Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

E-learning and mobile platforms

Monday, January 10th, 2011

There has always been a training gap between in-house and remote employees. Anyone who has ever tried to roll out training to a largely mobile sales staff will understand the nature of this gap. Trying to round up sales personnel in the same room is something like trying to herd cats, but fortunately, you don’t have to try. Mobile technology lets participants take part in training courses from any location from any standard web browser.

The industry may be seeing some new changes coming down the road. Smartphones have been used for just about everything. Ever since Apple released its iPhone SDK, thousands of people have decided to become developers—and today there are huge numbers of small, mom-and-pop iPhone app development companies. So what’s next? It won’t be long before we start seeing training courses on the smartphone.

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, we saw a couple of interesting developments that portend great changes in this industry. First, Skype announced that it is acquiring Qik, a mobile video software company, for something along the lines of $100 million. This is a lot of money even for deep-pocketed Skype (which is getting ready for an IPO), and there’s tremendous potential there. The Qik platform creates an environment where users can enjoy real-time video across multiple mobile platforms. The deal doesn’t have anything immediately to do with e-learning, but the potential is there. Successful e-learning rests on the ability to provide a dynamic, multimedia presentation, and companies like Qik are bringing that capability to the smartphone.

Another cool iPhone tool is the Vaestro Voice Blogosphere, which is a type of audio blog network that lets you record blogs, as well as comments, as voice files instead of text. It’s an iPhone app available for $2.99, and is just one more tool with potential to be used in the e-learning space.

This of course, brings up the question: Do we really want to put e-learning modules on smartphones? To answer that question, we have to determine whether it would add value to the e-learning environment. And to do that, we have to consider how ubiquitous the smartphone has become, and how mobile our staff has become at the same time. Certainly, a bigger screen is more desirable for most e-learning programs , but there are two goals to any good e-learning program: To provide educational material and facilitate an educated workforce, and to disseminate that material to as many people as possible. In accomplishing that second goal, it is important to allow access through as many avenues as possible. Because almost every professional has a smartphone in his or her possession at all times, it makes sense to include that platform in the e-learning environment. While longer sessions may be better left to a full-size screen, shorter on-demand sessions are well-suited to a mobile platform. Having an ad hoc client meeting is an excellent example—a casual client conversation may lead to a “how can I do this” question, and if the full-size laptop isn’t available, the salesperson can always whip out the iPhone for a quick demo. To date, e-learning has focused on other platforms, but it’s inevitable that some e-learning applications will move to the smartphone, at least as a supplementary method of educational training.

The role of training in managing change

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

“Find something that works and stick with it?” That’s a business model that sounds like it should be a good idea, but it’s not. Successful businesses thrive on change. What worked two years ago isn’t likely to work as well today—and even if it still works for you, what your competitors are doing is probably working better. That means it’s essential to adapt an environment of continuous change.

That’s especially true in the day of lightning-fast technological changes, where software updates are issued every six months, and computers that are just a year old are hopelessly obsolete.  Newer innovations put in place greater levels of automation, transform business processes, and improve workflow.

But all of these wonderful innovations don’t get implemented by themselves. Change means that people need to learn new processes and adopt new ways of doing things, and that means your organization must embrace an active training program to make sure everybody is on the same page, and making full use of those new tools. What happens when you put a new system in place, and don’t train? One of two things:

  1. Staff ignores the new system and uses the old one.
  2. Staff uses only a small percentage of the new system, failing to take full advantage of its most powerful features.

Either way, it’s a poor outcome, your staff resents the change, and resists it, either mistakenly thinking the old system was “good enough,” or that the new system poses a threat to their job security.

Change isn’t just software and systems. The real heart of change comes from getting buy-in at all levels, and creating an environment where all staff members understand not only how to use the new systems, but why the change is necessary.

People do tend to resist having change thrust upon them—but a training program will have the effect of creating more understanding of the benefits, and making people feel more like they are a part of the change. The training environment encourages your staff to feel more like they are a part of the decision to change (even if they weren’t), makes them feel like they are a part of the process of transitioning to a new system, and will ultimately result in that staff making better use of those expensive new systems.

Your training environment then, is accomplishing more than just training. Of course, it is instructing people on how to use a specific system or undertake a specific process. But beyond that, your training environment has a softer but no less important goal, and that is getting the buy-in and cooperation of your end-users.

PowerPoints, Bullet Lists and Boring Sessions

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Professional trainers have two different schools of thought about incorporating PowerPoint decks into training sessions. Some avoid them like the plague, reasoning that basic, bulleted information and skeletal outlines just can’t hold anybody’s interest. Others use PowerPoint at every opportunity, believing the tool to be very useful in communicating information quickly and efficiently.

In fact, both schools of thought miss the mark. PowerPoint is of course, one of the most useful and widely used presentation tools in corporate America, and it can be a very effective tool to incorporate into your training sessions. But . . . most people miss the mark when they don’t take full advantage of its features. Simply using it to present notes, bullet points and outlines is, in fact, boring, and adds very little to the presentation. All those bullet points and text explanations won’t hold your audience’s interest.

