Does your organization have an e-learning CrOp Circle? No, I haven’t seen the new Hollywood movie “Signs.” I’m not talking about alien-created patterns in fields of wheat. What I mean is a circle of professional e-learning developers who are dedicated to responding to crises and opportunities (i.e., CrOps).
For many, e-learning evokes thoughts of big static course catalogs, IT training and long, multi-lesson modules. However, the innovators in our field are finding better ways to provide organizational value in the form of rapidly deployed, quick learning objects. E-learning is so easy and inexpensive to distribute that it becomes a perfect tactic for responding to and managing critical events. These events may present themselves as crises or opportunities. Notable examples of organizations that have rapidly deployed targeted e-learning applications include:
- Just 60 days after anthrax first appeared in the U.S. postal system in the fall of 2001, the University of Tennessee and the Detroit Medical Center developed and delivered a bioterrorism course to 10 percent of emergency room physicians in the United States.
- In response to patterns in help-desk-support call data, a team at Tech Resources Group deployed software application learning objects to hundreds of end-users in just 48 hours.
- After losing hundreds of millions of dollars from a rogue bond-trader, a brokerage firm took four weeks to deploy an online control and compliance course to all of its traders.
- Less than a year after receiving an EEOC consent decree, a Fortune 500 company put more than 100,000 global employees through mandatory diversity and sensitivity training.
In a world where some companies take 90 days just to develop an RFP and select a vendor, how do others respond so effectively to crises and opportunities?
First, identify your team. This circle of e-learning developers can come from within your own organization, or you can create a relationship with a preferred vendor. It is critical to include an experienced project manager, instructional designer, writer, graphic artist, media producer and programmer in your rapid-response circle. Some individuals may play more than one role. The critical trait you are looking for is willingness to work whatever-it-takes hours when called upon. This doesn’t mean you need to add to your head count or increase anyone’s pay. Most SWAT teams are comprised of regular police officers who have completed advanced training and are on call as needed.
Second, create a streamlined development process. The classic ADDIE-model is likely to be too rigid to be useful. Taking a page from software rapid application development (RAD) methodologies, your team should review goals and requirements as a group, create rapid iterations and conduct single-pass quality control. Remember, in the Web world, you can always aim for perfection in the next version.
Third, maintain a series of instructional design templates. When speed is of the essence, there is no need to create the most elegant or interactive design. Create simple templates and reusable code objects for linear tutorials, interpersonal skill simulations, software functionality “show & tells” and assessment questions.
Finally, practice with your team. Though “practicing” the building of quick learning objects could be expensive (especially if you’re working with an outside vendor), it will be worth it. You won’t know if your team and system will work until you put them to the test, and you don’t want that first test to be when your CEO calls you to action.
While content libraries and job-specific training may always be the bread and butter of e-learning development, your e-learning CrOp Circle will be an important strategy for creating organizational alignment and agility. This is exactly the kind of value and visibility that can transform perceived support personnel into front-line heroes in the eyes of C-level executives.
Kevin Kruse is a principal with Kenexa and author of “TBT.” Kevin is currently writing a book on rapid deployment of e-learning. If you have experience creating e-learning in response to a specific opportunity or crisis, let Kevin know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.