Insights to Better Connecting a Growing Team

Guest Post by Kris Ritter, InsideNGO HR Manager

InsideNGO is a membership association dedicated to strengthening operations staff and fostering leadership in the international NGO sector. InsideNGO is a supporting member of LINGOs.

Using Learning From The Insights Discovery Program

To meet significant growth in its membership and the range of benefits and international services it provides, InsideNGO has increased its staff from five to twenty-five in just over five years.  With the addition of the new staff, it quickly became clear that the less formal management style of InsideNGO was no longer effective.  After efforts to clarify position descriptions and reporting lines, we realized that there was an element missing:  an understanding of management and interaction styles, which are essential in any organization, but especially important in a smaller, growing one.

We leveraged our LINGOs member benefit to the Insights Discovery Profiles

Insights: “…released capacity we didn’t know we had”

Looking for a means to drive individual self-awareness, better communications and organizational development, InsideNGO launched the initiative to have each staff member complete the Insights Discovery profile to incorporate as the major focus of the all-Staff Retreat in December 2013.   We used the individual assessments, online learning available to us as part of InsideNGO’s supporting membership in LINGOs, as well as in-person exercises. As we implemented the Insights Discovery program, a new language, culture (and humor) began to emerge across InsideNGO,  leading to major benefits of a more effective teaming and partnering style across the organization. “Insights unlocked the “software” that allows our hardware (i.e., role/job descriptions) and wiring (i.e., reporting lines) to work even more effectively and release capacity we did not know we had,” observed Tom Dente, InsideNGO Chief Operating Officer.

Insights-InsideNGO

A more effective team means more creativity and innovation as InsideNGO looks to meet the changing needs of its more than 300 members working around the world.

Learn More

InsideNGO Annual Conference: Insights’ Don Johnson will be speaking at the InsideNGO 2014 Annual Conference “Sustaining Excellence in a Changing World.”

LINGOs Member Benefit: Many InsideNGO member organizations are also members of LINGOs (Learning in NGOs). Click to see a list of LINGOs Members. Among the benefits in the LINGOs Membership Toolbox are facilitation tools including Insights Discovery Profiles.

Insights – LINGOs partnership strengthens individuals and teams for global development

 

 

 

 

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Plan International Builds on Learning at Work Day Success

Guest Post by Sasha Smith, Plan International Human Resources Assistant

 

Open University awarded Plan International its Learning at Work Day Award for Inspiring Learning. Sasha Smith holds the award at UK headquarters in December 2013.

The Annual Learning at Work Day/Week is a wonderful opportunity to engage staff in learning, motivate them for further learning and promote the learning resources available to global staff. Plan International has successfully leveraged this event in the past, and will build on that experience – and its LINGOs membership – as it expands Learning at Work Day to Learning at Work WEEK May 19-25.

The annual Learning at Work event encourages employers to organise a day of informal training sessions for employees to learn something they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do. Plan’s event was such a success that the team won the Open University Learning at Work Day Award for Inspiring Learning. The judges commented that were very impressed with Plan’s objective for the event, the partnership work and the promotion of further learning.

Promoting learning

Plan International’s 2013 Learning at Work Day was an opportunity for our team to highlight the fact we are an organisation that promotes and encourages staff to embrace learning within their role on a day-to-day basis.

With so many employees with such a wide variety of skills and knowledge, the focus was on utilising the expertise of colleagues and the day proved to be hugely popular. Sessions and workshops ran throughout the day and included Spanish and Italian lessons, Microsoft Office training and help on how to make the most of social media among others.

Learning at Work Day Going Global

Plan began Learning at Work Day as a UK initiative, but after last year’s success the aim is to now get offices around the world involved. The team is already planning for Learning at Work Day 2014 and working hard to make sure that it isn’t just an International Headquarters initiative.

What do we seek to achieve?

  • To successfully engage employees in learning and motivating them to learn in the future
  • To promote and engage employees with our current learning offerings and resources
  • To encourage employees to take responsibility for their learning and to start actively planning their development with their managers
  • To go global with the Learn at Work Week by encouraging our Regions to get involved as well as offering some IH sessions as webinars to include Plan’s global audience.

Resources for Field Offices

The HR Operations and Learning & Development teams are creating a resource pack to equip both national and country offices with ideas, inspiration and resources to run their own Learning at Work Day. They are also planning to host webinars using Blackboard Collaborate to encourage participation from around the globe on a range of subjects, too.

The teams are also incorporating social media by creating Plan’s very own Learning at Work Day Pinterest board, and using Yammer to spread the word across Plan.

