3 Proven Strategies for Increasing Adoption of Online Courses at International NGOs

A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx

Chris_ProulxAt the end of 2015, I was reviewing data from our 85 members in the LINGOs Learning Collaborative—looking for insight into which programs were generating more adoption and usage. What jumped out to me was that there was a marked difference between a small number of members who were seeing amazing utilization of their online courses (as measured as completions per employee) compared with the majority of organizations.

Online course engagement at any organization is difficult, but encouraging employees to focus on learning while they are working in challenging development and humanitarian contexts can be even more of an uphill battle. So, I dug a little deeper and spoke to some of the L&D managers at these over-performing organizations to find out what was working.

Strategy #1: Start on Day One

At each of the four organizations I interviewed, employees were introduced to the LMS during their new employee on-boarding process. When Relief International overhauled their orientation program last year, Diane Barish focused on creating an online on-boarding program that had most staff using the LMS within the first 48 hours of joining RI. For Diane, this has been about establishing—from day one—that learning and professional development is a critical part of the organizational culture—and access to the LMS is a primary tool for which everyone can access regardless of work location.  At Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Fund, Leigh Jenkins explained how they developed specific new course modules on EGPAF’s ethics policy that reached more experienced employees as well new employees and provided an opportunity to re-introduce the LMS to the company.

Requiring completion of online courses has given online learning and the LMS a black eye in many organizations. However, when used effectively and rolled out properly, these courses can provide staff with a window into the breadth of training that is available. Tamidra Marable of Heifer International confirmed that by exposing staff early on through on-boarding and compliance courses, you are essentially marketing the range of course options that are available for on-going professional development.

Strategy #2: Make it Sticky

At the conservation organization Rare, Teri Brezner explained how she had worked with her colleagues from the talent development group to launch five learning communities in 2015 around important topics at Rare. By aligning online courses with these communities, they were able to drive increased engagement. This is just one example of several where an organization aligned online courses with other organizational initiatives that resulted in increased adoption.

For example, Rare also rolled out new training programs mapped to the organization’s new Leadership Competencies that combined online courses in the LMS, in-house developed guides, and an online discuss. Relief International goes even further by encouraging use of the online courses as part of the performance management process—in fact 20% of an employee’s performance rating at RI is tied to meeting your training and professional development goals for the year.

Heifer has made an organization-wide commitment to PMD Pro as its project management methodology—for HQ as well as the field. As part of this commitment, all employees are required to complete LINGOs-authored Last Mile Learning PMD Pro courses before attending a more in-depth face to face PMD Pro training. The use of pre-requisites as part of a blended program is not uncommon, but Heifer goes a step further. The online PMD Pro courses are also included as part of one or more learning paths, where the project management courses are combined with other management and soft skills. Employees who complete the learning path are awarded an internal certificate of achievement—delivered by their manager at one of Heifer’s all-hands meetings.

Strategy #3: Don’t Go It Alone

It is nearly impossible for an L&D professional to drive significant adoption and engagement on their own. Each of the four people I spoke with joined forces across the organization to make learning a priority. Teri at Rare is using VPs and other senior leaders as visible experts in their in-house developed courses—generating demand among employees and also encouraging the leaders to advocate and promote the courses. At Relief International, Diane is working with in-country HR professionals—training them on how to help employees match training courses to their performance goals and how they can use LMS reporting features to track progress of their country’s staff. Continued professional development also had support from the top-down at RI which creates lots of energy and discussion around learning in the organization with even the VPs asking for their annual training records to ensure they are leading by example.

Tamidra explained that at Heifer, leaders are now competing against each other for the right to claim that their team has completed the most training and learning in the past year. Leigh at EGPAF works with in-country HR staff to hold brown bag lunch training sessions where teams complete an online course together and then discuss it in real time over lunch.

And, don’t forget that a little sizzle goes a long way. Tamidra’s colleagues at Heifer have been creating Pow-Toons to market learning and generating some excitement along the way.

And…Focus

The other key message I took away from these leaders was about focus. Most of them spoke about only three or four key initiatives last year where they invested significant time and energy to ensure success. So as you contemplate your 2016 strategy, choose a couple of important organizational needs and initiatives and work with other leaders to design a program that will allow you to start to build momentum for learning.

