Custom eLearning Development

The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning Part 4

This post is the Forth and final in a Series titled The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning.  Readers of this blog know that the focus is on e-learning with an emphasis on business and creating business result through e-learning applications.  We develop e-learning applications for businesses not for academics.    These use cases are presented based on the business result they achieved for our clients.  This final installment of the Best uses of E-Learning  series is directed at using e-learning as a supplemental product enhance your business revenues.

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The ability to effectively engage and deliver educational material in a web based format has opened the doors for businesses to enhance their product and product offering through education.  Education sells in a variety of formats, be it books, traditional classroom or online, education is a lucrative business you can tap into through e-learning solutions wrapped around your existing business model.  Some transitions are more obvious than others, I have two examples to share with you.

The first is a fairly obvious leap to online learning but an interesting case study nonetheless.  Back in 2009 I was introduced to a business owner in the sustainable building industry.  The company’s primary business was LEED and sustainability consulting for commercial building projects.  As respected professionals in the industry there was a market for their knowledge and expertise to be transferred to other professionals in the industry.  As LEED Certification for Commercial Building was gaining momentum in 2010 there was a huge need for LEED Accredited Professionals in the industry.  The company spun off an education arm of their business teaching the basics and more technical aspects of LEED and sustainability.  Their business model was traditional classroom style training held in conference rooms and hotels around the country.  Delivering the message and building revenue became limited by the number of days in a year.  Additionally, the expense required to host a training seminar was starting to eat away at profits.  Enter Resolutions.  We partnered with them to transform their classroom training into a best in class online academy for sustainability professionals.  With higher profit margins, less time dedicated to travel and coordination the business owners have used their intellectual capital to create a passive income stream through online education giving them time to focus on the consulting side of their business.

The second example is an interesting case, and a much less obvious application of e-learning as a product.  A few years ago I worked with a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women in transition.  The core business is run out of a facility in Arizona which offers women access to career counselors, financial advisers and mentors to help them through whatever transition they are faced with in their life.  The goal was to expand the business by opening similar facilities and other markets.  After the financial analysis was complete traditional brick and mortar expansion did not make sense.  However, there was still a need and desire to expand their brand and help more women across the country.  We worked with the foundation to create an online university boasting a one of a kind curriculum of courseware featuring numerous industry experts in the areas a finance, career and personal development.   The online university opened the doors to a national audience and to another demographic of women in transition, which provided additional revenues and a solid position outside the Phoenix market.

E-Learning is a powerful tool.  Education is big business and cam be presented in a number of formats.  I challenge you to look at your business model and look for areas where you can provide value through education.  Your intellectual capital could be the ticket to an untapped source of incremental revenue.

The Gamification of E-Learning

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Gamification is the hot buzz word in the training and e-learning world, but what does it mean to you and most importantly your business?  I think the premise of Gamification is good, the basic ideas behind it being that people learn best through experiences.  Those experiences then drive user engagement which helps compliance.  If the e-learning game is executed properly gamification should yield a positive result for your business.  Let’s take a look a the key tenets of successfully executing on the concepts of gamification in the e-learning world.  Learning though experience, driving user compliance and being built around a clear business objective.

People Learn best through experiences, if you look at the Cone of Learning it states that individuals retain up to 90% of what they do.  Experiences matter!  This is where gamification has the best opportunity for success.  A game by nature requires active participation, the user (player) is doing something as a part of being involved in the game.  The concept of gamification exploits this idea by creating scenarios or simulations of real life on the job situations in a game format.  A great example of this was implemented by Hilton Hotels back in 2008, before gamification was even a phrase.   There is a great article on it here, but the gist of it is a SIMS style game played on popular gaming consoles that simulates real world customer service and employee interactions at a Hilton Hotel.  The user is scored and advances in the game based on their performance in real life situations at their hotel property.  This was ground-breaking training 5 years ago, but one of the best applications of gamification I have seen based on the fact that it is purely experiential, which as the Cone of Learning tells us is the best way to get people to retain information.

