Best Practices for Creating Videos for Online Courses and Training

July 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Weekly Tips | Leave a comment
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Overview

The use of videos has increased tremendously over the past few years. According to Statista, there were approximately 192 million unique video views during May 2015. Videos are posted online to social media sites by users as well as by professionals to online new websites. So it is no surprise that videos are being used in online courses and training. It is important to develop a plan before recording videos for online courses and training. Below are five best practices for creating videos:

  1. Determine target audience
  2. Create script for videos
  3. Record brief video segments
  4. Build interaction into videos
  5. Ensure video is easily accessible

Determine Target Audience

Prior to recording videos determine the target audience so you can identify your goals. Identifying goals provides focus so you can effectively communicate with your target audience. For example, training employees on policies and procedures may vary by position. The video for managers is probably more detailed than the video for their subordinates.

Create Scripts for Videos

Typically, videos are more professional when reading from a script. Think Facebook versus news videos. Scripts are also beneficial if you plan on providing closed captions. Closed captions are important for 508 compliance and you can expand the audience for people who speak other languages through sub titles.

Record Brief Video Segments

People have limited time and attention spans, so be brief. It is best to record video segments of 5-10 minutes with a maximum of 20 minutes. The length will vary based on your topic.

Build interaction into Videos

The natural progression of creating videos is to use the PowerPoint presentations as the script. Rather than simply reading a script, you can create interaction by using a conversational approach and providing examples or using case studies. As you progress try creating SCORM files with divergent paths, quizzes, and hyperlinks.

Ensure Video is Easily Accessible

Recording high quality video is important, but the video must be accessible from mobile devices too. You also need to consider whether or not the video needs to be accessible offline. Most videos are presented via streaming so the file format does not matter. However, if the videos will be downloaded the file format is important. The mp4 format is probably best because it can be viewed on Apple and Windows computers as well as mobile devices.

Posting Videos

Once you have created your videos the next step is posting the videos online. Consider using a learning management system (LMS) to host the videos and provide tools for monitoring and tracking usage. Edvance360 LMS-SN provides all the tools needed to deliver your corporate training program. Learn more.

Additional Resources

Video Streaming Services

Screen Capture Software

 

 

Increasing Employee Engagement with Gamification

July 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Weekly Tips | Leave a comment
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Gamification is not a new concept, but it has become a more popular trend recently. There have been articles published on Forbes and Huffington Post discussing the use of gamification in the workplace. The use of gamification is becoming a part of corporate culture for some companies. There are several different approaches to implementing gamification. Some companies utilize gamification as part of the recruiting process to assess candidates, while others use it to teach processes or for team building. According to a Gallup report: “nearly 70% of U.S. employees overall (and more than 70% of Millennials specifically) are not engaged employees, which the polling company defines as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Given that ADP estimates that the cost to a company of just one disengaged employee is more than $2,200 a year, it’s no wonder businesses are looking for ways to encourage employee engagement.” Engaging employees is an important aspect for retention. So, how can you use gamification at your company? Below are several examples from How Companies Can Improve Recruitment And Engagement With Gamification.

The article, The Pros and Cons of Implementing Gamification in the Workplace stated that: “Gamification is already being used in corporate settings to do just that. Using incentives like competition, achievement, status, altruism, community, and collaboration, businesses can see improvement in overall engagement using gamification in five key areas.”

  1. Recruiting
  2. Training
  3. HR Compliance
  4. Ideation and Content Creation
  5. Leadership Development

Edvance360 LMS-SN provides a cloud-based platform for corporate training programs and incorporates gamification tools such as digital badges. Learn more.

Creating Engaging Online Training

July 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Weekly Tips | Leave a comment
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There are a myriad of online training learning management systems (LMS) with a variety of features and tools. It is important to assess your needs and conduct research during the selection process. However, the hardest part is developing engaging content. The article, 6 Tips For Creating Engaging Asynchronous Online Training Courses provides an overview on how to create engaging online training. In addition, we have added more ideas. 

