FHI’s Pilot Launch of eLearning through a LINGOs membership: process, results, and lessons learned

Guest Blog post by Peter Balvanz
Program Officer, Knowledge Management, FHI, Durham, NC, USA

 In August of last year FHI joined the LINGOs community.  From October 11 to December 11 we conducted a pilot eLearning initiative with four FHI country offices to help inform us in our global roll-out, which we are currently planning.  Pilot objectives included:

  1. Understand value of courses for global employees
  2. Test the course approval process
  3. Manage workflow before global roll-out.

 

Relying heavily on LINGOs staff and website, other member organizations, and a strategic group at FHI, our pilot was deemed a success.  At the conclusion of the two month pilot:

  • 212 staff were batch-load registered to our portal
  • 25% of these staff registered for at least 1 course (52/212)
  • Individual staff requested 4 courses on average at first visit
  • Among courses started (70), 40% were completed (28) during the pilot period (not all country offices started the pilot on Oct 11).
  • Courses generally took between 1-2 hours cumulative time.

 

PROCESS

Aiming to quickly offer courses to country office staff in our pilot, we were able to register staff, and communicate select course offerings through a branded portal within two months.  Several strategies facilitated this accomplishment, including:

1) LINGOs support staff and website – the website generally had answers to questions we had, but if it didn’t, the staff did

2) LinkedIn member and organization support – other experienced organizations collaborated to answer our posted questions, offering advice from personal experience and guidance documents used with their own staff

3) Forming and utilizing a strategic working group representing diverse departments at FHI.

In the case of the first two, FHI was the beneficiary of strong institutional knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned.  LINGOs staff were consistently timely in providing solid support and successfully facilitated beneficial relationships among member organizations.  The advice and guidance documents shared with FHI by member organizations provided an easy-to-assemble structure that enabled a quick release to pilot countries. 

FHI's Pilot Learning Portal

 

 Internally, FHI assembled a strategic working group to develop policies and divide necessary labors.  Our group included an administrator from Knowledge Management; HR representatives; Global Portfolio Management (GPM – country office liaisons) to aid in decisions important to international FHI staff; and IT.   Our decision making body crossed responsibilities to ensure all relevant voices were heard and we could get the most from our LINGOs membership. 

The strategic group sought input from country offices to advertise eLearning, tailor course selections to country needs, and to select countries interested in a pilot.  First, a short survey was emailed to country directors asking them to select courses most relevant to their staff and inquire whether they would be interested in participating in the pilot.  Pilot countries selected were to be diverse in staff size, capacity, and bandwidth, to get a better sense of the wider benefits of courses and challenges.  Learning areas deemed most important across the country offices were used to populate our portal with about 50 courses. Before including in the portal, most of the courses were quickly reviewed by staff from departments represented in our strategic group. 

As our preparation progressed, we wrote numerous template documents, including: Welcome letter to liaisons; Welcome letter for staff to be sent by liaisons; single sheet orientation to LINGOs; administrative roles and responsibilities; and policies and procedures, including screen shots for users. 

Once our portal was branded and loaded with courses, the opportunity was disseminated to staff through a country office liaison selected by the country director.  Liaisons were welcomed through an email describing responsibilities, and followed by a more in-depth phone call.  To encourage greater communication with country staff, we sent three bi-monthly updates and reports to liaisons offering support.  We also arranged one collective Elluminate session for liaisons to share their experiences and to show how to view reports as the country’s Registrar. 

FHI Human Resources Officer in Sudan Rose Obede accesses an online course during the pilot initiative

 

Evaluation and Lessons Learned

Upon conclusion of the pilot, we developed surveys for both liaisons and pilot staff to answer our objectives questions.  Staff believed most courses to be relevant to their jobs, easy to navigate, and easy to understand, but noted that work demands and bandwidth to be barriers to access in some countries.  Staff appreciated the opportunity for development, but desired more public health specific courses.  Liaisons believed eLearning to be a good opportunity for staff development and spent an average of 1-2 week assisting staff. 

Numerous lessons were learned to help guide the eventual global roll-out.  Though staff were informed of a user name and password given to them, many would sign-in as new users, thus creating extra work for administrators to avoid double identities.  Countries with low-bandwidth would get frustrated by courses freezing, a reality that cued us to the need to better advertise courses designed for low bandwidth areas.

