Show Me the Money: Why More Organizations are Turning to eLearning

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Sure, the idea of increased productivity and less time in the classroom sounds appealing, but for most management, the decision to change from traditional training to an eLearning approach probably boils down to the numbers. Leadership wants to see how eLearning can directly impact their bottom line, which means budget and savings. If you’re hoping to implement an eLearning program within your organization, all of the bells and whistles in the world won’t compare to a well-organized financial comparison.

Time is Money

We all know that time is money, but unless you quantify just how much time savings is involved once an eLearning program has been implemented, your argument might lack merit. eLearning saves time in a few different ways, but it mostly revolves around in-class time for learners and instructors, as well as travel time usually associated with training.

By ditching in-class training, an organization saves both instructor and learner time.  In fact, the instructor probably has other responsibilities, which means training time takes time away from other projects. By the same token, learners are taken away from on-the-job experiences to essentially listen and talk about things that they could be practicing in real-time.

Combine that with the savings from having to shuttle both learners and instructors to various locations, and the idea of being able to access a module (smartphone) anytime and anywhere, becomes seriously appealing.

Organizational Resources

While it’s true that eLearning programs can cost a little more upfront, their long-term savings more than make up for that initial investment. Typical training programs eat up time, but they also eat up money each time the same program is delivered. Organizations must pay for the materials, travel costs, pay the instructor and even add some for overtime. A seemingly cheap program has a cost of delivery, and if it needs to be delivered again and again, your organization could be hemorrhaging money.

eLearning Costs Advantage

Contrast that to the startup costs of eLearning programs. While the organization will need to invest in the upfront costs, those costs are quickly recouped when the program can be delivered again and again for free. There’s no cost to share media online, initiate a forum discussion or answer quiz questions, meaning the investment is better spent.

Doing the Math

In the end, management will want to see hard numbers. By creating a clear spreadsheet contrasting current and traditional efforts when compared to the cost savings of implementing an eLearning program, the difference is obvious. By adding up instructor wages, time spent, travel time and costs as well as costs of delivery each time the program is issued, the benefits of swapping out traditional learning for eLearning is clear. Show management the money and you could be a catalyst for change in your organization.

Open Badges Add R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to Gamification and eLearning

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People vie for recognition because it leads to respect. Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) and badges both signal recognition, but CEUs confirm “butt in seat” time while Open Badges’ digital badges recognize and measure performance. CEUs say, “I showed up,” while Open Badges say, “I participated, learned and earned.” Which would you rather collect? Which is more impressive to the employer? See where this is going?

Open Badges 101

A joint venture between Mozilla Drumbeat and the MacArthur Foundation with support from a roster of corporate Who’s Whos, Open Badges secured its place as the de facto badge standard, and the train already barrels down the tracks.

Learners can earn badges through accredited educational facilities and informal environments. Each badge contains meta-data that ties it to the learner, so someone can’t lift another person’s badge and claim it as their own. Call it a “secure certificate of competency.” Employers may eventually require prospective employees to show their badges, and job seekers will want to demonstrate verifiable, portable skills to potential employers.

Digital backpacks hold an individual’s badges, and badge holders can group badges any way they like—by subject matter, competencies etc., depending on the context in which they want to let others see their badges.

The Gamification Connection

Life is a game, so it’s no surprise that schools, small businesses and enterprises use games to instill work skills, knowledge and soft skills. Once the learner masters the concept or skill, learning platforms compatible with Open Badges can issue a badge. Gamification at work is one of many methods used to engage eLearners, and the badge is the social carrot.

Cities of Learning Pioneer Open Badges

Education often launches workplace trends. The city of Chicago served as the prototype for the Cities of Learning movement, now six cities and growing. Each city offers free and low-cost learning opportunities to youth, based on their academic interests, hobbies and personal interests. Participating cities design their own programs, based on local needs. Participants learn, play (gamification) and earn badges to demonstrate their achievements, and Open Badges plays an integral role in the Cities of Learning brand.

Interns Take Note

The Open Badge Imitative could bridge the gap between internship and job. Imagine the young intern who displays the initiative to learn on his or her own and collect a backpack full of badges. The competitive edge is then his or hers to lose in the fight for jobs.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Starting an eLearning Initiative

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If you’re new to the whole eLearning design and development arena, there’s definitely going to be some apprehension involved. After all, if you’re the one who brought the solution to the table, it’s up to you to make sure it’s successful. In essence that translates to one key component: Not screwing up. And, while the task of implementing an entirely new eLearning program can definitely be daunting, you can anticipate potential roadblocks so they’re no big deal.

