Introducing eLearning into an Organization (Part 1 of 3) May 6, 2007Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: eLearning, LMS
At this point, I believe most corporations, universities, and non-profit organizations have considered eLearning, if they haven’t started using it already. There are many benefits of eLearning – when it is implemented properly. When I began in eLearning, I designed and developed courses. My next job required that I design an eLearning initiative for an entire company. While I did have general experience with eLearning, I didn’t have a handbook or cheat sheet that showed me how to proceed step-by-step. So, I built upon prior knowledge, made educated decisions, consulted co-workers, and spoke with friends who were also working in the eLearning field. I ended up with a few arrows in my back when the dust settled, but things worked out just fine when all was said and done.
I’ve decided to outline a rough plan of how eLearning can be introduced to an organization. I’m doing this for two reasons: 1) This will be a nice reference if I ever have to go through this process again, and 2) I’d like to offer help to people who encounter the same situation I encountered.
I see the process broken down into these stages:
- LMS and Development Tool Selection
Part 1 of this article will focus on the Research and Planning stages.
Part 2 will focus on the LMS and Development Tool Selection and Implementation stages.
Part 3 will focus on the Evaluation and Maintenance stages.
Let’s get started…
First, learn as much about your organization as possible. What training is currently in place? Is it effective? Why or why not? What types of learners exist at your organization? Are the learners comfortable with technology in general? Do the learners feel comfortable with online training? Learn about technical constraints: Do all learners have a computer? What hardware, software, and bandwidth do they have? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep track of all of your research.
The Learning Management System
A keystone of eLearning at an organization is the learning management system (LMS). You will most likely need to implement an LMS, unless one already exists. An LMS, which can either be hosted on a server at your organization or hosted by a vendor, typically:
- Stores all information related to courses (course objectives, course descriptions, lessons, expert contact information, etc.);
- Stores course content;
- Allows learners to launch and complete eLearning courses;
- Tracks learner information such as course completions, certifications received, and objectives met; and
- Allows you to run reports to monitor LMS usage and learner progress.
Selecting and implementing an LMS is a big task. I highly suggest that you meet with managers of different departments early on in the process. Do they have particular training needs that could be met with an LMS? Do they need to track any certifications or competencies in the LMS? Do they have an existing system or existing data that you will need to integrate with the LMS? If so, try to understand their needs as clearly as possible and keep them involved with everything as you move forward.
How do you define success?
Next, determine what upper management considers to be a successful eLearning deployment. What do they expect, and why? This may differ drastically from what you believe is a success. Knowing this information could greatly affect your employment. 🙂
Try to guesstimate a timeline for the roll-out of your eLearning initiative, if one hasn’t been given to you already. Confirm that management is comfortable with the timeline, and then begin allocating resources (money and people) for the project. From personal experience, I was able to implement an LMS in about 6 months, implement 100+ off-the-shelf courses in about 2 months, and develop 5-10 custom-built courses in about 5 months. This was for a medium-sized company (~5,000 employees). Your mileage may vary depending on the scale of your implementation, the resources available to you, and the speed at which your organization operates. Remember, at this point your timeline is a guesstimate; it will become clearer as you move further along in the planning stage.
Typically, an organization’s eLearning strategy should tie directly to the organization’s overall goals. If your organization builds and sells widgets, then your eLearning should directly improve the knowledge and skills of the employees so that they can build better widgets (faster) and sell them more effectively. Define your eLearning strategy and stick to it; this will help you stay focused on what’s important, and management will be more supportive if they know you’re focusing on the right things.
Do you have the talent and/or desire to be the eLearning guru? You’ll need project management skills, general knowledge of eLearning, and the ability to ask a ton of questions. If you’re ready and willing, that’s great. If not, find people with these skills to assist you.
Work carefully with your IT, HR, and Marketing departments early on in the process; you’ll definitely need their help in getting the LMS implemented. Explain what you are doing, and why. If they understand the need, they’ll be much more likely to be on board with the project. You won’t win much affection if you walk in and say, “We need this system, and you have to implement it for us.”
Here’s how you will most likely use the help of each department:
- IT can…
Set up the LMS server(s) and database(s), set up Single Sign-On with your LMS (if your organization supports this), perform server maintenance, perform LMS software upgrades, and more.
- HR can…
Connect an employee data-feed with the LMS to help manage user accounts (ex. add user accounts for new-hires and remove accounts of terminated employees).
- Marketing can…
Help you brand the LMS and promote its launch at your organization. You may do this by featuring the LMS on your Intranet’s home page, in a newsletter, in an email announcement, or by having a contest (ex. the first 10 people to complete an eLearning course get a $10 gift certificate to Best Buy).
This should help you get started on the right foot. Your chances of being successful will be much higher if you take your time to research and plan properly. Part 2 of this article will focus on the selection and implementation of your LMS and development tools. Stay tuned, and good luck!