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Archive for March, 2012

Managing documents, videos and links in your LMS.

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

It seems to me that with our industry’s focus on Mobile and Social Learning, people are often overlooking some great opportunities to effectively integrate their existing documents, videos and websites (links) into the formal training delivered via their LMS.

 

 
It’s not surprising, of course, that most LMS purchase requirements are centered on formal learning processes and standards such as:

• Flexible reporting options
• Certifications and Compliance
• Approvals processes or rules-based learning plans
• Multiple enrollment methods
• Support for a wide variety of content types
• Extended Enterprise
• SCORM compatibility
• HRIS or CRM integration, etc.
 
These requirements solve the primary business and process challenges that drive LMS adoption.
Increasingly, we also see “nice to have” or “must have” requests for mobile and/or social learning.
 
What seems to be missing from most organizations’ LMS deployment strategies, however, is a plan for managing all of their various learner and employee resources in the context of the LMS.
 


I think that this is due primarily to three causes:
1. A belief held by some L&D practitioners that static learning content (Standard Operating Procedures, HR Policy Documents, Technical Manuals , Marketing Brochures) need to be transformed into interactive e-learning courses if they are to exist in the LMS.

I am still seeing LMS projects stalled because people are struggling with how to convert all of this “static” content into “engaging e-learning content”.

2. A belief that these resources are best left in a document management system and not in the LMS.
While there are some companies that are spending time and money to integrate their document management system (like SharePoint) with their LMS, it may not be necessary to do so. In some cases, all these organizations want to do is to provide their users with an easy way to access documents or content that is tied to a job position, department or the learning outcomes of a course. Maintaining two different platforms to achieve this may be overkill.

3. They haven’t thought about it yet.

A lot of organizations are focusing all of their energy on implementing the LMS to help reduce the administrative workload associated with managing course delivery and tracking. For these people, there is a great opportunity to extract more value from their LMS over time. This should be considered for a future phase of the LMS initiative.

Does it really need to be this complicated?

I don’t believe so. It should be easy to place learning resources where you want them: within course content, alongside course content or generally available as a global resource. You should also be able to categorize global resources while simultaneously choosing who gets to access them.  Here are some suggestions:

Adding Resources in the Absorb LMS


One of the cool features of the Absorb LMS is that it provides the ability for administrators to easily create global or course-specific resources through a simple process involving only a few steps.

The process involves uploading a file (e.g., a video or PDF) or typing in a URL and choosing:
1. If the resource should appear:
a. In a Global Resource Folder (a.k.a. Category)
b. Under the Resources tab in a specific Course
c. As an instructor’s resource associated with a specific course.


2. You can then choose to make the resource visible to all learners in the system (the default) or restrict it to groups of users based on filtering on one or more aspects of the Learner’s profile. These Learner fields are customizable and can include anything from Company, Department, Location, Job Title, etc.
Filters can be fine-tuned and layered for a very flexible set of rules. For example, you could create a resource that is visible to two groups of users, everyone in Human Resources, and everyone with the word “Manager” in their job title. Absorb will display the total number of learners that meet the criteria that you’ve set. In this way, you’ll know instantly if you’ve done something wrong such as set a filter to be too broad or too narrow (affecting too many or too few learners).
3. Upload your file or type in the URL for the resource.
4. Add a description (if you want to).
5. Click “Add” to finish the process.

The following image shows an example of creating a Global Resource for the Production Department in the Absorb LMS. Note, the system will place the resource in the “Pricing” category and it will only be visible to the 107 employees in the Production Department.

Sometimes, you may want to include a document, hyperlink or video as a lesson within an Online Course, rather than as a Resource associated with a course. In this case, reading the content can be made a mandatory task within the course itself. In this case, you would simply edit the course Outline and insert a new lesson. The lesson will appear as part of the course content, wherever you have placed it in the course structure. If you want to test the learner, you can easily create and insert an Absorb Quiz as the next lesson in the course.
 
You may even want to take things a step further, and allow users to generate their own content, or if you want to incorporate news releases, polls, FAQs and Twitter feeds alongside your learning content, then we would encourage you to take a look at SMARTLAB, which includes a set of learner engagement and Content Management functionality. The great thing is, it’s easy to add resources to Absorb and the process for filtering by audience is exactly the same as the process for setting Self Enrollment rules at the course level.