The second reason gamification is such a hot topic in the e-learning world is user compliance.  The biggest fear for a business investing in e-learning is use!  Are my employees, customers, contractors going to use the training I have provided for them.  As valuable as the information may be to you and your business, unless the users’ job is contingent upon taking training compliance is an issue.  The idea of a providing game based training taps not only into a users’ desire for an experience, but also the idea of achievements and ranking.  People are competitive creatures often times an opportunity to outrank a colleague is enough to drive someone to do something.  Gamification of e-learning provides ample opportunities to have employees compete against each other or even against themselves though levels, achievement badges of honor or even hard incentives based on performance (things like Starbucks and iTunes gift cards come to mind).   Build it and they will come is not always the case when investing the time and energy into an e-learning solution, creating game based training may help drives users to your online learning portal.

The last point I want to touch on may seem obvious but it is extremely important.  Game based learning, like any e-learning application must focus around your business and the specific objectives of your training.  Where game based learning fails is when it is gamified for the sake of being gamified.  A sharp focus on your business objective must be the priority from day 1.  I have seem companies make a decision to experiment with gamification of their e-learning but failed to focus on the business outcome, rather focused on the game itself.  The game may turn out great and drive users to your learning platform, but behavior change and the transfer of knowledge to on the job skills may be lost.   The Hilton Hotel example is on the extreme side of gamification, there was no doubt a significant investment in resources and capital to launch an initiative of that nature, but it was focused on their business in turn creating a positive business outcome.  Back in 2010 we developed an online version of Robert Kiosaki’s CashFlow board game.  It was a perfect online gaming application for their business.  The learning objective for the users was to increase their financial IQ through real life experiences in a multi-player online gaming format.  The business objective was also clear, drive leads to the Rich Dad website.  To this day the game developed almost 4 years ago is the number 1 online lead generation tool for the Rich Dad Company.  Clear business and learning objective will lead to a greater return on your gamification investment.

All trends have a life-cycle, some longer then others, gamification in e-learning is in its infancy.  There is good, bad and ugly out there, but the concept merits consideration for your employee and consumer training initiatives.  When executed properly it can increase user engagement and retention, drive use and compliance and ultimately have a positive effect on your business.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the gamification of e-learning?

The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning, Part 3

Readers of this blog know that the focus is on e-learning with an emphasis on business.  We develop e-learning applications for businesses not for academics.  This post is the Third in a Series titled The most effective uses of E-Learning based on experiences with our clients.  These use cases are presented based on the business result they achieved for our clients.

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Software Training

Software products can be complex and have a steep learning curve, using e-learning as tool for software simulations and training is one of the most effective uses of e-learning in a business environment.  Software products have a wide spectrum of uses and applications, which is why the flexibility of e-learning is such a great training tool for software.  There are three primary areas where e-learning shines as a software training tool.  The first is the ability to work hands on with the product, second its use as a job aid and finally its ability to create a powerful value added service or revenue tool with customers.

Complex software must be learned hands on, simply reading about it or listening to a lecture will not suffice.  Expertly crafted e-learning courseware designed around the product allows for hands on learning.  The ability to simulate actual screens and input data in a consequence free environment provides users with piece of mind along the learning curve.  The ability to include step by step tutorials through voice, on-screen cues and text on-screen provide user engagement based on their specific learning style.

Learning never stops, and there is no situation where the initial training period will be left without ongoing questions.  Tactical, bite sized e-learning modules designed to be used as a job aid ensure the user has assistance along the way as the navigate through the live application in their daily work environment.  Simple tutorials built around the daily application of  software provides the user with a “live” resource when needed.

If you are a business providing software solutions to other businesses e-learning presents a huge opportunity for your business to provide value added services and potentially add an additional passive revenue stream for your business.  Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal when delivering software solutions for your clients.  Their ability to effectively use your product to meet their business objectives will determine its success.  This make training crucial.  When clients are not properly trained on software solutions they get frustrated and eventually stop using the solution, or move to a competitor’s product.  By providing an on-demand e-learning solution as an on-boarding tool and for ongoing training and job aid you create sticky customer relationships.  Additionally, exceptionally good training can be viewed as an asset worth paying for as as add on service to annual maintenance contracts creating an additional passive income stream for your business.