Resources for all LINGOs Members

LINGOs is celebrating Learning at Work Week by hosting several virtual classroom events that may be of interest to the staff of any member organization. Click the buttons to learn more and register. Registration is free – but space is limited. Please share with your global teams! We’d love to have your learning champions, potential eLearners and mentors participate, engage, share and learn with us!

 

For Learning Champions – We are the Champions! Structures and guidance for global NGO Learning Champions

Join LINGOs 2013 Rising Star Nick Walden of Opportunity International has he shares tips and insights from his organization’s highly successful program with Learning Champions.
Eventbrite - LINGOs - Learning at Work Week: We are the Champions! Structures and Guidance for Global NGO Learning Champions

For All who want to learn via technology – Are you ready? Steps to assess readiness and potential to succeed with eLearning

Join Jim Klaas of Dev Ed International  as he shares some the lessons and approaches for helping learners prepare to be successful online learners. Jim willl describe the online learning readiness passport program developed for a global NGO, and what you can do to prepare for success.

Eventbrite - LINGOs - Learning at Work Week: Are you ready? Steps to assess readiness and potential to succeed with eLearning

For potential Mentors –  Mentoring in an NGO 

Join Janine Hackshaw as she presents Accion’s successful and popular mentoring program. What does it take to be a good mentor? How can your organization (or country offices) adopt it? She will discuss how to overcome the challenge of finding good mentors, and answer your questions to help you get started with your own mentoring program.

Eventbrite - LINGOs - Learning at Work Week: Mentoring in a Global NGO: What you need to be a good mentor

The Virtual Palava Hut: Building a Global Community of Learning

Guest Post By Paige Layno Winn, FHI 360

PaigeWinn

In some African countries, the Palava Hut is the central space for social networking, informal learning, and conflict resolution. It’s a place that welcomes locals and guests alike. It’s the cultural hub of a village—a place that promotes dialogue between people of diverse opinions, backgrounds, and cultures.

How do you create community in a virtual learning space?

Image source http://earthtreasurevase.org/liberia-peacebuilding-project/
Image from http://earthtreasurevase.org/liberia-peacebuilding-project/

You might say that an NGO’s training classroom is like a Palava Hut—the organizational learning hub. So how do you create that same sense of community in a virtual learning space?  The Learning and Development (L+D) team at FHI 360 has been working on creative ways to do just that.

This year, we launched a series of live, virtual learning events called Cross-Sector Cafés—regular one-hour interactive discussions led by country offices and staff from across FHI 360’s 11 practice areas. Facilitators lead sessions held via virtual classroom (Blackboard Collaborate), giving brief introductions and highlights of staff/programs, with much of the time devoted for Q&A from attendees. This year’s topics include:

  • Integrating gender programs
  • Exploring FHI 360’s disability projects and resources
  • Strengthening economic systems in developing countries
  • Extending information delivery and data collection in low resource environments
  • Developing sustainable solutions to environmental protection
  • Introducing staff and projects in country offices, including Nepal, Kenya, and Thailand
  • And more!

Cross Sector Dialogue via Collaborative Platform

1Cafe 360 screenshotAfter each session, follow up discussions are posted on Café 360, a collaborative networking site we built using the professional social networking platform, Ning. Café 360 is designed to promote cross-sector dialogue between staff through discussion boards, videos, and other cross-sector collaboration tools. Café 360 also provides us a place to post recorded Cross-Sector Cafés , so colleagues who couldn’t attend a synchronous session still have access. And, as a bonus, we have a nice library of virtual interactions between staff that can be accessed anywhere, anytime!

Café 360 has been a great resource where staff share profiles and photos, as well as a place for L+D to post pictures of live, in-country learning events and learning materials. We’ve also set up content interest groups so staff can direct questions to the relevant people. For example, we have a learning champions group on Café 360 where champions can post LMS or eLearning-related questions and get quick responses—often real-time answers in their time zones.

Another outcome of Café 360 is that others are now using technologies like Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate virtual learning across their own global teams. Groups are also seeing the advantage of adopting professional networking sites (such as Ning) and are exploring similar platforms for communities of practice and FHI 360 as a whole. As a result, learners are collaborating across geographies and practices areas, and staff are building their virtual training skills when they facilitate Cross-Sector Cafés.

NGOs often face hurdles with expense, skill, and technology infrastructure. But with a growing variety of social media and mobile learning tools, you’re sure to find one that fits your budget, size, and capacity. In the spirit of a LINGOs Palava Hut, contact me if you’d like to talk about getting started with a virtual strategy to increase global collaboration and learning with your teams. Or better yet—let’s catch up over coffee at this year’s LINGOs member meeting!

