CEO and Lead Instructional Designer & Learning Strategist Leah Chang teamed with Lambda Solutions to reflect on the challenges and breakthroughs of the past year and a half, and what these seismic changes mean for business owners.
If you missed our live webinar on How Online Learning Delivery Tools Are Changing the Business Landscape on July 15, you can now watch it below.
Here are the five key takeaways and questions to ask yourself on how your eLearning strategy currently stands and how it fits with the changing business landscape today.
1. Better Employee Experiences
There's been a shift from a mostly in-office, standard-hours experience to the flexible, work-from-home arrangements COVID-19 ushered in. Many employees now don't want to let go of these developments.
How well are you using social learning tools?
What continued learning supports do you offer employees?
2. Acceptance of eLearning (finally!)
Companies are becoming more receptive to eLearning and they now have a better understanding of whaat it entails, how to analyze performance and how to action results.
Do you take full advantage of reporting features to optimize learning experiences?
3. Increased agility in learning experience design
Better tools, more realistic expectations and greater flexibility around both tools and eLearning partners has led to greater LXD agility. In other words: "Pilot. Then iterate."
Can your learning tools support new delivery?
What tools are you leveraging in your LXD?
4. Online learning IS the business
eLearning is now within reach of most if not all organizations; it's become more tangible and easier for business owners to conceptualize and action. Business are more committed to investing in the learning technology that's helped them navigate COVID-19.
5. Increased accessibility & inclusion
In the past, organizations baulked at the cost of accessibility or protested that they didn't have any users with disabilities to accommodate. We're going through a sea change -- businesses are getting serious about diversity, equity and inclusion, and EDI includes people with disabilities. It's no longer okay for learning to not be accessible!
Can your organization meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards?
Moving forward with eLearning
Insights to consider as the online learning industry moves forward:
Contact us to learn more about how Leah Chang Learning can support you with eLearning consulting and online tools that will heIp your organization.
Read the full webinar transcript below.
Ryan Pirzek (Lambda Solutions)
Leah Chang (Leah Chang Learning)
Ryan: Today's webinar is about how eLearning delivery tools are changing the evolving business landscape. Digital learning has become important for companies today. There are two main drivers of the shift to digital learning: 1) COVID and 2) traditional drivers of eLearning such as companies looking scale, reach a larger audience, stay relevant and be competitive. When companies make their transition to digital learning, they get a little intimidated by the learning tech stack.
Our guest speaker Leah Chang has 17 years of experience in the eLearning technology field. She's an instructional designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Leah Chang Learning. She has experience helping corporations and non-profits alike transition to deliver eLearning tools and helping them deliver quality learning. They offer end-to-end e-Learning Services from customer course design, employee learning strategy and LMS management.
5 Benefits that eLearning can provide for businesses
Leah: We're going to identify common problems that online learning is solving right now and will continue being a driver for in the future. We’re going to assess where you are at with online learning in your organization, how far have you come and where you still need to focus in online learning and its tech stack. We’ll also talk about examples of business success and how they're using online learning to achieve that.
2020 was the year that broke traditional corporate training. The last year has allowed us to make these big changes in online learning and digital adoption is here. Where would you gauge where your business is in terms of how much adoption of online learning technology and strategy you've seen since the pandemic?
47% of businesses are really seeing significant changes and improvements to the online learning delivery. 13% have seen extensive changes, and they're shifted completely to online learning. This is the trend we're seeing; we're going to talk about how you too, can achieve that success in your online learning.
1. Improve employee experiences with online learning
Previously, employees heard a lot of no’s. ‘No, sorry, you can't work from home, you have to attend the training in person’ or ‘No, we don’t need training’.
In the past year, there's been a huge uptake of cloud-based collaboration tools. There's less resistance in terms of adopting tools that affect online learning like collaborative meeting spaces, social learning, forums or other collaborative tools like slack.
Things have really changed in terms of what we're expecting of our workforce, and so have our needs for online training and development in the corporate world. Working from home is here to stay, whether the organization goes back, or whether they go back partially, but there will be an increased acceptance of eLearning to blended learning and hybrid learning.
We're seeing a huge uptake of social learning to build team culture, to set expectations, to keep people engaged, and to check in with employees. I worked with a regional safety-based business,that had about 200 to 300 employees across a very large region. There was always a divide between the field workers versus people in the satellite offices. When these groups of people would collaborate and meet, it was a poor mixed experience (some in the office and some online).