April 18: How to Provide Learning to People Outside Your Organization

Join us for a free Webinar:

Date: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

Partners, suppliers, contractors, interns, volunteers, association members, customers… How did all these people sneak into our learning initiatives? Clearly, work today is different from back in the days of three-martini lunches in smoky lounges and asking your assistant to “be a sweetheart and fetch me a cup of coffee.”

The Internet has revolutionized how work is done today. The boundaries between organizations have blurred, replaced with greater communication and collaboration. Information—including learning content—flows between institutions, eventually reaching the customers who will use the products or services.

So how do you provide learning to those outside your organization?

Join Richard Nantel, VP, Enterprise Learning Solutions at Blatant Media, as he discusses:

  • The impact of the “extended enterprise” on learning and development
  • How to register and enroll external learners into your learning initiatives
  • How to provide reports to external managers and administrators
  • What to do when the learning initiative ends
  • How extending learning to people outside your organization can be great for business

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/362477886

Register Now

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

Space is limited. We hope to see you there!

PRESS RELEASE: Blatant Media Certified as ‘Best in Class’ LMS Provider by Brandon Hall Group

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Blatant Media Corporation, publishers of the Absorb and SMARTLAB LMS platforms, receive a “Best in Class” rating in Brandon Hall Group’s Smartchoice® Solution Provider Certification program.

CALGARY, ALBERTA– (Mar 21st, 2012) – Staff at Blatant Media Corporation, creators of the award-winning learning management systems Absorb LMS and SMARTLAB, are pleased to announce that they have received a “Best in Class” rating from Brandon Hall Group’s Smartchoice® Solution Provider Certification program. The company received its highest scores in the focus area of Cost of Ownership, based on “great price to value” and extremely high customer satisfaction with their overall return on investment in the Absorb platform.

Brandon Hall Group is the preeminent research and analyst organization focused on developing research-driven solutions to drive organizational performance within executive management, learning and development, talent management, sales, and marketing functions.

“It is evident through our Smartchoice® process and discovery that Blatant Media has a compelling learning solution. Blatant Media¹s clients have reported their solutions to be reliable, flexible, and easy to use,” said Mike Cooke, chief executive officer of Brandon Hall Group. “A strong focus on product design, functionality and client support was integral in Blatant Media receiving a Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice® certification.”

“Absorb LMS made rocket science look like play dough. Every other LMS looked outdated in appearance and function – Absorb looked perfect,” stated one of the clients that participated in the survey.

The Smartchoice® Program is based Brandon Hall Group’s extensive analyst coverage of vendors and industry research findings. Smartchoice®, is a validation program that recognizes the best product and service providers offering solutions to learning, talent, sales and marketing functions.

The Smartchoice® methodology is a rigorous evaluation process focusing on four core areas: Client Support; Cost of Ownership; Functionality; and Capability. Companies, which receive a superior rating in all four-focus areas, receive the Smartchoice® Program certification. By selecting a Smartchoice® provider, organizations looking to acquire products and/or services will be choosing from industry-leading providers who offer ground-breaking solutions to their unmet needs.

“It’s really great to be recognized as a Best in Class LMS provider” said Al Kinnear, Sales and Marketing Director with Blatant Media. “The whole team here works very hard so it’s awesome to see this reflected in such a high level of customer satisfaction.”

“Nice!” added Mike Eggermont, partner at Blatant Media.

This is the seventh time that Blatant Media has earned the recognition of Brandon Hall and the first time that they have participated in the Smartchoice® program. Previous Brandon Hall awards include:

  • Bronze in Learning Management Technology category of the Excellence in Technology for Learning, Talent Management, and Sales and Marketing Awards (2011)
  • Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Global Training (2010)
  • Silver for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training (2009)
  • Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (2009)
  • Bronze Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training (2009)
  • Silver Award for Best Video in a Learning Program (2008)

Absorb LMS has also been named to TrainingIndustry.com’s 2011 list of Top 20 Learning Portal Companies (for the second consecutive year) and was recently recognized as an “Industry Innovator” in a McLean & Company LMS Landscapes report.