Eventbrite - LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting

The  LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting takes place October 16 & 17 in Washington, DC. Staff of all LINGOs Member Organizations are welcome to register and attend.  Sessions are tailored for our members: to help you give your learners a  “buzz”, help you use a mixture of resources to “blend” your  program and give you ideas to make maximum use of the limited  “bandwidth” we all have available – both figuratively and literally.

LINGOs Member Logs into Virtual Classrooms on the Go

Guest Post by Gus Curran, Ipas Senior Associate, IT Training

Recently, Ipas has seen an explosion of staff purchasing mobile devices for personal use. In fact, when global staff visit the Ipas office here in Chapel Hill, NC, one of the first questions they ask is usually, “can you take me to the Apple store?”  Of course, US staff have been using iPhones for some time, and the IT unit is always happy to help them set up their devices (Androids too) so that they can access their email and calendar with no problem.  While our IT unit does not officially support iPhones and iPads, our friendly IT staff is always willing to help if time permits.

Blackboard Collaborate’s new mobile feature

So you can imagine the response when I announced that we would offer internal training and workshops on iPhones and iPads thanks to a free app released recently by our friends at Blackboard Collaborate. People were ecstatic! I immediately started hearing stories of people lugging their laptops on short trips or home for the evening for the sole purpose of joining an eRoom session (as we call them at Ipas).

This mobile feature added high value for staff at little or no cost to Ipas, and we decided to promote the feature heavily and help staff make the most of it.

First, we had to upgrade our Blackboard Collaborate rooms to version 12. This free upgrade includes a couple of nice features not available in V 11, including the ability to quickly take away features from participants, such as video or whiteboard rights. This makes grabbing an open microphone much easier.  You may remember these features from Elluminate, and now they are back. More importantly, of course, Blackboard Collaborate 12 Enterprise Licenses are mobile ready.

The Blackboard Collaborate support site offers handouts on how to use the applications. You will find them here . (I absolutely love it when someone else does all the work for me!) I posted links to these handouts on our intranet, along with information that moderators will need to know, which you can find here.  Only participants can use the mobile apps to attend virtual classroom sessions. Moderators still need to use a PC or Mac.

Once the rooms were upgraded and the materials were ready, we held a Lunch and Learn Brown Bag session to officially launch Blackboard Collaborate Mobile. We invited staff to bring their iPhones and iPads over a lunch hour. IT helped staff download the application from the Apple Store and test it out in a live environment. We had everyone play with the interface and test making smileys, typing in chat, raising hands, all of the participant greatest hits.

So, how is the application?

I can share with you that the iPad version is getting great reviews. Feedback has been very positive. In fact, the interface is very simple to use and intuitive, and many people prefer it over the standard interface on their computer. I have personally participated in several sessions via iPad and the sound quality has been very good, there is very little lag time on audio and the participant tools were easy to find and use.  We have briefly tested application sharing on the iPad, and it worked well, but we haven’t done enough testing yet to offer a definitive review.

The iPhone version gets less spectacular reviews. Obviously the smaller screen can be an issue, but if you’re used to using your iPhone a lot you’re probably used to the small screen. The bigger problem is audio. People report that the sound delay can be significant. Participants do hear the audio and see the content, but due to the delay in audio, the content on slides seems off.  Already one update to the application has addressed the audio lag, so Blackboard is aware of the issue and working on it, but they aren’t quite there yet. However, when your attendance at a session is mandatory, and you are stuck in an airport or in the field, the iPhone works well enough to allow for participation with just a little frustration.

Overall, people are very happy with the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Application. Promoting this feature has not added support time to the IT help desk and was relatively simple thanks to the tools provided by the Blackboard Collaborate support site.

Key info before you get started

Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing

iOS Operating System 4.3 and above
Apple iPad 2 Certified
Apple iPad 3 Certified
Apple iPod Touch (4th Generation) Certified
Apple iPhone 4 Certified
Apple iPhone 4s Certified

*Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing, available in version V12, is included in the license for enterprise and departmental-licensed customers and has already been enabled for these accounts. Mobile is not available for Moderator access, or single room vclass customers. To learn more about licensing, please visit -> http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Products/Blackboard-Collaborate/Licensing/Comparison-Chart.aspx

The Blackboard Collaborate licenses included in LINGOs membership have access to the mobile feature. Many LINGOs member agencies have also purchased additional Moderator Access licenses for which Mobile Web Conferencing is not available.

To create a Blackboard Collaborate session with access for mobile users:

  1. Log into the moderator interface at https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/myelluminate
  2. Click the Schedule a Meeting button.
  3. Click the Default Fields button.
  4. Fill out the meeting form being sure to change the Version field to 12.  (NOTE:  If you want all future meetings to automatically use Blackboard Collaborate 12, click the Save as Defaults button).
  5. Click the Create the Session button.