  1. Make it as interactive as possible: Use SCORM files. This allows you to use text, images, videos, and quizzes so users are interacting with the content rather than simply reading or watching. SCORM files can be creating with software like Articulate or Captivate. 
  2. Keep it clear, concise, and easily digestible: Ensure content is mobile-friendly so users can watch from mobile devices. It is also important to segment videos into snippets five minutes or less in length. Use video streaming platform such as YouTube or Vimeo which is already mobile-friendly. 
  3. Tie everything into real world benefits and applications: Use case studies based on actual events. The application of concepts is best displayed through real world scenarios. Discussion boards are an excellent tool for allowing users to share their experiences. 
  4. Use message boards and online groups to spark discussion: Discussion boards are beneficial for several reasons, collaboration, interaction, knowledge-base, etc. 
  5. Incorporate stories and examples that create a connection: Again, the use of real world scenarios is vital to the learning process. Use group projects to encourage collaboration and facilitate sharing of experiences and problem solving. 
  6. Give them ample opportunity to assess and recap what they have learned: Create quizzes to assess learning. Use discussion boards to determine whether or not employees understand content and the application of it.  

Checkout Edvance360 LMS-SN for your online training needs. Sign up to learn more and start your free trial. 

MOOCs: Anything New to Report?

July 6, 2015 at 9:00 am | Posted in MOOC | Leave a comment
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In an April 2015 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Casey Fabris, breaks down the latest report regarding MOOCs. (For more information on MOOCs, Edvance360’s MOOC360 network, how MOOCs can benefit Edvance360 clients in particular, and how one organization achieves extremely high completion rates as compared to the myriad of other MOOC offerings by using Edvance360 social learning tools, visit our blog.)

The report seeks to answer the question: “Where is research on massive open online courses headed?” A good question, considering MOOCs might very well be one of the largest educational experiments in history, drawing in millions of students worldwide and growing.

Casey Fabris reports:

“The report is the work of the MOOC Research Initiative, funded with more than $800,000 in grant support by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The group put out a call for research submissions and used much of the grant money to fund 28 of them, which were then analyzed for the report.”

“When MOOCs emerged a few years ago, many in the academic world were sent into a frenzy. Pundits made sweeping statements about the courses, saying that they were the future of education or that colleges would become obsolete, said George Siemens, an author of the report who is also credited with helping to create what we now know as a MOOC.”

Which reminds me of the days when the same happened on both sides of the online learning debate when online learning was in its dubious infancy. Some on the pro-side made similar sweeping statements. Others made sweeping statements that online learning was inferior and would die a quick death. Ten years later, it seems to be here to stay.

“It’s almost like we went through this sort of shameful period where we forgot that we were researchers and we forgot that we were scientists and instead we were just making decisions and proclamations that weren’t at all scientific,” said Mr. Siemens, an academic-technology expert at the University of Texas at Arlington.”

“Hype and rhetoric, not research, were the driving forces behind MOOCs, he argued. When they came onto the scene, MOOCs were not analyzed in a scientific way, and if they had been, it would have been easy to see what might actually happen and to conclude that some of the early predictions were off base, Mr. Siemens said.”

“The goal of the MOOC Research Initiative was to take a step back and get a better understanding of MOOC research and literature. Though the public’s interest in MOOCs has dwindled, academic literature on the subject is on the rise. The researchers examined who was writing about MOOCs, what fields they represented, what type of research has been done, and the various themes in the research that has emerged, Mr. Siemens said.

I’m not sure what is meant by “public” here, nor where he’s getting the research behind the dwindling interest, but perhaps the better word here would be “leveling off” or “getting to real numbers” since the majority of those who signed up for a MOOC never completed them. With time, just like online learning, we believe the numbers will trend up again, but this time at a realistic not frenzied pace.

“Five key research themes were identified in the report: student engagement and learning success, MOOC design and curriculum, self-regulated learning and social learning, social-network analysis and networked learning, and motivation, attitude, and success criteria.”

“The report names student engagement as a prominent theme. Many students enrolled in MOOCs are nontraditional, so making sure that they are engaged and able to succeed in such a course is even more important. Figuring out how to maintain students’ interest during an online course when “a distraction is literally just a click away” is another important element, Mr. Siemens said.”

“Mr. Siemens said he hopes the report will help colleges to make smart decisions, based on research and evidence, about their digital campuses.”

So, basically, schools will have to find ever-evolving ways to engage and keep the attention of the students whether the student is sitting in class sleeping, taking an LMS-based online course, or a student in a MOOC. Nope. Not much new here after all.

To learn how Edvance360 LMS is currently being used by The Catholic Distance Learning Network, a department of the National Catholic Education Association, click here. Readers will learn how the social learning and collaboration tools benefit MOOCs – just like they benefit all other forms of learning – resulting in an average completion rate of 26%. Which is about 20% higher than the average MOOC not using Edvance360.

