Is Your Organization Ready For E-learning?

August 5th, 2014

Answering a handful of key questions in this readiness quiz will let you assess how well your organization will adapt to a shift to online training, and tell you where you have the most work to do to prepare.

Online training is here and a regular way of life for learners from elementary school all the way through a professional career. As more organizations make the shift to e-learning, some will find the process easier than others. Those organizations that have planned carefully for online learning and have integrated a program into its entire training strategy will advance relatively quickly, have happier learners and ultimately more successful programs. The most ill-prepared organizations will be the ones that find it hardest.

Rate yourself on the questions below to give yourself an indication of how ready your organization is for computer-based training. These questions aren’t scientific, but they are based on our 13 years’ experience helping organizations bring e-learning to their staff.

Jot down your answer for each question, and then scroll to the end of the quiz for how to interpret your score.

Once you’ve determined how ready your organization is, then consider how ready your learners are before you start training them online.

E-learning Readiness Quiz

What is your organization’s experience with e-learning?

  1. None, we’re completely new to e-learning.
  2. A little. Some of us have taken the odd class.
  3. We have started delivering online learning in the last year.
  4. We have a robust program that we’ve been running for more than a year.

Why is your organization looking at e-learning?

  1. It seems like everyone else is offering it, so why not us?
  2. It could be a way to save money.
  3. My boss is asking for it.
  4. We want to increase the capacity of our training program.

How supportive is your leadership of e-learning?

  1. They don’t know about our e-learning program.
  2. They know about the program but don’t have time or interest to be involved in a significant way.
  3. They are asking for updates about the program.
  4. They’re driving development and making decisions.

How well-developed is your internal support system for e-learning?

  1. We’re not sure what would be involved in a support system.
  2. We’re planning on hiring a consultant to help run a course.
  3. We have identified a person on staff who will be responsible for running the program.
  4. We have a dedicated e-learning staff and run our own courses.

How ready is your technology to the task?

  1. We aren’t sure what technology is required of an e-learning program.
  2. We have made a decision about what kind of technology we’ll need for online learning, but we haven’t moved forward with anything yet.
  3. We have piloted a couple training sessions using different technologies.
  4. We run our own e-learning program on a learning management system or contract closely with a vendor to handle the technology and logistics for us.

How ready are your learners?

  1. Our learners have little or no computer skills and limited access to a computer connected to the Internet.
  2. Around half of our learners have taken an online course before.
  3. Our learners have access to computers connected to the Internet. They understand how online training can help them with skill-building, but need to learn on their own time.
  4. Our learners have access to computers both at home and at work, and we have assigned several hours per week for them to complete training.

How integrated is e-learning into your overall training strategy?

  1. Not at all, we’re unsure of what we need to do to integrate an e-learning initiative.
  2. Some, we know we need buy-in from the existing trainers, although they are resistant.
  3. We are training our staff to segue into more online learning.
  4. We run a fully integrated e-learning program through blended learning or uniquely online.

How much planning have you done for a transition to e-learning?

  1. None, we’re just going to see what works.
  2. Some. We have looked at what we’ll need from a staff and budgetary perspective.
  3. We have assigned the HR department the task of organizing compliance trainings.
  4. We created and executed a full change management plan that includes reorganizing all departments to accommodate needs from learners and staff.

Scoring

Review your answers and total up your points according to this scale:

A = 1 point

B = 2 points

C = 3 points

D = 4 points

If you scored …

8-10: You’re at the very beginning of considering an e-learning program and have quite a bit to do before you’re ready for a smooth transition. Check out E-learning Strategy Essentials to find out what you need to do to create a smart plan.

11-20: You’ve started your research and sound ready to make a leap. Keep working to define your staff and learner needs so you can plan for an integrated e-learning initiative. Check out E-learning Strategy Essentials to find out what you need to do to create a smart plan.

21-24: You’re on your way to branching out into a solid e-learning program. Make sure you have full buy-in from leadership, trainers and staff.

25-32: Congratulations, it sounds like you’ve figured out what you need to offer an ongoing e-learning program. There’s always room for improvement, though, so be sure to include regular evaluations and revisions to offer your employees the best learning experience possible.

Questions to Ask Learners Before Starting a Course

August 1st, 2014

Make your participants’ online experience a success by identifying their strengths and weaknesses before they begin.