Software training and simulations are by far one of the most effective uses for e-learning technology.  The flexibly of the e-learning medium provides unlimited hands on training tools, ongoing job aids and can provide an additional revenue source for software companies.

The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning Part 2

Readers of this blog know that the focus is on e-learning with an emphasis on business.  We develop e-learning applications for businesses not for academics.  This post is the Second in a Series titled The most effective uses of E-Learning based on experiences with our clients.  These use cases are presented based on the business result they achieved for our clients.

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Safety and Compliance

Citations, Fines and Lawsuits are often times very expensive reminders to a business that employees must be trained to meet certain safety standards.  There are numerous industries where workplace safety is priority #1,  the government is typically there to let them know in the form of a citation or fine if a company is not is compliance with safety and training standards.  Workplace safety starts with training.  Training can be delivered a number of different ways, but when it comes to safety, E-Learning is a perfect fit because of its ability to simulate dangerous workplace scenarios and automated record keeping.

1.  Hazardous Simulations

If workplace safety is priority #1 for a business chances are there are real safety threats in that work environment.  Employees cannot be thrown to the wolves to “learn on the job.”  E-learning presents an excellent opportunity to expose new and seasoned employees to simulations of potentially hazardous work tasks.  The ability to effectively use video and animation to portray the risk of a particular scenario is highly valuable.  Further, e-learning provides unlimited flexibility allowing  for customization to job and task specific work environments which ultimately lead to higher retention of the material and more likely transfer to on the job skills.   The ability to visually flesh out a worst case scenario for an employee is something that cannot be simulated in real life.  This mixed with decision based training progressions provide the user a life-like experience without the risk of injury.

2.  Automated Record Keeping

Most industries that run high risk of workplace hazards are heavily regulated.  E-learning delivered via a LMS is a perfect tool to help automate tracking and reporting of training records.  In most cases government agencies that oversee the regulation of workplace safety require a certain level of record keeping in order to remain in compliance with the law.  When injuries happen training records are a company’s best defense against a lawsuit and fines from governing agencies.  We have been involved in several cases where training records from our Learning Management Systems have been subpoenaed to be used in court.  Access to complete training records proved to be vital in protecting the company.  Manual record keeping is cumbersome and can leave a company vulnerable to human error.  Automated tracking through an LMS can provide piece of mind that records will be properly tracked and stored should they be needed.

Workplace safety, and compliance with safety regulations are a major concern for companies doing business in industries like mining, construction and aviation  Simple, intuitive E-learning systems can help to not only keep employees safe put protect the company from citations, lawsuits and fines.  Simulations and record keeping are two huge reasons why safety and compliance training  is an extremely effective use of E-Learning.

How have you seen e-learning systems used effectively to promote a safe work environment?

The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning Part 1

Readers of this blog know that the focus is on e-learning with an emphasis on business.  We develop e-learning applications for businesses not for academics.  This post is the First post in a Series titled The most effective uses of E-Learning based on experiences with our clients.  These use cases are presented based on the business result they achieved for our clients.

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Sales and Customer Service

Sales and Customer Service go hand in hand.  A successful business cannot have one without the other.  While these two departments serve somewhat different function, their primary objective should be the same, provide solutions for customers.  With that objective in mind sales and customer service have similar training needs as well that can be served by expertly crafted e-learning solutions.

E-learning is an excellent tool to provide training solutions for sales and customer service teams because of its accessibility, consistency and versatility.

Sales and Customer Service staff are the front line for your business, their job is to provide the best possible experience for your customers. Training them is vitally important, part of its success is its accessibility   I look at accessibility two ways.  The first is simply how it is accessed by the user.  This is a area where the delivery on-demand online training makes sense.  Accessible 24/7 on the terms of the individual.  The second way I look at accessibility in the design methodology.  If you require your team to sit in front of a computer for hours reading through text on a screen just to get through a training it is not only ineffective, but lacks accessibility.  We are firm believers in short tactical training focused around a specific business objective.  15 minutes or less, something that can be taken on a coffee break.  It is more user friendly and accessible!