DevLearn: from geeks to witches and everything in between…

Guest Post by Shannon Cavallari, PATH; Samantha Hackett, Save the Children; Catriona Moriarty, Conservation International; and, Jenn Soliman, Ipas

 Introduction to DevLearn

We had the wonderful opportunity to attend DevLearn 12: Embracing Technologies, an event that is targeted for like-minded geeks who use new technologies to make us better at what we do. A second and equally beneficial opportunity was to strengthen relationships among the LINGOs members attending the conference.

It was important for us not only to get the most out of the conference, but also to ensure that we were frugal with costs given the location. As a partner of LINGOs, the eLearning Guild donates one Premium Membership, which also includes one admission to a conference and pre-conference workshop (a cost savings of almost $1500!). Continuing our cost-saving strategy the four of us shared two rooms, a decision which would yield way more benefits than splitting the bill. If you know anything about this group, you know that networking and sharing does not stop once you leave the conference room floor.

The eLearning Guild always hosts a fantastic conference and this year’s DevLearn was no exception. Located in the Aria Resort and Conference Center on the Las Vegas Strip, it was hard to show up the glitz and glamour of all the lights, but they did.

Favourite moments

Samantha Hackett, Save the Children UK

Wow, what an amazing week, there were some fantastic speakers at this year’s conference, and I was both excited and a little freaked out to be counted among them presenting on the Mobile Learning stage for a session called The Potential for Cloud Learning with an amazing co-speaker Gerry Griffin from Skill Pill M-Learning. The session looked at the challenges organizations like ours face both culturally and technologically and how to best approach these challenges using innovations like mobile learning, how delivery mode impacts the style and shape of the learning content and how best to take advantage of the cloud.

What a great opportunity this was and looking back on my first eLearning Guild conference three years ago, where everything seemed so new and complicated, it highlighted to me, how far we as LINGOs members have come over the last few years. I was subjected to the usual challenges of a speaker (failing equipment, background noise, dessert trolley arriving mid-way through), but I really enjoyed it and I would encourage other LINGOs members to think about taking the plunge and becoming a speaker at the next eLearning Guild event- as we really are doing some innovative “stuff.”

This was a truly wonderful week with some great sessions, but it also provided many networking opportunities. I met some really fantastic people who were very interested in the work that we do, so I saw this not only as an opportunity for ourselves to look at how we could support our own individual work, but as a way to highlight the work that LINGOs is doing and encourage people to get involved. After the Welcome Reception Halloween night, it seemed that everyone knew about the LINGOs witches.

Finally, it was great to use the DevLearn app to keep up-to-date on agendas, vendors, speakers, and thankfully, maps . I hope next year, we can do away with paper all together.

Left to right: Samantha Hackett, Catriona Moriarty, Eric Berg, Jenn Soliman, Shannon Cavallari.

Jenn Soliman, Ipas

There are two moments that stick out in my mind about this conference: the pre-conference workshop and the Tin Can API session.

Full of confidence, Samantha, Shannon and I initially enrolled into the Intermediate to Advanced Storyline workshop. After all, we were confident in our Articulate Studio abilities, had downloaded and played in Storyline and even watched a few demos and tutorials. Unfortunately, this was not enough and at the first break, with our heads down, we moved to the Introduction to Storyline workshop led by Ron Price of Yukon Learning. The Yukon Learning team led us through exercises to gain knowledge on the basics of Storyline.  I feel much more confident in my Storyline skills and look forward to putting my skills into practice on my next course. Our lesson learned: just because you are confident in one tool doesn’t mean those skills or knowledge will easily translate to another. Articulate Studio and Articulate Storyline are significantly different.

Tin Can API is an entirely new concept to me, one that I probably still don’t fully understand. That being said, it is moments like this that excite me the most about attending these conferences. I feel like I am on the edge of innovation and I can’t wait to learn more. I attended a session with Tin Can experts and their knowledge and explanation of Tin Can API enticed me to learn more.

Here is a shortened explanation of what Tin Can API is from their website: The Tin Can API is a brand new learning technology specification that opens up an entire world of experiences (online and offline). This API captures the activities that happen as part of learning experiences. A wide range of systems can now securely communicate with a simple vocabulary that captures this stream of activities.

I think this learning technology creates many opportunities for data to support our programs and is something we should not miss out on.

In addition to learning at DevLearn, we were also able to build our relationships by spending time together. On Saturday, after the conference ended, Shannon, Samantha and I drove to the Hoover Dam. We arrived just as the sun was starting to set. The reflection on the water was magnificent and the mountains looked like they were painted pink. It was a beautiful sight.