To try a MOOC out on our smaller MOOC network (we like to call them SMOOCs for fun), click here.

Note: The findings of the MOOC Research Initiative are just one section of a larger report called “Preparing for the Digital University: A Review of the History and Current State of Distance, Blended, and Online Learning,” which covers numerous aspects of the digital campus.

More on Getting Employees to Use the LMS: Employees Will Use Tools They Helped Build

June 29, 2015 at 8:00 am | Posted in Weekly Tips | Leave a comment
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In an April 2015 article in Campus Technology, Tami Erwin has written an excellent article on how to increase buy-in for new technologies. She says:

“To build new technologies your frontline employees will use and trust — tools that will actually improve the customer experience — you need to ask for their feedback at every stage of development.”

As an example, Erwin talks about their recent development and introduction of two new technologies at their call centers. The first is Mobile Coach, an app that compiles service rep performance metrics in real-time so that call center supervisors can engage with their teams more quickly. The tablet-based tool gives the supervisor the ability to freely move about their team all day long, accessing all of their tools using the screen in their hand. They can see how their team members are performing while simultaneously and seamlessly providing real-time coaching.

The second technology is called Rep Guidance, a desktop solution for reps that helps foster more intelligent, better-informed conversations with customers, eliminating the very frustrating situation we’ve all been through: intending to reach one department but getting another by mistake. And having to repeat our problem to yet another representative. Rep Guidance helps our reps get our customers’ details right the very first time.

These sound GREAT! But she knew, from experience of technology implementations gone wrong, they needed to follow a winning strategy to ensure adoption.

“But we knew these tools wouldn’t work if they didn’t fit our customer service team’s needs. So to help develop these new tools, we recruited over 90 frontline call center supervisors and customer representatives to help our tech team shape Mobile Coach and Rep Guidance. We knew that they’d only use the tools — and get the most out of them — if they felt they could trust them.”

Aha. Trust is key. Earning and keeping trust is easier said than done. Here’s what she did:

“My team and I have learned that whenever you are introducing a new process or technology, there is trust to be gained and trust to be lost. We then had to focus our efforts on communicating the tool’s value to drive usage…engagement can be a proxy for trust. The employee’s voice is core to improving both. Inviting feedback is good, but having the end-user actually help build it takes engagement to another level.”

1. So, first have the end-user help build it.

2. Then, invite feedback.

3. Then communicate the tool’s value.

“These two tools aren’t static solutions; our reps are contributing to their improvement all the time. For instance, during a recent panel session, representatives suggested building in auto-launch functionality for account reviews. They felt this change would encourage them to use the feature and that they’d be able to complete an account review earlier in the contact. The team implemented the change and the results were spot-on with the recommendation. Sometimes the feedback can be something as simple as using colors vs. icons, or a bullet format vs. a long-form format for talking points. No matter how simple or how technical the recommendation, all feedback is being taken in and considered.”

4. Then do the steps all over again.

“We’re starting to see encouraging results. We’re finding that more real-time coaching is translating into lasting learning moments. Our representatives are learning how to identify customer signals faster and more accurately than before. For instance, during a pilot phase of Mobile Coach, we saw a 10 percent increase in close rate and a 10 percent increase in first call resolutions. Coaching sessions have nearly tripled from 1.5 conversations per rep per month to four.  Reps also seem happy with these results. We surveyed 2,700 call center employees following the implementation of the new tools and 88% felt the technology was headed in the right direction.”

“The technology we use is good; but that’s just table stakes in our industry. Using the technology to generate meaningful insights and enabling our frontline to take action with those insights is what really makes the difference. And that isn’t possible without frontline feedback.”

So how does this translate to your LMS? First, understand that technology is a tool, not an end result. The end result is to improve something, employee retention, perhaps. Determine the end result.

Second, select a vendor/tool. The tool must have features you know you need, but the vendor must also an attitude toward development that is agile and understanding. You will have customizations. If you don’t, you’re not using all the tools. Experience in an industry is nice, but less important than a willingness (and ability) to adapt to your changing needs.

Third, get your frontline staff members’ buy-in. Ask them to see the full overview of the LMS features and all that is possible. Don’t just drip features out to them. Let them imagine how the tools as they currently exist might benefit their day-to-day jobs and beyond. Then, dream a little. Then dream a little more.

