Focus on E-learning Benefits for Buy-In

You may be positive that an e-learning program is perfect for your organization, but when it comes to delivering that message to decision-makers, focus on the "why" rather than the "what."

Why? Benefits make more sense than features. It might be great that your learning management system has blogs, easy to follow forums and granular tracking and analysis. But most people what to know how that program will solve their problems.

Here are some great examples of some of the biggest features and benefits of e-learning to prime your next discussion:

Instead of … "E-learning is self-paced."

Try: "We can save $20,000 per year by eliminating monthly in-person training sessions."

Why it's better: Explain what happens when you allow people to take an e-learning program as needed. In practical terms, it might mean that you can save on trainer costs, you don't have to buy training materials, you no longer need to block out a certain amount of time for instructor-led training. Figuring out how much money that will save will help you make your case.

Instead of … "Online training multiple learning styles."

Try: "Retention is improved because information is presented in various formats."

Why it's better: In this case, it makes sense to strike the jargon about learning styles and explain the outcome. If you're trying to give your staff a new skill set for their jobs, it's critically important they remember it. That's much more important to your organization than pedagogical jargon.

Instead of … "It's computer-based."

Try: "It's good for the environment. A study University found that the production and provision of the distance learning courses consumed nearly 90% less energy and produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional campus-based university courses."

Why it's better: Back up your claim with facts. The fact that it's computer-based training isn't much use, but if you find a study, like the one here from Britain’s Open University, can give you the credibility and research that helps explain why it's important. Eventually, your discussions will be broken down into key features and if they'll work with your organization. In the beginning, however, it helps to think about what kind of effect a new e-learning program will have and why.

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]

How to Find Web Design Superheroes

RFPs stink as a way to find web designers. The problem is they prevent even a modicum of relationship-building, and without that, you’ll never know if you’ll be able to love the next person you hire to build or redesign your website. You won’t have a good sense of their managerial skills. You won’t know if they’ll stick around post-launch to keep updating your site. You won’t know if you simply like talking to them on the phone.

Before you face failure with your next RFP by spending a huge amount of time and resources, try these strategies for finding a web design superhero.


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How to Find Web Design Superheroes

Ask around

Hands down the best way to find a web designer is to ask your friends, family and colleagues. Someone who’s been through the process with a developer can tell you if it was easy or painful.

Web search

This might be the easiest way to assemble a list of design agencies that do what you need. Try to be specific in your search with terms like “web designer Boston” or “health agency web design nonprofit.”

Meet-ups

Attend some designer meet-ups near you. This will give you the chance to press the flesh and find someone you connect with.

Associations

Contact the association that covers what you do and see if they have lists web design and development firms. Also check your local Chamber of Commerce if you’d like someone nearby.

If you really, really must, here are some tips on how to write a good RFP.

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]

Spotlight: How a Hands-On Creative Retreat Builds Community Online

Ever wonder how other organizations run their web projects so successfully? Learn through Talance Client Spotlights, where you can connect with peers to pick up inspiration and proven tips you can apply to your website or online course.

Liz Engelman’s greatest enemy is the unexamined question. As a dramaturg, her job is to identify the questions a play asks, and the questions to ask of the play. She’s a bit like the confusion police; identifying the difference from good and bad confusion –anything from intentions, to anachronisms to logical gaffes. With her help, a play can be closer to the playwright’s initial vision. In short, she helps make plays become their best selves. For anyone who’s thinking, “There’s no part of my life that wouldn’t benefit from a little dramaturgy,” have hope. You can apply to Tofte Lake Center, a nonprofit creative retreat that looks a little more like your most idyllic summer camp fantasy in Ely, Minn. TLC’s purpose is to apply the principles of dramaturgy to all artistic pursuits. Read on for more about how a very in-person organization builds community online.

How does one become a dramaturg?

“I learned that just because another organization used their website in a particular way, it doesn’t necessarily apply to mine.”

I first heard about dramaturgy when I was a junior in high school, when I was taking a class called Madness in Literature. My teacher said, “Liz, you should be a dramaturg,” and I said, “Dramawhat?” She replied that I had the ability to look at the big picture and relate it to the specific. And vice versa. And I thought, “That’s cool, but how is that a job?”

Later, when I concentrated in theater at Brown, my professor suggested that I create an independent study in dramaturgy. I thought, “Okay, two different people are telling me to do this; I better listen…” So I did.

How did that evolve into Tofte Lake Center?