In addition to these strategies, there are some useful resources on the web to help you jump start your program in 2016. Chris Pappas’ blog post on effective blended learning strategies is a great start. The eLearning Guild also just released a new e-book on the role of Context not Content in your learning strategy. Fcousing on relevance and currency, similar to the learning communities at Rare or PMD Pro at Heifer, is far more important and effective for long-term sustainability of learning that relying on compliance mandates alone.

And finally, LINGOs and the Learning Collaborative are your partners in this journey:

  1. Making sense of the data from the LLP is a first step to planning ways to improve engagement. Are you signed up for the data and reporting webinar on Feb 11? Janet Humphries from GOAL is going to demo some of the dashboards she has created to stay on top of her learning program.
  2. The Marketing Your Learning co-creation group is kicking off on February 25. Make sure you email ross@lingos.org to sign up for this year-long working group designed to create and share tools and best practices in marketing.
  3. The Learning Collaborative team has also assembled more learning paths that can help you target specific job functions or learning objectives more easily. To learn more, contact your dedicated LINGOs account manager.

Partner Spotlight: Building Learning Libraries with Cegos

Since 2010, Cegos and LINGOs have partnered to offer high-quality training resources to individuals and organizations working in the development and social sectors.

LINGOs is a consortium of 80+ international NGOs, representing over 200,000 staff and local partners worldwide. Its mission is to help any organization working to improve lives in the developing world to affordably build its own capacity.

With over 80 years of experience, Cegos is a leading provider of multilingual training and development, reaching approximately 250,000 people in 50 countries each year. By partnering with LINGOs, Cegos can share its training resources with an ever-broader global audience. And over five years, the Cegos-LINGOs partnership has continued to grow in depth and reach, demonstrating Cegos’ founding values of commitment, agility, and sharing.

Commitment: Empowering NGO staff on a Global Scale

Through the partnership, Cegos provides LINGOs members with access to over 200 courses at greatly reduced cost. The multilingual curricula in subjects as varied as management and leadership, sales and marketing, and individual and collective effectiveness, have enabled thousands of development and humanitarian workers around the world to do their work more effectively.

“While LINGOs offers our Members’ staff access to courses from many providers, the courses from Cegos cover an incredible range of topics and languages,” says Marian Abernathy, LINGOs’ Partnership Engagement Manager. “We find that people are interested especially in management training, which is available through Cegos in the first language of many development workers.”

At the American Refugee Committee (ARC), the soft skills training provided by Cegos supports humanitarian workers, some of whom have seen their educations interrupted by conflict.

Courses in management, negotiation, emotional self-assessment, and dealing with conflict “are of special value to our national staff who live and work in very harsh and insecure environments, and have survived some pretty horrific situations,” says Colleen Striegel, vice president of HR and Administration at ARC. “We are grateful that Cegos has been so generous with their courses because they are having a big impact on our staff.”

Agility: Adaptation for Impact

Above and beyond its provision of wide-ranging, multilingual learning to LINGOs members, Cegos has also played a vital role in helping LINGOs provide skills training for the entire NGO community.

In 2012, when LINGOs wanted to develop a catalog of courses in multiple skill areas that it could share broadly and freely with the sector, Cegos generously provided source materials. “By providing us with a foundation, Cegos made it possible to open a broad part of the LINGOs catalog to the sector,” says Mike Culligan, LINGOs Director of Learning Architecture.

Today, LINGOs offers over two dozen free courses in five languages, enabling the field staff of any NGO, including local partners, to quickly gain a common language and training in subjects as vital as project management, organizational development, and financial planning.

Sharing: Creating a Learning Community

Thanks to the generous support of volunteers and partners like Cegos, LINGOs is an ever-growing community of members and learners. “When Cegos donated course materials for us to share freely, a group of volunteers came together to tailor and translate the courses for a development context,” says Ross Coxon, LINGOs Director of the Learning Collaborative. “Cegos’ donation was one of the catalysts for collaboration within the community.”

Drawing on a shared pool of accessible, relevant courseware, development professionals are learning wherever they are in the world, enabling them to reach their potential within their roles and increase their impact for communities they serve. NGO staff can access free courses based on Cegos’ donated content in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, or Arabic at www.lastmilelearning.org.

 “The two courses I have completed so far have helped me to understand myself better. This has enabled me to interact much better with my colleagues and the people I serve.”

