aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘strategic planning’

Free eBook on Learning Strategies

Posted by Ellen on September 7, 2011

At over 100 pages, with eight strong case studies, the Masie Center has compiled an excellent overview of how learning leaders at major companies developed their learning strategies. Best of all, it’s FREE as “an open source eBook.” You can find it (and other great ebooks) here.

We can learn a lot from each of these case studies, but — assuming you have limited time for reading — here’s a summary of the case studies so you can see if you want to spend time downloading it.

I’ll jump to the editor Nigel Paine’s summary of what constitutes a good learning strategy, based on his interview with elearning thought leader and guru Elliott Masie: “Elliott sees a good learning strategy as the GPS that maps out how the investment in learning will contribute to the overall success of the organization.”

Elliott’s “fundamental principles that hold in strategy after strategy in public and private sector organizations all over the world”:

  • “A strategy requires a complex process of deep thinking about the role of learning, and it should end up a solid ‘document’ to be used and referred to long after it has been created.”
  • A learning strategy develops the learning culture within the organization that helps make judgment calls that balance new and existing technology against what you can afford.
  • “It is oriented toward action and requires visible outcomes” that are endorsed by the those who will oversee its implementation. And though it is “oriented toward action” it is *not* an action plan.
  • Your learning strategy must be unique to your organization. “This is not something you can buy off the shelf, hand over to consultants, or copy from some other place! You be skipping the alignment and buy-in, both of which are critical for a strategy’s success.”
  • A learning strategy is about innovation. “It calls for a deep look at what we do and how we can do it better.” (Or, in the case of our members, help them do things better.

Here are the eight learning leaders and a quick summary of how they approached their organization’s learning strategy.

Bob Baker of the CIA (yes, *that* normally secretive government agency), in its fourth iteration of a learning strategy, focused on “moving learning much closer to the learner, wherever he or she is located, and whatever the role being undertaken.” To do this, they defined four key learning trends (“learning will become increasingly mobile, social, available in multiple formats and accessible on demand”) and aligned them to the workforce; established the “disrupters that will impact the learning strategy and how to cope with them” (disrupters they identified included significant world events, changes in mission priority, and changes in technology); built a case for change by “establishing four key principles of the new strategy” (these are commitment, people-performance, access, and agility) and tying these principles to the agency’s mission; used a SWOT analysis to create an Agency-wide learning vision and mission; and defined ten initiatives “that serve as targets and outlines the parameters for achievement of those ten initiatives, which then became the benchmarks and indicators of progress for the strategy.”

Lisa Pedrogo, at CNN, needed a strategy that would help “the learning function stay relevant and add value to a business that is always short of time and where pressure to get the story and transmit it leaves little room for formal learning.” Agile learning is the key here, so they have developed a strategy and follow it, but also find themselves “crashing together a curriculum” using what they call a “blitz methodology.” Their strategy, by necessity, must allow them to “respond to disrupters and have a process for dealing with disruption and reallocating resources when necessary.”

At the very start of developing a learning function — much less creating a strategy for it? Then you’ll benefit from reading how Ruben Bonales conducted a needs assessment, implemented an initial training program that delivered results, “building validity, accountability, and tangibility in the eyes of the organization for his learning operation.” Through nurturing relationships with members of the senior management team, he “built trust, credibility, and, above all, accountability.” Using business results as his fundamental metric for success, he was able to “converse” with the company’s leaders. Eventually, his strategy defined three targets: “developing alignment to organizational goals, building a strong relationship with the business, and focusing on delivering tangible business results.”

While many of us might think a huge multi-national company like Shell can’t possibly give us any ideas for our learning strategies, they actually have an interesting two-prong strategy that’s worth some consideration. One part of their strategy “lists the key focus areas for learning in the short-, medium- and long-term. The second hinges on functional excellence or delivering learning in an efficient and effective way. They come together in the process of defining the key stakeholders and their required capabilities, working out the learning blend and then determining the most efficient and effective way of delivering learning interventions.” Whew! So how do they do this? “With part one, business results involved constant dialogue with all the managers from the global business. Part two emerges from a bi-annual benchmarking exercise using qualitative and quantitative data to identify best practices outside the company. This is based around identifying innovative processes, structure and governance, information systems, people and culture.” Simply put: work out what your members need to learn in one exercise, then conduct a best practices environmental scan to find out what you might be doing differently to deliver that education.