About Brandon Hall Group

Having worked with more than 10,000 clients globally and after 20 years of delivering world-class solutions, Brandon Hall Group is the preeminent research and analyst organization focused on developing research-driven solutions to drive organizational performance for emerging and large organizations. Brandon Hall Group has an extensive repository of thought leadership, research, data and expertise in Learning and Development, Talent Management, Sales Effectiveness, Marketing Impact, and Executive Management. (www.brandonhall.com)

About Blatant Media Corporation

More than 650,000 employees and students use Absorb every day in over 300 companies globally. Among the list of international clients are Oakley, Adobe Software Systems, Dannon, American Medical Systems, EVOCO, University of Indiana, Zoll Medical, Shoretl, Websense, Virgin Mobile Canada, the United States Anti-Doping Association and many others.
The creator of Absorb LMS and SMARTLAB, Blatant Media Corporation is a learning technology company that leverages the power of technology to provide online training solutions for clients throughout the world. The company is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. http://www.absorblms.com, (403) 520-2595.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Dan Medakovic
V.P. Learning Solutions
Dan.medakovic@absorblms.com

“Can’t We Just Manage Learning Using Email and a Survey Tool?”

March 20, 2012 2 comments

Hammer and screw, photo by by justinbaederMy home is filled—evidently—with a visual history of using the wrong tool for the job. Unable to find nails, artwork has been hung with screws that were hammered into walls. Once the frame has crashed to the ground, I’ve filled the hole with toothpaste for lack of having drywall filler. Invariably, these workarounds have eventually caused greater problems and expenses. I now believe in using the right tool for the job.

I recently spoke to someone who works in a highly regulated industry who mentioned that his organization is weighing the pros and cons of different learning management approaches. One of the options they are considering is to:

  • E-mail their 1250 learners a link to an online course located on a server
  • Have learners complete an assessment created using a popular, low-cost survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang
  • Issue a certificate to qualified learners

Are e-mail and online surveys the right tools for this job?

Online survey tools have become easy-to-use, powerful, and very affordable. They are a fantastic way to gather feedback, so are commonly used for market research. This approach could be a really easy way to provide learners with access to a course and gather learner reaction data, commonly referred to as Kirkpatrick Level 1 evaluations. The challenge, though, lies in tracking progress and assessing whether the learners qualify to receive a certificate.

Survey tools are not assessment tools. Here’s what SurveyMonkey has to say about using their technology for assessments:

“At this time, we do not have a question type that can be automatically scored or graded. But you can manually score all responses.”

Zoomerang as well states that

“Zoomerang does not automatically grade quizzes … You (can) login to Zoomerang at any time to review and grade quizzes.”

Unless you’re prepared to manually grade 1250 `tests,’ popular online survey tools are a poor choice to assess the knowledge of your learners and establish whether they qualify to be certified.

Since survey tools fail in providing assessment in this learning initiative, you might instead decide to create tests using a popular authoring tool such as Adobe Captivate and embed those tests into your course. You can even configure Captivate to display the test results to the learner. The problem with this approach is getting reports for all learners in an easy and convenient manner. Popular authoring tools assume that tracking information will be passed to a learning management system, which will, in turn, handle reporting.

How to evaluate the right approach

In evaluating which learning management approach is best, it’s a good idea to ignore the technology and write out in plain language an efficient way to manage the initiative. These descriptions, called use cases, are immensely useful in identifying technological requirements and consequently, evaluate potential solutions.

For the initiative above, here’s a use case that might make sense:

  • Send learners an e-mail informing them that they are enrolled in a course
  • Send a reminder e-mails, every seven days, to learners who haven’t started the course
  • Provide administrators/instructors/managers with reports showing:
    • Who has completed the course
    • Who is currently undertaking the course
    • Who has yet to access the course
    • How each learner scored in the final exam and intermediate knowledge checks
    • How much time the learner spent in each section of the course
  • Provide instructional designers with reports showing whether certain test questions were more likely to be answered incorrectly, which might indicate a problem with the course content or the wording of the questions.
  • Send a congratulatory completion e-mail and certificate to qualified learners
  • Gather Kirkpatrick Level  1 reaction data from learners. (This data will help instructional designers improve the course over time.)
  • Send a post-certification “two-minute review” to learners two weeks after they’ve completed the initial course, and perhaps a “one-minute review” one month later
  • Provide learners with a way to view their learner transcript and print their certificate
  • Provide learners with ongoing access to the course so that they can review the content any time and reference the content for performance support
  • Automatically enroll learners in related learning events if the course in question is part of a learning plan
  • Track the date certification expires for each learner and e-mail recertification notices to learners prior to the expiry of their certification
  • In the event of an audit, provide auditors with a centralized repository of learner data

You don’t need a learning management system for all learning initiatives. But, when you’re dealing with 1250 learners in a regulated industry and need to assess their understanding of the content, track their progress, and issue certificates, a learning management system beats out pen and paper, spreadsheets, and e-mail and surveys for ease of use, learner experience, administrative effort, and return on investment.

