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Converting flash training to mlearning
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Training catalogs are growing larger every day and learning leaders often have a wealth of online learning content to share with their organization.  Content, created in Adobe Flash for a pc environment has dutifully served its purpose over the past several years. The explosion of mobile devices is not new but their use in learning is becoming far more commonplace. These mobile devices and hybrids( using mobile operating systems and touchscreens) creates a number of challenges in today corporate training environments.  Learning and Development leaders are faced with converting flash training to mlearning but struggle with the best approach?  This blog article explores the two options and 4 key factors in chosing the best for your learning.

First let’s discuss the two options:

Convert – This involves obtaining the source files for the Adobe Flash based learning and using a recent authoring tool to produce a deployment file in HTML5

Re-Write – Developing the content natively in an HTML5 compliant authoring tool.  In other words creating a “new” source file.

If the source is available then conversion sounds easy but scratch the surface and its much more involved than pressing a button in the authoring tool.  Of course if the source is not available the content will need to be recreated in HTML5  with the help of a mobile learning developer and instructional designer.  Here are the 4 key factors to consider when converting your online training to mobile learning

Interactivity

How much do we ask the learner to use the mouse pointer to interact with the learning?  Are we asking the learner to depress buttons, move objects, engage in animations, sliders, etc with a mouse pointer?.  This can be key determinant in how mobile learning is approached.  The mouseand large screen of a typical laptop or desktop is a very capable and accurate tool that permits far more precise user interactions with content.  Consider taking the same interactions and “downsizing them to an 8 in or 4.5 to 5 in screen and you may get a very different result.  We have all tried to use a non mobile web form on our mobile devices; its not easy!  If your leanring requires a significant amount of interaction and tactile content consider that a strong barrier to migrating it directly to a mobile learning format.

How long?

The length of typical eLearning ranges from 8-30 minutes.  Yes we all dread the lengthy elearning course taken on a pc but that is the reality.  Consider the location where PC based flash learning is viewed.  In an office, computer room/training room, or at home.  These locations represent dedicated, fixed learning environments where connectivity, interruptions and distractions are minimized.  Consider that a user on a mobile device may only be able to interact with the learning content for a few minutes during a break, or on their commute.  In these instances the learner may not have a reliable, consistent connections to the content.  When considering whether to convert your existing online learning from PC to mobile formats consider length as a barrier.  Creating abridged versions sometimes works but ask if removing content will compromise the learning objectives? 

Keyboard Required?

In the existing content, to what extent did the instructional designers require text input from the learner?  Is the learner required to read a scenario and provide answers or feedback that is later exposed in the content for review and reflection.  These are somewhat common practices in elearning but not always the best fit for mobile devices.  Mobile learners may be in shared spaces without the benefit of physical keyboards.  Online learning more suitable for mobile devices will require interactions of a different type, games that are easier to manage on a smaller screen, simple selections. 

Can you maintain the Learning Objectives?

Ultimately we want to strike a balance with our mobile learning so that we are not merely communicating but also providing interesting learning that will not require complex and cumbersome interactions on a mobile device.  It should be noted that if in the process of transitioning your learning from PC/Flash to mobile/HTML5 requires scraping away all the interactions that you have not removed the learning value and really just created a communication video.

In the Final Analysis….

…this all could have been summed up by asking the question – what is the difference in time, effort and efficacy if I convert to HTML5 vs. re-write natively for HTML5?  Will I require the assistance of an instructional designer who will need to redesign the significant amounts of the content?  If so then perhaps taking a new/fresh look at this is essential.  Consider the learning objectives upon which the pc/flash learning was create and If at any point your mobile learning, after conversion, does not support them.

 

PETER MATAMALA
Show all Take your Team from Training to Performance Support
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Increasingly Learning and Development teams are being asked to engage with operations leads and IT teams to deploy performance support materials and tools.  This is a departure from traditional L&D activities where a customer need to address a learning gap is expressed in the creation of a course or curriculum requiring the learner to step away from their work. Rather, performance support learning must occur in conjunction with the workflows of learners as they perform their tasks. 

 New tools, ideas and job titles often mark the shift in training paradigm.  However  the drive to implement a performance support  organization must go beyond simply implementing artifacts of performance support (PS) and instead deliver real change through a deep and meaningful paradigm shift.  Learning and Development teams wishing to implement performance support change will require investment and new focus on specific performance support activities. 

Just so we are on the same page.  Lets define what we mean by Performance Support:

Performance Support (PS) is any learning modality, resource or asset that is accessible and applicable at the moment of need.

From the Masie Center - http://masie.com/Performer-Support-Lab/what-is-performer-support.html

This methodology is not a new type of training but rather a shift which requires learning to be embedded in the operation or system through the use of paper based job-aid’s, decision support software integrated with systems or other workflows which bring decision support to the task in question..AT THE MOMENT OF NEED!  It is not a specific modality of training but rather a focus on introducing training when the learner needs it.  Done correctly it helps employees perform their tasks AND teach and drive retention of the learning for better future performance.  The old paradigm is not dead, not in the least as employees still must be exposed to foundational training with traditional methods.

Learning and Development is most effective when working in both paradigms.    We will assume your L&D team has a capability in training.  Do they have the same capability in to deliver results in a PS paradigm?  Lets look at what is needed:

L&D teams can differentiate between Peformance Support and Training

A foundational skill for L&D teams is knowing the difference between  training and what is PS.  You would not ask a call center agent to put down the phone mid-shift to take a training.  Likewise training should not be a series of discrete instructions or help items and should expose learners to broader concepts and foundational understanding not typically part of PS. Solidify this understanding with your team.

Build Partnerships with Business Leaders

Implementing a PS infrastructure requires close coordination between the L&D  team and business operations leaders from the functions that will be supported with performance support.  Instructional designers and training consultants will need to be embedded in the design and development of processes and systems in order to work alongside process owners and systems experts to design appropriate PS tools in these workflows

Process, product and systems knowledge

Instructional Designers will need to work with the tools and systems from the business and understand how they are used and when intervention is required to deliver a corrective action or learning point.  Process expertise is essential as only through a deep understanding of how the process should function and where learners might need support will a shift to PS be possible.

 

Measurement and Analytics

Closing the loop on the performance intervention to identify if there are lasting impacts or continued performance and task completion issues are critical.  Designers can leverage traditional methods such as surveys and knowledge checking, particularly when using performance interventions in manual processes.  Designers can also implement data collection from systems either through standard reporting OR the use of integrations such as xAPI to retrieve end user responses and interactions that users have with systems and report on the efficacy of the performance intervention on specific actions and over a length of time. 

The value in analyzing the data that systems and processes generate is that it permits an analysis of the PS that is deployed.  The data will show very clearly if the intervention is effective or otherwise.  The team skills required to do this will be biased towards analytical and data science.  Ability to review data sets across multiple dimensions and attributes is key.

Budgeting and Planning

Deploying resources for PS projects differs considerably from typical design, develop, deploy efforts.  Workloads, project tasks and post implementation are not managed solely by L&D.  Designers and developers will be engaged in work streams that are more closely managed by the IT or operations counterpart.  It is essential that strong partnerships are created between L&D and the groups they support.   Seek an understanding and commitment of time and effort required of your staff on their projects.  Measuring efforts and outputs also changes in the new learning paradigm.   Work products are less discrete and become embedded in the process and systems that your team supports.  Recognize this when scheduling and planning the work.

 With an eye on the future and a keen understanding of where your L&D team might be headed its essential to know these key differences between traditional learning and performance support.  Don’t assume that traditional training will go away but its always a good idea to keep an eye on the future and a step ahead of the change.  Dont forget to start off right...corporate training consultants like Matchstick Inc can help you outline a strategy and approach to get you started with a performance support infrastructure

 

 

PETER MATAMALA
Delivery Model for Corporate Training Services
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Providers of corporate training services face greater competition and tighter deadlines .  Further operations leaders are demanding learning and development organizations demonstrate measurable results and thereby increased accountability for the programs they create.

As learning leaders we relish the spotlight that learning’s elevated status brings but should know that corporate training consultants who create custom content will need a repeatable process to deliver quality results aligned to the organizational objectives. 

Corporate Training Services Model (CTSM)

Combining development best practices from the design and software industries assures a repeatable training delivery process.  At Matchstick we have long maintained that custom content development exists at the intersection of graphic design, instructional design and software development (in the case of eLearning).  Training content providers therefore need a governance model that helps corporate training consultants achieve design objectives with a quality mindset. The CTSM model initiates a review of the organizations goals alongside the current learner performance, thus creating a benchmark and resulting gap analysis.  This starting point ensures a keen understanding between the corporate training consultant and the stakeholders requirements. 

Assessment:

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The assessment phase starts with a review of current and ‘to-be’ state of the operation.  A review of the organizations goals against the current learners on the job performance will yield a set of performance “gaps”.  This Performance Gap Analysis is used to direct and instructs the learning program.  This performance gap analysis defines the subsequent learning requirements and the performance targets your organization should achieve.  While performing these activities it is useful to segment your learners to understand their job functions, how they impact performance and where to assign learning 'gaps'.

 

Learner Requirements:

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After completing the gap analysis Instructional Designers commence review the performance gap analysis and define a set of requirements with your learners and subject matter experts that will impact the performance gap.  This discrete set of requirements is analyzed to develop a set of learning objectives and instructional points that must be developed and deployed to learners. Using a requirements matrix helps to capture and categorize requirments

 

 

Development:

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Learner Requirements are implemented with a storyboard for client review and approval.  Upon storyboard approval full instructional design and content development will migrate the storyboard into classroom or online learning modules.  Successful development will see Instructional designers follow a rigorous process that links the instructional points in the learning storyboards to the learner requirements.  In creating this traceability between learner requirements and instructional points instructional designers are assured that the learner requirements are met and, by extension the performance gaps are addressed in the learning program.  

Upon completion of development the modules are thoroughly reviewed and tested by the developers and learners.  It is in this process where the development outputs are compared against the requirements to ensure the learning objectives have been met in the final products.