Students taking a computerized exam

After months of planning, designing and working, you’re ready to offer your first online course. It’s been a detailed process that involved buy-in from administrators and department heads, and training for your staff. You’ve got the technology set up and everything has been tested, re-tested and is as close to perfect as it’s going to be. Your team is without a doubt ready to make the leap to computer-based training.

But are your learners?

Organizations everywhere suffer from too much introspection. They are so internally focused that they forget to consider the people they’re serving. They neglect any kind of evaluation of how their audience will deal with whatever it is they’re serving up.

Online training is no different. Many of the same reasons that might have made it a challenge to get your own organization to adapt an online program hold true with your learners. They might fear technology. They might not have the right equipment. They might lack even the most rudimentary skills for working online. They might have a learning style that doesn’t mesh with what your course offers.

Online Learning Readiness Assessment

These are all hurdles that can be crossed, but you need to be aware of them before moving forward. A little preparation for both your staff and for the participants will make your course more successful. An online learning assessment will allow both learner and instructor to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Sample Questions

We use an orientation quiz with all the courses we build that asks participants to rate themselves in such areas as:

  • Comfort taking an online course
  • Uploading and downloading files
  • Researching information online
  • Sending and receiving e-mails
  • Participating in discussion forums

Think about what kinds of skills your learners will need to have to successfully complete the course, and put assessment questions related to these it into a “readiness quiz” to be completed before class begins. The results will tell students what to expect, and help you understand in what areas you’ll need to offer extra assistance.

Here are some examples from elsewhere that can help you figure out how to structure your assessment quiz:

Online Learning Assessment, Online Colleges

Readiness for Online Learning, Pennsylvania State University

Online Readiness Self-Assessment , Southern Arkansas University

Free Download: How Washington’s Office of Healthy Communities Uses E-learning to Train up to 500 Employees a Year

Download Talance’s free case study to learn how this state department created a successful program to train community health workers.

Photo credit: by Extra Ketchup, on Flickr

Clearer Courses

July 22nd, 2014

The key to making better online courses is to test, revise, and test again.

My love for The New Yankee Workshop has nothing to do with cabinetmaking skills. It has more to do with the process summed up by Norm Abram’s maxim: “Measure twice, cut once.”

That phrase embodies how careful he is and how much attention he gives his projects. His carpentry skills aren’t slap-dash, second-nature. They’re methodical. He demonstrates on every show that a perfect product comes from careful planning, measuring and testing (and really good tools).

It’s not so different from creating finely crafted computer-based courses. A resonant course that keeps employees excited and helps them learn skills they’ll remember isn’t thrown together. It’s built carefully, methodically and tested.

Pilot Testing

In education terms, this means setting up pilot testing. It’s a process that’s known to software designers and product designers. Before releasing a new product to the masses, it’s first tested it with a controlled group. A small-scale trial helps to weed out problems, identify errors and solicit recommendations that make for a better wide release.

It’s exactly what you should do before creating a new course, but is a step curiously left out of many curriculum development projects. I think it’s because many courses are developed by subject matter experts who know the material inside and out. But what they don’t know is how the course will be received in a real world situation.

As soon as we plan development of a new course, we factor in pilot testing, evaluation and revisions. When possible, we re-test the new version so we can make more updates. Only through a field test can we really know if the course is going to accomplish what we intend.

Who To Include

Whether you’re creating a curriculum from scratch or using one that’s ready-made, plan for a pilot. You never know how even a tested course will perform with your learners.

Recruit carefully. Invite a mixture of subject pros and a representation of the intended audience. You want to make sure you’re testing the material with the people who would actually be taking it.

Gathering Data

Spy, if possible. Sit somewhere near the pilot participants and taking notes is invaluable. You’ll be able to pick up on frowns and smiles, frustrated noises or confused computer movements if you’re watching. Just make sure you’re not interfering with the test.

In any event, create a questionnaire that will be sent to all participants, and keep reminding them to complete it. The questionnaire should be focused on gaps, problem areas and nice-to-have features.

If it’s the first time you’ve run a pilot, you’ll quickly see the value of a test. The quality of information and level of insight will without a doubt be beyond what you could guess. Me methodical, revise when necessary, and your learners will benefit.

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Excellent Video That Explains Patient Navigators

July 18th, 2014

It can be difficult to explain what patient navigators do. It’s one of those times that showing is better than telling.

The video Changing Outcomes from the Massachusetts Department of Public Heath’s Patient Navigation Training program has a new video that shows what navigators do beautifully. It’s an excellent health education tool.

View, and share, whenever you need some assistance describing how public health workers operate.

Changing Outcomes from micah on Vimeo.