They shifted from doing those types of sessions and events, in person at head office with people dialing in on their phone, to webinars with breakout rooms. With their organization being properly trained, and confident using these online learning tools, it's been a better experience for all, and the uptake and increased engagement is huge and measurable. They are improving the employee experience, but they're also able to improve the digital technology skills of their workforce and keep supporting them.
We're seeing an increased need to support organizational culture in the virtual workforce. There's a need for consistent remote leadership. During the pandemic, we saw an increased need for health and wellness and mental health supports; those are now being woven into organizational culture and development, through online learning opportunities. We now have a more remote workforce, we're seeing a huge need for digital systems training, cybersecurity awareness, and hardware. This shift to a remote workforce is still helping us drive the organizational development and the type of learning opportunities that we're focused on for employees.
76% of online learners were using their own devices to access online learning content in 2018. In 2021, we're going to see a lot of change in terms of increased policies for remote access to company information, and probably a greater need for delivering hardware or delivering some cybersecurity training.
If you have a robust online learning management system, or you have a great tech stack - are you leveraging your online learning tools? Are you using social learning to support employee experience and engagement with online learning? Are you using surveys within your LMS? Are you using forums? Are you using facilitated or coaching sort of assignments and feedback within your online learning system? And how are you continuing to learn about just being part of the culture? Do you have organizational culture woven into your online learning sessions or online learning activities? To summarize, it's just good business to support a remote workforce very intentionally, through virtual means. It's not going to go away - there are fantastic ways to engage and support employees to provide the type of online learning that they need.
2. Return on investment with eLearning
We're seeing a broad acceptance of eLearning. We have a little bit more skilled workforce, in terms of the instructional designers and the online learning experience designers that are available to us. As an instructional designer, it's a great time to be doing our work.
There are so many rapid design tools out there, we have a lot of tools available to us at our fingertips to create meaningful, very impactful and timely online learning. The return on investment calculations have changed. What we're seeing are different ways to measure and evaluate the impact of online learning. With a higher design time, and more effort into creating some impactful online or hybrid learning, but there is zero facilitation time. There are fewer people hours that go into the delivery of online learning. Those businesses looking at those calculations are really doing well today.
As instructional designers, we look at the levels of critical thinking and our learning. When we know and we can really engage with a topic or be a subject matter expert, we're getting into evaluating, analyzing, creating with that content.
Here's an example with fleet driver training: during the pandemic, some organizations that sold compliance training or fleet driver training were able to shift to online learning. What the business is examining is how they use the technology they have now in a way that is meaningful, and in a way that doesn't just put everything on hold.
They were able to shift to using eLearning and blended learning to really draw into that conceptual space. When they could get back to training people in vehicles on the road, they were able to draw on a conceptual framework. They're able to take some of the burdens off the trainer and make that time in the vehicle so much more impactful with online learning.
Here’s what you can use to show the ROI or the impact of shifting what are typically considered in person training topics, such as fleet driver training, to being shifted to an online learning format.
You can use:
When you have the right learning management system and tech stack, this should be available to you. So that you can evaluate based on the hard data of online learning. When eLearning is done effectively (asynchronous, blended or hybrid), it's very useful to lay a conceptual foundation with online learning that you can then build on with your practical skills over time or later.
3. Greater agility in developing online learning experiences
There has been a huge increase in agility in learning experience design (LXD). What that means for businesses is that instead of being limited to bringing an in-person trainer, we can use online learning instead.
We're also able to design on our end as instructional designers and learning experience designers with tools that are more dynamic for online learning. We can create a video much faster, and create interactive videos even faster. We have more flexible production expectations. For example, it's okay if your Zoom screens are grainy, or if your video is not as high quality as it used to be. There are some great tools that make it very simple to pause in a learning video and ask questions, and that's beneficial from a learning perspective.
We're seeing a lot of increased use of LMS authoring tools and that means there is a shift away from just SCORM (a shareable content object that you can create, export, and then usually housed in any learning management system). SCORM will never completely go away, however, it's not very agile. It takes longer to make an edit, takes more time to republish, re-upload and test it to make sure it's working. If you're using in-house or in LMS authoring tools, you can make the change right then and there.