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Governing the CTDM model requires process control and measurement.  Control is introduced with a rigorous project management approach.  Training consultants who manage the customer’s resources(Stakeholders, SME’s, Learner) and deliverables(reviews, content, digital assets) with a comprehensive project management approach and goes beyond their own set of tasks will see far greater success.  With this approach the training services provider can assure that all resources are accountable and all dependencies managed to the programs objectives.

Similarly a measurement approach is essential to tie the process together and give both the customer and corporate training provider a chart to steer by as the training program rolls out and begins to impact learners and bring results.    Project managers can leverage the gap analysis details from the assessment phase and collaborate with stakeholders to define the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that drive learners to better performance and thus provide a measure of impact and the program’s success.

Putting it all Together:

Assembling these activities into one governance model for developing eLearning or classroom training provides the learning solutions provider an advantage over organizations that take a more 'ad-hoc' approach to developing training.   We follow this model at Matchstick Inc and we have had great success in doing so yet we recognize that it is not the only way to approach learning and development projects.

Corporate training consultants that work with a process and that implements structure, controls and traceability (from gaps > requirements> developed content) typically have the type of rigor and discipline to get a seat at your table and a share of your budget and valuable time.

PETER MATAMALA
Corporate Training Consultants-Requirements Make Better eLearning
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Are you a learning and development manager, director or VP?  Does your department create eLearning? If so Lets see if this sounds familiar.  Your team have been working with your corporate training consultants, elearning developers and instructional designers on a new eLearning or mLearning course.  You have seen storyboards and some of the animations throughout the process and now the big day has arrived where the developers release a beta version ready for Testing(LAT)...

 

...Excited and eager you open it up only to see that many of the conversations and emails you have had about how to handle navigation, playback, look and feel, templates, quizzing etc are not accurately represented in the version.   Calmly (or frantically) you start to record the issues.  The list of problems grows and you see that addressing each one will require some rather significant changes to the course workflow. 

This sounds like a worst case scenario but I assure you it happens every single day in the eLearning industry.  Instructional designers strive to have in depth conversations with SME’s and during these interviews jot down notes, draw diagrams and sketches and in general capture details but its often not enough   The unfortunate part is that it absolutely avoidable. 

Why does this happen?

The issue described above stems from a scenario where you and your designer, developer or consultants have not agreed to capture requirements in a regimented and orderly fashion.  The discipline of eLearning straddles the categories of technology and design and so does not typically operate with the rigor of engineering processes that you might find in a software development environment.  I strongly believe this is a tremendous oversight and capturing requirements can be a strong differentiator for learning solutions providers. 

Why it’s important to get eLearning requirements right

  1.  Avoid Rework – The more you know up front the less likely the course is going to require rework.
  2.  Improve Course Design – Incorporating functional requirements into the aesthetic will improve the overall course design and eliminate awkward transitions or design changes to accommodate a functional requirement (ie changing navigation theme during a quiz)
  3.  Improve User Experience – (a corollary to #2) Functional requirements help instructional designers create courseware that meets requirement with a design that is pleasing to the user. Seldom can this be achieved without carefully considering requirements and design prior to course launch.
  4. Budget and Planning Benefits – The ability to capture all the requirements up front then plan, budget and build them one time.  Read more about that here.

 

How Its Done

If you have spent any time managing software development projects this is likely second nature.  Borrowing this practice and applying it to eLearning development is easy. 

Create a template for capturing requirements and instruct your designers and developers to use it when discussing the module requirements with SME’s and stakeholders.  I have shown our simple template that we use at Matchstick and have made it available for download here

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Notice that we use requirement typesuch as navigation, testing/quizzing, Completion etc.  We give each requirement a name and provide a description of the requirement so that the designer and requirement owner can review and agree on how specifically the course should behave.  We also like to indicate the ‘Actor’ or individual or system that will be performing the requirement.  This is typically the learner, manager, LMS admin or LMS itself.

It’s a best practice to keep your requirements discrete.  In other words don’t use AND statements to combine two separate requirements into one longer complex requirement.  Later on in the process you will want to leverage this list of requirements to verify the course functionality.  Having a single requirement that indicates two outcomes will be difficult to test and verify.

 Insist on It!

I encourage you to give this approach a try on your next project.  In fact I think you should insist on this practice wiht your team or consulting vendor.   With some practice I believe you will find this approach simple and easy to use.  I am confident that it will foster important conversations earlier in the assessment and design stages of course creation and lead to less rework in the end.  

Reach out to me at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com.  I would love to help you embrace this practice and share my experiences.  If you want to learn more about how our Corporate Training Consultants can help deliver excellence in your next eLearning project visit our other posts, explore the resources on our website and reach out to Matchstick!

PETER MATAMALA
How to Build a Strategic Training Plan for Year End
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It’s year end and a new year is already upon us.  Pretty soon your organization and your staff will be caught up in the year end hustle, the holidays will arrive and the office will go quiet for a week or two. Then all of a sudden a tidal wave of activity will ensue as your organization gears up for the new year.

Get ahead of the game start your Strategic training plan now!  In this post we will share a few ideas to get you started on building your organizations plan and some best practices to follow.

 

1-Finish What Was Started (or what you did not start!)

Inevitably a few of last years objectives are floating around waiting to be completed and perhaps others put on hold.  Speak to your stakeholders and your team and get a real picture of what is required to complete the old before starting the new. Making headway on new objectives is always challenging when the existing ones are holding you back.  Getting a real picture of what resources are required to complete 2016 work and the real priority will help you frame how much time you have for 2017 work.

2 – Align to Corporate Goals and Objectives

Hopefully your executive team has laid out a plan for 2017 and started to push it down through the organization.  Top level management typically provides very high level objectives and each successive level of management linking their objectives to the top level of strategic planning.  Executives will provide top level goals such as ‘increase earnings by 8%’, ‘Enter new markets and geographies’ ‘launch product xyz’, or ‘increase customer base and retain existing customers’.  The corporate training stakeholders you likely support are from operations teams that will have objectives a bit more granular but still align to the C-Level objectives.  For example - ‘Launch Sales Automation System (IT) ‘Identify marketing agencies in new geo’ (Marketing) and so on.   Each of these more actionable strategies should be your starting point as you work with the department heads and their teams to support their initiatives.  Understanding the linkage and importance to the organizations overall objective demonstrates that you understand the environment and can deliver training that moves the needle.

 

3 – Use Designers and Corporate Training Consultants

You likely have an instructional designer on your staff (retained or a consultant).  Leverage this individuals experience to quickly identify training needs from your stakeholders and convert the training needs into high level training assessments that can be shared and approved by stakeholders.  The ability to quickly listen, digest and create a targeted training need from abstract objectives is a skill where instructional designers and corporate training consultants can be very valuable. 

4 – Resource the Training Plan!

Once your Corporate Training consultant has outlined a high-level assessment for each training initiative go one step beyond the assessment phase and provide high level planning to support each corporate training initiative.  Estimate the number and type of training resources and Subject Matter Experts needed.  The latter is very important in letting your customer know what what resources they will need to supply.  Put all of this information into a high-level plan for training development and deployment.  Don’t forget the financials and estimate the costs and the benefits of your proposed training.

These additional details help substantiate your plan, communicate where, when and how long the organizations resources are needed and brings a level reality to the training you are proposing. 

5- Get it Approved

Seeking approval is perhaps the most difficult part, but if you have gone through steps 1-4 carefully and with rigor it should be a relatively simple matter.  Each of the preceding four steps helps to bring alignment and agreement with staff, management and stakeholders.  Putting the finished plan in front of stakeholders should be a procedural act at this point.  Even if you are not required to have your Strategic training plan approved, make sure you float it to your manager and key stakeholders. 

6 –Keep it handy

There is little point in creating a strategic training plan to let it be “shelf ware”.  A good training plan should be part of every conversation you have with key stakeholders and management.  Nearly everything your organization does should be able to be referenced in this plan. Project review meetings, employee performance reviews, stakeholder meetings should all somehow relate to the strategic training plan and as such it should be your guide.

Finally you should know that the best laid plans are bound to change.  So be ready for this and be flexible.  Training is often a “downstream” activity that is subject to the “upstream” change management activity.  When the organization takes a step in a different direction be sure to refer to your plan, review it for impacts and update it accordingly. 

These methods are tried and true, but not every step in my list will work for you, try them all or choose a few that feel like a good fit. Good luck with your planning.   I am always interested in hearing from peers and industry leaders in the training, eLearning and corportate training consulting industries about how they engage in planning.  Feel free to conact Matchstick Inc or reach out to me directly at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com

PETER MATAMALA
Don't Outsource eLearning Content Creation
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Scenario:  Your a CLO or learning leader and your operations teams have called upon you to develop some custom elearning modules to boost their teams performance.  Your L&D team runs lean and does not maintain a fully staffed eLearning development team so you call upon a training consultant for custom elearning development and tell the ops team you have it covered.  

You soon learn after meeting with your corporate training consultant that you need to designate a subject matter expert(SME) for elearning content creation!!  This was unexpected and now you will need to explain to the team why they should not outsource eLearning content creation.  Here is how to justify keeping the SME's closely engaged in eLearning content development...

1 – Nobody knows quite like the SME

Subject matter experts are just that, experts.  They have a working knowledge of the topic and can explain it in detail.  They have access to resources and tools which an instructional designer may not.  Your training consultant or instructional designer might be an excellent writer but their lack of depth on the topic will likely impair their ability to expose the most valuable topics and points.  eLearning Instructional designers help stage content for learner uptake through use of images, timing, and reinforcement tools Effectively teaching a topic requires superior understanding.  

2 – SME’s have probably made the same mistakes!

Experts become experts in part by making mistakes.  Take an example of eLearning for hotel front desk staff.  If your SME is the front desk manager then that person has likely forgotten to schedule the wake up call, neglected to ask the guest if they had a good trip so far, etc.  They have also had to deal with irate customers and understand from experience what works and does not work in working with them.  These experiences are so valuable and would be critical to front desk training.  An instructional design consultant would not be able to fully document and capture the nuance and relative importance of each of these experiences.   The most frequent errors, issues, mistakes that your learners make are in fact a proxy for your learning objectives and only the SME can put those in the forefront of your training.