Common Mistakes of eLearning Initiatives

Consider these the seven deadly sins when it comes to building an eLearning course from the ground up:

  1. Creating a direct translation of a traditional course. Why even create an eLearning program if you just use tired, old material that doesn’t translate well?
  2. Lack of motivation. Believe us when we say that “personal development” isn’t enough of a reward. Achievements and recognition can help motivate learners.
  3. No user interactivity. An engaged learner is an invested learner. If you don’t invite them to interact with the program, it’ll be a dud.
  4. Generic content. A learner can smell an off-the-shelf module from a mile away. A level of customization is necessary to make the program worth it.
  5. Lack of media. You have the world’s largest collection of video, audio and images at your fingertips and don’t use it?
  6. Keeping it in the office. Learning in the office is awesome. Getting learners to engage on their own time? Even more awesome.
  7. One size fits all experience. Not all learners are created equally, so a module that forces everyone through the same experience can be frustrating.

Learning & Development Culture Shock

Another potential issue in getting an eLearning program off the ground is a workplace culture that isn’t ready for the shift to a new method of training. If you want employees on board, you’ll need to spend some time with the leaders and influencers of the organization. By ensuring their enthusiasm, it’ll trickle down and make for a smoother transition. Otherwise, you could end up with a L&D mutiny on your hands.

Warning Signs

Worried that your eLearning initiative might be crashing and burning before it even gets off the ground? Prep yourself to watch for the warning signs of a lackluster response so you can address concerns and attitudes before they affect the entire program. Some signs might include:

  • Disengaged learners
  • Unsupportive leadership
  • A lack of participation
  • Poor post-program performance
  • A lack of analytics

If you notice some of these warning signs, it might be time to call a meeting with leadership and head back to the drawing board for a new approach. Here’s the thing: eLearning can be a wildly successful way to train employees, but you need to find the right combination of components to really make it work. After some trial and error, you’ll notice a fundamental switch from not trying to screw up to actually succeeding in your efforts.

Personal Learning Network: The 4 Ws

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Everyone knows that two heads are better than one, but what’s better than two heads? With a personal learning network, you get the benefit from a practically infinite number of minds, all working collaboratively to a similar end. That’s why CLOs, managers and those looking to increase their leadership pull at work need a PLN: It gives you the power of new thoughts, ideas and insight from a network of professionals just like you.

What is a Personal Learning Network?

Your personal learning network is a series of personal connections that allow you to further your learning and development on your own time. Sure, you might get training and even leadership development at work, but your PLN goes beyond what’s required: It’s a method by which you grow your knowledge base, resources and skills.

Consider it a meeting of the minds: Through a collaborative environment, you share knowledge with your peers and they do the same. By aligning yourself with the right colleagues and influencers, you reap the benefit of an entire network of leaders.

Why You Need a PLN

A personal learning networking isn’t just “nice to have.” It’s a must if you want to make the most of your professional connections. Personal learning networks have a variety of benefits that make the effort worth your while:

  • PLN’s identify key information based on industry. Wondering about the latest study or tired of sifting through hundreds of articles for the best info? Your PLN is the perfect place to find the most pertinent and timely information about your industry, so you can quickly dial in on the need-to-know stuff.

Where to Use a Personal Learning Network

  • PLN’s offer opportunities to share your influence. Want to be known as an expert in your field? Becoming more active through a PLN can help increase your circle of influence and get your name out there. As you connect with others, they see you as someone active and knowledgeable in the field.
  • PLN’s allow the sharing of trends. The latest training methods and trends are bound to hit the PLN circles first, since that’s where the innovators and influencers are. Your PLN is an invaluable source of ideas and brainstorming, which you can then use in your position at work.

When to Get Started

The best part of growing your PLN is that you probably have the tools on hand. Social networking is the first and foremost way to increase your PLN and connect with others like you: Following innovators on Twitter and connecting on LinkedIn is a great start. Becoming more active in online industry forums and following and commenting on blogs can also help extend your reach, so get moving.

With eLearning trends in 2014 indicating much broader acceptance of corporate eLearning programs, the stakes are higher. This means that developing a proper PLN, by working with other professionals, is crucial. A PLN also means that you reap the benefit of combined decades of experience, ideas and problem-solving. Who wouldn’t want that?

LMS 101: Creating a Solution

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Training and development isn’t exactly a place where you want to “wing it.” While you may be interested in creative solutions and off-the-cuff content, going into training without a learning management system (LMS) could leave you flying blind. By getting control of your training modules and properly tracking learners and their success in the program, you can better offer exactly what your learners need in the easiest, most efficient way possible.

Demystifying LMS

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s just another tech abbreviation: You need to get to know LMS if you want to take your training to the next level. In essence, an LMS is a method by which you can administrate, deliver and track your training and education efforts.