What we're seeing is that people are more open to trying out different tools to see what works with their business. As external consultants we're seeing an approach to collaborate with internal teams to provide some strategy and direction and just ask those questions like, ‘Have you tried this?’ or ‘Would you consider this?’
The next case study is about an enterprise umbrella organization we work with that had multiple members and affiliate partners. They work with a group of six external trainers who mostly deliver in-person and instructor-led learning for professional development purposes. We work with these external consultants and coach them to adopt organizationally developed and vetted eLearning and blended learning templates.
This group got their first LMS, and in parallel with it, we help them by coaching them with these new organizationally developed guidelines for eLearning. They get some coaching and practice from industry leaders and peers because they’re new to eLearning. They were also onboarded, trained, and given enablement and confidence to use a new learning management system. We’ve set up some templates for them using h5P or LMS, in-house authoring tools, which they are using with great success, rather than using SCORM that they might not have been ready for.
How is your business supporting the people designing your learning experiences with organizational guidelines, and the support they need to use the technology?
Hybrid vs blended vs asynchronous vs synchronous learning
Terms such as asynchronous and synchronous learning are now part of our vernacular. Blended Learning is also a term that people fully understand which is typically used for virtual learning.
As we start to be more sophisticated with our use of learning technology, we also need a more sophisticated and agile way to deliver this and track it. Hybrid learning is a bit new, it is a mix of asynchronous and synchronous, blended virtual learning, and may also include some in-person learning, or those mixed meetings.
The first case study we looked at couldn’t figure out how to use a board room and have people calling in at the same time, creating a disjointed experience. That’s changing thanks to online learning technology. As offices grow or reduce in size, as people have more flexibility to continue working from home, as people want to consume online learning on their own time and participate in in-person or asynchronous sessions -- complexity will be increased.
If you had to assess where your organization is, in terms of the hybrid learning, so a mix of the virtual, asynchronous, and synchronous blended, as well as the in-person, where would you say your business is going?
It’s a great time to look at the tools you have in your tech stack now. What LMS platform are you using? Do you have an LMS? How are you using these tools to design your learning experience?
You don't have to use them all, but you need to use them intentionally and be more intentional. Why aren't you using certain features? And how could you leverage them in online learning?
Ryan: Moving onto some questions: "We counted on offering training at large industry events as a way of acquiring new clients and that all went away with COVID."
Leah: Many industries were in the same situation. What I did observe from the private to the public sector, and even non-profits, they were all in the same boat. Non-profits particularly did a lot of work with in-person fundraising dinners and galas.
Suddenly, they had to shut down and didn't have any funding come in. If they had the infrastructure, or they had online technology to deliver a virtual conference, or a virtual silent auction, instead of an in-person event, they were able to shift and still be successful, thanks to the learning technology and broader online solutions that's out there.
What's great now is that there's a lot of choices and there's also a lot of support out there so you're not alone. Everyone's trying to figure out how to do this at the same time.
4. eLearning has become a revenue stream for businesses
Online learning technology is not only changing businesses, but it is the business nowadays. Online learning can be sold even during the pandemic. In the past, training might have been overlooked because organizations can’t afford it or it's not really part of their business model.
A lot of these are the non-profit’s we work with who don't have the internal resources to be systems administrators or to manage the technology. They can’t afford to train so many people, and a lot of the learning management systems in the past were quite expensive and didn't allow you to scale-up gradually.
Nowadays, we're seeing something totally different. People are embracing the opportunity to sell online learning. You can almost sell how to learn to do anything online these days, even learning how to play a guitar online.
That leads us to the question of ‘how do you monetize it?’ Learning can be your business product and it might be the only one. By creating new online learning products such as the fleet driver training online example I mentioned, this is changing the concept of what's possible.
Ideally, you'll be doing this in a mix of eLearning, blended and hybrid. A McKinsey study was done in 2020, around the second wave of the pandemic. Before the pandemic in 2017, 48% of executives said that the most important thing about digital strategy in their organization was cost savings. Today, 38% are now saying that investment in digital technologies is important, essential, and key for your competitive advantage. In other words, you must be able to refocus your business around digital technology.
Another study showed that during the pandemic 72% saw an openness to experimentation. 67% who invested more in those expenses or on ongoing commitments to having that digital infrastructure are really seeing that is going to support their business moving forward.