Learn more about our Corporate Training Services

3 – Checks and Balances  

A good training consultant will deploy instructional designers to your project.  They will spend a few days or weeks understanding the operation and assessing the current state of the organization and any gaps in learner knowledge.  The training consulting team, instructional designers and project managers will document the learning objectives and share this with you, the client.  Hopefully this has been done in coordination with the SME’s so that the learning objectives reflect the SME’s knowledge of the topic. 

Taking this input process a step further and having the SME write content and hand it back to the instructional designer, serves as a great way to validate the learning objectives.  Instructional designers will of course review content and add their instructional design elements.  During that review the instructional design team should ensure each of the learning objectives that have been documented by the SME.  The designer should highlight any new learning objectives are inquire about why some may have been omitted.

How to do it right!

So we have established that there are at least 3 good reasons to have your SME’s write content.  But how far should they take it?  What is the right format and level of detail? 

The answer to these questions can vary considerably based on the writing skill of the SME, involvement in the project and to an extent the computer literacy.  The SME’s content inputs can take on the following forms:

1 – Content Discovery – The SME will only look for existing content, imagery and media.

2 - Reciting/Story telling – SME recites their knowledge and shares stories and scenarios that are captured by the Training consultants

3 – Outline Development – SME expands the training outline and each learning objective into a few bullet points. 

4 – Storyboarding – SME creates or repurposes content to write storyboard and includes relevant images

5 – Storyboard with Speaker notes – SME creates or repurposes content to write the storyboard.  Also generates the ‘speaker notes’ that the eLearning voiceover artist would read from.

The above 5 options begin with lower/less engagement from the SME and end with higher engagement and more overall effort from the SME.  The options also reflect to some extent the computer literacy, writing ability and degree of involvement in the process. 

If you are hiring a corporate training consultant to manage the process of developing eLearning from inception to delivery it’s essential to consider the value of maintaining an active role in the content development process.  Deploying at least one SME to discover, develop and curate content before it goes to instructional design and eLearning development can really serve to improve the effectiveness and relevancy of your content.

PETER MATAMALA
Does Custom Content Development Really Cost More?
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When faced with a learner knowledge gap operations leaders and corporate learning organizations often turn to formal training as a solution.   Content relevance, speed to market and price are the criteria that decision makers consider when selecting training.  In other words they ask “how quickly and at what cost can I effect change with training?”  Two basic choices are to be made; purchase  “off the shelf” content OR create and deploy custom content.  Off the shelf training is quicker and easier in some respects and customization requires retaining content development staff and/or the help of instructional designers and custom content developers.  This investment can dissuade some from choosing customization in lieu of off the shelf content, but over the life of a learning program is custom content development really more expensive?  Let’s explore this more with a simple scenario.

 

Scenario

A hospitality organization with national hotel presence has conducted guest survey and come across a handful of properties that show low guest satisfaction and problem resolution scores.  The learning leaders have determined that guest facing staff should take mandatory training on ‘managing complaints’ to help its learners deal with difficult guest situations and improve the guest outcome.  There are 8 properties in the remediation category, each with about 110 guest facing staff.  The company has a Learning Management System and has decided its best chance for training penetration is to use eLearning.  What are the options?

Option 1 - Use ‘Off the Shelf’ Training

The L&D Team has selected a 20 min eLearning that is commercially available as an off the shelf solution for $18 per learner.  The training is mandatory for all the guest facing employees so using our training population above we can develop the cost to train the learner population with an off the shelf solution.

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At $18 per learner and no upfront investment it’s a low commitment option that can be easily charged back to properties or funded at a corporate level.  It’s feasible, though not always easy, to complete the training of the 880 staff members in these properties over the course of 8-12 months. But what about factoring in new hires?  Attrition is one of the biggest challenges in the hospitality industry and impacts nearly every management decision at the property.  We can assume that these properties see a 10% annual employment turnover and take a look at our total annual cost again over a 3 year period.

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Since the off the shelf content cost model is to charge on a per learner fee, each new hire will need to increment the overall cost for the training.  In effect attrition has increased the learner population from 880 employees to 1,100 employees over the course of 3 years.  It’s pretty clear to see how a modest 10% attrition rate can result in a substantial increase to the cost of the program each year.  (I assumed that in year one only 5% attrition would impact the learner population.)  Annual attrition rates like this are not uncommon at hospitality organizations.  Use your own corporate attrition rates if you are calculating this yourself.

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Option 2 - Custom Content Development

In our Option 1 analysis we arrive at a lifetime program cost of $19,800 for a 15min off the shelf elearning module.  Let’s now consider creating a similar Managing Complaints eLearning in a customized fashion using instructional designers and eLearning developers from a corporate training consulting company.  We will assume that an equivalent module will have  ‘level 2’ complexity, with moderate to high interactivity, include quizzing, scoring, custom scenarios, knowledge checks and the use of animations.  For now let’s exclude highly customized flash or HTML5 interactions from this module.  There are really just two cost categories here; eLearning Design, Development and Testing expenses and SME productivity loss from SME Contributions to content, testing and deployment.  In terms of resource rates we will use corporate training consultants at $135 per hour and the subject matter experts( SME) internal hourly rate of $90 per hour.  With those numbers in mind we can build out the customization costs in the table below.

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The choice of custom development over ‘off the shelf’ will always be a tough one.  Content providers price their content at rates that compete with the all-in cost of custom development and create pricing models and terms that are relatively easy to commit to and manage.  There will always be a place for off the shelf training but the progressive learning leader can and must look beyond and konw that it is possible to obtain custom elearning at competitive prices.  Focus on thorough vendor management practices, and define a pipeline of work for their custom content developers to help deliver meaningful volume of work to them and drive down costs.  Learning leaders must also be prepared to sell the custom content business case and expand the knowledge of their internal customer and L&D leadership.  Finally, and most importantly, learning leaders need to partner with training consulting and elearning developers that engage closely with their organization, ask questions, understand the operation and explore solutions and possibilities beyond training.  Most importantly they need to be careful and thoughtful listeners and observers that partner with your organization.   

I hope you found this post useful.  I am always willing to continue the conversation and if you wish feel free to reach me for more information at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com or reach out to us for a quick chat about what the ideal learning partnership may look like.

PETER MATAMALA
6 Thoughts on Reviewing Content Before Converting Training to eLearning
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Instructor led training is a great way to engage your learners and assess their ability to apply the knowledge contained in your classroom curriculum.  This tried and true method still has a place in the training world, but trainer fees, materials and travel costs add up quickly and weigh on the budgets of corporate L&D teams.  Operations teams struggle with the indirect cost of lost productivity as your learners step away from their desks for a half day, full day or more.  eLearning offers companies a means to condense classroom content into more manageable, self-paced modules and save this time and expense.   This requires investment, but it is quickly recovered in the savings achieved by decommissioning the classroom training activity and it’s associated costs.  While the benefits of classroom training conversion are clear, not all classroom content is suited for, or is easily converted to, eLearning.  This article will outline what to consider when you converting training to eLearning.

 

1 – It is primarily a ‘tell’ topic

If your classroom training requires less discussion and more instruction, it could signal that your course content is a good fit for conversion to eLearning.   Read through the participant guide and look closely at what the learning objectives are and how they are exposed to the learners.  Identify stepwise instructions, objective learning themes and concrete examples.   Curricula containing broad or nebulous concepts, peer discussion and subjective points are likely more difficult to convert to eLearning, but still possible to do.

Examples of training that might be a good fit for eLearning conversion would be topics such as: product pricing, supply and demand, systems training, and compliance training.  Each of the examples meet the criteria of having discrete steps, rules and/or formulas as learning topics.  In comparison, courses such as negotiations training, conflict resolution and management skills training are likely to have learning objectives that are less discrete, subjective and based to some extent on the personal experience, capabilities and behaviors of the learner. 

2 – It has a quiz or assessment

This one is pretty straightforward.  Classroom training that has a quiz, assessment, knowledge check or other empirical measurement of learner knowledge could indicate appropriate content for ILT to eLearning conversion.  Online learning that is built in SCORM compliant formats and deployed on an LMS will produce learner data in the form of quiz scores and pass/fail records.  eLearning quizzes or knowledge checks help learners validate what they know without an instructor present.  Automation and LMS integration can direct learners to review a section or an entire module based on quiz results, something you cannot expect of classroom instructors to manage individually.

If existing classroom content does not have these items, it does not disqualify the content for conversion, but consider that you may need to call upon a training consultant or instructional designer to design quizzes and assessments for the existing content. 

3 – Does the leader guide match the participant guide?

Review the leader and participant content for the classroom training.  Does the flow of each match?  Are the learning objectives exposed to the learner in the “visual” content at same time the instructor delivers the key messages?  Take for example a classroom training that uses a scenario, storytelling approach. The story could be introduced to the learner in the classroom as a case study or given to the learners as a pre-read.  The instructor may then reference this case study throughout the class, bringing up discussion points throughout the classroom event.  This asynchronous approach is very effective in exposing the learner to additional insights about the content and testing learner knowledge with practical application and critical thinking.  It is however this asynchronous approach that could make it difficult to port directly into eLearning. 

Case studies and scenarios are very effective tools in eLearning too.  Your instructional designers and training consulting team can develop those scenarios into eLearning content.  The use of scenarios supported by knowledge checks is a great way to incorporate experiential learning into online content.  One caveat – if your classroom learning has many scenarios, it may be better to consider a blended learning approach.  We will touch on that more a bit later

Do you find this post useful?  We would love to be of further assistance.  Click here and contact us today!