Fourth, implement the current tools and start working with your staff to envision how a change in a specific tool would make their lives easier or better, improve results, etc. Caution: Don’t ask for change from the vendor BEFORE you implement or you’ll waste time and money. Start the discussion with your staff after tool usage has experienced its first spike in usage.

Fifth, bring in the vendor to understand the need, the process, and your ideas. This is where innovation happens. At Edvance360, we love engaging with our customers in this way – it ensures we stay relevant and ever evolving.

 

Edvance360 LMS-SN partners with Elightenment Learning™, Providing Turn-key, Customizable Content for Corporate Training Programs

June 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Posted in E360 News & Events | Leave a comment
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(Virginia Beach, VA – June 2015) Edvance360, a leading provider of eLearning services and software solutions and a CODiE 2015 (and 2011) winner for Best Learning Management System, announced a partnership with Elightenment Learning, to provide a turn-key, comprehensive elearning package. This partnership brings together the best in learning management systems and quality courses from the Elightenment’s eCourse Library. For a simple, all-inclusive subscription fee, Edvance360 clients gain access to unlimited, interactive SCORM-compliant course modules easily downloaded into their Edvance360 system. Clients will get access to courses in:

  • Human Resources
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Occupational Safety
  • Project Management
  • Sales and Marketing
  • And more!

The eCourse Library is constantly updating and expanding topics, making it a valuable resource to any corporation. There is no limit to the number of courses accessed. Elightenment Learning shares the source files with clients, enabling them to customize the content as needed.

“This integration benefits our customers by making courses available in an affordable, easily importable way,” said Cathy Garland, Vice President of Marketing & Sales. “We are delighted to announce this partnership and look forward to seeing our clients take advantage of this opportunity to shore up their own internal, employee-facing training, update out-of-date material, and eradicate those pesky corporate employee problems such as low retention numbers, high onboarding costs, etc. And, really, Elightenment Learning’s offer to provide the actual source files of the content is unparalleled. It demonstrates their commitment to eLearning in the long run.”

“Elightenment Learning is proud to announce our integration with Edvance360’s award winning online learning management system,” said Michael Finney, Elightenment Learning’s Founder. “By leveraging our engaging courses, with the powerful system of the Edvance360 LMS, organizations can deploy courses quickly and efficiently throughout an organization. Companies can reduce development costs, while ensuring their students are receiving quality training.”

We invite you to consider joining Edvance360. We offer:

  • Badges & Certificates– Edvance360 now offers a new and excited way to reward learners: badges. Badges, in addition to certificates, can build motivation and team morale as learners collect and display the badges they’ve earned in their learning path.
  • Unparalleled Personal Support – Edvance360 is a demonstrated leader in its commitment to personalized support for its clients and we commit to a 95% or higher faculty usage rate at all of our client institutions.
  • Affordable Pricing– Edvance360’s pricing is significantly lower than any of the other commercial vendors. Pricing is regularly 30%-50% below competitor prices.
  • Forward-Thinking Commitment – Edvance360 was the first LMS to combine social networking and other Web 2.0 tools (Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, etc.) with the features of a Course Management System.

About Elightenment Learning

Elightenment Learning (LLC) provides both public and private sectors with Web-based eLearning solutions. During our 7 years in business, we have continued expanding and offering exceptional virtual learning through our professional education technology. In addition, we are educators ourselves, who understand how to best utilize innovative technology and design techniques to make eLearning understandable, easy to use, and affordable. We have programs to fit any budget. There is a point where art, technology, and learning converge. When the three do, amazing learning takes place. Not in a mediocre way, but with a disruption in the way we view the world around us. We want to wipe out boring training and we can help you do the same. With headquarters and incorporation in Kohler, Wisconsin, we provide learning solutions, and course design. For more information, contact us at 715.203.1265 or visit us on the web at www.elightenmentlearning.com.

About Edvance360

Edvance360 is an Internet-based Learning Management System (LMS) and secure social network that enables institutions to implement a successful online learning program. Edvance360 equips schools, corporations, and organizations to host online courses, implement modular courses, and revitalize residential courses. Edvance360 was designed by educators for educators, with insight provided by many of the leading educational design experts.

Our clients enjoy a high return on their investment, personalized support, and customizable solutions. We do not believe a one-size-fits-all approach is beneficial to our clients, so we are committed to adapting Edvance360 to fit the needs of the rapidly changing world of education.