This was the first time I have attended DevLearn and let me just say, I completely geeked out. I attended the conference with two specific objectives in mind: to walk away with a better skillset and use of Storyline and to wrap my head around the term gamification. And of course, network.

As Jenn pointed out, the Introduction to Storyline workshop was excellent. The trainers, the materials, and the hands-on activities were exactly what I needed to start to think about how and when I would use this new tool within PATH.

There were a ton of interesting sessions, sometimes overlapping. It wasn’t a problem identifying what to attend; it was identifying which session I wanted to attend more. In some instances, this is where teamwork paid off as some of my LINGOs friends would attend one session while I attended another. Later in the evening we would debrief and share notes.

I attended a few sessions on gamification, a term used to describe the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts. One particular session, Understanding the Value of Games and Gamification for Serious Learning, not only presented on the topic but demonstrated how to incorporate games into learning. Dividing the room into two teams, we used a polling technology and texted our answers to questions the presenter asked. I’d like to point out that my team won J I walked away from DevLearn with an understanding on how, when and why you would try to incorporate gamification into your design.

We used the LINGOs booth as our central meeting place during the conference. On more than one occasion, I spoke to interested designers and vendors who wanted to know what LINGOs was, how I was affiliated and what they could do to get involved. It’s an amazing feeling to sing the praises of LINGOs and the member agencies. To discuss with confidence the Last Mile Learning initiative, Global Giveback and what the consortium does as a group. I think I may be pretty good at this gig, for I was abandoned by Eric at least once to man the booth due to a “meeting” he had. Either that or he knows I have no problem asking people to donate their time or resources to such a worthy consortium. Next time, I think Eric owes me dinner! 😉

Catriona Moriarty, Conservation International

It’s early Wednesday morning, and I’ve finally arrived in the glistening Las Vegas desert! With Hurricane Sandy a swirling blur behind me, I am ready to dip a toe into DevLearn! As anticipated, it is an enticing mix of techies, hash tags, QR codes, and innovative TECHNOLOGY! My red-eye wander shifts to wide-eyed wonder after the first of many coffees in the hall. My first session is Tracy Bissette of WeeJee Learning! She is brilliant. Tracy introduces an instructional design challenge, and three different panelists. They each pitch their unique methodologies for planning, designing, and delivering training solutions to solve for the challenge. It’s super interesting to see their different approaches, mock ups, and the platforms they leverage to launch! It gives me unique insight into the questions one needs to ask up front before moving eLearning ideas into design, introduces me to iBooks authoring (love!) and reinforces the importance of understanding your audience. With each concurrent session, I settle deeper and deeper into the dizzying and dazzling technology dose that is DevLearn!

After hours, we do find some fun! It is Vegas, after all… Our LINGOs crew rallies and we find ourselves sharing new insights, knowledge, and many questions! What is this Project Tin Can thing all about anyway?!? We are messaging and tweeting and connecting and most importantly, inspired by everyone around us. It’s all very sparky and cool! And yes, there are some costumes and cocktails involved!

After three days of tech madness and stimulating discoveries, we are poolside, perusing the DemoFest guide, and soaking up some serious sun. Aaaaaaaah! DevLearn. See you next year!

Closing thoughts

A conference is just that…a conference. It’s what you make of your time while you are there that matters; what sessions you choose to attend, soaking up new information and skills, networking, and strengthening relationships. We each came to the conference with our own objectives, but I think we not only made the most of our time while we were there. We also strengthened the relationship between each other and are still using “whatsapp” to group text regularly in preparation for meeting up at the Lingos conference.  A special thanks to David Holcombe from the eLearning Guild for your and the Guild’s participation in LINGOs.

Left to right: Catriona Moriarty, Shannon Cavallari, Samantha Hackett, Jenn Soliman.

Ten Tips to Increase e-Learning Usage

Guest post by Suziana Shukor, Learning & Development Coordinator, Islamic Relief Worldwide

Inspired by recent LINGOs webinar with Dawn Kohler of The Inside Coach on eLearning Effectiveness, Suzi did some research put together Guidelines on How to Increase eLearning Usage for her team of learning Champions and has shared it with the LINGOs Community. This post contains 10 tips from the Guidelines, built from her review of the literature and The Inside Coach session.

1.     Talk to your audience – and share the results

While it would be nice if there were a ‘magic bullet’ that would make hordes of learners flock to online courses, there is no one right answer to the question of how to get users more involved with e-learning.

In fact, the most consistent point that came out of research was the importance of thoroughly understanding your users before figuring out how to ‘sell’ e-learning to them. We must know our target audience before selecting or designing e-learning courses that will appeal to them.