Also worth noting for greater context, FHI did not deploy eCornell during the pilot.  Our primary focus was giving access to courses from the LINGOs course catalog.  Finally, we are in the initial stages of promoting Articulate.  We have installed copies of the software on shared spaces in our domestic offices, and have begun promoting the software.  Our next steps include revising our procedures manual, reviewing courses in our portal, and beginning to disseminate the opportunity to a wider audience.

LINGOs Fall 2010 Quarterly Update Webinar

We’re bursting with excitement and have lots of great news and resources to share with members at our Quarterly Update Webinar  on Wednesday Sept 22.

Even if you are planning to attend our Fall Member Meeting (please register by Sept 27th if you haven’t yet!), this quarterly update has news and resources from LINGOs that you won’t want to miss, and that will not be covered at the October 6-7 Member Meeting in DC.

Get the inside scoop on the following topics and more:

  • Need more Elluminate licenses? We’ll shed some light on what we have available to members that can extend this valuable resource

 

  • LINGOs partnerships to Build Project Management Capacity in Southern Africa, Haiti and Latin America: Get an update from Eric, Roger and Mike, who are now in South Africa and Haiti getting this work up and running!

 

  • Want custom-developed eLearning courses on your content but don’t have the budget? It’s not too late to get in on the action of the eLearning Global Giveback. We’ll tell you how!
  •  

And last, but definitely not least…

This year’s meeting will include an “unconference.”  Please think about the topics you may want to share that are not yet on the agenda, as well as those that you want to hear about from others!

We’ve put together some items on the agenda that we know you want to talk about (you’ve been discussing them on LinkedIn, at the virtual coffee break, and talking about them with LINGOs team). But, there’s so much more.  This year’s member meeting is partially developed as an Open-space or UNconference event. Participants will define the topics at the opening session in which we’ll use Buzan Learning’s iMindmap tool (which is available to LINGOs members).  To prepare:

1.       What do you want to learn from other members? This year’s meeting will include an “unconference.”  Please think about the topics you may want to share that are not yet on the agenda, as well as those that you want to hear about from others!

2.       What do you have to share with others? Please bring examples/samples of materials and resources you have developed or are using to promote learning in your organization. We will have two 20-minute sessions where participants can view and interact with each other to share and learn about each other’s resources.

 

Mark Weds, Sept 22, at 11 am Eastern on your calendar for the Fall 2010 Quarterly update: and check the Events on www.LINGOs.org for additional events already on the calendar (some have registration deadlines right around then!)

Three Options for Recording Elluminate Events

Most LINGOs members know a lot about Eluminate and are aware that Elluminate Live sessions can be recorded and played back.   The record and playback capability enables those who missed a session to view it at their leisure and allows the creation of sessions to be delivered asynchronously.  All of the audio, video, public direct messages, polls and quizzes, whiteboard content and annotations, multimedia, as well as every shared application in the main room, is recorded and played back in perfect synchronization.

What most people don’t know is that there are three options for recording Elluminate Events:

1. Recording events to the Elluminate Virtual Conference Recording (VCR) Library:   Supervisors can choose to record their sessions and they will be stored automatically to the Elluminate Virtual Conference Recording (VCR) library.  These recordings are stored in a proprietary format known as Virtual Conference Recording (VCR.)   They are configured to play using the Elluminate Live interface and the file is streamed to users, so playback may begin when a small portion of the file is received.  These files are highly compressed and are designed to play well in low-bandwidth environments.   This option, however, has several downsides:

a.  The recordings are only accessible on-line and cannot be viewed by users without internet connections;
b.  The recordings cannot be edited and they are only available in a propietary format that requires a Java plug-in to view
c.  The recordings are resident on the Elluminate site and cannot be shared  or embedded in other content or on other pages

2. Transfer Elluminate VCR Files to the Elluminate Publish Format:   Elluminate Publish! allows users to convert Elluminate Live! recordings into formats that no longer require a web connection.  For example, using this application, you can create standalone recordings that can be sent to your learners around the world via CD-ROM, e-mail attachments or loaded as files to your intranet – no more wondering whether your user in Swaziland has the bandwidth to view your session recording off of the server.   Elluminate Publish! Allows users to create a standalone multimedia recording that preserves interactiviry or a video file in a variety of industry-standard formats: AVI, FLV, MP3, standard MP4, high definition MP4, OGG, VORBIS, Wav and WMV.