Edvance360 is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with operations in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. For more information, please visit www.Edvance360.com or call 866-458-0360.

Edvance360 and the Edvance360 logo are trademarks of Edvance360 Corporation. All other company and product names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Press Contact:
Cathy Garland, VP of Marketing & Sales
Edvance360
866-458-0360

Are Badges Useful for Professors Too?

June 12, 2015 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized, Web News | Leave a comment
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According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, colleges are offering badges to incentivize professors to participate in (and complete) professional-development workshops: digital badges.

Jeffrey R. Young writes: “The idea of offering badges has become popular in education-technology circles in the past few years, in most cases as an alternative to a traditional college diploma, or even as a different way of giving grades in courses. The goal is to create an easy way for people to show employers they have attained a given skill. After all, who ever looks at a college transcript?”

At Edvance360, we agree. We began integrating with Open Badges by Credly, one of the leaders in badging, back in 2013. Edvance360 continues to record grades (which can be printed), integrate with the Student Information Systems (which contain the transcripts), and offer certificates (to be printed either by an administrator or by the learner), but we have seen a surge in badge usage in Higher Educational institutions, K-12 schools, and corporate training programs.

As Young says, “Who looks at a college transcript?” Not many. And we add: “Who looks at those certificates?” Not many. Most of us file them away in our filing cabinets.

But a digital badge is different. We can embed them on our LinkedIn profiles or on a personal web page or blog, store them to our ePortfolio, and even show them off in our learning management system. Some LMS vendors, like Edvance360, will release a leaderboard to even make “showing off” more rewarding. You can bet corporate training programs are going to be on board with that!

In corporate training programs, the main thrust behind using digital badges tends to be 1) motivation to get employees to take trainings and 2) “staying power” to get employees to complete the trainings. It also builds morale and in some corporate cultures, makes a real difference in the onboarding and retention of a new employee.

In K-12 schools, badges are used by teachers to motivate and reward students but are also used by administrators to do the same for teachers.

In Higher Ed, we have seen them used by students to motivate other students (social justice, blood drives, etc.) and by professors (rewarding students). In Bible colleges and seminaries, we find usage of badges in things like chapel attendance, mission trips accomplished, etc., in addition to the above.

Now some colleges are trying the badge approach in their in-house training and professional development, in part to expose more professors to the badge concept so they might try them in their own courses.

Kent State University, for instance, is offering badges to professors who complete workshops on how to improve their online teaching, which are offered by Kent State Online. The group started the experiment last November, and it has awarded about 500 badges during the 12 workshops it has given since [1]

“Our motivation is to provide faculty a convenient means to track and display their professional-development efforts,” said Valerie Kelly, executive director of Kent State Online. “There are a lot of people putting a lot of effort into creating really good online courses.”

Many professors don’t seem to be in it for the badge, though. In fact, only about 150 badges were “accepted,” meaning that a recipient registered to receive a badge so he or she could show it off.

Still, badges are probably more valuable to professors than are the paper certificates that Kent State traditionally gave to those who completed training workshops in the past. “It’s an easy way for a professor to show that I’m that type of faculty member that goes and does faculty development,” said Ms. Kelly.

Kent State even provides a great little video on this: https://youtu.be/vpprKqX6LrE.

The University of Central Florida has been experimenting with badges for its technology workshops as well. And in addition to offering its own badge for a blended-learning workshop, the university teamed up with Educause, a professional group for officials working in technology roles at colleges, to offer a joint badge — with hopes that it could become a standard. To earn the Educause-branded badge, participants have to both pass the workshop and submit a portfolio of homework for review, and pay an $89 fee.

Kelvin Thompson, associate director of the Center for Distributed Learning at Central Florida, said that whether the Educause badge has value for a professor depends on how well known Educause is in the circles a faculty member moves in. The badge, he said, “has value if you think it has value.”

Which we agree with, because quite frankly, all certifications, certificates, and other “proofs” of work completed or knowledge gained have value if the market thinks it does.

So, how should you use badges? Look for our next several posts on this topic to come.

[1] Jeffrey R. Young, “Can Digital Badges Help Encourage Professors to Take Teaching Workshops?, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus, June 9, 2015.

Edvance360LMS-SN Discusses Corporate Training on HRTalkRadio

June 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm | Posted in E360 News & Events | Leave a comment
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Cathy Garland, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Edvance360 discusses corporate training on the HRTalkRadio show. Edvance360LMS-SN provides an easy to use learning management system for corporate training and employee management. Training is a great way to increase employee morale and retention. Schedule your free demo today, http://edvance360.com/corporate/.