Some simple questions to find out about your users and their needs:

  • What type of computer and internet connection do they have at work and at home
  • Which learning topics are most important to them
  • What time of day they prefer to learn
  • What is their IT proficiency level

Do

Research your audience before launching an e-learning initiative. Give users what they need. Then advertise the fact that they are getting exactly what they asked for.

 Don’t

  Assume you what users what without asking   them.

 

 2.     Pay attention to culture

Surveys and focus groups are good ways to find out what users need, but it’s equally important to understand something much less tangible: an organisation culture. And within a single culture, there are distinct subcultures, many of which develop around job titles. Project workers who are accustomed to competing in their jobs may respond well to games and contests – an approach that may fall flat with IT professionals.

Do

Think long and hard about your organization’s culture and the types of marketing approaches might work with different groups of learners.

Do users appreciate humour and whimsy, or do they want “just the facts”? Do contests and games motivate them, or are they more likely to respond to simple e-mail reminders?

Don’t

Market e-learning the same ways in a “command-and control” environment as you would in a more team-oriented culture.

 

 3.     Be specific in your marketing

One of the most common mistakes people make when marketing e-learning is that promoting the initiative as a whole, rather than what’s in it for them. It’s important to talk with target groups about specific offerings. Mass marketing delivers the strategic message; target marketing is for sending very specific messages.

Target groups based on more than just job titles. Other factors to think about: level within the organisation (e.g. entry level workers, middle managers or executives), location, the language they speak and the extent of their compute knowledge. For example, if you are offering a basic course on using the Windows interface, send an e-mail to a group of computer newbies across all job functions, not to everyone in the organisation.

Craft your messages to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question for each group. If you’re sending an update to upper-level management, include personal comments from other higher-level managers who have seen their employees’ productivity rise as a result of the e-learning initiatives. If you are targeting a group of IT people, include testimonials from IT workers who have received valuable certifications using e-learning. Show how e-learning can give different values to different learners.

Do

Make sure your marketing messages are directed at specific groups of people. Let each group know what’s in it for them.

Don’t

Put all your effort in to mass marketing, leaving learners overwhelmed by a mountain of courses.

4.     Find e-learning champions

One of the keys to increasing e-learning usage is having a few strong advocates who will talk up your initiative. Again, the identity of these champions depends on your organisation’s culture. But no matter who your champions are, they should have the following characteristics:

  •  A genuine, passionate belief in the value of learning. Don’t ask disinterested executive to say a few words at the organisation meeting simply because of his or her rank within the organisation. If your organisation dictates that you must have specific individuals speaking on behalf of the e-learning initiative, do everything you can to bring them on board before they begin promoting the programme.
  • In some cases, your e-learning champions might simply be a talented entry-level employee who’s friendly, articulate and respected by his or her colleagues. If this individual takes an online course and spreads the word about his or her positive experience, it becomes a powerful incentive for the co-workers.

Do

Put some of the marketing onus on users and managers. If they believe in the programme, it’s to their advantage to tell others about it.

 Get users’ stories of how the learning initiative helped them to do their work better to achieve your organization’s mission.

Don’t

Count on e-learning champions to come out of their own without any effort on your part.

 Identify which groups or individuals are most likely to benefit and make sure they understand how online learning will help them.

 5.     Get learners’ managers involved

The most powerful champions or resistors of e-learning are often the learners’ own managers. E-learning may be supported at the highest levels within the organisation and employees may be clamouring for it, but your initiative will go nowhere if front-line managers don’t buy in.

Do

Make sure managers understand the benefits of e-learning so they recommend it to the people who report them.

Provide data from your LMS on employee learning to the learner’s managers.

Share announcements and information on course availability to managers.

Let managers know how their department is doing compared to others in terms of learning resources.

Don’t

Direct your marketing efforts only at learners.

 

Assume managers don’t want to be able to check in with their staff on their learning progess.

 

 6.     Brand your programme

Any company that’s launched a product or service knows that one of the keys to success is branding. When consumers have a positive experience with a certain brand, they’re likely to remember it and to buy it again and again. A branded programme will help learners remember it and go back for more. It’s also likely to give staff the impression that the learning is supported at the highest levels of the organisation.

Do

Brand your e-learning effort – or your training programme as a whole with a logo/animated character and/or consistent typefaces. You’ll provide users with a visual trigger, reminding them that this new flyer or Web Page is related to the one they saw last week.

Don’t

Haphazardly send out communication pieces that look and feel different from each other.

 

 7.     Don’t stop with the launch; keep communicating

While a launch party or other kick-off even can help generate excitement for a new e-learning initiative, that’s only the beginning. Other types of communication methods include: newsletters, e-mails, events etc.