A lot of these groups shifted successfully to virtual conferences, but the benefit is that more people could participate. They were able to lower the barrier and cost to participants to attend conferences. 20% of event professionals, were able to profit from a virtual event. In some cases, almost 11% exceeded the profit of their previous in-person, physical events!
What we're seeing is that flexibility and, and virtual conferences may never go away. I just attended a really cool conference on learning accessible design last Friday, that I wouldn't have been able to afford to go to because it was held in a different country. How great is it that there are less barriers these days to online learning? Another example is how many of us use online fitness courses during the pandemic. This is another great example of how learning technology can shift the industry.
Learning management technology and systems aren’t just for small or big businesses -- anyone can use them now. It's all about how we embrace these concepts of open learning, online learning, and learning with others, but in a virtual way.
Ryan: We're moving from in-person classes to online learning. Can you recommend any good first steps for embarking on that journey?
Leah: This is the perfect opportunity if you don't have in-house instructional designers or learning experience designers to reach out. Vendors that sell learning management technology will also be able to point you in the right direction. Work with professionals who’ve done this before. We have a project approach. We take the principles of adult education and learning experience design, and we work with you the subject matter expert, to design an experience. We look at factors like business goals or my learners need a certain type of experience. And we create that together
Ryan: I designed directly into the LMS for a couple of universities. Unfortunately, many large educational institutions believe that teachers can double as instructional designers. What do you do when you're working with a company or an organization to try and shift that culture?
Leah: I can speak to that from a personal perspective. I used to be a teacher, I taught French immersion and French language at the secondary level. I was keen on technology and always integrated it where I could have, but I wasn't an instructional designer yet. I remember sitting in a session one day during a professional development day and wondering ‘How does this relate to my teaching?’ There was very little training out there for educators to learn how to use technology successfully. There is a lot of onus to do professional development on your own. And there are lots of associations where instructional designers and educators pair up and we share those learnings.
They need to be clear on being a teacher and educator; while this is their subject matter expertise, they may not always know how to deliver this successfully online. They need support. The post-secondary schools in Canada I could speak to, have their own instructional design team that supports instructors. Most post-secondary institutions have that, and if they don't they should advocate for support.
5. Greater accessibility and inclusion in online learning
The industry has changed, there's so much more onus to support employees, educators and businesses to really do this well. We're seeing an increase in accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, or anyone participating online. We're really considering the experience that we as designers have to take on.
Is this going to make people feel part of our culture and like that they're an important actor, an agent in this work we're doing? We're getting serious about diversity and inclusion. That means that we need to provide people with the support and the tools to do this in a virtual way.
What I love is that we're seeing an increase in distributed learning. What that means is, the sharing of information is easier. It's thanks to learning technology, we can do that. I mentioned I was committed in my personal journey at the beginning that our team is working a lot more on these sorts of meta resources. We are designing resources to help workplaces support, hire and work with people with disabilities, especially people with neurodiverse needs such as people on the autism spectrum or people with intellectual disabilities.
During COVID, a lot of federal and government funding was injected into the workforce, and a lot of resources and knowledge hubs came out of that. One of them is the inclusiveworkplace.ca to support the trifecta of people looking for jobs that were disproportionately displaced by COVID, the businesses that want to hire more diverse employees, as well as the employment agencies in the job coaches. It's a really great example of how the government is supporting workplaces to be more inclusive. Big companies and corporations are purposely injecting quite a considerable budget into the software to train and to provide certifications on equity, diversity, and inclusion, and providing it in an accessible way. I think we can really learn from both the public and private sectors right now.
One last thought for you is to consider where your organization's at in your journey towards web accessibility, and that includes your LMS, online learning tools and how those things work together. Be really picky about what you're using. And if you notice your organization isn't using the right tool, then ask questions. This is where instructional designers and educators and the learning design people can really be changing businesses.
Ryan: This is a technology question we’ve received: Alternatives to Zoom?
Leah: It depends on your audience; it depends on your user experience. There are a lot of great tools, for example, Google meet, Microsoft Teams. Whatever you choose, use it intentionally, train your people and make sure that you are giving them success to use it. You can't just throw people a new tool and expect them to figure it out. That's not successful. You must pick the right system for your organization. And that's also something external consultants can help with.
Take away this question with you:
How are you going to apply or action, anything you learned today? As an instructional designer, we always want to know, how are you using what you're learning? How will you take this back to your team? Are you able to assess where your organization is at?
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Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 17+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.