Consistency is another key when providing training to sales and customer service members of your team.  E-learning can be a tool to help integrate your employees into your company culture, this is especially important for those groups on the front line with your customers.  People will go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the world, is it because it is the best food available?  Hardly, but they know they will get a consistent experience.  Your customers expect a certain experience when they interface with your company, using e-learning as a tool for ongoing training for sales and service reps is sure fire way to make sure the message is always consistent with your brand and company culture.

E-learning is extremely versatile  when strategically developed around your business and it can offer some excellent residual benefits.  One of the best residual uses of online training is the ability to re-purpose training content for use as a job aid.  We all have things that we use everyday to help us do our job.  For sales and service reps it may be as simple as a cheat sheet with product specs they can call up quickly when speaking with a customer.  Many of the assets built for your online training can be reused to create quick, interactive and very visual job aids for employees.  This helps to create more confident interactions with customers and more engaged sales and service reps.  As mobile technology continues to evolve these job aid applications become more a more viable with accessibility across mobile platforms.  The Commitment to E-learning is an investment in time and money, its versatility as a job aid will help generate a greater return.

Sales and Customer Service Reps are on the front line with your customers everyday.  They must have the proper tools to create a first class experience for your customers with every interaction.  Providing training through an E-learning platform will help create an accessible, consistent and versatile training experience with a significant ROI for your business.

How have you used E-learning successfully in your business for Sales and Customer Service Reps?

Know Your Business Objective if you want a Business Result

My friend and fellow Toastmaster Mike Hayes, wrote an article this week titled, Strong Opinions Make Your PR Campaign Great!  The basic premise being that you need to take a stand and have a position in order for your message to be heard in a crowded marketplace.  This got me thinking about how this basic premise should be applied to online training application for businesses.  The e-learning world tends to be run by academics and instructional design theory.  Those principles certainly have their place, but without focus on a sound business objectives results may be hard to come by, much like having your marketing or PR message heard when you fail to take a firm stance or have an opinion.

E-learning, whether you are looking at it from a big picture view or down to a specific course must focus on the business objective in order to achieve a business result.  Resolutions has had the good fortune of working with many different types of clients all of whom have different objectives when it comes to the development of online training applications, but the constant message we preach to them is, “what is the business objective ?”  It seems like a simple question that should warrant a simple answer, but that is not always the case.  You would be surprised how difficult it can be to answer if it was not the focus in the first place.

When I talk about a business objective I am not talking about the specific learning objectives of a course.  Every online training module has its learning objectives, I am talking about the big picture.  The things that keep the CEO up at night like major citations, fines, accidents, bad press, declining revenue… the list goes on.  E-learning applications built for a company should consider how they can positively affect the actual BUSINESS of their business.  If a client comes to me and says, “I need to build a course on ladder safety.”  My first question is, “What happened?  Did someone get hurt?”  Chances are their is a hidden business objective behind the launch of a ladder safety course that the person put in charge of execution may not have been made aware.  My guess is there was an accident, someone got hurt and either sued the company or made an extremely costly insurance claim that leadership would like to avoid in the future.  Simply understanding that will make a dramatic difference in the development of the training.

Think about it.  If you go to work and all of a sudden you are asked to take a course on ladder safety, what is your first thought?  Most likely, “This is ridiculous  I know how to climb a ladder.”  You are probably right, you do know how to climb a ladder, but if the person developing the training presents ladder safety with an clear understanding of the business objective it can be framed in such a way that is valuable to the user.  When you present something of value there is a much higher likelihood of retention and behavior change over time.

A clear focus on the business objective can help trainers and e-learning developers build training that can have a real impact on their company.  Take a stance, have an opinion and meet a specific business objective.  It will help the company and the user achieve and actual result.

Compliance or Behavior Change?

You are busy, your business is required to produce results, and you rely heavily on your employees to help produce those results.  Training is probably seen as a necessary evil, or considered an afterthought.  Something that sounds good in theory, but not something that is going to help your business get Results!  What if you took a different approach to training and use it as an opportunity to change behavior and create a company culture.