  •  Refresh users’ memories of what they learned at the launch of your program
    • Send a series of emails or
    • post pamphlets/fliers around the work place
  • Send personalised email messages with updated offerings every couple of weeks or once a month, to specific groups.

Do

Keep people engaged long after the kick-off party by regularly informing them of new courses, certifications and services. Also, communicate in a variety of ways, including e-mails, pamphlets, posters, and lunch-and-learn sessions.

Don’t

Overwhelm people with too much e-mail. Weekly or biweekly messages give just enough information without being perceived as “junk.”

 8.     Link learning to outcomes

Research shows that most companies are using a variety of incentives to encourage employees to learn online. However, it usually takes more than a gift or certificates to turn employees into repeat e-learners.  Some ways to add accountability include:

  •  Talking about training expectations during performance appraisals. Many managers already require their employees to complete continuing education or upskilling courses as part of their professional development plans. Build eLearning resources into this education plan.
  • Making e-learning a prerequisite to classroom learning. If your online library includes a course that complements an instructor-led class, require people to take the online class before signing up for the in-person event. Not only does this bring everyone up to speed on the basics before they come into the classroom, allowing you to make the most effective use of the valuable “face-time” with the instructor, but it reminds employees of the valuable eLearning resources available to them 24/7.
  • Offering certification. Offer online courses that lead to highly desired (or required) certifications that will allow the motivated learner to advance within your organization.

Do

Let learners know how important e-learning is by tying courses usage or completion to performance reviews and access to certification.

Don’t

Assume people will take online courses without a “push” from managers.

 

 9.     Give learners enough time and space to do e-learning

In a classroom session, it would be unusual (not to mention rude) for a learner’s manager or co-worker to barge in and ask a quick question or borrow a pen. But when an employee is sitting at his or her desk, quietly staring at the computer screen while typing or clicking, the person’s co-workers don’t know – and, in some cases, don’t care – that he or she may be in the middle of a class. These constant interruptions, as well as, the resulting perception that e-learning is somehow less important and therefore easier to disrupt than classroom learning may discourage people from taking or completing online courses.

One of the best ways to increase e-learning usage is actually one of the simplest. Make sure learners are able to concentrate while they’re taking an online course. There are several ways of doing that, including:

  •  Setting up a separate area for e-learning. Ideally, this would be a designated room for quiet learning. If there is none in your organisation, give some time e.g. afternoon session to enable your staff to learn;
  • Posting visual reminders that someone is “in class”. If your organisation isn’t able to set aside separate e-learning areas away from learners’ desks, make sure people have some way of communicating that they’re taking a course and should not be interrupted. For example: tape a sign “Learning in Progress” to the back of your chair.
  • Forwarding e-mails and calls. If someone is taking an instructor-led course off-site, they wouldn’t be expected to check their e-mail every five minutes, nor would they be required to take phone calls during class. The expectations for e-learning should be no different.
  • Offer your employees an option to take eLearning courses off-site (from home, or another location with internet, either during work-hours or on their own time).

Do

Minimise distractions to learners as much as possible, either by creating a separate learning section or by posting visual symbols in e-learners’ offices to let their colleagues know they’re busy learning.

Don’t

Expect e-learning usage to increase in situations where learners are constantly interrupted by phone calls, e-mail messages and colleagues.

 

10.     Make it easy

From our experience, easy access is crucial because if it is difficult to access to e-learning, staff will be put off. If they have to jump to 10 loops and have to get multiple approvals and long delay, they won’t bother. As such at Learning & Development we have designed a very simple process.

We have also developed a three-piece ‘Managing e-learning courses in your office’ for   e-learning champions which comprise of:

1) Enrolment process for learners

2) Approving courses as LMS Order Manager

3) eCornell process (this resource runs on a separate platform)

Do

Make easy access to learners – don’t make them have to jump over 20 loops.

Make approvals easy for learners – don’t take 3 months to approve one course! Ideally, your local learning champions should be able to do this. So train them.

Limit the number of courses learners can take at one time – if not, you will find 20 courses on your LMS for each learner. Again, local champions will be able to advise learners what courses they should prioritise.

Don’t

Require multiple approvals – remember easy and open access

Assume learners don’t want to learn – if some learners or Country Offices have a low e-learning take up, find out why. Never assume staff is lazy!

Lump all the hundreds of courses on the LMS and expect them to work wonders because you need to “sell” them.

Assume that the best learning technologies can lead to the best learning because they won’t. You will still need to engage with your learners. And that means, folks, sometimes you need to sound less clever so that others can sound cleverer (get rid of that hubris!).

For more insights and tips, read the full Guidelines on How to Increase eLearning Usage.