4 – Images, brand standards and portability

Any learning program you undertake should focus first on the learning objectives and instructional content.  This is always to be supported by visual content that is appealing, meaningful and relevant to the learning objectives and the learners themselves.  Inspect the images, graphics, fonts in the ILT and consider the extent to which they can be re-used for an eLearning module.  Modern authoring tools make porting existing content into eLearning content easy, but use caution as there are a number of things to consider when looking at your imagery before you assume it can be used in an online course:

  1. Design ‘Theme’ – does each slide in the participant guide adhere to a consistent look and feel. Are the colors consistent from slide to slide?  Is the depth of each color appropriate for viewing on a pc or mobile device?  Consider that colors in print can look different on screen.  If the theme colors are too dark or too bright it might make button text and on screen animations difficult to see and read. 
  2. Brand Standards - Are the images, template and font up to date with brand standards? Are the colors aligned with brand and logo design? In some corporations these standards change annually or perhaps more frequently than that. 
  3. Image and Graphic Portability - Pictures and graphics used correctly make a big impact in eLearning. The images in your classroom content might look great on paper or in the PowerPoint slides, BUT your instructional designers and eLearning developers will want to use them for interactions and animations. To do this the graphics must be decomposed into component pieces with separate text that overlays the graphics.  Dealing with an image in components allows your developers to introduce concepts in stages to the learner. 
  4. Translations Impact –If there is text overlaying graphics that cannot be ‘ungrouped’ and edited then the image will need to be decomposed, the text translated and rebuilt for translation. This can be done, but is a key cost driver in eLearning translations projects.  If you wish to take your classroom content and convert it to a global eLearning curriculum this analysis of the graphics and images is very important.

5 –Instructional Designers can help

After a review your classroom learning against the points noted above,  you may findthat it meets some or all of the criteria for conversion to eLearning.  If it does not pass one or more of the filters, don’t despair.  There is a path forward.  The use of an instructional designer and training consultant will help identify how to deal with the existing content.  These experts may suggest ways to reorganize, reorder and/or extract certain elements of the content. 

6 –When to go blended? 

Your content review may result in the conclusion that there is still value in the contribution of thoughts, opinions and ideas that a group of learners can make to a classroom discussion. This may suggest that the classroom curriculum be converted to a blended approach.  Look closely at the content and determine if there are topics, modules or segments which aim to develop a foundation and background of understanding for the learner.  Perhaps some content is more procedural, or technical.  These content segments might be very good candidates for eLearning and still leave the opportunity to foster classroom discussion and case study review.

Once the theoretical aspects of learning are effectively conveyed and practiced in an eLearning setting, use the classroom to delve deeper into concepts that may have multiple nuances and require a more experiential scenario to drive the learning home. A good instructional designer can identify this and build a curriculum that segments the content with pre-class work in an online format, classroom only learning, followed be reinforcement and knowledge check/assessment after the classroom via eLearning.  This approach offers countless benefits and a low compromise, ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.  Read more in this related case study.

Some final thoughts on what To Do and Not Do

  • Classroom content is often devoid of multi-media, look for and leverage other ways to engage your learner with eLearning

  • Remove “fluff” and distraction – seek to condense the classroom training and focus on your core messages

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t make your eLearning look just like a regular PPT.  If your learners expect the layout to look identical on every screen, tune out opportunities will rise. 
  • Don’t waste time converting every single bit of your classroom training into one giant, lengthy eLearning module- you’ll lose your learner for sure. Consider breaking up your classroom training into condensed, manageable, topic based eLearning modules.  This will definitely impact learner consumption and engagement.

Summary

It is possible to convert nearly any classroom program to eLearning, but not all programs are equally ready for conversion or are as easily converted.  Hopefully the tips provided here will provoke some thought and help you take a more critical look at your classroom content.  Contact me at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com or the Matchstick team via our website for some advice. We would be glad to spend some time discussing your unique situation.  

Good luck!

 

PETER MATAMALA
Using Learner Segmentation in Online Hospitality Training Programs
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The core objective of any quality training program is to create relevant and meaningful content that drives performance results and positive change for the learner and the organization. To achieve this, one must take into account company culture and employee profile. This is a critical consideration in today’s hospitality workplace which is a vibrant collage of - cultures, languages, experiences, beliefs and age groups.  Unfortunately, the diversity we so value creates complexities and can prevent training programs from achieving their desired outcome.  Our job as instructional designers is to accommodate all learner needs and acknowledge this diversity in the hospitality training programs we create.  In this article we will explore how instructional designers can leverage the organization’s data about our diverse organizations to design more relevant and targeted training.

Obtain your Organization’s Data

The first step in tackling the challenge of diverse learning needs is to obtain an understanding of the learner requirements.  It is essential that during the assessment phase of your project, instructional designers 'peel' back the layers on your training audience to understand their needs better.

Today’s organizations are data rich, collecting employee and technology data from many sources and making it available to various departments.   The instructional designer that successfully evaluates and assembles this data can create a vivid picture of the organization’s learner landscape. Consider the data available in a typical IT department.  End user computing and security teams would almost certainly have data pertaining to employee devices, browsers, and wireless access at learner locations.  This useful information allows your ID to leverage existing technology, determine optimal learning modalities and implement effective design techniques.  Human Resources will likely be able to provide learner location, language and job level among many other employee attributes, thereby providing key information that could influence translation costs, accessibility to training content and desired training topics.

The designer needs only to assemble this data to paint a picture of the learner population.  Let’s now take a look at how that would be accomplished.

 

Create a Matrix

After obtaining learner related data, begin assembling it into a matrix.  Choose a primary attribute and compare that against the other attributes and capabilities. For example, take Job Role and compare against computing device, location and language.  Use spreadsheets and pivot table analysis to filter and summarize the data.

The output should look something like the table below.  Notice we have placed the role on the y-axis and learner attribute on the x-axis.  

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Where x and y intersect, we show the counts of learners meeting that criteria.  Use of a spreadsheet and pivot table analysis will make this task much easier.  

Analyze the Matrix

Once you have created your matrix, take a look at the data and volume counts and begin to develop some core and outlier requirements for this online program.  In our matrix example a few things stand out:

  1.  Heavy use of mobile devicevs. PC's
  2.  First language of this training population is predominately the local language.
  3.  In comparison with the total population, the number of learners with an advanced degree is about half.  

As a response to finding #1 noted above, the designer would absolutely need to consider designing for mobile.  In finding #2, voice overs and on screen text would need to be in the local language and could impact on screen text and voiceovers.  For finding #3, the matrix shows that there are large portions of both manager and non-managers who have advanced degrees.  

A savvy Instructional Designer can take the analysis further to determine mobile device type, types of languages and degree levels of the manager/non-manager bases.  This more detailed assessment and review will help further refine the training and, based on the above, allows the designer to confidently design a mobile program in the local language.  Perhaps the training should be offered in manager and non-manager versions.  In instances where there are large percentages of foreign languages spoken, a specific language matrix can help prioritize which languages are most widely spoken and would be in scope for translation.Delivering the Online Training

For the eLearning program outlined in our example above, the instructional designer can use the matrix to create segments of learners.   Building segmentations can be a great tool in determining how best to deliver and deploy the training.  The segment analysis of this data shows an array of learner device and PC access.  We also know that there are various job roles in the learner population. Finally we also know the HR data can show the number of learners in certain regions or locations.

With this information at hand, the instructional designer can work with the LMS team, training managers and regional staff to deploy the online training in a targeted and deliberate fashion.  For example, designers might use this information to deploy to the segments of:

  • Managers only
  • Non-Managers only
  • Back office staff
  • Mobile devices users
  • PC users
  • Location
  • Language

Designers could use this data to deploy to managers first so they can take the training prior to their staff to encourage top-down support.  Perhaps the operations teams want to avoid training deployments to back office staff during quarter end or year end activities.   Knowing which learners have only PC’s or mobile devices can help the deployment team target instances where a learner should receive the Flash or HTML5 version of the training.

Segmentation of the learner population can be a powerful tool in the reporting and analytics for any hospitality training program. We will follow up in a later post and explore that in greater detail.

CONCLUSION:

This method of identifying smaller, homogenized groups, from a larger and potentially highly diverse learner population is highly valued by designers hoping to tailor the learning to the target audience or control the rate and reach of how hospitality training is deployed.    While this does represent some additional effort, the time spent at the beginning of a training project can help designers deliver training with an exceptional understanding of their learner environment, thereby positively impact the take rate and application of knowledge learned.

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PETER MATAMALA
7 Keys to Selecting the Right Corporate Training Consultant
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Today's corporate L&D departments are faced with many challenges. The greatest among them in fact, is how to create an effective and scalable team when training budgets and resource counts fluctuate year over year.  Many learning leaders have outsourced large parts of their departments while others have a full-time, retained staff.  In between those two extremes are training teams that are a hybrid of full time and consulting/temporary training consultants.  

Adding the right mix of corporate training consultants can give the agile learning leader a competitive edge and ability to "flex" up and down as the workload and demand for L&D resources changes over time.  

Therein lies the challenge! - Let’s explore seven simple, yet key elements to getting the right consultants or team of consultants on board

1 - Plan, assess and analyze your workload and team structure

That's right!  The journey starts within.  Your corporate training consultant does not have to perform all the tasks and meet all that your full time staff is required to meet.  A good consultant should fill the gap and can do so for a specified amount of time until the task, project or program is completed.  So start the search for your consultant by analyzing your own team structure and pipeline of work for the next 6-12 months.  What is on the horizon?  Begin thinking about specific needs on upcoming projects.   Do you see a move to mobile learning?  Will your team be asked to do more training plan development, analysis and instructional design?  OR is it looking like your future is in completing key projects where you need a team of people with strong execution skills?  Build a quick portfolio of roles vs. projects to understand how many and what type of resources you need.  

2 - Look for skill and personality gaps in your team

Once you have a forecast of the upcoming work, understand the roles you will need and when you will need them, you will start to get more clear ideas of the skills you will need  i.e. mobile learning developer vs. eLearning specialist,   project manager vs. instructional designer, or even content developers that are comfortable only in authoring tools versus having deeper technical programing expertise.  Look across your team and determine who has the skills you need and identify gaps where they are missing.