Ways to Increase E-learning Participation

July 3rd, 2014
Elearning participation

Boost employee participation

Beginning any new training program can be an exercise in anxiety. Testing, piloting and review are essential steps that lead to a more successful program, but the true test of the effectiveness of a program is when your participants succeed.

Engagement varies widely, depending on the course and who’s taking it. And there’s no one way to make sure that your participants are actively involved. However, there are a few guidelines you can follow that will help make your training stick.

Ask early and often what participants think.

A survey at the end of the course is good. Asking them throughout the course how the material relates to their work is even better. Learners will often forget details by the end of a course.

How: Check in with polls that ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module. Also create a forum designed for general thoughts, and ask your instructor to get in the habit of asking for feedback.

Get buy-in from supervisors.

Participants’ supervisors need to be included from the beginning. A supervisor can make sure employees participate and also help answer any questions that arise in the course and can also make time in the schedule for learning.

How: Consider enlisting superiors as coaches for the best results. Create a related companion course that supervisors are also required to follow.

Set benchmarks.

If your course is skills-based, first take measurements of where staff skills are. Tell your employees why their skills are being measured. Then upon completion, measure progress against your benchmark.

How: One idea is to assess ability with one task during performance appraisals. Employees will also equate the course with an overall job requirement.

Offer rewards.

There’s a reason so many coffee shops offer punch cards: rewards work. Think about what reward will motivate your participants to keep engaged. Make sure to focus on rewards rather than penalties. Here are some other ideas for motivating the biggest slackers.

How: Successful rewards we’ve seen are completion certificates, new equipment for use on the job, and additional training opportunities. End-of-course lunches for successful participants also work.

Make it relevant.

Participation will drop like a stone if a course doesn’t make sense to the people taking it. Unfortunately, many courses are too general or not addressed to the right group.

How: Develop courses from scratch and after carefully surveying your audience. Off-the-shelf courses can also be customized on screen, or they can also be complimented by instruction in the field.

Give help.

Technology scares some people. Be prepared to make it easy to succeed in an online course. Read some more tips about making your course accessible for people who have visual or physical limitations.

How: Set up a demonstration before the course begins. Appoint coaches in the workplace who can offer assistance. Give a computer-literacy assessment before the course begins so you have a better idea of who will need additional help.

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Why Should You Choose E-Learning?

July 1st, 2014

When I reflect on our most successful online training projects, I see patterns. The same reasons for shifting from live training to e-learning appear again and again. I’ve never formally made a list, but it turns out someone else has.

In the 2013-14 Towards Maturity Benchmark report based on their annual benchmarking survey, the “key business drivers for implementation of learning technologies” line up almost exactly with the reasons for setting up an online training project.

If you need a good reason for investing in computer-based training to share with your employees or fellow administrators, here are 10 of them.

  1. Increase access and flexibility in providing staff training
  2. Increase the ongoing sharing of good practice
  3. Improve staff satisfaction to aid retention and motivation
  4. Speed up and improve the application of learning back in workplace
  5. Reduce time to competency
  6. Provide a faster response to changing business conditions
  7. Increase productivity
  8. Improve induction process
  9. Improved talent management
  10. Increase ability to adapt program to individual need/context

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10 Ways To Stretch Your Training Budget

June 24th, 2014
Budget help for training

Make training easier on the wallet

1. Look seriously at your existing training.

Complacency could be costing you money. Look at the way you’re already handling training, and decide if it’s really the best way to continue. You may be struggling with outdated materials or expensive trainers. A total overhaul of your training methods could paradoxically be the way to save money.

2. Do more with less.

Bloat can easily work its way into a training program. Do you really need as much as you have? You might be offering giveaways to participants that they aren’t using. You might have a co-trainer when a lead trainer is enough. Look critically, and you’ll find ways to operate your training more efficiently.

3. Cut all travel related to training and move online.

Travel is the number one budget-eater when it comes to training. Airfare, hotels, meals, time away from the office…it can amount to thousands for each employee. End it. Just stop paying for any travel and offer training, such as e-learning, that doesn’t require anyone to go anywhere.

4. Keep it simple.

Simulations and 3-D animations are excellent learning aids, but not always necessary. An educational program that is relevant for your employees and has engaging material that appeals to different learning styles is far more important than something that more closely resembles a video game. Text with pictures is fine.

5. Partner up with other programs and departments.

They could have very similar training needs to yours. Start networking and find a way to share the expense of learning. Your employees can benefit from more cross-departmental networking anyway.