How do you assemble your strategic planning team? Keith Dunbar at the Defense Intelligence Agency has some suggestions. Other critical lessons in strategic planning: ask the right questions so you can “understand the context in which the learning strategy has to operate” focusing not only on existing circumstances, but emerging issues; select learning strategy metrics that make sense (not just because the numbers are easy to get); sell the strategy in ways that eliminate barriers (his case study lists fourteen identified barriers).

Bored by the entire idea of a learning strategy? Can’t get past thinking of it as sort of two-dimensional when you’d prefer a 3-D option? How about this one: Eaton, a global power management company, uses a “strategic learning portfolio” (SLP) which “represents a wide variety of learning opportunities to improve business performance through a continuous and multidimensional process, including both formal and informal routes to competence. The SLP is set at three levels: instruction (for novices, mostly and 20% of output), ideas and collaboration (needed mostly by competent performers, and 60% of output) and innovation (mostly needed by experts, and 20% of output). Each of these areas is divided into informal and formal learning.” For more about how Eaton accomplishes this, see the chapter, “Making a Strategic Learning Portfolio the Heart of any Learning Strategy,” by Terry M. Farmer and Evan Ishida of Eaton Corporation.

Though aLearing doesn’t advocate developing a strategy based on technology, sometimes that’s the only place an organization can start. Mike Cuffe describes how Farmers Insurance leverages its technology and corporate “university” to develop “multimedia ‘learning nuggets’ which can be accessed at any time,” based on the organization’s philosophy to “enable rather than constrain.” Flexibility and speed of program initiation is critical so they can effectively deliver a fast message to a lot of people in emergencies like natural disasters.

Finally, if selling your education committee or association leadership on having a learning strategy at all is a hurdle, take a look at what Lloyds Bank in the United Kingdom is doing. Peter Hallard “passionately defends the need for a learning strategy” but also says that “learning leaders who devote their time to the development of detailed learning strategies are destined to a lifetime of disappointment.” That might sound like a contradiction, but a focus on “process” rather than “plan” is the key. The organization’s learning leaders need to be experts in the business, “expert and confident enough to interpret business issues and postulate a learning solution” so “something innovative and comprehensive in scope that works quickly” can be developed. Lots of food for thought there.

Taken as a whole, a few common threads weave through all case studies:

  • A strategy (regardless of how it’s structured) is a necessity
  • Developing the strategy yourself — internally — is essential for gaining the insight required for an effective result (a consultant on the side can help but the job of developing the strategy should never be handed over to an outsider)
  • The strategy needs to allow for flexibility, fluidity, and a quick response in this volatile climate
  • The strategy needs to balance all available resources — people, technology, and budget

If you’re looking for some alternatives to standard strategic planning methodologies, the Masie Center ebook has them.

Does your organization have a learning strategy? aLearning wants to know! Please participate in our aLearning Survey, scheduled to close a the end of this week. We could use your voice to help reach a reliable sample! Among other things, let us know:

  • if you’ve got a strategy or not, and why.
  • if your education budget will be higher next year or not.
  • what sorts of elearning your organization is offering and how often.
  • the biggest change your education department in anticipating in the next year.

Remember — whether you have a strategy or not, whether you offer elearning or not — your voice is valuable and lends insight into your situation.

Ten quick questions. Five minutes max.
All responses are confidential. No registration to participate is required.

Click here to take the survey.

Don’t delay!

Advertisements

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

From FTF to Online

Posted by Ellen on July 6, 2011

The past couple of posts have tackled the myth that waiting lists are a good thing [see “Wait Till Next Year”] and that multiple offerings of the same program are the best option [see “Waiting Lists are Overrated”], and I promised to walk through a process for adapting face-to-face (FTF) sessions for online delivery…

…because, as I said in the previous post, “Offering a series of Webinars that imitate what happens in the FTF sessions won’t cut it.” Won’t even cut a tiny little slice of it.

Which isn’t the same thing as saying that Webinars can’t be a part of your mix of delivery modes. I’m just saying that you can’t simply schedule a series of Webinars that follow the same general format as your FTF session and assume you’ll have the same success. They’re different teaching and learning modes, and need to be planned for accordingly. That’s what I’m saying.

First, you need to understand how the various options deliver training online. aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning thoroughly covers this, so we’ll use a case study to highlight some key points.