Finally, consider the personality profile of your team.  You want to fill in not just skill gaps but personality/behavior gaps as well.  Here is an example...I once witnessed a customer bring on an LMS expert that was excellent technically, with a great and vibrant personality- a real team player.  These are wonderful traits, but as it turned -out, the existing full time staff already had that set of skills and behaviors.  What that team really needed was more of a leader profile, someone to take charge and run with tasks and get things done. 

3 - Test for Quality – You’re spending crucial budget, so get the most for your training dollar!

Big one here!  You, your manager, your internal clients, and your team will all look carefully at your consultants’ work.  They will all expect an element of perfection and high quality.  Indeed, we expect this from all of our colleagues, but the test of time has always shown the consultant for hire receives more scrutiny.  Consider their resume formatting and accuracy along with their experience. How do they communicate via email?Do they provide timely responses? Is their communication style formal or informal in both tone and language?  If you find yourself unsure of their ability to communicate with effectiveness and quality during the pre-hire process, don’t expect it to get better when they onboard to your team!

 

Do you find this post useful?  We would love to be of further assistance.  Click here and contact us today!

 

4 - Select a 'Specialist' OR 'Jack/Jill-of- all-Trades'

We could place this one under point #2, but in the learning field it’s all too common a trade-off for hiring managers.  It again requires a look at your forecast and the existing team’s skills and behaviors, but then take into account the degree of variability in your forecast.  This would be the measure of uncertainty in your planning.  If the future is clear and well-defined, then go ahead and specialize on the role(s) you staff with you training consultants. On the other hand, should the future be less clear and not as well defined, perhaps you need to consider a corporate training consultant with a variety of skills and abilities.  It’s often better to switch gears with a known quantity than change out the person entirely!

5 - Look for engagement

You are probably asking yourself, “Why would I need to be pre-occupied with the engagement of my consultant/ non-full time staff need?”  Simple - they are human just like the rest of us.  True, they may have different motivations than full time employees, but at the end of the day, every individual wants to feel like they are adding value and enjoying their work.  Just check out this blog post.

Some Instructional designers really enjoy developing soft skills training, while others simply loathe it and want to develop more concrete skills and competency based training programs. No consultant expects to be with a client forever but while they are there they do want to enjoy the work!

6 - Seek "Performers" vs. "Actors" 

Perhaps this is generic advice for hiring, but worth mentioning here.   You can pick up on Actors easily during the search and interview process.  They often speak in terms of how they were part of the team that was successful, but rarely, if ever -initiate a new idea, process or project and then see it through. Often speaking in terms of "we"or "in my last role my team and I...".  Look for signs that they were handed a task in previous roles and then just willingly carried it out.  

Performers on the other hand are more likely to describe how they uncovered a problem, generated a - solution, whom they engaged to fix it, and what they learned in the process.  It may be harder to find this in more junior staff, but even less experienced performers have solved some problem along the way.

7 - Get big thinkers - Even if their tasks are small

So there you are in your office or conference room meeting with your new, hybrid team of consultants and internal staff.  You are facing a particularly onerous problem, challenge or deadline that is tough to see beyond.  Everybody has been contributing with the arsenal of skills and behaviors that you so diligently selected and cultivated.  Things are great when the going is good, work gets done, deadlines are met, but who steps up to the challenge?  Hopefully your internal staff;  they should be your next group of leaders.  You should be hearing from your consulting team too.  These team members have diverse experiences and you want individuals who are willing to challenge your team, your clients and yourself with their ideas on how to overcome obstacles and do the impossible.  Look for (and encourage) your consultants to share their ideas and experiences.  Listen carefully and know that you as the leader may need to connect the dots and give their idea relevance and context for your organization.  

Now go back and take a look at these seven characteristics.  Consider them against the consulting hires you or your department have made.  Did they hit some, all or none of the criteria?  How successful were they on the job? What do you think you’ll do differently the next time?

CONCLUSION:

As the working world continues to morph into a contractor economy, you are more likely going to face the challenge of running a hybrid Learning and Development team.  Choosing your corporate training consultants carefully can be a key success factor for today’s L&D leadership.  

Consider these key points and ask yourself which have been successful  for you?  What would you add to this list?  What would you remove?

Good luck with your Consulting hires. Comment and/or Contact me if you would like to add to the discussion at Matchstick Inc.

PETER MATAMALA
Case Study: Benefits of Blended Learning Design
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Does your learning organization deliver high value and proprietary learning to your employees? Is your learner population diverse and geographically distributed? Does your learning organization deliver instructor led learning programs? Does your learning population have access to PC’s or mobile devicespersonal or company owned?  If you answered YES to a few of these questions your organization is ready to realize the benefits of blended learning.

If the answer is YES to more than one of those questions, then your organization may have the required components to migrate costly Instructor Lead Training (ILT) to a blended approach, offering a combination of both classroom and eLearning/mobile learning (mLearning). The benefits are numerous and go beyond cost savings by capturing improved measurements and learner engagement.

 

Click here to get the free white paper/case study and build your own blended learning business case!!!

This case study, based on a real world example, reveals the cost savings and operational efficiencies that can be gained by converting your classroom curriculum to a blended learning design delivered via eLearning/mLearning or virtual training.

 

PETER MATAMALA
eLearning Project Management & Design
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eLearning designers need time and freedom to design, but project managers want to closely define project dates and costs.  The two do not need to be at odds.  Here are some thoughts and tips to manage your next eLearning project without sacrificing design.

eLearning project management is essential to a successful program launch but content developers often struggle with creating engaging, well designed and instructionally sound content when constrained to hard deadlines.  Often, multiple attempts at a concept or design are often required to fully develop the final outcome.  While we all want to foster creativity in our instructional designers and eLearning developers we do so without allowing schedule and cost overruns.

Project and program management practices within the learning fields are becoming more common but not yet pervasive as it is in engineering, IT or manufacturing fields.  In these industries projects have discrete and often immediately measurable outcomes.  eLearning projects differ from in that the output is often less discrete and not always measurable at the time the work products are delivered.

Successful outcomes from of an eLearning project are not determined by the number of minutes of eLearning produced or employees trained.  Rather it requires that an engaging curriculum be developed that drives learning via employee engagement.  This is accomplished through a mix of instructional and aesthetic design, module development and user acceptance activities.  In such a project the customer may initially dislike the prosed template, use of space, animations or even use font.  Often stakeholders assess these design elements concurrently; before, during, and after the design and development phase.

More often than not customers and stakeholders are looking for a definitive due date and not to exceed cost estimate.  How then should an eLearning team commit to this?  How should we achieve these outcomes with such diverse inputs?

eLearning project management sounds like a moving target..no?

We can start to manage eLearning projects to a discrete outcome by starting with discrete inputs to the project.  This is done in a number of ways:

1 – Develop shared accountability – Start your project by first creating a strong set of agreements that hold your organization and the customers accountable for the outcome.  This could be outlined in a statement of work or project charter as set of assumptions

2 – Create an integrated plan – Don’t solely manage the instructional design and eLearning resources and tasks.  Your plan should manage all resources with an integrated project plan.  Such a plan will contain the design and development tasks as well as the corresponding customer, SME and stakeholder tasks required to provide content, review and sign off.

3 – Include task details – You should be using a project management tool to create your project plan.  Within that plan identify key decision points, milestones, and detail both the duration and effort for making those decisions.  For example, set aside 8 hours over 2 days for your customer to review a course mockup or template.   For example, specify that a designer work with the customer for 4 hours in 1 day to draft navigation requirements before commencing with instructional design.  

 

4 – Try a waterfall or ‘stage gate’ - Structure your project such that the review and acceptance of work products before starting the next phase of the project.   For example create a specific agreement within the statement of work or project charter that outlines how each party agrees to proceed from one phase to the next.   Support that with the use of task dependences which define which tasks are required to complete before a phase or milestone is considered done.   You could indicate that the design phase is complete only when all design templates, fonts, etc are reviewed and approved by stakeholders.  Only then can development commence.

5 – Allow for flexibility (within a framework) - Due to the subjective nature of content development and module design the work product at the end of a project phase could miss the mark somewhat.  Customers may make a late request to add a critical requirement which requires some parts of a module or curriculum be revised.  To combat these scenarios build your plan to have ample customer review and developer rework time as the project progresses.  Done correctly the earlier phases will have more review and rework built in with later phases having (and needing) progressively less.

Project managers must recognize when designers and customers need time to be creative.  eLearning project management is about planning and preparing for it.  When done correctly project management will not be a constraint but instead foster and promote the eLearning resources and customers to focus on the elements of design that create impactful and meaningful eLearning. 

PETER MATAMALA
Designing Learning for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Environments
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Mobile devices have changed how we get through our day. Whether socializing, paying for goods and services, banking, or finding information, we reach for personal “companions” whenever and wherever we happen to be. This extends to the workplace where employees are using any number of personal devices. Companies can leverage this ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) behavior in corporate education by allowing employees to access learning on demand using mobile technology with which they are already comfortable. This idea is gaining momentum as shown in a recent survey conducted by Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company. It found that half of all employers will mandate BYOD in the workplace by 2017 and will discontinue the practice of providing employees with corporate laptops, smartphones and tablets.

 

To adapt to a BYOD world, instructional designers must factor in the variety of devices, screen sizes, operating systems, and browsers available to learners.

 

How do learners use their devices? All devices are not equal, even if they’re mobile! It’s helpful to consider how people are likely to get the most out of using a device as a learning tool before starting to create content for BYOD environments. Here are some thoughts…

 

  • Smartphones are most often used while “on the go” - walking in the street, riding a bus, or out on a project. While not inclined to read long documents on a tiny page, learners can listen to a podcast or watch a video.

 

  • Tablets are often used “on the go” but employees may also like to use them when relaxing after the workday is done for taking tests and watching training videos.