This goes beyond a casual desire to know whether or not learners are actually viewing and interacting with the material, but a way to streamline the entire training process. From content creation to user engagement, an LMS allows you to better evaluate the effectiveness of your module, allowing you to tweak until you reach training perfection.

Types of Learning Management Systems

When searching for the perfect LMS, you’re bound to come across a few different types, all which can leave you scratching your head. Learning management systems usually come in two different categories: Installed or software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Installed systems can be free or paid via a one-time fee, and once downloaded, it’s up to you to manage. These tend to work best for smaller organizations and modules, and for administrators who want the most control over the LMS – for the least amount of money. Still, an installed LMS usually gives you the most freedom to tailor the learning experience, upload new content and track your learners’ progress.

For more features and a simpler experience, SaaS-based LMS can help remove some of the guesswork from managing your modules. With a SaaS, you have a dedicated customer service team available to help, with regular updates and features. It may work best for larger organizations that require ongoing and changing training modules.

Choosing the Right LMS

Choosing your LMS will come down to a few important factors: Practice, feedback and integration. If it’s possible, taking a few different systems for a test drive within your organization can help you gain valuable feedback from learners and test whether or not the features are a good fit. Talk to other organizations that use the same LMS and make sure the included tools are of worth to your organization.

Learning management systems aren’t a one-size-fits-all type of application. What works for another organization might be a total dud in your workplace. Luckily, there’s no shortage of system, which means you have the luxury of being picky.

Quantifying Learning for the C-Suite

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You know the power of an engaging and interactive eLearning module, but that doesn’t mean management automatically sees eye-to-eye with your assessment. When your organization has used the same programs and training methods time and time again, it can be difficult to get management to buy into something new. Therefore, if you really want to make a difference, you must create value. One of the areas in which you can really whet an executive’s appetite is in learning transfer: How learners take the information in training and apply it to their jobs.

Identify the Factors for Learning Transfer

All good learning modules should focus on learning transfer. After all, you’re not just holding a training session for the free donuts and coffee. But because learning transfer can be hard to quantify, some eLearning enthusiasts shy away from using it as an example of a module’s efficacy.

While it’s true that learning transfer can be tricky to measure, understanding the three factors that affect transfer can give you head start. First, the participants own abilities and attitudes will define whether or not they really absorb the material. Second, the actual content and medium by which a module is delivered can affect how it’s received. Finally, the workplace environment and attitudes will define how the information is applied in the workplace setting.

Demonstrate Value of eLearning

While you might understand the value of a high rate of learning transfer, managers might not be interested until you can show them the value behind the method. Executives speak a different language, and it’s one that centers on productivity, budget and time.

Try speaking that language to help improve the case for an eLearning program that improves learning transfer. Such a program would help reduce organization resources because learners absorb more information and apply it to their jobs. It would take less time and require fewer follow-up sessions. And, here’s the kicker: Improving learning transfer helps reduce a strained training budget. Learners can utilize the same eLearning module again and again, so no need for dedicated training time, instructors or purchasing materials.

Showcase Achievement

Even with your best efforts to explain the value of learning transfer, you’re not done until you take the time to showcase learner achievements to management. They’ll finally be sold when they can see the direct effects of an improved training program on the job.

Track learner behavior before and after the training is finished and utilize factors to prove that it worked. Tracking sales, taking user surveys and even awarding online badges for follow-up training among your learners show management that improve custom eLearning has real – and fast – results.

Being the champion of your eLearning cause can mean an uphill battle, but by proving to management that a better module means better learning transfer, you might just be able to make a big change in the way your organization sees learning.

Get Social, Get Smart

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Eventually everything comes back into fashion. The Madmen era of the ’60s gave way to the productivity era of the ’80s thanks to first-generation MBA bean counters. The “nose to the grind” workplace encouraged coporate social learning silos, an unintended consequence. Now the pendulum swings back. While social learning takes the enterprise eLearning experience to a higher level, it adds another lauded benefit—a renewed sense of community.

The Total is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

By integrating social components into the eLearning experience, you reach more types of learners while coaxing wallflowers from the shadows. Those afraid to ask for help in a formal setting can accept help and encouragement from their peers.

Plan Your Social Strategy

Your overall plan (strategy) provides routine; the components (tactics) add the opportunity for spice. Place social features on the course page for easy, consistent access. The plan will evolve over time, but you must start with a basic plan.

Social Learning Tools for eLearning

Decide which of the following social learning tools will benefit your overall learning strategy and integrate them as applicable:

  • Blog – Tags identify entries for each course
  • Comments and Ratings – Encourage feedback
  • Forum – Peer review and support
  • Wiki – Knowledge bases
  • Polls – Who can resist a poll?
  • Bookmarking – Share favorites
  • Social Widgets – Integrate Social Learning into the LMS
  • GamificationRosetta Stone uses heavy gamification on Live Mocha, their free foreign-language site.