Online Learning Report: The Last of the Skeptics Capitulate

June 10, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Web News | Leave a comment
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In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, Steve Kolowich divulged that finally, after years of skepticism, higher education’s elite academic institutions have decided that 1) online learning is here to stay and 2) it might not be so bad after all and 3) it’s going to be a big part of the future…everyone’s future.

These elite schools are getting into online learning in the following ways:

Free Online Courses For Everyone

Kolowish says, “MOOCs are the McMansions of online higher education — capacious, impressive-looking, and easy to supply to the masses once professors have drawn up the blueprints.” “Despite their flagging hype, MOOCs remain very popular. Top institutions will probably continue to build them.”

“Families who want to work with the architects directly are not opting for a sequence of free online courses instead of an exclusive residential program that ends with a degree. Even if the MOOCs lose money, wealthier universities can afford to take a hit — especially if it means increasing their visibility in valuable overseas markets.”

MOOC360Does that mean you should MOOC too? While it may not be beneficial to list your MOOC on the larger networks (needle in a haystack sort of thing), it makes sense to make use of the smaller MOOC networks (or SMOOCs if you are being tongue-in-cheek). Edvance360’s MOOC360 network is available to all our clients and we actually have data that says smaller MOOCs have extremely high completion rates – as much as 40% more than some of the larger MOOCs. (See our blog for more information on MOOCs and to request your own. Additionally, see the HACS MOOC case study for completion information.)

Paid Online Courses For Professional Graduate Programs.

Elite universities are getting into the hybrid programs, offering academic coursework online in addition to the normal fieldwork required, which is perfect for answering the high demand in fields such as health care and education. Yale University unveiled a new master’s program for physician assistants, offered through its prestigious medical school. In 2011 it unveiled a similar doctoral program for nursing.

Kolowish says, “Many lesser-known players have grabbed big chunks of that market online by assuring prospective students that they can go back to school without upending their lives. Yale is not alone in its effort to claim its slice of the pie; graduate schools at the Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and others have also started offering online versions of their professional master’s programs.”

Online learning is perfectly suited to professional programs and master’s level programs (and above) where the “student experience” is not as sacrosanct as it is at undergraduate colleges. The appeal to mature, professionals looking to enhance their careers or enter a new trade is obvious, though Edvance360 has also seen an uptick in the less-prestigious schools offering online courses alongside regular hands-on programs for EMS, nursing, and other health-related fields.

Why No One Used Your Previous Software Systems

May 14, 2015 at 9:00 am | Posted in Integrating Tools into Online Courses | Leave a comment
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In a recent Harvard Business Review article with an eye-catching title of Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network”, Charlene Li says corporations must wake up to “a landscape littered with failed technology deployments.” She explains:

“Altimeter’s research shows that less than half of the enterprise collaboration tools installed have many employees using them regularly (see figure below). I recently spoke with the leadership team of a top Silicon Valley technology firm that had installed an internal enterprise collaboration platform for its employee engagement and collaboration efforts. After an initial spike in adoption, usage slowly dwindled. It was a disappointing outcome and they wanted to know how to fix it, or if they should maybe just toss it out and invest in a new platform.

“As I stood in front of the executive team I posed an opening question: ‘How many of you have been on the platform in the past week?’”

“Only a single hand went up – the administrator of the platform.”

“The problem was simple and obvious – because the top executives didn’t see collaboration and engagement as a good use of their time, employees quickly learned that they shouldn’t either.”

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In my own experience, both before I came to Edvance360 and while training numerous corporations and organizations on Edvance360’s learning management system and secure social network (LMS-SN) or Networked Learning Environment, I have found the same to be true in many cases. Leadership know there’s a challenge to strengthen the corporate culture, train employees, coach and develop behaviors, build collaboration, streamline processes, remove silos, decrease “brain drain”, enhance communication, and generate team spirit. So, they purchase a silver-bullet-software system (or several) to solve the problem. But time and time again the employees see that their leaders don’t buy in, so they do not. The software fails to solve the problem and a new software is purchased.

At Edvance360, our trainers and support staff (and even the sales people) are trained to sniff out the real issues of a corporation, hearing both the stated mission and the ethos (hidden mission).