It all starts with one simple question, “What is the terminal objective of my training?”  Typically there are two answers, but how you answer can dramatically the result you get from the training.  Many times we see the answer to this simple question fall into one of two categories.

  1. Meet Compliance:  Employees should be able to pass a test in order to be in compliance with some sort of regulation
  2. Change Behavior:  Help my employees understand the consequences of the actions on the job and ultimately transfer that knowledge to their job performance.

Your answer will dictate the type of training you develop for your organization and ultimately make the difference in the return you see on your e-learning investment.

A look at the use cases for each will give you a better perspective on the differences in the two answers. Many times training simply to meet compliance results in training with little to no interactivity, media stimulus and is primarily text and graphic based.  The positive is that it will most likely be relevant to the users job function since it is of a regulatory nature and in most cases the employee’s job will be dependent on staying in compliance.   The outcome for this type of training is for the student to be able to recall information for the test and pass.  The return on investment is the employee keeps their job and the company does not incur penalties or fines for lack of compliance.

Changing behavior requires a different approach.  In order to successfully change behavior the employee must successfully transfer knowledge learned to on the job skills.  There are some key points to remember when delivering training for behavior change, deliver in small easily digestible learning chunks, relevant, easy to use interactive content.  Appropriate use of media and you are much more likely to develop engaging and effective e-learning which maximizes ROI.  Returns could be a safer workplace, consistent customer service, a defined sales process and of course compliance, on paper and in practice.

Before you begin your next training project ask yourself, “Is my goal to simply be compliant?” or “Do I want to change behavior?”  You answer could change your business.

The Gen Y Effect on E-Learning

Generation Y is now a major player in the workforce.  Baby Boomers are starting to ease their way into retirement and many businesses are going to rely on the Gen Y to fill the void.  This poses a problem because Gen Y doesn’t approach the workplace in the same way as the Boomers have for the past few decades.  Y has grown up in a different era, an era with unlimited access to information, media and entertainment.  Baby Boomers struggle to program a VCR, their Gen Y children have access to and a mastery of technology never seen before.  What does this mean to our business owners and large corporate employers?  They have the responsibility of luring young talent and teaching them how to operate in business environment, Gen Y beats to the tune of a different drum, if you think they are going to respond the with the same grind it out mentality as their boomer parents you are mistaken.  Creating a company culture that appeals to this generation is the key to unlocking their virtually unlimited potential.  While Y may seem to lack some of the traditional traits employers loved in the boomers, they will find that if you peel back a few layers that Gen Y is certainly capable.

Gen Y has grown up in a world of instant access to information.  They want it fast, interactive and accessible.  E-learning technology and course development has grown tremendously over the past decade as the internet has evolved.  E-learning technology has been embraced by many large corporations, and is a tool to help define and develop a company culture.  There is however an opportunity for small to mid-sized businesses to capitalize on the swift moving technology in the e-learning world and is it as an advantage is luring and keeping top Gen Y talent.

The downside to being a large Fortune 1000 type corporate is that change rarely happen quickly.  Multiple layers of management and department heads make it tough for big sweeping decisions to happen.  This is where the mid-sized company can take advantage of being smaller.  E-learning technology is moving changing daily as Gen Y is staring to make its mark on the industry.  The advantage for smaller business is that it will take time for the larger companies to embrace the new technology.  As is the case with anything technology related the price starts to come down as the technology improves.

This article is not intended to cover the benefit of e-learning for business, rather to point out that the evolution of the medium has made it more accessible than ever for companies of all sizes.  Gen Y understands and expects e-learning technology.  Some may have never set foot in a traditional college classroom, opting to learn completely online.  There are a couple key factors to leveraging e-learning successfully with Gen Y that will help set your business apart and create a culture that attracts top talent.

Embrace BYOD.   As I stated earlier, Gen Y wants to access information on their terms.  That does not mean being tied to a company computer.  BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become a popular term in the e-learning world because it embraces the mobile nature of the workforce.  Mobile learning is evolving daily, but is certainly a big plus for the Y workforce.