 – Hassan Ambe, American Refugee Committee

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Today kicks off 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign to educate citizens and lawmakers alike about gender-based violence, human rights, and “the intersections of political, economic, and social realities.”

The uncommon timespan is no accident. Beginning on November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women), and ending on December 10 (International Human Rights Day), the 16 Days campaign delivers gender equality to the doorstep of human rights – one inextricable from the other.

With thousands of organizations around the world participating in activities, sharing resources, and calling for change, the 16 Days campaign founds a sustained conversation about gender-based violence and human rights.

How are you joining in 16 Days?

Get the newly updated “Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action.” Explore the resources and community action supported by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and UN Women.

Take an online course from UNFPA on managing gender-based violence programs in emergencies. And LINGOs members, the following courses are available to you through the LINGOs Learning Platform:

Course Title LINGOs Learning Platform Course Code
Inter-Agency Standing Committee – Different Needs – Equal Opportunities (Gender Equality in Programming) IASC-IASC-GenderEquality
InterAction – Managing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Investigations IA00-managing-SEA
InterAction – SEA101: Introduction to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA101
InterAction – SEA201: Mainstreaming of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA201
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (EN) HI00-traumaticstress-EN-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (ES) HI00-traumaticstress-SP-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (FR) HI00-traumaticstress-FR-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (PT) HI00-traumaticstress-PT-HI

 

LINGOs Announces its 2015 Global Learning Award Winners

cropped-smaller-2014-lingos-logo-white-with-tagline-website-size-smaller.jpgWinners of the 2015 Global Learning Awards were announced Wednesday at the Global Learning Forum in Little Rock, AR. The awards, presented annually, celebrate individuals and organizations that have significantly supported LINGOs’ mission: ensuring that its members and the NGO community at large have access to affordable, appropriate learning wherever they work.

Member of the Year: Heifer International

Partner of the Year: NetDimensions

Eric Berg LEAP Award: Vicki Aken, GOAL

Rising Star Award: Afia Asare, Opportunity International

Rising Star Award: Kimberli Jeter, PYXERA Global

Afia Asare Named 2015 Rising Star Award Winner

AfiaFor 2015 Rising Star Award winner Afia Asare of Opportunity International, this year’s rollout of the LINGOs Learning Platform has been a demanding – but rewarding – project.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a new member of the LINGOs community who shares ideas, innovations, and best practices in support of the LINGOs vision and mission.

Afia, a Human Resources Assistant based at Opportunity’s Shared Services office in Accra, Ghana, wears many hats in her work, among which is the role of administrator for the Opportunity Learning Center, Opportunity’s online learning platform.

As administrator, Afia was deeply involved in the process of moving Opportunity’s learners to the new LINGOs Learning Platform this spring. And her methods for readying the learning platform to meet Opportunity’s needs were not so different from the same accessible learning she wants to provide for her learners.

Drawing on the support of her supervisors, the LINGOs community and learning found online, Afia gathered the tools to make the project happen. “I made sure that I attended LINGOs’ Office Hours,” she says, laughing. “I attended several meetings to learn best practices…I also used YouTube and the web to learn how to design in WordPress.”

Afia’s hard work paid off – the platform took shape. Now, Afia says, there are over 2,000 learners on the platform from 15 of the countries where Opportunity International works. She works with 15 administrators on the ground in those regions to continue optimizing Opportunity’s learning offerings to the needs of her learners.

About learning accessibility, Afia is firm. She says that these days, it isn’t about “just going to town to buy books. If you want to read, you can go online and search for whatever you want to learn…So I feel like [the new platform] is just bringing learning to the doorsteps of people. I feel very rewarded being in charge of a system like this, and working for Opportunity as a whole.”

“Afia took the initiative,” says Chris Proulx, LINGOs’ CEO. “She’s a great example of one of a few of our main member contacts who are in regional or field-based offices…and who are able to tap into the global LINGOs community to leverage the resources and best practices that can help them do their jobs that much more effectively.”

With the new LINGOs Learning Platform ready, Afia is setting her sights on expanding the learning offerings to more of Opportunity’s global staff.  That, and leveraging the tools that the new platform has to offer.

“One area that I want to explore is certificates,” she says. “In general, people want to be recognized. They want people to see what they’ve done – to have something to show.”