6. Partner up with vendors.

We at Talance have excellent relationships with our clients and have worked together to develop in-depth trainings that save considerable money and time. Look outside your organization for opportunities.

7. Use the web.

There are many tools and resources freely available online that can significantly augment your training. Look for video lectures, slide presentations and podcasts in your subject area.

8. Ask for donations.

Especially helpful when building a physical library, donations can make a huge difference to your training budget. You can quickly acquire books, CDs, DVDs and other materials with absolutely no cost simply by asking.

9. Address a gap with the first course you develop.

Creating a course from scratch is a big job, so it’s natural that some organizations look to create the easiest first. Easy might not be what you need, however. You could wind up with fluff, rather than something truly useful that will improve performance.

10. Plan and follow through.

So many noble projects fail because they weren’t properly managed. Be sure you have a dedicated person to manage your training project, and make sure their position is funded through the future. Elearning and live training both need stewardship, and without it, they will turn to dust.

Want to talk more about budgets?

Schedule a free consultation with one of our training experts to talk about stretching your budget.

7 Supereffective Ways To Address Every Course

June 20th, 2014

Offer a better online course by adapting to the needs of each learner. Here’s how.

Online strategy

Have a strategy for addressing every course–no matter what those needs are

It’s a common misconception that each online course is the same as the one before it. Courses are made up of people, and everyone is different. Your program and your facilitator have to adapt each training session to fit the people in it if you hope to succeed. These are seven common hurdles in online programs and some easy solutions.

1. Pepper your material and discussions with knowledge-checks

Frequent knowledge-checks, which are much shorter than quizzes, can help keep learners engaged and also help them determine if they understand the material or not. These are most useful with dense material. E-learning tools you can use are polls, questions on the discussion board or even a question built into the course with the answer on the next page.

2. Break a big class into small discussion groups

Large groups of people are hard for a single facilitator to manage, but they also make it easy for some learners to lurk and become forgotten. Create on-the-fly discussion questions that will get students speaking with each other. Instruct them to partner up with someone they haven’t chatted with yet, or divide them yourself into regions.

3. Invite guest facilitators

Long courses can become monotonous, and–let’s face it–not every facilitator connects with every learner. Address both issues by inviting a guest to answer questions in the forum for a week or host a one-time web chat.

4. Send pre-written messages

Course participation will stay at a consistently higher level if you send pre-written reminders or encouragement throughout the course. Send messages when the course has begun, when new sections open, at the half-way point, when certificates will be ready, etc.

5. Dangle carrots to eliminate drop-outs

Fatigue often sets in after a few weeks of course, and that’s when learners drop out. Resort to bribery to keep learners logging in. Carrots include: completion certificates, equipment they can use on the job, in-person wrap-up luncheons.

6. Schedule a web chat or call for new material

When the topics you’re offering change significantly in the middle of a course, it can help flow and engagement to schedule a web chat or conference call to address the new material. This will signify a shift in directions and give participants a chance to ask any last questions about previous content.

7. Stockpile good questions

Even the best facilitators can feel unenthusiastic about leading online discussions sometimes. Address burnout by having a template of questions at hand that only require a cut and paste, and put the responsibility to reply on participants. A few examples are below. Save these for your next course.

  • Everyone brainstorm a few possible solutions to that.
  • Please give an example of that.
  • Did you ever experience something like that before? Provide details.
  • Explain how you arrived at that conclusion.
  • Say how you see that relating to [insert topic here].
  • What more can you say about that?

Read some more ideas about motivating a group of unmotivated learners.

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Washington helps hundreds of community health workers begin new careers

June 17th, 2014

Washington’s Office of Healthy Communities offers an innovative online training program for a new breed of workers that could help define the future of healthcare.

WOBURN, MA–The Office of Healthy Communities already works with community members by funding programs that improve health, such as cancer screenings and help with substance abuse. Now the Washington Department of Health agency is offering an ambitious program to train hundreds of health workers to work closely with populations that need extra help–and save hospitals money along the way.

Its Community Health Worker Training program (http://www.doh.wa.gov/chwts) gives new or experienced community health workers the skills they need to go into neighborhoods and help people receive better healthcare. The program trains approximately 500 people a year with a flexible training program that combines traditional on-site sessions with a progressive online learning management system.

The hybrid learning format, built with e-learning development firm Talance, Inc. (http://talance.com/elearning), is key to the program’s success, because it allows workers from every corner of the state–no matter how rural–to participate in the training.