Often, at the very onset, we discover the leadership has simply handed down a decision on the software without getting the rest of the teams on board. This creates tension between those who have to “implement” the “strategy” and gain the actual buy-in. These team members look to our team members to help them 1) get to know their processes, 2) develop workflows in Edvance360 LMS-SN to enhance or manage those processes, and 3) to train people to use the software all while convincing them that they ought to use the tools to make their lives easier.

While it is very much true that the tools, if used correctly, will indeed make employee’s lives easier, eliminate redundant silos, and create a more efficient layer of communication, it can’t reach down to the leadership problem.

To better embed it within the culture of the corporation, we recommend making the corporate social network (and it’s little-used cousin the intranet) a part of the learning management eco-system. Using a social-LMS or LMS-SN (such as Edvance360 LMS-SN) can create value by combining social networking, intranet functionality, SSO, collaborative tools, file sharing, wikis, CRM integration, HRIS integration, video-conferencing, etc. Making it the all-around-go-to-place for anything the employees need raises it’s value immediately. Adding gamification functionality such as badges for completion of learning or tasks accomplished raises it even further. This is why Edvance360 is actually a further evolution of a learning management system – it’s a Networked Learning Environment.

Additionally, in the words of Peter Boag of Boagworld.com, we recommend:

“The [software] will only be adopted if it makes the lives of individual employees easier. The best way to discover how to do that is to spend time looking at how people organize themselves and look for improvements. Look for the paths they create rather than imposing your own pathways upon them.”1

We track the usage rate and after an initial burst of usage, it can start to dwindle – if we let it (but that’s for another day). The implementing employee “turns over” and a new administrator comes in, doesn’t know what the system is capable of, convinces the leadership to purchase another silver-bullet and the ride begins again. Only to be repeated. Each time the employees buy in less and less. So what is the real problem?

Charlene Li has more to say on this:

“Our research shows that leadership participation is crucial for collaboration. Leaders know they should engage with employees, especially via digital and social channels. But they don’t, and they offer a string of common excuses such as “I don’t have enough time” or “Nobody cares what I had for lunch.” More than anything else, they fear that engaging will close the power distance between them and their employees, thereby lessening their ability to command and control.”

She has three suggestions for becoming an “engaged leader – a person who is confident extending their leadership through and deeply into digital channels”:

  1. Listen at scale. The simple act of listening—and letting colleagues know that they are being heard—is the first crucial step to meaningful collaboration. Determine who you want to listen to based on where collaboration would be most useful to your organization: who are they, what are their biggest pain points, what information do you need to make key decisions? In this case, the collaboration tool could be any sort of feedback mechanism—a bulletin board or even an email inbox is better than no feedback loop. The key is that you, as a leader, need to be on the other end, eager and open to learn and listen.
  2. Share to shape.  To get started with sharing, identify the platform your employees are already using. Then think of a story you can tell there that will inspire someone to take action toward achieving a key objective. You could share the highlights of a customer conversation or a news article that reinforces a strategic decision. As a leader, the key is to start collecting and sharing in order to shape specific outcomes. While it’s true that no one really cares what you had for lunch, they are keenly interested in what you discussed over lunch. Rather than expecting employees to guess what’s important to you, now you can tell them, easily, with stories and pictures on the digital channels they already use.
  3. Engage to transform.  Employees are smart—they won’t waste their time on stunts that are purely for show. Think about the types of engagements you want to have in digital channels—with whom, about what, and when. Engaging to transform is the capstone step in the journey to becoming an engaged leader. It involves listening and sharing (both are integral parts of engagement) and interacting with followers in a thoughtful way, either at scale or one-to-one. This is part of what makes engagement precious—it has tremendous meaning for the people with whom a leader chooses to engage. It is a tool, therefore, that should be used wisely and intentionally. If it becomes commonplace, it may lose its value.

To summarize, Charlene Li says “Collaboration depends on trust, and it’s crucial for leaders to learn how to do this in the digital era. The tools themselves matter less than the ability of leaders to describe the intent and purpose of the tools. Simply putting a technology platform in place won’t suffice—you must think through how the organization will change and how you will lead it into and through that change. Unless you have a magic wand, the fairy tale world of collaboration won’t happen simply because you plug in a technology. But you have something better—a leadership vision, strategic objectives, and the passion to guide your organization through the changes ahead. Rely on these foundational leadership skills and learn to extend them into the digital world. If you can do that, then collaboration will find its place in your organization.”

 

 

 

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