Be Laser Focused. The traditional page turner, seat time based model of e-learning is dead, or a least should be.  Unless you are offering continuing education credits to fill a requirement for a specific industry certification you should not be delivering online learning to your employees that is more that 15 minutes long.  Attention spans are shorter than ever, this is especially true with Gen Y.  Understand your objective and focus on it and nothing else.  Short tactical learning modules are proven to increase retention of online learning material.

Use media wisely.  I advocate using multiple forms of media in your e-learning development, but you must be aware of the first two points when using media.  Mobile access puts some limitations on the use of certain types of media and you must be certain that whatever media is being used is only done to enhance the focus on your specific business objective.

E-learning technology is a powerful tool for developing employees and company culture.  The constant evolution of e-learning technology has made it more accessible that ever for small and mid-sized business.  This accessibility is a key for these businesses to attract and retain young talent entering the workforce.  Understanding that young talent and the tenets of Generation Y will help set your learning initiatives apart and create a competitive advantage for workforce development.

Humor, A Powerful Training Tool

A a solid majority of the training material developed in the corporate world is based on a regulation or technical specification and must be very straight forward and matter of fact due to the subject matter, but not everything needs to be quite as staid.   Many times the way we train our customer service and sales reps is the way we develop our outward persona to our customers.   This is an area in e-learning development where a little humor can go a long way.

The goal successful e-learning is for the learner to retain the information being taught and ultimately transfer that knowledge to on the job skills.   Effective and appropriate use of humor can go a long way in keeping your employees engaged with online training initiatives.  Sales and customer service reps are on the front line dealing with customers every day, e-learning targeting those groups should to reflect your corporate culture.  One of the best ways to teach sales and customer service skills with an online course is through the use on consequence based video simulations.  This type of simulation based training is a prime opportunity to introduce a little humor into your e-learning.

In the simplest sense consequence based training gives the user the opportunity to do something the right way and the wrong way.  One way to broach the wrong way with impact is to take it to an extreme.   Setting up your wrong way scenario in a manner that makes the user laugh it also makes them realize they do not want to put themselves in a laughable situation.  You have created a tool that makes your employees think about what they look like when they are in a similar situation, and how they can avoid looking like “that person” who made a fool of themselves in the course.

In order to use humor in your training you must first have appropriate subject matter and second it must fit into your corporate culture. Make sure when you push to use humor in your training it is in good taste and fits within your company guidelines.

How have you used humor in your company training?  Online or classroom based.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1291332

Selling Upstream

I have heard from business people on numerous occasions that Walmart does not make it easy to do business with them.  They make the rules when it comes to selling your product through their stores.  Why then do so many companies bend over backwards to cater to Walmart’s demands to sell their product?  It’s simple, for a retail product Walmart is high on the food chain, they are about as far upstream as you can go in regard to a retail distribution channel.

We have made a concentrated effort at Resolutions to identify the best way to get as far upstream as possible when selling our e-learning solutions.  It has made a dramatic impact on or business and how we approach different markets.  When I say selling upstream I simply mean going as far up the food chain as possible to find one company who with the stroke of a pen will provide you with access to a large portion of your market.

I had an interesting call with a prospect last week that really brought this concept front and center for me.  This prospect’s business happened to overlap two of our different industry vertical businesses, Mining and Insurance.  The prospect is an officer at a large insurance company that caters specifically to the mining industry.  As we talked through the potential of working together he asked my why I don’t just sell our Mine Training directly to the mines?  My response was simple, we do, but working with you would provide us access to hundreds of mine operators and contractors by signing one deal.

It may seem like an insanely simple concept, but think about your business.  How would it change your selling strategies, and possibly even your entire business strategy  if you were able to focus on just a few key prospects far enough upstream that it opened up your entire market to you with the signing of a single contract?  Take some time to evaluate your customers, find out what they have in common, how your business can add value to another that is higher on up in the food chain.  It may take some time, thought, research and patience, but in the long run it could change your business.

What are your thoughts on selling upstream?  Can you provide any good examples?