Let’s say you offer a multi-day FTF program on Financial Planning in Our Industry. A look at the agenda shows segments on the following topics:

  • Software spreadsheet basics
  • Basic accounting
  • Industry-specific accounting
  • Industry-specific price-setting
  • Industry-specific regulatory/reporting requirements
  • Case study

Although what follows isn’t the only way to tackle repurposing this content for online delivery, here’s a start:

The spreadsheet basics segment could be delivered via asynchronous, online tutorial — either purchased off-the-shelf (OTS) or created specifically to address the learning points required for the program either in-house or outsourced. As a prerequisite so learners will be prepared to use the spreadsheet program in the program activities, the tutorial could include a pre-test option so those who are already familiar with the software could efficiently test out of the session while those who don’t do well on the pre-test will be routed through the tutorial.

Basic accounting could also be offered as an asynchronous, online course and probably purchased as an OTS course as well. Ideally, because some learners might have an accounting background (if not in the association’s industry) the accounting prerequisite should include a test-out option as well.

The industry-specific segments will probably need to be custom-developed.

To transfer the principles of general accounting to the specifics of the industry, an asynchronous course should incorporate interactive spreadsheets and activities. These could be supplemented with an online-accessible mentor to answer any questions. If the mentor’s e-mailed (or text message) responses aren’t adequate, the learner and mentor should be able to set up a call for a more detailed conversation.

Price-setting is a skill, so it requires opportunities for learners to see the skill performed and then practice it themselves. It’s likely there are many ways for prices to be determined (regardless of the industry), so providing a general overview of the price-setting options is imperative. This could be provided in a short tutorial that provides simple opportunities for learners to see examples of the various price-setting options, practice each, and make some general applications to their own situations. Questions learners have could be submitted for the basis of a followup Webinar. Because the questions would be specific to the learners, the content would be timely and relevant. And because learners will have covered the basics in the asynchronous tutorial, the focus of the synchronous Webinar would be on price-setting trouble-shooting, unusual pricing options too complicated for the tutorial, and — of course — answering learners’ questions.

Addressing regulatory/reporting requirements requires someone to call on their understanding of those requirements — so this is a fact-driven segment (rather than skill-driven) that could be started with required readings (rather than a tutorial) and followed up with an asynchronous discussion using an expert moderator. By posing particular “what if” scenario questions, the moderator would generate discussions about how the regulations/reporting procedures would be followed.

And the case study? Might not even be necessary if the focus throughout the other segments is on what learners can transfer back to their own situations. A case study is often used in a group as a sort of simulation to demonstrate transference from theory to reality — but if the course itself is doing that, is the benefit of the case study still worth its inclusion? In many cases, it probably isn’t.

So there you have it.

Were you keeping score? Did you see how much can be covered on the learner’s schedule, rather than on your schedule? Here’s what I see from the learner’s point of view:

  • One possible phone call (if I have questions about applying general accounting principles to my field)
  • One Webinar on price-setting

Everything else is covered on my time (and one could argue that the phone call was set up with my schedule in mind, too).

And the budget? That’s another post. But I will say this:

  • …if you end up investing $54,000 (our estimated expenses for two FTF sessions on the same topic for 80 members — see the previous blog post, “Waiting Lists Are Overrated,” for the full discussion)
  • …and you could charge $650 for the “course”
  • …and all 120 people for your next three sessions of the popular FTF program signed up for the online version
  • …you’d net $24,000 in revenues.

Yes, that’s after expenses. Here’s the math:

$54,000/120 learners = $450 per learner

$650-$450 = $200 revenue per learner

$200 x 120 learners = $24,000

And my bet is that you’d have more than 120 members register for the online offering.

Which means you’d increase your revenues $200/registration. Not bad!*

So you’ve accomplished many things: you’ve eliminated your waiting list — learners who need a specific program will get it, when they want it, when they need it. You’ve eclipsed any temptation they might have had to slip over to your competitor to get their learning needs met.

Most of all? You’ve continued to deliver meaningful, effective education and training to your members and do so at an affordable price.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that more important than keeping some “waiting list” so you (or your boss) can feel popular and desirable?!?

Of course it is.

*Okay…. there’s no ignoring the fact that you’d probably need an LMS for this to work, and that would cut into your expected revenues — maybe even put you in the red that first year or two, but over time you’ll earn that investment back. The fact remains that you will have instituted a system of delivering a popular program in a way that retains its value while eliminating that dreaded waiting list.