The easiest way to create a training session is to create a PowerPoint with some text, and narrate over it. This is unfortunately, also the worst way to create a training session. What are you doing in this type of session, that you couldn’t do simply by typing up a memo and sending it out in interoffice mail? Not much. If your training isn’t getting good results, it’s time to re-evaluate the presentation technique. Instead of simple narration and bullet points, build your PowerPoint slides to include relevant graphics, photos, or even video clips to help illustrate a point. Here’s an example:

Suppose you’re putting together a training session to prepare your sales staff to sell to the Japanese market. You could create a PowerPoint slide that has a few bullet points, and says something like:

  • You must establish a personal relationship with your Japanese prospects.
    Instead of shaking hands, a bow is more appropriate.
    But if your Japanese counterpart offers to shake hands, do so while bowing slightly at the same time.

All good advice, yes? But is it memorable? Not really. To make it more memorable, make this bullet list into three separate slides. Show each heading with a relevant picture. Under the first caption on establishing personal relationships, show a picture of American and Japanese businessmen at a bar, drinking sake together. Under the second point, make another slide to show the bowing action; and under the third point, show a picture of the handshake-bow combination.

Both strategies communicate the same information. The second strategy takes three slides while the first takes one, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that less is always better. Your main purpose in creating your session is to teach. Teaching involves illustrating a point, and making it memorable. The second strategy accomplishes that, while the first one falls short.

The eLeaP Training Platform and LMS is the best place to start when you want to create a memorable and impactful training session.

What makes a good e-learning system?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Creating an e-learning system can range from writing ad hoc lessons and putting them on your corporate intranet, to deploying a full-featured tool such as the eLeaP Training Platform and LMS. The benefits of e-learning are undeniable—it’s an inexpensive way to provide on-demand or live training to staff, bring new hires up to speed on corporate policies, and to keep your employees informed about product changes so they can effectively communicate that information to your customers.

The key to success however, lies in how that e-learning system is deployed. The right tools, a little planning, and some expert guidance will make an excellent training system that will bring tremendous advantage to any organization. Following are a few tips for making your e-learning system an effective one.

Tracking. Making lessons available is just the first step. How many people are actually accessing those lessons? Tracking metrics is a vital element to success, and you can easily determine which are the most and least popular lessons, what times of the day people are accessing them, and who has or has not completed mandatory training modules.

Assessment. Did your audience retain any of what the e-learning module attempted to deliver? That’s why learning is accompanied by testing. In addition, the addition of a testing unit helps further development of the courses. If a high percentage of students score low in a certain area, it may not be the fault of the audience—they’re just not getting it because of poor content or poor delivery. Armed with scoring information, the module developer can more easily go back to update the training module and specifically target areas that need work.

Collaboration. It is certainly possible for an individual to successfully complete a program completely on their own, but it takes a lot of motivation. A collaborative environment makes the lesson more engaging, and encourages participants to move through the lesson at a faster pace. It’s not necessary to have a live session for it to be collaborative, however. Online training with collaborative tools such as whiteboards, wikis and online communities have been shown to be just as effective as in-person collaboration.

More than just text on a page. Keeping a learner’s attention is a challenge in any type of classroom, whether it is virtual or live. In an e-learning system, simply delivering plain text on a page doesn’t cut it, and it’s more likely that your audience will lose interest very quickly. Use an e-learning platform that lets you create modules with a rich multimedia experience that incorporates podcasts, Flash video and other file formats.

The eLeap training Platform and LMS answers all of these needs with a software-as-a-service platform that lets you get up and running in minutes.

Is your corporate e-training getting results?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

You’ve created a wonderful e-learning system to get your global workforce up to date on the latest technology, processes and procedures. Your sales staff is using e-learning to attend sales seminars–after all, trying to get a bunch of salespeople in the same room at the same time is a lost cause, as we all know. And your middle management staff is also using e-learning for growth and leadership seminars.

But once implemented, a surprising number of managers rely on anecdotal evidence to track success. And it’s true that in many cases, you can see the results right away, just in terms of a better-educated workforce, lower training costs and less downtime compared to the alternative of having to herd everybody into the conference room (or worse, send them off-site).

With almost any expenditure, managers are expected to measure results, and with good reason. When you buy a piece of business process software, your first question is probably, “what’s my ROI?”. Then after implementing it, you track success statistics, so you can brag to the board about how much money you saved. The same sort of metrics must also apply to training.

Why? Simply because there are endless ways to train. E-learning software such as the eLeaP Training Platform and LMS offers a new approach to e-learning, delivering innovative training on an affordable basis. But how do you deliver that training? Do you use larger seminars, or an incremental approach? Do you combine e-learning with live classroom learning? Every type of learning situation is different, and the same technique may get different results depending on the goals and the group itself.

A recent survey of learning and development decision-makers showed that over half of organizations using training programs, failed to measure the business impact of them. The study showed that the primary reason for the lack of metrics is first, a lack of resources, and second, a lack of personnel qualified to do the tracking. The study also pointed out that there was some confusion among decision makers about what should actually be tracked and assessed.

Those who did track metrics tended to focus on an increase in quality, increase in employee productivity, and an increase in employee engagement. Just under half didn’t use any specific methodology, but most still indicated that they were able to demonstrate that their learning programs were effective.

Quantitative measurement of your e-learning results after the fact, is just as important as the initial decision to deploy. That’s because your results will determine where you take your e-learning program from there. Corporate e-learning programs are very seldom static. They evolve over time, moving on to incorporate more training units, targeting more people, and even using different methods for delivery. Tracking those metrics over time will help give you a better idea of what audience gets the most benefit from different types of learning.