 

  • Smartwatches will impact the corporate learning landscape as “wearable eLearning" becomes more common as a means for delivering in-the-moment and on-the-job performance improvement. Motion sensors will alert workers when they are performing a task incorrectly or unsafely. These learning-on-your-watch programs will be similar to interactive virtual coaching sessions via a connected Bluetooth headset. Text and images will need to be adapted to the size of the screen.

 

  • Laptops and Desktops are still where people generally do most of their work even with the rise of BYOD in the workplace. Traditional eLearning works best on these devices as employees are typically more engaged and willing to explore more in-depth content.

 

With thoughtful planning, you can design eLearning and “on-the-go” performance support content for mobile devices at the same time. It is impossible to know what mobile device(s) the learner will use so you need to ensure a positive learning experience across all platforms.

 

How do you design learning that works on all mobile devices? Mobile devices use “responsive design” technology enabling content to adapt to the screen on which it is being viewed. This doesn’t mean that making eLearning designed for big screens and turning it into an app, or making it responsive, will work as a viable mobile strategy. Content needs to be adapted for readability on small screens and for short bursts of activity, i.e., accessing a mobile learning segment in between other activities or performance support content while working on a task. Here are some BYOD best practice design tips to think about.

 

  • Design choices based on wider accessibility over device-specific features will give everyone the same learning experience.

 

  • Mobile learning is most effective when you keep it short and simple by chunking content into bite-sized 2-minute learning nuggets. Non-interactive elements (e.g., animations with audio and videos) and interactive elements using native interface features of smartphones and tablets – touch and swipe, etc. – are helpful in creating the short learning segments.

 

  • A delivery solution that allows a range of delivery methods – as a website, as an App or Web App – allows learners to access materials in whatever way is familiar and easy for them.

 

  • Learners “on-the-go” may be on a poor internet connection so quick hosting and the use of fewer, smaller images and optimized video will be vital for faster download. If the internet cuts out, learners should be able to pick up from where they left off or continue uninterrupted if, for example, their train goes into a tunnel.

 

  • Designing mostly for landscape view with one big idea per slide works best on all devices. Minimizing the amount of information included on each slide and using simple text and large font make it easier for learners to read small screens.

 

  • Mobile-friendly interactive features and bright, bold buttons help learners navigate through content. Interactive text fields should appear near the top of the screen and hotspots need to be large enough for easy selection with fingers. Bold, simple graphics without text and PNG (Portable Network Graphic) format provide best color and compression.

 

  • Quizzes work best when selection is limited to three choices. When using gamification, quiz-style games work better than complex games.

 

  • Testing across all platforms ensures that what works on a developer’s desktop works well on any learner device.

 

Creating mobile-friendly content once that will work across all devices is the most efficient design approach for BYOD learning. The advent of HTML5 and responsive design that automatically finds the optimal appearance of content on each device makes this possible and essential in a world where technology continues to change how employees are able to access learning.

 

BYOD will continue to grow in the workplace. Employees like it because it suits their active lifestyle and lets them control when and how they learn. They can learn what they need when they need it, and they can start a segment on one device, stop and move on to something else, and finish on another device in a different location. Businesses like it because they no longer have to supply devices to employees. So with BYOD here to stay, the challenge for designers is to understand the differences and possibilities of each type of device as a training tool and create flexible content that is easy to use on any device the learner chooses.

PETER MATAMALA
Even Small Firms Need a Learning Management System!
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Learning Management Systems (LMS) used to be available only to big corporations with thousands of employees, huge budgets and the IT resources necessary for deployment and ongoing support. This left small business owners with limited options for managing the employee training needs essential to the success of their company. Today there are LMS solutions that are particularly suited to the needs of small businesses and it’s possible to set up an LMS and get the features you need without straining your budget. If you are just beginning to explore options for a small firm, this brief overview of the purpose, benefits and types of LMSs available may help you get started.

 

What does an LMS do?

 

An LMS is a software application that functions as a platform for the administration of training programs, the on-demand delivery of online courses and content to the workforce, and the documentation, tracking, and reporting of training activities of employees. Features available with most LMS solutions include the ability to organize employees into learning groups (i.e., by location or function), assign learning resources based upon employee need, manage classroom training events and technology-based courses, track compliance, professional certification and continuing education requirements, and collect and download data on course completion rates and learning performance measures.

 

The right LMS…

 

…makes best use of limited HR and professional resources.

 

 

Having one central system where all learning and training content can be housed, organized, deployed and tracked makes administrative tasks easier and faster. Providing access to content online (e-learning courses, videos, podcasts, PDFs, etc.) cuts time for development and delivery of classroom training.

 

increases productivity.

 

Providing access to general learning content online cuts down on time away from work required to attend training, making it possible to focus classroom sessions on the content that targets employee needs. And for firms with scattered workforces, providing on-demand training electronically to offsite employees eliminates travel costs, time and event coordination associated with requiring all employees to be in the same physical space for a classroom session. As for making it possible to quickly provide your workforce with updated content, information and training, the technology can deliver real-time job support to employees when and where they need it.

 

…enables easy, accurate reporting.

 

 

Automated reporting lets you quickly identify employee status regarding certifications and/or competencies, training completed, enrollment in self-paced courses, assessment scores, training costs, feedback and more.

 

…engages employees.

 

An LMS typically enables personalized content offerings, as well as “self-service” type learning and knowledge reuse so that users can access the content that applies to them at their own pace. This gives employees some control over their own learning process and allows them to monitor their progress.

 

Used as an information hub, an LMS can promote involvement and collaboration through application sharing, discussion threads and polling, user input, instructor feedback, promotion of new content to specific audiences, publication of news articles and connection to a news/RSS feed. You can also create contests to motivate employees to complete training by a specific date.

 

LMS Options

 

There are many LMS solutions on the market offering a myriad of features and functions. To sort through the choices available, you need to consider some key questions.

 

  1. What current and future workforce learning challenges do you want to solve?

 

Identifying true needs will help you focus on the system capabilities that are essential to your operation and growth.

 

  1. Do you want to manage the system in-house or have this function handled by the vendor?

 

If you have the IT personnel and staff able to provide user support, you may opt to save costs by hosting and maintaining the LMS on your own server.

 

When internal support resources are limited, paying a fee to a third party vendor for the use of its software, computing power and technical expertise may be a better choice. In this case, a “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS), a web- or cloud-based service, will run the system on their servers, pay IT personnel to keep the LMS up and running, and provide support for end user questions. There is no upfront investment in hardware or software infrastructure and upgrades are seamless and are part of the service.

 

  1. Do you want to be able to make changes and add content without having to go through the vendor?

 

Your response will determine whether you need an LMS built on open–source or proprietary software.

 

Open Source software means that you have control over the source code and can edit it as much as you want to fit your particular needs. This gives you unlimited freedom, provided you know what you’re doing. Many open source solutions are completely free, while others offer a free license but have a small charge for support or other services. Still others charge a small licensing fee. Essentially, open source isn’t necessarily “no cost”, but it is free in the sense that you are free to do what you want with the source code.

 

Proprietary software means you cannot make changes to or even access the code. In some cases the software might be free and the vendor may charge for support or upgraded versions. Most have licensing fees just to install the software.

 

Generally, LMS options are a combination of these considerations. So your choices become:

 

  • Open source software, managed in-house: Costs include internal resources for whatever is required to keep the system up and running. – Since there are no license or support fees, this approach can be the least expensive as long as nothing breaks. You would need a critical mass of users actively developing their skills in mastering, troubleshooting, and maintaining the tool to make this work.
  • Proprietary software, managed in-house: Costs include software license and internal staff to do whatever is needed to keep the system running and all users supported. – Similar to the previous model with the added cost of the license.
  • Hosted, proprietary software: Costs include software license and the vendor’s resources required to keep 100% uptime (the amount of time that cloud systems and cloud services hosted by a cloud provider are up and accessible by end users), and 24 hour user support services, access to help materials, etc. - In most cases, this is the priciest solution but may be suitable for a small business with no more than 100 employees using off-the shelf courses.
  • Hosted, supported open source: Costs include cloud uptime and support services that come with it. – This model provides maximum flexibility for creating/updating content and offers the same “trouble free” experience of using the vendor’s servers, trained personnel, and support materials without the licensing fees.

 

 

Keep in mind that whatever choice you make, an LMS is only one part of the online employee training system. You still need to have a library of training courses and materials to deliver and will need to factor in the costs of buying or building training content.

 

 

LMS providers offer an array of features and bundled services so it will take analysis and some research to identify the right LMS model and provider for your company. If the prospect of researching and implementing an LMS solution seems overwhelming to handle internally, consider engaging a consultant who has experience working with firms similar in size to your own. The potential savings in time and money in the long run should make exploring this tool worthwhile!

 

Speak to our learning experts at Matchstick today for more information. http://matchstickinc.com/contact-us

PETER MATAMALA
Engage Your Remote Workforce Through eLearning
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Thanks to technology, remote workforces have become an important part of the hiring landscape for growing companies. With the flexibility of this arrangement comes the challenge of keeping people feeling connected to the business regardless of their physical location. Training is a key element of the support infrastructure that enables workers to feel a part of the larger organization, keeping them engaged in the goals and objectives of the business. This means providing access to the same learning and online networking opportunities available to other employees - achievable through eLearning delivered via a Learning Management System (LMS)!

 

Given the initial costs associated with implementing an LMS, it’s important to know that content and courses delivered online have proven to be highly effective. For example, workers with on-demand access to tools and courses can reduce the time required to attain competency in needed skills while retaining up to 60% more information than with traditional training methods (The Research Institute of America, 2013). As a result, IBM has found that eLearning has the potential to increase productivity by up to 50 % and that for every $1 spent, the company estimates it will receive $30 worth of productivity.

 

Other reports and surveys are readily available, making the case for eLearning as part of an organization’s overall learning strategy. Here, we want to highlight why it is particularly suited to developing a remote workforce. Consider the following:

 

  • Lower training costs. Producing learning content, whether for classroom or online delivery, is time consuming. With eLearning, your return on investment improves as fixed production costs are divided by number of uses, including access by remote workers. This remote access also reduces travel and printing costs as workers can log on to a training course from their own location and download learning materials onto their desktop or mobile device.