Use your authoring tool’s widgets to integrate social components into the LMS. Then, link entry from the course page. Finally, use an RSS feed to push out information to learners. The more components you integrate, the more opportunities for social elearning and interaction to occur.

Who knows: Your eLearner social butterflies might take the initiative to plan a face-to-face ‘graduation’ lunch meetup on their own—or you could build it into the plan.

The Big Data Revolution

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They say that knowledge is power, but when it comes to analyzing your learners, knowledge is more along the lines of being able to predict the future. Thanks to the ability to better track your learners through big data, a strategy often used for marketing can also work in predicting learner behavior and matching each person to their perfect eLearning module. By recognizing the limitations of typical programs, you can wipe out some of your biggest challenges with the sheer power of information.

Potential Problems

While conventional eLearning modules have their strengths, they aren’t perfect – yet. With traditional programs, you typically apply the same medium and material to learners, regardless of their personal tastes, strengths and weaknesses. The same program also assumes that all learners have access to all the same devices, which can be a huge miscalculation.

Making eLearning a more personalized experience for your learners can make all the difference in increasing motivation. After all, when a module is hard to access and plays against a learner’s weaknesses, he or she is hardly itching to log on and start learning. Therefore, to drill down on a learner’s access points and favorite method of learning – and even predicting how well a learner will interact with the module – you can better tailor each module to suit a variety of learners’ needs.

Big Data to the Rescue

Big data – huge super-sets of uncategorized information – is usually used in the realm of marketing. Firms use big data to deliver the right message, through the right medium, to the right individual. Now, think about how powerful that ability could be in the area of eLearning. Instead of applying the same module to all learners, you could use information about a person’s likes, dislikes, hobbies and even family life to tailor the program that suits each learner best.

Take learning styles, for example. Big data can show you how a learner has fared in past programs, as well as display information about social media usage. When you note that a specific learner has a high propensity to use social media and traditionally does with using multimedia modules, you can offer him a microlearning platform that plays to his strengths and likes.

Personalize eLearning with Big Data

Big data can also help you predict how a learner will react to material. If you have a learner who has a history of attending live courses to good results, you might predict that a hands-off, mobile-heavy module might not be the best fit. Changing to a flipped classroom model will probably work better for those who prefer traditional training.

Big data offers you the opportunity to take a peek into your learners’ lives and create a more personalized experience for training. Maybe knowledge is power – but it’s also an effective way to increase learner motivation, too.

eLearning: The New Status Quo

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blue wall

There will always be a million reasons to stay the same, but corporate learning vigilantes know that affecting change can cause a massive paradigm shift in the workplace. Unfortunately, those innovators can be stifled by corporate protocol, heritage programs and managers who want to avoid “rocking the boat.” What’s a creative rebel to do? By proving the merits of custom e-Learning and using available tools, you can go from a “yes man” to someone who really affects change at work.

Access to Information Anywhere

One of the main benefits of adding an eLearning platform to a corporate training program is the idea of continual and easy access to the information. The conventional idea that learning can only take place in the classroom can be challenged when you prove that learning can happen anywhere: From waiting for the train to watching reality TV at home. Utilizing mediums like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube means learners can access material in ways they probably already use anyway.

This 24/7 link to information can do more than keep learners’ eyes glued to the material: It becomes a valuable way to update procedures and send “need to know” data directly to those who need it the most. Saving money, reducing workplace resources and increasing efficiency – who can say no to that?

Performance Analysis for eLearning

Classroom-only training programs are woefully difficult to track. Sure, you can get bodies in the room, but you don’t really know how they’re absorbing the material. In fact, there’s a good chance that your learners forget the material about the time they walk out the door. Challenge that way of thinking by proving how effectively performance can be measured via eLearning. Corporate gamification and online forums are excellent ways to test skills, prove understanding and elicit discussion around the material. Learners become more entrenched in the content, and managers can sit back and measure growth.

Affecting Change at Work

Hey, it’s hard to make a change, especially when your organization has been using the same programs for years. But whether you’re in a management position or you’re just a concerned citizen, putting the right programs in the right hands can make all the difference.

Check out organizations that are doing it right, or run your own test drive to see how your department reacts to things like mobile updates or sharing on Facebook. It’ll give you the ammo you need to prove that the current status quo – when it comes to training and development – can actually hurt an organization’s forward motion.

Sure, you might be considered a bit of a rebel, but working to revolutionize the way your organization thinks about onboarding, training and talent development can make your ideas go mainstream. Speak up and prove your worth and you might just go from eLearning rebel to impactful leader.