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’ Support Strategy for the IntraLearn LMS

Through their participation in LINGOs, member agencies can access hundreds of e-learning courses on a variety of topics of interest to their staff around the world.  The majority of these courses are SCORM compatible and can be tracked via the IntraLearn LMS sub-portals that are provided through LINGOs.  However, for most member agencies, this is the first experience they have implementing a learning management system and there are many questions regarding the design, launch and maintenance of an LMS.

It is normal for agencies to contact LINGOs with a variety of questions regarding all aspects of their IntraLearn LMS sub-portal:   “What orientation resources can they access?”  “Is there training for Administrators?” “What usage reports can LINGOs member agencies access?”  “What if I need help troubleshooting?”  “Can my agency sub-portal be customized?”  “What if I lose my password?”

The LINGOs Support Strategy for the IntraLearn LMS provides a single location with answers to  all these questions and more.  This workspace will evolve and expand over time, but its current state reflects the existing support structure LINGOs provides to its member agencies.   Please, If there are any points that are not covered in the strategy, add a comment to this blog post and we will address the topic.

Loading Articulate Presenter Courses in the IntraLearn LMS

A previous article  discussed the interoperability of courses generated by Outstart Trainer and the IntraLearn LMS.  Now it is time to examine the same question in the context of LINGOs’ second e-Learning authoring tool – Articulate Presenter. 

Below you will find instructions to access a course that addresses the topic of “Designing Projects in the International Development, Relief and Conservation Sector.”  This course was designed using Articulate Presenter – the flagship application in the Articulate Rapid e-Learning Suite. 

As you navigate the course, be sure to view page 14 of the course – Writing Descriptive Statements.  On that page, you will see an example of the way that Articulate Engage files can be embedded in a course.  Engage provides a quick and easy alternative to developing web-based interactions  – without needing to purchase Adobe Flash.  Furthermore, unlike Adobe Flash, there is no coding to learn when developing interactions through Articulate Engage  If you would like to learn more about  Engage and/or Presenter visit the Articulate website.   

To access the Proof of Concept of an Articulate course loaded in the IntraLearn LMS follow these instructions;

go to http://lingostest.org 

username:  sample

password:  s1mple  (for clarity’s sack that password is s(the number one)mple)

 Select the course entitled “Project Management Fundamentals:  2.1 Conceptual Design”

Testing Custom Made Courses in the LMS

During the last month, LINGOs staff have worked with a dozen agencies as they begin to develop courses using rapid e-learning development tools.   As agencies increasingly adopt these tools, there will be challenges getting courses to work seamlessly within the agency LMS.  Some of these challenges include problems with course completion tracking, questions about video compatability in courses, and problems with SCORM code passing through pop-up windows.  These challenges are to be expected, and as more and more agencies begin to develop e-learning content, LINGOs will be available to support agencies as they work through these challenges.

To facilitate this support process, the first step LINGOs follows is to collect as much data as possible regarding the details of the problem and attempt to replicate it on one of the LINGOs workstations.   For example, if the problem is related to a course that fails to load in the LMS, What is the precise name of the course?  What is the user’s computer configuration?  What exactly is happening on the screen when the course fails to load? 

To collect this information, LINGOs has developed a Course Testing Report Form to document the results of course testing (when opening this link, click cancel if you are requested for a password when opening this document.)   As your agency begins to develop custom-made e-learning content and loading them within in the LMS, LINGOs will provide support to help you through this process.  To ensure that we have the information to provide the best support possible, please use this form to communicate with LINGOs whenever there is a technical support issue where we can help.