Strategy and Preparation Boost Your E-Learning IQ

Investing in a learning management system is no longer a choice. An LMS is much more than an enhancement to your website. It is essential equipment in a business environment that is challenging organizations to provide smarter, faster, and more engaging solutions for their customers than ever before.

People look to the web as their first source of information. Not surprisingly, educational institutions and for-profit companies are rapidly seizing real estate in the digital learning space. According to the Association for Talent Development, corporate training is a $160 billion industry in North America. Sixty percent of that budget is dedicated to in-house training. Another 30 to 40 percent goes to outside providers who license their content. Associations must stake their place in this arena by facing and besting their competition.

A well-designed strategy is central to maximizing your role as an e-learning game changer. Eagerness to jumpstart this technology can cause organizations to shortcut planning. Allowing adequate time for front-end activities guarantees that you’ll select a system your members will enjoy using and that the complex process of installation, configuration, and staff training will unfold smoothly.

Take these 5 steps to design a solid strategy:

  1. Begin with the end in mind.
    • Create a vision for the learning experience.
      • What do you want to accomplish in the short term?
      • What are your goals for the future?
    • Survey members and other potential users.
    • Interview instructors and content developers.
    • Review the findings with stakeholders.
  2. Evaluate your resources
    • What is working in your current educational programming?
    • Where do you stand relative to your goals?
    • Do your staff have the right skills to implement the vision? 
    • What are their training needs?
    • Do you have adequate technology in place to move forward with a new platform?
  3. Scan the marketplace
    • How are your competitors delivering online learning?
    • Don’t forget about online-only education providers.
    • Understand best practices in the field.
  4. Identify your options
    • If you already have an LMS, are you satisfied with it?
    • Ask colleagues about their experiences and their vendor recommendations.
    • Develop a timeline and budget.
  5. Design your strategy
    • Involve all relevant stakeholders.
    • Include benchmarks and ways to measure progress and evaluate results. 
    • Consider your audiences wants and needs.

Create Options

As you select software and design a system, you’ll want to be sure that flexibility is built into the content and delivery. Tracy King, Chief Learning Strategist, InspirED, offers this advice: “Producing a program for everyone is the same as producing a program for no one. If learners cannot identify themselves and their needs in your content, they will find a more compatible option. . . “Customization is currently a huge market driver, and the idea that associations can provide an experience that is unavailable elsewhere is imprinted in their DNA. Now, the challenge is to understand segmentation so we can create options that resonate.”

Prepare for a Positive Rollout

Your staff is as important as your members in this process. Below, Kevin Ordonez, .orgSource, president and managing director, digital strategies and Dawn Briskey, vice president client services, offer answers to frequently asked questions about how to give employees a running start.

What activities will ensure that employees are enthusiastic and ready to successfully implement an e-learning initiative?

Kevin: Lay the groundwork by clearly communicating the rationale and vision for the project. It’s important to acknowledge the hard work involved in implementation but to emphasize that the results will be improved learning experiences for members and greater efficiency for staff. If possible, hire temporary help to support key employees. Clearly define roles and ensure that team leaders have the authority to make decisions that the management will support. And don’t forget to celebrate success along the way.

Dawn: Develop a strategy for communicating with the staff regularly about the status of the implementation. Be realistic about the timeline and provide ample resources to support the work. Employees should understand deadlines that must be met. Acknowledged and recognized the team members who take on extra responsibility.

What type of training will be needed? 

Peer-to-Peer training is an effective way to learn.

Kevin: Train early and often by creating bite-size learning sessions. Peer-to-peer training is an effective way to learn. Be sure to record sessions for future use.

Dawn: Depending on their roles, train employees on both the back end of the system and the customer experience activities. Some learning occurs naturally as functions are tested and documented. Understanding integrations between the LMS and other platforms, such as the AMS, is critical. Decisions need to be made regarding the data for product and catalog setup, content delivery, and customer enrollment.  When the system goes live, call center staff should receive copies of all member communications and promotions.

Should the entire staff be involved or just the education department? 

Kevin: To maximize this investment and ensure that education impacts every initiative, all stakeholders should be involved. Every department will have responsibilities: for example, marketing must understand the program and promote it to learners/members. Finance should be aware of budgetary impacts—and so on.

Dawn: The involvement of the IT team and/or IT support vendors is critical for a seamless user experience and to ensure that the system is compatible with existing software and apps. IT, education, and marketing teams should work together to plan the customer journey. When it is time to test the system, it is helpful to involve employees who are close to the project as well as those who are less familiar with it. This is especially important for evaluating customer experience.

How can we manage employees who are reluctant or resistant to change? 

Kevin: Getting employees involved and giving them ownership combats negativity. Demonstrate that there is an opportunity to be perceived as a leader or a subject matter expert. 

Dawn: Ask your staff what they think is needed for a successful implementation. Remind teams that the new system may be challenging initially, but it will potentially eliminate hours of manual processes. This time can be allocated to other strategic priorities.

Will additional resources be necessary? 

Kevin: That depends on the scope of the project. If the LMS will be a new resource the need for additional staffing is likely.

Dawn: Managing an LMS, whether it is to deliver quiz content or full courses, is time-consuming. It may be necessary to adjust or shift workloads for current employees. Hiring temporary staff can be helpful. Even basic content requires time to set up, test, and implement. Outcomes reporting and analysis are additional key components of delivering education. New information may require skills that don’t currently exist on the team. An option is to set up courses internally and turn to outside resources for more complex educational offerings.

Promote Excellence

Education is the foundation of the association community. It is a primary driver for membership, so it stands to reason that learning should infuse everything we do and that we must deliver the highest quality product possible. An e-learning system is an opportunity to lift your association to a new level of sophistication and member engagement. Simply delivering knowledge is not enough. Members are seeking impact. They want to have a dialogue and to grow and improve as a result of that conversation. E-learning is a path toward offering that powerful experience.

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