 

                                                              

Watch the recorded webinar with Dawn Kohler of The Inside Coach

    

Attend the LINGOs 2012 Member Meeting – it’s all   about Engagement

Review   the preliminary agenda

    

Check out the gold medal tips from a learning champion, posted on the blog last summer

Grameen Foundation’s LMS Launch Story

The Grameen Foundation joined LINGOs as a Level 2 Member at the beginning of October, 2011, just in time for its newly hired Talent Management and Engagement Manager, Astha Parmar, to attend the LINGOs member meeting. Astha leveraged the work that colleagues had done before she came on board, her own knowledge and skills, and the resources from the LINGOs membership incredibly well and fast.

Astha built on the knowledge shared in the community, and documents many of those ideas and tips (including many shared in last week’s superb virtual coffee break in which Conservation International’s Catriona Moriarty shared her agency’s experience in the first year of building engagement and marketing learning through Conservation International’s eCampus).

 In the spirit of community resource, LINGOs asked Astha to share her experience and approach, which she kindly does here.

 Guest post by Astha Parmar, Manager, Talent Management & Engagement, The Grameen Foundation

 

Hi Marian,

Thank you for (last week’s) thoughtful post– you really hit the key points here. As you pointed out, we did launch in two weeks (and actually in week 3 of me joining Grameen!)

Here are a couple of thoughts on our approach.

 

Pre-Launch

  • Talent Strategy: Our VP of Human Resources actually did a great job prepping us for the launch. We’ve done a lot of ground work in terms of having a talent strategy, seeking feedback from our employees and collecting data on key learning needs. So when I walked in, we had a couple of pieces in place: topic areas that would interest employees and leadership excitement/ commitment to pushing learning.
  • Community: My ability to attend the LINGOs Conference was just such a huge plus in getting me started. The connections I made and the understanding that LINGOs is not just a portal—but a community deeply committed to helping international development organization’s build capacity—was invaluable. Plus between you and Joey, I really walked out feeling like I knew what I had to do to get set-up.
  • Helpful skills: Finally I do want to add that I have launched LMS’s before and worked in the world of online course development. Which helped.

Launch

  • Branding: Folks can see the branding of our portal here (http://gflearning.org). Getting a URL that was super easy to remember and consistent with our brand was important. The look and feel is deeply aligned to our mission and overall org branding.
  • Usability: I used shadowbox to create the in-page pop-out effect. My goal here was to make the main page actionable and draw the learner in. You actually don’t need super technical skills to make this happen—but a working knowledge of html helps. Or unwitting friends who are software engineers and will trade help for food—that will work, too.
  • Selecting Courses: A couple of thoughts on picking the courses:
  • We aligned the launch with an organizational initiative. So we were just launching a new online project management tool, and we rolled out GFLearning with PM courses as a support for this initiative. A couple of advantages— the employees saw this as supporting their day-to-day work needs; and instead of me doing demos, the person heading the PM initiative stumped for the our portal (goes to credibility)
  • It’s daunting to review and pick the courses that are right for your organization. But I have found that between the course completion reports published by LINGOs and the feedback on the PSI University catalog—you can get to a good shortlist fairly quickly.

Keeping the momentum going

  • Bite sizing releases: Instead of launching too many courses from the get-go, we have chosen to launch courses in bite sized chunks. So we launched with the Project Management Courses. Next we did a mini release in which we responded very quickly to initial employee requests that came in after our portal launched. Folks loved this. Now we’re doing topically focused releases, our next one being on Management Skills.
  • Organization-Created Content: Almost all LINGOs members I have interacted with emphasize the importance of creating and hosting organization specific courses. Since we don’t have the bandwidth to do this upfront, we have used some short cuts to get there. We host a lot of online brownbags, and I have started importing these into Camtasia, editing these out and aggregating them on GFLearning. Encouraging departments who need to share process/program info with employees to use the platform has also worked for us.
    Also, most people think of online courses as an actual training. I have created some very quick resource aggregations with Articulate and published these on our portal as a quick fix to get some info out.
  • Impact stories: we have only been launched for about a month now and folks have busy schedules—so to incentivize people to share, I sent out a ‘share your feedback’ email with some targeted questions. The pay-off? Everyone who got responses in by a certain date was entered into a $15 book credit, for a book of their choice that would further their learning. Worked!
  • Email updates, leadership support and field calls: ..all the usual suspects!

Initiatives we’re working up to: a new employee orientation/learning plan and more sophisticated Grameen authored training courses. Last thing I would emphasize is that we follow the 70-20-10 principle of learning, so all my Lingos effort is in context of an on-the-job and people supported learning strategy that’s geared to further our mission.