It’s all good!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Revisiting Relevance

Posted by Ellen on June 7, 2011

Remember a few years ago when the association blogosphere trampled all over the notion of “relevance”? The hue and cry went something like this: “Don’t be relevant. Be innovative.”

I raled against the suggestion that relevancy is passe, and a few agreed that maybe they shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

At the time, I focused on the need for relevancy in learning. A few folks raised their glasses and said, “Here’s to relevancy in education and training. But for association management, innovation is still king.”

Something I was reading about relevancy in learning brought this whole online discussion back to me. Never one to hesitate about stirring the pot, even one sitting on a cold fire — I figured it’s about time to revisit the antiquated notion of relevancy.

My comment is actually very simple: If your organization isn’t relevant to me, why should I join? Renew? Participate?

I’ve had to cut back on my memberships over the last couple of years, and you know what? I don’t miss some of those organizations at all. I glance at their online blog or e-newsletter or other missives (of course I’m still on their e-mail list, despite a lapsed membership) and nothing makes me think, “Oh! I need to know about that. I should resurrect my membership to attend that event” (or read that members-only article, etc.).

If it’s not relevant to me, I don’t care about it.

You can be as innovative as you want. You can provide me with the latest trends and experts and future-thinking ideas, but if none of them are relevant to me, then I just don’t care.

I. Just. Don’t. Care.

So while you’re concentrating on being innovative, resuscitate the notion of relevancy. Make sure you’re connecting in a meaningful way — being relevant to — your members.

Innovation is the icing. Relevancy is the cake.

Yeah, it’s always tempting to just scoop up the icing with your finger, but where would that icing sit without the cake as a foundation?

Posted in Learning in General | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Cyber Monday = 25% Off the aLearning Trail Guide!

Posted by Ellen on November 29, 2010

If you missed the free shipping offer for Black Friday, here’s a Cyber Monday deal for you:

All orders received before 11:59 p.m. PST today¬† (Monday, November 29) are 25% off (up to $185… don’t I wish someone would order that many books!!). Just click the Buy Now – Lulu blue button on the left to find out more about the book and begin the ordering process. When you are ready to check out, type CYBER25 in the Code field to receive your discount. It’s that easy!

Select the download version for immediate access, or choose the print version if you prefer flipping pages and highlighting key points ūüôā

Either way, it’s what Lulu is calling their best deal of the year, and on top of the already reduced price of the book, it’s a bargain for the 270+ pages of step-by-step activities and checklists that will guide you from start to finish in developing a workable elearning plan for your association or non-profit.

What are you waiting for?!?

Please note that Lulu prints copies as orders are received. This means delivery on or by a particular date cannot be guaranteed.  See www.lulu.com for more information about shipping and delivery schedules.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS, Measuring Results, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Washing Dishes, Making Beds, and eLearning Strategies

Posted by Ellen on July 17, 2010

A good strategy is like washing dishes. Really.

I had my hands in a sinkful of dishes and that’s when it occurred to me. You don’t wash dishes knowing it’s the only time you’ll do it. You don’t wipe out the glasses and place them away in the cupboard thinking, “Whew! That job’s finally over. Won’t have to do that again for another ten years or so.”

Not unless you only use glasses on very, very special occasions.

Same thing with your laundry. Making the bed. You do these things over and over.

You don’t keep doing these things¬†simply as a matter of ritual (though¬†these tasks¬†can become rituals), but because things have gotten messy and you need to straighten them up, clean things out, put every item back in its place so you’ll know where to find it again when you need it.

And so it is with a good strategic plan, right?

You don’t just go through the process once, tuck it away, and forget about it.

Or at least you shouldn’t.

Your plan should be something you revisit all the time. Maybe not three times a day or even once a day, but often enough that you keep it sparkling and shiny. Often enough that you get good use out of it.

Just like doing the dishes — you might dread it as a chore, but keeping those plates scrubbed clean is the only way to keep bacteria at bay!

If your elearning strategy needs help, aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning is an affordable, easy-to-follow set of instructions for creating and maintaining an elearning strategy, including tapping into blogs, wikis, and a other Web 2.0 tools for enhancing formal learning programs. See the sidebar for more information, including how to order.

And as many of you know, you can always post a question here or contact me directly via e-mail. I can’t make your bed for you, nor can I do your dishes (okay, I could…. ), but I can help give you guidance or even be the cheerleader on the side if you’d like.

Posted in aLearning Strategies | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »