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.

 

 

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.