology and functionality is endless. Now more than ever before, there is a vast range of technologies that assist in the delivery of learning such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE’s). For the learner, it can support convenient self-study as well as being an economical option to reach a wider internet-based audience for the provider. This form of learning content is often on-screen reading, animation, videos and can often culminate with a test or written work.
LMS and VLE’s What are those?
We cannot discuss e-learning without first establishing the two fundamental technologies which are Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
An LMS system (SAP Litmos, Teachable and Learningbank) for example is usually implemented to be used internally for formal learning options such as compulsory training, compliance and regulatory requirements. Training providers also use these systems to deliver content produced swiftly by subject matter experts (SME’s) which can be incorporated into an organisation’s Learning and Development (L&D) Plan for their staff. This has been used effectively by some of our Pierpoint clients who have joined our academy for this purpose.
This platform can be harnessed to track learner progress, issue accreditation, report on test results and provide access to a dispersed team. One point to note is that whilst it is a good platform for e-learning options it often does not provide functionality for social learning options and can quickly become stale if content cannot be updated easily.
Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)
VLE’s incorporate all the functionality of LMS systems but offer richer functionality for informal and formal teaching sessions where groups can be taught in a webinar (Docebo, LearnUponLMS Talent LMS and Adobe Captivate). This essentially means that there is space for live online teaching/chat options and social interaction with other learners such as course discussion noticeboards and conferencing integrations with other conferencing platforms (if not already a function) such as ‘Microsoft Teams’, ‘GoToWebinar’ and ‘Zoom’. ‘Adobe Captivate’ for example, provides the ability to host many learners concurrently, content from the sessions can be recorded and shared. The platform is user friendly hence the teacher can easily upload PowerPoint slides and add audio
Questions, questions, questions!
Purchasing learning technologies for a business can be problematic for decision-makers for countless reasons. Many questions arise such as:
Choice of platforms are overwhelming so how do you choose?
How do you assess the functions you need versus the functions you want?
Will your budget cover what you require and need?
Is this for internal use or will clients have access too?
How will you determine if it has been money well spent?
Can it be integrated with existing systems easily?
There are so many more questions that the list can be endless and overwhelming. In this instance, unless you are willing to spend hours and hours researching and immersing yourself in company data, talking to stakeholders and platform providers - it is probably best to leave it to an L&D Specialist who should be equipped with the knowledge and expertise to gather all research, devise goals and manage the integration/implementation process from start to finish.
How can an L&D Specialist add value?
Understanding The Bigger Picture
A learning specialist, practitioner or manager will begin with truly understanding the business as a whole. They should be fully absorbed with understanding the mission, values and vision of the organisation. This is critical as they can lay the foundations of any digital learning platform to be agile and adaptable as the learning needs of the business change.
Undertaking A Needs Analysis
To be able to design a training programme that meets the company’s goals it is important to undertake a form of needs analysis. An L&D practitioner should be well versed in using theoretical models to deliver results. For example, Shepherd’s (2012) 3 L’s (Learning, Learners & Logistics) provides the principles that can assist L&D in determining a course of action.
Shepherd suggests that first and foremost L&D practitioners need to be very clear on what the business need is - this is the time to pinpoint the “learning” fundamentals. This can require L&D to ask the hard questions and really push business heads and decision-makers to answer: What do you want to see as a result?
I would suggest any learning program should target and be “heavily influenced” by the audience and “learner”. A use of learning technology to find the answer could be a learning platform that collects results. Such as ‘Articulate 360’ or ‘Survey monkey’. These could be used to first establish the level of knowledge and practical capability within the team as they could log onto the web-based system and complete a quiz/survey. The results from the quiz/survey could assist in then developing the most efficient training initiative. A survey for example could gauge employees’ interest in the subject, capture their fears, aspirations and any barriers to learning.
As part of the 3 L’s the last one, is “Logistics”, this gauges the constraints and opportunities that exist when developing a learning intervention. Constraints such as time to design, time for learners to learn and budget available. Opportunities such as current technology and existing talent could provide the tools to assist in design here.
Example of A Blended Learning Initiative In Action (Software company)
Getting your Staff Onboard
Introducing learners to the training is important to drive commitment and approval. For example, a video from the CEO welcoming learners to the training. The script should include ‘compelling content’ such as why they are being invited to this particular training, why it is relevant to them and how it aligns with corporate objectives. This shows gravity and the importance of the training from the organisation’s perspective and aids the learner to embrace the initiative, perhaps removing reservations/barriers.
Training Material using Scenario Based Learning (SBL)
The content on the VLE as mentioned above would provide a learning solution for “confidence” building. For example, B2C staff can be upskilled by employing compelling content design such as “scenario-based learning” (SBL). Scenarios for example showing confused customers, not able to use the software training a team member to help them There are also opportunities here to develop scenarios for troubleshooting and how to handle unhappy customers. To upskill the team on their software knowledge the VLE could include challenging videos which ask the staff to solve a technical issue e.g. Common struggles of customers on webinars. Clark, R. (2009) devised the checklist shown below of when to use SBL and areas of the business that data can be found to create relatable content which is a great start.
Furthermore, using ‘Zoom’ or ‘Microsoft Teams’ to hold webinars at regular intervals would create an environment for the learners to ask questions from a tutor and be taught by a subject expert. Since the staff already work in the business they would be more receptive to SBL content as it encourages them to problem-solve. Some examples for testing could be an exam on software knowledge, asking the staff to research and write a short report on the software and how it compares to its competitors, role play of holding a webinar with a customer or “choose a different ending”.
Providing interactive SBL tests will improve the transfer of learning because the scenarios are relevant and challenging, will help turn knowledge into skills and embed the skills acquired into long term memory. To aid in learning transfer it is better employing scenario-based questions with “mini” feedback options at the end to explain that each answer choice is valuable and not just check box exercise.
Get Social, Build A Community of Learners
With regards to content on follow up after the training has taken place reinforcing learning in bite-sized chunks in the flow of work would be a good method. For example, mobile-friendly content, intranets or internal chat rooms could include the latest news on industry developments, updates on software glitches and how it has been fixed. These spaces can also be used to build a community within the team so they can share their experiences and ideas and continue to develop a self-learning attitude.
Managing Staff Performance
Finally, there should be “real-time performance management” (Bersin, J. 2018) occasions where both learners and managers can discuss their experiences to identify any future learning requirements, make notes towards KPI’s, appraisals, Personal Development Plans (PDP’s) as well as implementing excellent people management practices by giving commendation and feedback.
BERSIN, J. (2018) A new paradigm for corporate training: Learning in the flow of work [online]. San Francisco. Josh Bersin. Available At: https://joshbersin.com/2018/06/a-new-paradigm-for-corporate-training-learning-in-the-flow-of-work/
CLARK, R. (2009) Accelerating expertise with scenario-based learning [online]. Clark Training. Available at: https://www.clarktraining.com/content/articles/ScenarioBasedLearning.pdf
SHEPHERD, C. (2012) Learning, learners and logistics [online]. London. Clive on Learning. Available at: http://www.cliveonlearning.com/2012/03/learning-learners-and-logistics.html