Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Capability Building with Learning Technologies

At Kineo Pacific today we had a leadership team meeting around our main streams (design, consultancy and technologies) and some of the crossover work such as capability building which often fits between consultancy and technologies.  Whilst the conversation wasn’t strictly relevant to my blog it did throw to light one of the most important motivators for buying learning technologies beyond the obvious cost savings associated with e-learning; capability building.

It may not be the biggest and sexiest new catch phrase in the learning domain, but perhaps it should be and it’s particularly relevant with ever shrinking budgets and ever increasing expectations upon L&D teams.   The simple fact is that with more and more having to be done “in house” you need to expand the capabilities of your teams (or all-too regularly yourself!) to achieve this.

What technologies give you additional capability?  Fair question and in isolation the answer would be little or even none and we’ll come back to this later; for now let’s talk about the tools that have the potential to add some capability to what you do.  Here are my favourites:

  1. Your LMS.  If your LMS doesn’t come with a massive uplift in capabilities then you either don’t have one or you have the wrong one.  Even simpler systems like Moodle come with a host of tools that can enable you to make content and engage learners in two way activities.  Better systems like the award winning and my personal favourite Totara LMS give you more tools than you can shake a stick at from competency and performance management to synchronous learning activities, resource management and development planning.  In short your LMS is not just a system to launch and track e-learning that was built somewhere else and again if it is you need to seriously review your LMS or look at third party tools to enhance it (see below!).
  2. Webinar tools.  If you don’t have a great webinar tool in your LMS (and not many do) then one of your most important tools should be something to expand your synchronous activities and a web-training tool (webinar if you prefer) is a really important tool for dispersed workforces.  One of the reasons it’s so important is that it doesn’t take someone to turn all your learning into e-learning for you - or force your experts in training to stop training.  The tools that come with these can also be substantial with things like polling, whiteboarding and interaction between attendees beyond the obvious audio-visual.  If your organisation still delivers a large amount of face to face training this is well worth looking in to with a great ROI.
  3. Rapid Development Tools.  If your LMS isn’t great for authoring (or doesn’t do it at all) or you want content you can move between systems then a rapid development tool is probably high on your wish list.  Right now there’s some great packages such as my favourite Articulate Storyline, and others like Captivate and Articulate Studio that have quick learning curves and are great for producing some high quality e-learning if you know what you’re doing.
  4. Social Learning Tools.  If your LMS doesn’t have a suite of social tools built in you may want to look in this area - come to think of it even if it does there’s a high chance it stops well short of a social learning platform.  I would thoroughly recommend Mahara as a portfolio based tool that gives Facebook type sharing of pages and control over to the individual.  In New Zealand we use this to great effect with My Portfolio adopted by hundreds of our schools and academic institutions at higher levels.  Your LMS is about your organisation, but your social learning tool should be about individuals and if you don’t have it then you’re missing some of that 70 part that organisations are falling over themselves for nowadays.  Mahara is also great as it’s an open source platform and the code is free to download.
  5. Finally, there’s your partner.  If you’re working with a learning technologies partner you ought to be able to speak regularly with them about how you can work together to improve your capabilities in-house.  If they can’t do that then perhaps you need to rewind to one of my earliest articles; choosing your partner carefully or drop me a line.  So before you rush off and buy some of these try and remember the earlier point that these tools alone add little or no additional capability to your internal teams.  The reason for this is really simple and I’ve put together an equation (of sorts) to demonstrate.

Capability = Tools + Knowing how to use them properly

It may sound simple, but if your team gets Storyline or Totara and hasn’t received training or coaching in the best way to actually use the tool then you’re not adding capability; just technology.  Learning technologies are great but they become useful when you know how to get the most from them.  We’re on-sellers for Articulate for example, but our services around Articulate extend well beyond licensing of the software and include a range of training, support and template options to truly add capability to your internal teams.  You can purchase Captivate tomorrow and get a few screen shots and save a “SCORM” package, but if you truly want to produce captivating learning you need to know how to use it and how to unlock some of the less-obvious features. 

Whichever technology you opt for, you should look to get the most out of it by getting the support services that you really need to take it beyond just technology - give me a buzz if you need help with that!