No learner is an island

first_img Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article No learner is an islandOn 1 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today If you have a global workforce, bringing the team’s knowledge of a newproduct up to speed via conventional training can be costly and impractical,which is where e-learning comes in. Sue Weekes reportsCable & Wireless is a major global telecoms organisation, operating in70 countries. It has two divisions, Cable & Wireless Global, which focuseson IP (internet protocol) and data services and solutions for businesscustomers, and Cable & Wireless Regional, which provides telecoms servicesto 27 countries. Included in the regional division’s sales patch are exotic locations such asthe West Indies, the Solomon Islands, the Falklands and the Maldives – nice forsite visits but not the easiest locations for co-ordinating global training,which is where e-learning comes in. Towards the end of last year, the company launched a range of internetproducts and wanted to ensure its sales force in the various regions fullyunderstood them. It decided to run a pilot e-learning project to train itsemployees. Cable & Wireless had used e-learning before and already had a long-termrelationship with London-based bespoke learning company Fuel, which provides itwith instructor-led and online training. It was the first time, however, thatthe regional division had tried e-learning. Individual assessment “The purpose of the project was to see if e-learning was a viable methodof delivering education to Cable & Wireless Regional and to see if ourstaff would accept it,” says Simon Joy, strategic e-learning managerwithin HR at Cable & Wireless Regional. The pilot system was rolled out to 500 employees based on 30 islands acrossthe West Indies. For the e-learning project to be effective, the sales teamneeded some prerequisite knowledge to fully understand the benefits of the newproducts and implant in them an underlying technical knowledge. Fuel knew thatlearners would be at varying knowledge levels and so composed an onlinepre-course test to assess each one. This meant the full-blown course could thenbe created to an individual’s requirements. Fuel designs all of its e-learning programmes to work with a standard browserand via a 28k modem and upwards. “Most users will access the training on acorporate network but it is also created for access from home so we make sureit will work across 28k modems,” says Fuel CEO Steve Dineen, whoco-founded the company in 1994 with Chris Campbell. “We also created a web-based learning management system, an LMS‘light’,” he explains. The LMS, which is designed to be plug-and-play andis accessed through a standard browser, has since become a commerciallyavailable standalone product. Easy does it Fuel prides itself on creating engaging content and took a lively, visualapproach to the training with material broken down into bite-sized chunks.”We made it analogous and tried to contextualise it wherever possible – soto explain a network we would use a motorway and traffic,” explainsDineen, who is clearly pleased that the material appears to look ‘very easy’ onthe screen. “It’s actually very hard to make technical content look easyon screen,” he says. The course also employs the use of highly visual andfun-to-play breakout games for the user to test themselves. Although Fuel already had an existing relationship with Cable &Wireless, Joy says it knew it needed a partner that could create educationallyeffective and engaging content on its products. “Poor content is probablythe main reason for the failure of e-learning in some companies, along with badinternal marketing,” he says. All of Fuel’s e-learning consultants have worked in instructor-led trainingand it also employs educational psychologist Charles Low as head of e-learningeducation, whose background is in teaching and adult training. “It isimportant not to overwhelm your learners and for Cable & Wireless wecreated a structure that could be broken down easily. It is also alwaysimportant to have consistency on a technical level, consistency of message,look and feel so learners can comfortably move on to the next level,”explains Low. The more diverse the audience, the harder his job, he says, adding:”it’s a case of putting your stick in the ground somewhere. If you pitchit too low, you lose them and if you pitch it too high, you lose them. If youcan hit around 90 per cent of the audience you’re doing well.” Evaluation Feedback from the Cable & Wireless pilot scheme proved more thanencouraging from both the pre- and actual course. It was marketed to staff viaa punchy e-mail, which included the web address for accessing to the training,from the CEO of Cable & Wireless. “The online evaluation completed by all those taking the course hasgiven us unbiased, instant feedback from the start – that 94 per cent of themsay they would like future training to be delivered by e-learning is a powerfulendorsement,” says Joy. Although initially pitched at the sales force, the training is available foranyone in the regions who wants to improve their product knowledge and has beenaccessed by secretaries, admin staff and billing clerks. Low was also pleased with the uptake: “Users liked things such as themini breakout games and feedback showed that most were happy doing the trainingat their desks. The average scores on the pre-test were 36 per cent but on thepost-test it was 70 per cent. Of all who took the post-test, only 1 per centfailed, which is pretty good. At two hours though, some people did think thecourse was too long.” Around 1,400 employees have now registered for the training which is beingrolled out to offices in Spain and Panama (the course was originally designedin Spanish as well as English). The pilot proved the value, acceptance levelsand cost-effectiveness of e-learning to Cable & Wireless Regional, saysDineen, who adds Fuel is now embarking on a joint venture with the telecomsgiant. “The feedback has consolidated our views and helped shape our futureplans. For instance, it is helpful for resource and facility planning to knowthat just 10 per cent of staff are uncomfortable about learning at their deskand want to learn in a dedicated training area.” Moving forward The cost of the e-learning solution to Cable & Wireless was less than£150,000 and Joy believes the bill for traditional education for what they’veachieved would have been up to £2.6m. In terms of cost savings, it has alreadyprovided a return on investment, he says, but the benefit goes far beyond that:”In terms of educating our staff, our customers are already realising thebenefits. Many of our team are now able to engage in much richer conversationswith each other and our customers,” and, as a final endorsement, he adds:”We are planning to move 49 per cent of our education to e-learning.”As part of the next phase of the programme, Fuel will be meeting the Cable& Wireless directors – including those representing HR, marketing andfinance – in order to work alongside them to develop a longer term strategy forthe organisation’s educational needs. This is likely to involve skillsetanalysis to align training with business needs and also put in place competencyframeworks. Certainly the Cable & Wireless experience proves the benefit of a pilotand Joy emphasises the importance of implementing one going sooner rather thanlater if you think e-learning may suit your needs. “Do not spend yearsplanning an infrastructure strategy and then plan a content strategyafterwards; these activities run parallel. You will learn a lot from your firstexperience that will allow for future planning, so get the pilot goingquicker.” In summaryPilot testing Cable & Wireless Regional’srequirement: To implement a pilot programme of new product training, initiallyto 500 people across the West Indies.Why? Although the product training in itself was important, theprogramme was also a pilot project to see if e-learning was a viable method ofdelivering education to the regions and to see if staff would accept thismethod of deliveryIs e-learning delivering? The pilot was judged a success on thebasis of staff feedback and results. Around 1,400 employees have now registeredfor the training. The cost-savings mean the training has already paid foritself, says Simon Joy, strategic e-learning manager within HR at Cable &Wireless RegionalIn summaryCable & wireless e-learning tips for success1 Content is king; get key members ofstaff to trial a few hours of e-learning from different vendors before making adecision2 Internal marketing and motivationis as important as the technology3 Get your pilot project up andrunning – you will learn a lot from your first experience that will allow forfuture planning Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more