After 20 years of working as a dramaturg, I began to realize that there are ways of telling stories other than through the theatre. Each media has its own narrative, its own way to tell a story. I wanted to create and environment for these different types of stories to emerge. Often we hear about starving artists who live miserably in a garret somewhere creating their life’s work, and I thought there had to be a way to live as an artist without a struggle – to be nurtured and inspired and surrounded by beauty in the process. So I did what a dramaturg does: articulate the intention, build the story, take yourself seriously… and the dream starts to form.

What kinds of artists visit the center?

I like to say creative thinkers rather than only artists, as many creative people don’t identify as artists. However, most people who come are: they are playwrights and writers of all genres, (novelists and poets), musicians, visual artists, dancers and choreographers. The Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theatre Company has been in residence each of our 4 years, and have become a community face for the center. Our artists have come from all over the country (and Australia!) for their weeklong residencies, and we have been fortunate to receive funding from the Jerome Foundation to support our emerging artists program for artists who reside in either Minnesota or New York.

How do you represent a decidedly in-person creative retreat in the online world?

At first it was hard to think of how to translate an experience that’s very location-based onto a screen. Then I started thinking about how to communicate TLC’s values–conversation, innovation, community, creativity, sun and water. When I thought about how to share the impulses of and behind TLC’s story, the role of the website became clearer.

The website has become a way of maintaining our off-campus community. The site has been a way of deepening and broadening it, to partner with artists and make connections, using the site as a conduit for conversation. I used to think of a website as a static thing. I thought of our old website as an online brochure. Now it’s malleable, evolving — a way to tell our story.

I’ve found images as a way of building partnerships and interest, too. One of the artists whose images we included in our Flickr gallery thanked me for sharing his work. Letting people know I could link to their profile was a major way of building traffic to the site. The partnering opportunities have been more helpful than I’d imagined. I want to continue to find ways to use more photos as an attractor to the site.

What are some of the most helpful parts of your website?

Putting our applications online has been most helpful. I was getting submissions via e-mail before, and I would have to send each e-mailed application to our review panel, one at a time as I received them, and they had the most difficult task of having to keep track a hundred incoming individual applications. An applicant might resend something, and the panelist might forget where they put it, and worry that something got lost. It was thus immensely time intensive on my part. Now applicants can submit online, and it’s all stored on the website. I heard from someone who applied last year who was so happy to see that the application was now online. It was a mature professional step up.

What did you learn through a major website redesign process?

I was not expecting to learn as much as I did. I had been thinking more about the result than the process. It took longer than I thought, and this turned out to be extremely informative. The process was completely dramaturgical: identifying what I was trying to do and the best ways to structure and say it. Working on a website is a continual process. The story keeps evolving.

I also learned that just because another organization used their website in a particular way, it doesn’t necessarily apply to mine. They made certain choices in how to tell their story, but that’s not my story. Realizing that: that’s what a dramaturg does.

Measurable Goals: the Difference Between E-learning Success and Failure

Think back on every one of your failed New Year’s resolutions. The reason you failed probably had something to do with abstract, unspecific goals: get thin, exercise more, enjoy life more. Without clarity, it’s nearly impossible to figure out how to succeed. You’re doomed by January 2.

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]

The same kind of thinking can harm a new e-learning project. Unspecific goal-setting can prevent you from knowing if your e-learning project is a success. If before you begin developing your training curriculum, you specify abstract goals like, “train employees,” “put this PowerPoint presentation online,” or “set up e-learning infrastructure,” you’re bound for failure. Instead, think about what success looks like, think about how you’ll arrive at success, and you’ll know if your online training program is doing what it should.

An easier way of arriving at a list of goals is to pose these simple questions to yourself or your team:

  • Why do you want to do the training?
  • What will your learners get out of it?

When you answer these questions, make sure to attach a number (like a percentage), so it’s measurable and a due date, so you have a focus and target–a must for continued funding.

Measurable, actionable and realistic e-learning goals

As soon as you pose meaningful questions to your team, you’ll find it’s much easier to create measurable, actionable and realistic e-learning goals. That will also help you keep spending in check and calculate the return on your e-learning investment. Training programs are expensive, so you need to be able to show how well your new e-learning initiative works.

What might those goals look like?

  • Transfer 50% of training programs into online format by the end of the next fiscal year.
  • Train 95% of employees in HIPAA requirements by January 1.
  • Increase awareness of new products by 25% among sales staff by the end of the quarter.
  • Successfully operate new medical device in five minutes or less by the product launch.

See how easily you’d be able to see if you met those goals or not? Prefix each list item with “Did we …” and you can answer each by a simple yes or no. Also by setting goals at the beginning, you’ll have something concrete to shoot for.