Tailoring online learning to your business.
E-learning has been subject to a lot of hype and promises, with the result that many organisations have simply put it in the “too hard” or “not now” basket. But we are starting to see a take-up in the mainstream – from law firms to government departments to financial services. If you have been thinking about e-learning, here are some steps that will help you get the best solution for your business.
Computers are an essential element of e-learning. But they represent a means to an end and should never be the main focus. An effective e-learning program is not about putting some notes up on the company intranet. Or designing a CD-ROM. Or any number of things that employ technology just for the sake of it. There must be a strategy behind it all – not to mention some good hard thinking, planning and research. E-learning can achieve a lot, however you must decide exactly what you want it to achieve. The two most important and inextricable questions are:
- What are your strategic goals?
- How will e-learning contribute to them?
Know your tools
E-learning is a simple term yet it refers to a vast and often very confusing spectrum of activities. In fact, the best e-learning program will embrace this diversity and use a combination of instruction methods (case studies, role play, demonstrations), presentation (audio, multimedia, video) and ways of distribution (intranet, CD-ROM, the World Wide Web). This “blended learning” approach enhances the content and the learning experience, catering to the needs of different learners.
Dip your toes in
Organisations of all sizes are turning to inexpensive desktop authoring software, such as ToolBook, not only to meet business needs but also to test the waters of e-learning. This type of software allows an organisation’s internal experts, like sales managers and product specialists, to custom design businessspecific online learning material.
Alternatively, find a content provider with an internet-based platform that offers “public style” intakes or selfpaced modules. That way, there is no expense in buying toolbooks software or enhancing IT infrastructure.
Go for a total solution
At its best, e-learning is about total knowledge management, which all starts with a learning management server. This technology platform can be provided internally through the IT department or externally through an e-learning company. It lets you manage all your organisation’s learning activities, including student participation, performance and competencies. It also tracks learning facilities, from chalkboards to training rooms. For large companies, this technology alone can save 20-50% on administration costs and up to 40% on the development of content.
Find the specialists
As the e-learning market has developed it has become increasingly specialised. Vendors realise that it is not viable to be everything to everybody. Instead they have concentrated on one or more offerings in the categories of:
- Systems provider
- Tools provider
- Custom content developer
- Consulting support services
- Implementation and integration services
As with any specialist provider, they tend to be very good at one or two things, and they provide better value for money in their niche area. It is important too that their products comply with the international e-learning standard SCORM. This ensures “interoperability”, meaning you can move between platforms and import data without running into a host of troubles.
Measure the results
E-learning programs have produced some compelling results to date. However, people want to see how such programs work in their own organisation. The more clearly you can show these results, the greater buy-in you will get. And there are valuable methodologies you can use for demonstrating not just reduced training costs but, more importantly, increased productivity.
How not to
How not to resolve a business dispute
Lawrence Omansky and Lawrence Schlosser of New York can lay claim to the worst business partnership. Omansky was arrested for kidnapping Schlosser after the latter criticised his property management work at a meeting in Omansky’s office in the TriBeCa section of Manhattan. During the meeting, Omansky allegedly bound Schlosser and forced him into a space about a metre high, where he remained for 28 hours before escaping. Omansky’s lawyer said: “The case will ultimately be viewed as a business dispute.”
How not to feel the pinch
Tupperware Corp chief executive officer Rick Goings takes first prize for the most lateral way of boosting the bottom line and his own pay. And he has done it without fixing the falling sales of the company’s famous plastic food containers. The trick is simple: sell more real estate. Tupperware’s net income rose last year for the first time since 1999 after Goings started selling some of the 485 hectares acres Tupperware owns near its headquarters in Florida. Despite dwindling sales of the containers, Goings last year earned $2.73 million. He will now be eligible for a new bonus that will reward him for selling Tupperware land.
How not to express displeasure
Qwest, the broadband communications company, has shown how not to run a telemarketing campaign. Qwest cancelled its contract with Teleperformance USA following media coverage and law-enforcement inquiries about a threatening message left by a telemarketer after a householder hung up. Minutes after the call was terminated, the householder found a message on voicemail: “(Expletive) hanging up on somebody like that again. (Expletive) I’m coming in your (expletive) house, you (expletive). What the (expletive) you gonna do? I’ll (expletive) kill you.”
How not to fight obesity
First prize for the most contentious promotion goes to the chocolate maker Cadbury. It launched a big campaign throughout Britain to fight childhood obesity by encouraging kids to buy chocolate bars in exchange for free sports equipment for their schools. In the “Cadbury Get Active” campaign, schoolchildren earn the equipment by collecting tokens from the main brands. By sending in the tokens from 5440 chocolate bars a secondary school would get a set of posts and net for volleyball. For a cricket set they have to get tokens from 2730 chocolate bars, the equivalent of more than two million kilojoules. The move has enraged consumer watchdogs and health organisations. They point out that a 10-year-old child eating enough chocolate to earn a basketball would need to play basketball for 90 hours to burn off the kilojoules. A junior basketball team would have to play 27 full-length games. Cadbury has defended its program, saying that children consume fewer kilojoules today than was the case 30 years ago but are more obese because they are more sedentary.
How not to soothe customers
A Brooklyn bridal boutique was temporarily closed after staff reported that fleas were biting women trying on wedding dresses. A spokesman for the 186-store chain said an exterminator had been sent in two months before. He said the factories that made the bridal garments were “almost surgically pristine” and each dress was inspected and steamed before going on display in the stores.
How not to break the news gently
JNI Traffic Control of NSW was accused of sacking an employee by sending him a text message on his mobile phone. The Industrial Relations Commission was told that the employee received an SMS the day after talking to a company director on the phone. The message allegedly said: “It’s official, u no longer work for JNI Traffic Control and u have 4fided any arrangements made.” Lawyers for JNI said that in hindsight the company regretted using SMS, which it contended was to con- firm the employee’s resignation the day before. The case was settled. Not to be outdone, when Amulet – parent of the British company Accident Group which specialises in personal injury claims – ran out of cash, Accident Group’s 2500 staff received text messages telling them to call a number. They did and received this recorded message from insolvency administrators: “All staff who are being retained will be contacted today. If you have not been spoken to you are therefore being made redundant.”