Prior to the program, only some community health workers had received training from their employers. Training, which covers such topics as documentation skills and breast cancer screening, was inconsistent, with varying levels and not tailored to the state’s populations of community health workers. Remote areas, which are where community health workers are most often needed, offer few training options, and commuting into a major city for an in-person course is difficult for full-time workers to manage.

“E-learning allows us to reach remote areas of the state to teach community health workers. Staff only need to stay one day in each location thus lowering the cost of delivering the training significantly,” says Debbie Spink, instructor in the Office of Healthy Communities. “We need the support of the online curriculum. It would be cost prohibitive to offer this training only in-person.”

Organizations across the world send community health workers on house calls, especially in poor areas where residents might not have access to doctors or where they visit the emergency room for minor problems. Program graduates help clients follow the doctor’s orders and take charge of their health, reducing the need for additional care.

It’s an easy win for hospitals and health centers, which have invested in creating new positions for community health workers. More skilled community members knocking on doors means fewer people crowding emergency rooms.

The federal government also sees the value of community health workers. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has pumped funds into the development of community health workers, because there’s potential to save money through this large workforce.

The Office of Healthy Communities’ program is popular with providers and community agencies around the state. More than 100 of them send employees for training, including AmeriCorps, SeaMar, Aging and Long Term Care, and Planned Parenthood.

Community health workers can participate in one of seven regional core skills courses and take one of eight health-specific programs. A program that began as presentation-based staff training, delivered ad hoc at employer sites, has evolved into a consistent statewide program that educates hundreds of people through audio, video, and discussion boards.

VIDEO: Watch and listen (MP4) (mms://dohmedia.doh.wa.gov/cfh/communityhealthvideo4.wmv) to what people are saying about their Community Health Worker training experience.

About Talance, Inc.
Talance, Inc., is a Boston-area e-learning company founded in 2000. It has offered courses and programs for some of the nation’s biggest health and human services organizations and has helped adult learners reach their career advancement and personal enrichment goals.

To learn more, please visit: www.talance.com.
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Free Download: How Washington’s Office of Healthy Communities Uses E-learning to Train up to 500 Employees a Year

Download Talance’s free case study to learn how this state department created a successful program to train community health workers.

7 Resources That Will Improve Your Training Program’s Accessibility

June 10th, 2014

Talance’s courses are always built for standards in accessibility, but the reason we take the extra care and precautions isn’t necessarily clear. The following resources will help program directors understand what’s so important about making courses available to everyone, along with some tips to improve what you offer.

Access E-Learning

Access E-Learning is a free online tutorial from the Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) project at Georgia Tech. The tutorial is comprised of 10 modules that offer information, instructional techniques, and practice labs on how to make the most common needs in distance education accessible for individuals with disabilities, and enhance the usability of online materials for all students. View Access E-Learning >>

Resources for Accessible eLearning for People Who are Blind

A through and helpful listing of checklists, webpages, screen readers, articles and guidelines for creating and offering digital education resources. View Resources for Accessible eLearning for People Who are Blind >>

Accessibility of eLearning

OpenLearn, from Britain’s inimitable Open University, presents a free 15-hour course for professional educators about how disabled students learn online. It covers the technology and techniques used by disabled students, the adjustments to teaching methods that might be reasonable, design decisions which affect the accessibility of eLearning tools and strategies for evaluation. View Accessibility of eLearning >>

Texas HHS Accessibility Checklist for eLearning

These template checklists (available as a Word document) from Texas Health and Human Services will help you evaluate the accessibility status of an e-learning module. It’s helpful for program administrators who want to make sure their initiatives are open to learners of all abilities. View Texas HHS Accessibility Checklist for eLearning >>

E-Learning Accessibility

This presentation (a PDF download) from Richard Helbock, Digital Media Specialist at Western New Mexico University, is “An Introduction to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and WCAG 2.0 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” It’s a helpful overview of what accessibility is and government requirements regarding making courses and other online content available to learners. View E-Learning Accessibility >>

Accessibility and the law from Concordia University

A sobering summary of a lawsuit against Louisiana Tech University, which the university lost, about the importance of making content available in an accessible format: “In short, a blind student was enrolled in a course that required students to submit assignments through an online interface, MyOMLab, but the technology that the student used to access the materials would not work with MyOMLab.” View Accessibility and the law from Concordia University >>

Section508.gov

The official government website that covers laws, regulations, resources and best practices for accessibility compliance. View Section508.gov >>

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