One of the many ways that the Elluminate company supports the work of LINGOs member agencies is by providing access to Elluminate Publish! licenses at the considerably reduced prices. For more information, visit the Elluminate Publish! section of the LINGOs website.

3. Transfer Elluminate VCR Files Using Camtasia:   Users can also convert their Elluminate Live recordings using the Camtasia Studio or SnagIt applications.  The Camtasia application allows users to convert the file into a format so that it can be edited, combined with other recordings and indexed into a SCORM-compliant format.  Like the Publish application, the Camtasia product can output a number of different formats, including: AVI, SWF, MWV, MOV, FLV, RM and GIF. For more information on how to use Camtasia to convert Elluminate recording files, visit the following link

Many LINGOs member agencies who would like to transfer their VCR files into other formats, but who would prefer not to complete the process in-house.  In these cases, agencies can contact LINGOs for assistance.  LINGOs provides fee for service assistance to member agencies who would like to transfer VCR files into other formats.  Contact mike(at)lingos.org for details.

Integrate Teleconferencing in Your Elluminate Live! Session

Elluminate has released version 9 of its Live! On-Line Classroom application and it has added a number of outstanding features!  One in particular, is the addition of integrated teleconferencing to your Elluminate Live! session.  Now, when you set up your Elluminate session, you have the option of managing audio via VoIP, teleconference, or a blended approach that includes both VoIP users and teleconference participants!!  (note:  the teleconferencing phone number must be located in North America.) 

I have experimented with the teleconference integration and it works wonderfully!  For those of you who have wondered how to engage a group of training participants in an Elluminate session while they are gathered around a single computer – here is your answer!

If you are interested in testing out this functionality, you must first log in to your Elluminate account and select the button to SCHEDULE A MEETING.   Then, select the button SHOW DEFAULT SESSION FIELDS at which point, you can schedule your meeting, but be sure to select the version choice of 9.0 SLL INT (tip:  once you have selected this version, click the SAVE CURRENT SETTINGS AS DEFAULTS button so that all future meetings default to version 9.0.)

Now you are ready to go!  Elluminate has great support materials that explain how to set up your next session using a teleconference utility.  I followed those instructions and was able to set up a session with integrated telephony within minutes. 

I did, however, run into one snag in getting my teleconference utility to log in correctly to Elluminate.  My free conference call utility requires that I call a number, enter a pin, AND then respond to a confirmation query that my pin number is correct.  Elluminate has anticipated this challenge and has designed a process that allows your Elluminate session to automatically navigate through a multiple code input sequence.  The guidance to solve this challenge is not immediately “findable” on the site, so I am linking to the support URL hereIMPORTANT:  This support URL  provides the key to working with a number of conference call utilities that require multiple input codes.

Elluminate New User Video Clip

For two years, LINGOS member agencies have endeavored to make the Elluminate Live Virtual classroom accessible to staff across the world.  During that time, two adoption challenges have been especially significant when promoting the application within organizations:

1.        Ensuring that field-based users overcome their initial apprehension of entering live on-line sessions;

2.       Ensuring that new users have the Java download that is required to participate in Elluminate.

 

Today, I received a note from a LINGOs member agency that quoted an e-mail from an employee  based in India:
“Thank you for sharing this clip. One of the reasons I did not join any session was my hesitancy with the technology. Thanks to this I have run out of this excuse.
J
Looking forward to participating in the next session.”

The e-mail refers to a video clip that had been sent out widely to field based staff which aimed to address both the challenges listed above.  The video clip provides a 5-minute introduction to Elluminate and summarizes everything a new participant needs to know about using the Elluminate Live Virtual Classroom.  The video clip has two clear advantages:

1.       It raises the comfort level of session participants by providing a clear, intuitive introduction to the application – within the context of an Elluminate session.

2.       It identifies a number of additional resources that users can access if they require additional information.

A further advantage of the video clip is that it requires the Elluminate plug-in to be installed before it can be viewed.  That means that anybody who has viewed the clip now has the plug-in required to attend an Elluminate session.

So, as you think about the challenge of preparing staff to attend Elluminate-based sessions, keep this video clip in mind.  The URL for the clip can be inserted as a link in session announcements and it can be presented as required viewing for first-time Elluminate sessions.