It’s a journey that begins with accessible learning, wherever it is that you are.

About the Global Learning Awards

Presented annually at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum, the Global Learning Awards celebrate individuals and organizations that have significantly supported LINGOs’ mission: ensuring that its members and the NGO community at large have access to affordable, appropriate learning wherever they work.

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Partnership with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy

Following conferences the Humanitarian Partnerships Conference in Nairobi and World Humanitarian Summit Quest for Humanitarian Effectiveness in Manchester,

LINGOs is delighted to announce a new partnership with The Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

Together both organizations will be developing an exciting context-specific project management learning program called PMD (Project Management for Development) Pro Starter. We know that basic project skills are vital for the efficient and effective delivery of aid and yet, access to learning opportunities for local staff remains limited. This partnership will begin to improve the quality and accessibility of project management training and ongoing support for those managing projects in the field.

PMD Pro Starter will be a carefully curated set of learning materials and tools that will ensure that best practices from both professional project management (PRINCE2 and PMP) and aid-specific tools (PMD Pro) are utilised to maximize the capacity of in-country staff and aid partners to deliver effective humanitarian response.

By co-creating the PMD PRO Starter course with key stakeholders, the partnership will develop a course that meets the needs of local NGOs, community based organizations, local government, local private sector and national organizations that manage humanitarian projects in the field level.

If you would like to become involved in this program please email academyenquiries@savethechildren.org.uk for more information.

Follow us both on twitter to keep up-to date with this project @AcademyHum @LINGOsOrg.

Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?


mikeGuest post by Mike Culligan, LINGOs’ Director of Last Mile Learning

Last month we published a survey, based on Jane Hart’s recent blog post, that asked readers to rate 10 different ways they learn at work. We did not receive 3,500 responses from 55 countries (as Jane did), however, 69 individuals from our sector responded to our survey. Their responses reveal a number of interesting trends about the way development/relief organizations learn, identify the similarities/differences between “our learners” and learners in other sectors, and raise the challenging question, “Is Traditional L&D Still Relevant?”

First, there is one very strong area of alignment between development/relief learners and learners in other sectors. Both surveys’ results identified knowledge sharing within teams as the most important source of sharing in the organization. Over 90% of LINGOs respondents identified team knowledge sharing as either “Essential” or “Very Important.” In Jane Hart’s survey, this category also took the top prize, with 87% of respondents identifying it as Essential or Very Important.

Interestingly, while respondents to both surveys agreed on the importance of knowledge sharing, they disagreed significantly on other points.

In Jane Hart’s survey, the second most useful source of learning was identified as web searches, while company training/e-learning was the lowest-rated way to learn at work. Respondents to LINGOs’ survey did not agree! LINGOs respondents identified general conversations and meetings within their teams as the second most important source of learning (which Jane Hart’s blog respondents put in third place.) However, what is probably the most interesting contrast between the two surveys is that LINGOs respondents identified Training/eLearning Provided by Your Company (73%) as the third most important source of workplace learning, just behind general conversations and meetings (77%)! In contrast, only 37% of Jane Hart’s respondents identified Training/eLearning as Essential or Very Important.

What does this mean? While it is clear that LINGOs survey data needs improvement, beginning with more respondents from more locations, representing a wider variety of backgrounds, there are several very interesting takeaways. First, Social Learning is king! Both surveys identified knowledge sharing and conversations in teams as being the most important avenues of learning. Secondly, it appears that eLearning and Trainings continue to be very important in our sector (while not nearly as much in other sectors). Why this discrepancy in results?  It could be because our offices are so remote that eLearning a pragmatic/practical approach to reach staff on limited budgets. It could be that the social components of our training events allow for the hallway/watercooler conversations that are critical to social learning in our agencies. The survey does not ask why, but it clear that respondents still value eLearning and Training.

Below you will see a summary of the responses from the two surveys. They are definitely thought provoking. LINGOs will also be discussing the results of these surveys at the LINGOs Global Learning Forum (Little Rock, Arkansas; October 14-15, 2015.) There, we will review the challenges these responses pose to our agency learning strategy, and explore approaches and products that will allow LINGOs members to better serve the next generation of learners in the workplace.

LINGOs’ survey results

Mike's survey data

Jane Hart’s survey results, available at C4LPT.uk

Jane Hart survey