 

  • Availability whenever, wherever. Learners can log on to courses when the time and place is convenient for them - at home, while commuting, or in their remote office.

 

  • Consistency. eLearning allows you to create a standardized process and ensure consistency in the delivery of content and information to all employees regardless of location.

 

  • Avoids learning overload. eLearning is self-paced. Content is most often delivered in ‘bite sized’ chunks that can be consumed in short bursts of activity, giving remote workers the flexibility to fit learning into their schedule when they can be most attentive and focused.

 

  • Quick updates. eLearning makes it easy to reach remote workers and keep them up to date on products, changes to legislation, procedures, and other urgent information.

 

  • On demand upskill training. Online learning makes it easy to upskill existing workers and to attract more workers, especially younger people.

 

  • Instant tracking. An LMS will immediately track employee progress and testing of understanding. This is particularly important for the delivery of compliance training to remote workers.

 

An LMS does more than deliver content!

 

In addition to content and courses, eLearning delivered via LMS includes a variety of online technologies that can be leveraged to help remote workers establish relationships and build a connection with the organization. Chat capabilities for video calls enable face-to-face contact with peers. Creating an online community through discussion forums and blogs gives remote workers a place where they can find job-specific information, give and receive peer coaching, find information to answer their questions, and feel like they are part of the group.

 

The gamification capability of eLearning is another effective tool for bolstering communication and a sense of connection for remote workers. The ability to earn badges and points, and to track leaderboard rankings, involves them in competition and collaboration as a member of a team. This helps them feel as if they fit in and have a place within the company. Gamification can also help managers spot the potential strengths of a remote employee that might otherwise be overlooked.

 

The eLearning Solution

 

The challenge faced by organizations to involve and motivate remote workers is closely aligned with the need to provide them with training and learning opportunities. The right LMS and eLearning curriculum offer a practical solution for delivering courses and community-building platforms to help businesses develop and retain an informed and engaged remote workforce.

 

PETER MATAMALA
Survival is Learning
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Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival. ~ W. Edwards Deming

 

 

Building a Learning Culture

 

It’s no secret that a company planning to beat competition by focusing on perfecting its current product or service runs the risk of falling behind in the marketplace. Changes taking place in our world, how we live, are occurring at an unprecedented rate, driving constant evolution in customer expectations. Business survival may depend on the ability to deliver a quality product today while identifying and responding creatively and quickly to shifting needs and wants of consumers.

 

Organizations with a strong learning culture develop an agile workforce capable of meeting this challenge. Their fostering of an open mindset, where thinking about “what’s next” is embedded in the values of the company, creates an atmosphere where workers are eager to share knowledge, and learn and apply their learning toward achieving business goals.

 

 

Learning Culture and Technology

 

Building a learning culture is not just about encouraging employees to learn and share knowledge; it requires understanding how people learn today. While organizational learning was about enrolling participants in scheduled classes and seminars, advances in technology have led to an explosion of learning through social media and the Internet, changing learner expectations for flexibility and choice. This doesn’t mean that all content is best delivered online, or that all learning should be optional. But, give workers more control over their own development through access to online courses, webinars and social networks, and they’ll continue to be motivated and engaged in the learning process.

 

Do you have a true learning culture? Creating one involves ongoing support for active and independent learning. Here are some suggestions to consider if you want to build or enhance this mindset within the workplace.

 

Make it ‘safe’ to share ideas. Feeling free to discuss ideas and issues outside of formal reporting lines creates an environment of trust. Reinforce that trust by favoring independent reasoning over conformist groupthink. When employees are not afraid to speak up and share thoughts and dissenting points of view, teams are more likely to arrive at productive, creative solutions.

 

Give team assignments that stretch current abilities. People tend to learn more when supported by others so recognize and reward teams rather than individual achievement, when appropriate. Small teams are typically better for learning as they retain the interactions and intimacy that can be lost as an organization grows in size and complexity. However, be on the lookout for silos as they will block collaboration and the sharing of knowledge required to sustain the learning culture.

 

Communicate organizational commitment. Leadership at every level needs to consistently demonstrate that the company values critical thinking, the desire to learn and grow, and the ability to collaborate effectively to meet business objectives. Leaders must model this behavior and hold managers accountable for learning within their work groups.

 

Hire candidates with an inclination for ongoing learning. Look for people who have the intrinsic motivation to take on a challenge, who like figuring out what needs to be done, finding a way to do it and completing the task on their own. New hires able to seek information and knowledge independently will readily embrace your learning culture and will be able to contribute quickly and effectively to the organization.

 

Teach how to get the most out of learning opportunities. Employees should see every relationship and interaction as a chance to expand their knowledge or share what they’ve learned. For each skill-development or knowledge course completed, encourage them to reflect on the learning, apply it to their job and pass it along to others.

 

Reward successful outcomes. Recognize and celebrate changes in job performance resulting from self-directed learning efforts. Whether recognition is done in public or in private, the employee should understand management’s appreciation of their initiative, reinforcing the value of learning within the company.

 

 

Tips to help managers grow the learning culture within work groups

 

  • Set the expectation for managers to respond to learning and growth opportunities for employees with enthusiasm and discussion of how to integrate the opportunities into the workflow.  Root out perceptions of learning as a disruptive, poor use of time.

 

  • Have managers hold employees responsible for their own just-in-time learning. Managers need to give learners access to resources and provide guidance for when they can participate in learning during work time. Managers also need to clarify that their role is to coach, not teach the employee everything they need to know. Employees don’t need hand-holding but they do need the manager to check in and provide additional support or guidance as needed.

 

  • Encourage managers to lead by example, sharing books, articles, websites or videos they find helpful or thought-provoking, and following up with group discussions at team meetings.

 

These suggestions can help you begin changing perceptions of learning in your company or energize an existing learning mindset. In either case, building a strong learning culture can only benefit your business. It creates an environment where employees feel they can learn and grow - a key factor in attracting and retaining motivated, results-oriented talent. As a driver of creativity and innovation throughout the workplace, it will give your company the agility it needs to be competitive in today’s markets.

 

PETER MATAMALA
Going Mobile! - Building a Mobile Learning Strategy for your Organization
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At work, at home, on-the-go, learners have newer options…

 

Learners are using mobile devices to access information and knowledge when and where they need it or want it.  What started with eLearning on the desktop, then laptop, has evolved into an on-the-go learning model delivered via tablets and smart phones.

 

The brand new $1.5 billion acquisition of online learning company Lynda.com by LinkedIn, the leading professional social network, illustrates the growing interest in having the power to control when and how you access your own learning. Since members visit LinkedIn most often to update their résumés when looking for a new job, the company believes it will lure its nearly 350 million users back to the site on a weekly or even daily basis by offering career-related tutorials and videos that members can view at their convenience on any mobile device. Lynda.com offers thousands of video tutorials taught by industry experts.

 

As this self-serve approach to learning gains in popularity, L&D professionals are recognizing the potential mobile learning has to deliver skills, training and knowledge for their own organizations.

 

Getting started on building your mLearning strategy

 

 

Successfully adding mLearning to your overall L&D strategy is not about making current eLearning available on smartphones and tablets. Navigating through a 30-minute module on a small screen would challenge at best and likely discourage learners from using their mobile devices for additional courses. You’ll need to think differently about how to present content when building your mLearning strategy.  The right place to start is breaking it down into three parts: Learners, Content, Delivery. Some thoughts to begin the process...

 

Learners - What will access to learning via a mobile device mean for learners in your organization? Do they already using mobile devices as a tool? Do all your potential users have the same learning needs?

 

Onboarding and company-wide information are likely delivered to all learners. But, a field technician, a sales associate and an executive will have different needs. By identifying different types of users based on role objectives and work environments, you will be able to target learning materials to suit each job type. Determine how mobile learning could help them achieve objectives and work more efficiently, what technological issues they may encounter when using mobile devices, and how they are currently relying on mobile devices to accomplish their work.

 

A sales associate, for example, uses her smartphone constantly to contact clients and arrange sales calls. When traveling, calls are sometimes lost when cell coverage is weak. In addition to a smartphone, she carries a tablet to demo products for clients. Either device could be used during flights and airport layovers to access sales courses and refreshers, as well as product updates. This insight into when, where and how a sales associate could benefit from mobile learning helps define the type of learner in your organization who travels frequently and relies on mobile devices to accomplish tasks. You’ll be able to identify opportunities for offering skill set content and information they need to access quickly and conveniently.

 

That said, despite your efforts to adapt content to make on-the-go learning available, not all learners will embrace it right away. If they are already comfortable using mobile devices they’ll be more willing to adopt their use. If they are hesitant and prefer sticking with traditional eLearning, you can let them ease into mLearning by having them complete supplemental course material on a smartphone or tablet. This will give them a chance to try it out and experience the benefits of approaching learning in this new way.

 

Content - In addition to targeting skill sets and information, you will need to consider how to present the content in a format best suited to each type of learner you have identified.

 

Options may include re-purposing existing eLearning content into bite-sized mobile friendly courses, providing on-the-job support for dealing with situations in the field, some form of gamification, text-based tutorials, and short video tutorials.

 

Regardless of format, keep in mind that learners who participate in mobile learning are pressed for time. Content needs to be packaged in short, digestible modules so they can be completed on the go with elements that are easy to use on a mobile device. For instance, requiring the learner to speak rather than type will make it easier to advance through the material.

 

Delivery - Once you’ve identified the learners and content, the remaining piece of the strategy is how to make mobile learning available to learners. There are two components to this process.

 

First, what operating system will you use: iOS, Android or Windows? A single system or all systems? You should also consider the screen sizes of mobile devices. Most apps can automatically resize to fit a variety of devices but if your mobile training courses are designed with an iPad screen in mind, for example, then it’s important to verify that a learner using an iPhone will be able to read text or view smaller graphics.

 

Second is app type. The main ones which can be used for delivering learning are web-based and native.

 

  • Web-based: An HTML5-enabled website that can be accessed by most mobile devices and that can dynamically optimize content to fit the screen size of any smartphone or tablet. It requires Internet access to run.
  • Native app: An app has been downloaded from an app store onto a user’s device. This type of app doesn’t require Internet access to run but it will typically only run on one platform. This means that all learners in your organization will need to commit to a single mobile ecosystem like Apple or Android exclusively or the app will need to be developed for all the systems.

 

To help guide these decisions, you will need input from your IT department. They will tell you what operating systems are supported, if a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategy is an option for your organization, and how connectivity and security issues will be handled. It may also be able to help with preparing for future changes in mobile technology which can happen quickly and could compromise your efforts in a matter of months if you are unprepared.

 

One final thought about delivery. Before finalizing delivery methods, consider whether all learners will have access to mobile devices. You may want to make assets used for mobile learning available through current delivery systems as an alternative if needed.

 

A good mLearning strategy can enhance the reach and effectiveness of your overall L&D strategy by making courses available when and where the learner wants. It requires adapting content to meet the on-the-go learning needs of the user – readily accessible, easy to use, and presented in short, digestible modules. Test thoroughly before rolling out to learners to ensure that courses and materials can be accessed as expected and that they function correctly and look as intended on all devices. And as with any L&D initiative, seek feedback from users on how they value the learning experience so that you can continue to improve and fine-tune your mobile learning strategy.

PETER MATAMALA
GAMIFICATION – Before Talking to a Designer...
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In the world of learning and development, the term ‘gamification’ describes different aspects and levels of game-based learning that can be built into online courses. Whether choosing the simplest way to gamify or deciding to go with something more elaborate, the objective is to enhance learning by adding an element of fun to the process.

 

If your organization has decided to explore the possibilities you’ll want to start talking with a designer about options and levels of gamification that best suit your needs and budget. Thinking through key design questions and anticipating implementation issues ahead of time will help the designer provide you with an effective product and a more accurate estimation of costs and development time. For example, consider the following questions as you prepare to discuss your project.

 

First, what do you want to accomplish? What are the goals and business objectives you want to meet and why do you feel that gamifying will help achieve these objectives? How will you measure progress toward meeting desired outcomes?

 

Second, who are the learners? What are their needs and goals, and what’s currently keeping them from reaching their potential?  Are there specific skills they need to develop which can be addressed effectively through this learning method? As you think about skills to target, keep in mind the different types to consider. Skills can be physical, like being able to use a job related tool, or mental, as in the ability to think logically or organize a task. Social skills could involve how to interact with co-workers or customers. By identifying specific skills, the designer can build game rewards and achievements that focus on development of desired abilities and behaviors.

 

Third, has your team had any previous experience with game mechanics in a learning program? What motivates them? Are they more likely to engage in activities to achieve a goal or to enjoy the experience? Are they more comfortable with structure and guidance or are they happier exploring on their own? Do they prefer to control or compete with others, or to share the experience and accomplishments with other learners?

 

Fourth, if your organization is global, what localization of content and game dynamics will be required? Is there a need for translation? What cultural differences may require modifying examples, simulations or rewards to ensure relevance to learners?

 

And fifth, there’s the question of technology. How will the course be delivered? Will learners access it from a website, mobile app, or social network? How can you integrate your company’s existing productivity tools and systems into the design to link learning to real work? If information changes frequently, how will the technology enable you to ensure learners are accessing the most up-to-date content?

 

Thinking about these questions and coming up with answers prior to talking with a designer will help get the gamification process off to a good start.  Addressing business needs, learner preferences and technology options up front will help the designer identify game elements that will be effective for your organization. Remember that, like any design methodology, gamification is about achieving results. Although it may be entertaining, its value is that it provides an immediate, visible link between action and achievement, and is most effective when used as one instructional tool integrated into a larger blended learning curriculum.

PETER MATAMALA
Gamification: Let's Play a Game!
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LET’S PLAY A GAME!

For learning professionals, gamification is all about bringing the enjoyment and excitement of play into the design of a training course or learning event. Simply put, they enhance content with an element of fun to engage people in the learning process.

 

While this is not a new notion – instructors have been using games in the classroom for years to energize participants and to review and reinforce learning - gamification generally refers to the design of online training as immersive simulation games or courses featuring game like elements that promote participant motivation throughout the module.

 

Game mechanics vs. serious games

 

“Game mechanics” are the game like elements such as rewards, points and achievement badges which engage and incentivize learners as they progress through a module or learning event.Inserting these aspects of gaming is relatively inexpensive with the help of 2D flash-based software. “Serious games” are simulations of real-world events or processes designed for the purpose of solving a problem rather than for pure entertainment. Used in training, they enable learners to practice making effective decisions and they require more sophisticated tools and development time.

 

Regardless of which approach is used, learners will be competing directly against one or more individuals or participate individually in an interactive experience that rewards learning performance in some way. The spirit of competition makes learning more enjoyable, boosts retention and increases speed of skill acquisition. This is especially true for Millennial generation employees who grew up playing computer and video games.

 

Gamification in corporate training

Given its appeal to employees, organizations see gamification as an opportunity to make learning fun and to encourage innovation and creativity.

 

A survey conducted in 2013 by ATD (ASTD) with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that participating organizations are most likely to use gamification for all-employee training (all standard learning programs) and for new employee orientation and onboarding. Top uses of serious games had all-employee training ranked first, followed by development of high-potential employees.

 

Is gamification right for your organization? A few things to consider…

 

 

  • How would gamification support the business objectives? What business goals are you trying to meet? How can a game format be leveraged to achieve desired results?  Keeping in mind the costs of designing simple game mechanics vs. those of developing serious game-based training, don’t let the “cool” factor influence the decision to use either option as a learning solution. Choose what makes sense for the business and for your learners. 

 

  • How will you measure progress toward meeting desired outcomes? As with any training proposal, before gamifying, ensure that all stakeholders agree on what constitutes success. Will you look for 100 percent participation in the course, measurable business results, or a score on a test? What do you expect the employees to be able to do once the gamification experience is over? Will they make fewer errors, sell more products or provide better customer service?  If success is not defined at the beginning, it is hard to know whether or not you have achieved your objectives.

 

  • Is there a supportive corporate environment for gamification? Managers and front line supervisors need to understand any gamification initiative before they can be expected to willingly and effectively support it in the field. Plan to provide ample communication and opportunity for them to experience the program first hand before rolling it out to the larger target audience. Determine, as well, how you will allocate time to learning. Just because gamification is fun, learners will likely not give up their free time to complete a training course. Failure to allocate time during work hours sends the message to employees that learning and employee development is not valuable enough to be done on company time.

 

As gamification is becoming integrated into the larger learning strategy, it is enhancing the training options available to L&D departments. Once you have defined the best uses of this tool for your organization you can begin partnering with internal and external stakeholders and resources to successfully gamify your training.

 

Look for future postings on this topic!

PETER MATAMALA
What is VILT and what can it do for you?
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In the pursuit of finding the right balance between providing effective training for employees and managing the impact of training costs on budgets and operations, organizations are bringing technologies into the mix of tools for increasing ROI of their training dollars. This has led to the development of Virtual Instructor–Led Training (VILT), one of the fastest growing options for training employees in disparate locations.

 

What is VILT?

 

VILT combines the advantages of the traditional classroom experience with the flexibility of online learning. Similar to a webinar, courses are delivered through web, video and/or teleconferencing to remote attendees. However, a webinar typically features an instructor delivering a PowerPoint® presentation while VILT is developed around the principles of instructional design. Sessions simulate the traditional classroom experience allowing participants to receive the same instructor-led training simultaneously while sitting in their own home or office. Learners participate through two-way, person-to-person interaction in real time via live Web chats, breakout rooms and video. Collaborative features from eLearning, such as social media discussions and polling capabilities, provide additional opportunities for attendees to engage in the session.

 

 

Benefits for the Learner

 

  1. Flexibility to participate from anywhere in the world is possible when they have Internet access.

 

  1. Advantages of both classroom and online learning combine in VILT.Participants can engage in live interaction with instructors, leaders or subject matter experts, as well as with other learners, achieving the same level of knowledge transfer and interactivity as traditional ILT. By being online, learners also have the ability to easily access content and continue the interaction on social networks and forums.

 

  1. Reduced session length increases knowledge retention. Content is covered in short, incremental modules (usually no more than 2 hours max.) which can be completed independently or in combination with other courses. Learners avoid feeling overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information received during 4 to 8 hours in a traditional classroom. By eliminating fatigue and stress associated with sitting for hours at a time, participants are more likely to retain the learning content.

 

Benefits for the Organization

 

  1. Elimination of travel impacts ROI. These savings can be substantial when you consider administration, venue and material costs in addition to transportation, food and lodging.

 

  1. Increased productivity results as learners no longer spend time in traveling and training may be scheduled outside of peak work hours.

 

  1. Inclusion of more learners, especially those who could not otherwise participate, is possible through Web-based training.

 

  1. Reduction in printing costs results in significant savings as learners can print easily maintained, up-to-date digital materials on-demand.

 

Commonly used in customer/product training, professional development, and sales training, VILT is transforming the way millions of people learn. Steady growth in bandwidth and evolving collaboration software technologies have positioned virtual instructor-led training as a practical way to train learners in disparate locations while retaining the guidance of both a live facilitator and opportunities for classroom interaction and peer-based learning.

 

About Matchstick, Inc.

Matchstick, Inc. delivers experience delivering custom eLearning, ViLT and Classroom and blended solutions. Our consultants have a proven record of providing strategic analysis and advisory services to evolve your learning programs to the next level. We offer best in class Instructional design, eLearning development, and project management teams to provide our customers world class project execution. Go to our website to see what customers are saying at http://matchstickinc.com/testimonials/. Contact us today at http://matchstickinc.com/contact/ or info@matchstick-inc.com to discuss how we can help you deliver on your next learning initiative.

 

 

PETER MATAMALA