How to Provide Learning to People Outside Your Organization

Increasingly, organizations are expanding their internal learning programs to now include partners, suppliers, contractors, association members, and customers, among others. We’ve just written a case study describing one such scenario.

A company has signed a work agreement with a partner organization. The agreement states that the partner’s employees must be qualified, and certified, before they can deliver their services. As a learning professional responsible for this initiative, how do you ensure that these external learners will get the skills and qualifications they require?

Find out here: Who Are Your & What Are You Doing in My Learning Management System?

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 1)

March 9, 2012 9 comments

A new learning management system (LMS) is like a blank canvas. You can proceed with setting the system up two ways:

  • In the style of abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, you can start importing learner records and adding content in an impetuous yet passionate way; or
  • You can, like Michelangelo preparing to create a fresco, deliberately plan and organize your data

The Jackson Pollock approach feels great! The sense of power that comes from logging into a new application and clicking buttons wildly is exhilarating. This euphoria may, however, be short-lived; replaced—hangover-like—with a nagging sense of “what was I thinking?!”

The Michelangelo approach, though far less exciting at first, can create a structure that is easily maintained, and immediately understood, by any future administrators. When it comes to enterprise software that will be used by many people, order trumps chaos.

So how do we set up a new learning management system? Let’s start planning!

STEP 1: Consider the Learners

All learning initiatives should focus first and foremost on the learners. Before doing anything in your learning management system, it’s good planning to identify who those learners are today, and who they might be in the future.

  • Are learners internal employees?
  • Are learners people working outside of your organization; possibly partners, suppliers, and/or customers?
  • Are you serving both internal and external learners?

How should learners be organized?

  • By department or function?
  • By geographical region?
Using a text editor or a mind-mapping tool such as Mindmeister (fun!), create a structure that reflects the organization or your learners. Here’s what this structure might look like:

Internal learners:

  • HR
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Manufacturing
    • North America
    • Asia

External learners:

  • Suppliers
  • Resellers
  • Distributors
    • Africa
    • Americas
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Oceania
TIPS:
  • Even if you presently support only internal or external learners, consider listing two lowest-level groups to accommodate both.
  • If your LMS is integrated with, and drawing learner records from, an HR system, consider using the same group names in your structure list

(I know you’re dying to start clicking on things in your new LMS. Please hang in there. It won’t be long.)

Video: How Jennifer Automates the Management of an Extended Enterprise Learning Initiative

If you’re a regular reader of this Blog, you’ve read about how learning management systems can be configured to automate many of the activities required to manage a learning and development initiative. You may have read this, but you may not have SEEN it. 😉 So here’s a short video showing how this is done within Absorb LMS.

Let’s set the stage:

Jennifer is employed as a Learning Manager in a medical supply company, MedSupply Inc. She has just been informed that her organization has signed an agreement with a new distributor, Safe Distribution LLC. The contract between the two firms specifies that Safe Distribution’s employees must undertake a certification-based learning program to ensure that they understand the safe handling of MedSupply’s products.

Jennifer does not know who Safe Distribution’s learners are, nor how many there are. She’s been informed that up to 500 Safe Distribution employees may require certification. Compounding the challenge, the time frame for training is short. Safe Distribution employees must be certified within 60 days.

The good news is that the required course is already created. All MedSupply internal employees have undertaken the same certification-based program.

Jennifer now needs to:

  • Register these external learners into the learning management system
  • Enroll these individuals into the appropriate course
  • Provide status learner progress reports to MedSupply’s and Safe Distribution’s management
  • Issue certificates to the learners who successfully complete the learning program
  • Provide learners with a refresher course

The video below illustrates the steps Jennifer took to configure the LMS for this learning program.

Note: Jennifer, MedSupply, and Safe Distribution are all fictional. Any resemblance to a Jennifer you may know is coincidental.