My learning technologies journey: it started earlier than I realised!

Picture of student on laptop.In my last blog I mentioned learning technology and how I was “getting it” but actually I think I was getting something else “social networking and the value this can add to learning”.  The reason I see a difference is that I recently delivered a session to a group of L&D professionals at a symposium event and in preparing this I realised that my journey with learning technologies had started many years earlier pre Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I have been in IT Training for 20 years. The first ten years were spent in a fully resourced team following a predominately face to face classroom approach whilst the past ten years have been about delivering more with less.  In my role as a IT learning & communications manager I have seen my team grow, shrink and shrink some more as the organisation I work for has had to save money.  At the same time as the team reduced in size, parts of the business continued to grow resulting in more IT customers needing IT training and support.

To make the required savings and continue delivering more, with less resource, our journey started by replacing hard copy manuals with electronic how to guides grouped by application and task.  This transition was made possible when the organisation deployed a central document management system similar in function to Sharepoint. All guides are branded and then converted to PDF before being published in a central public area accessible via a couple of clicks.  This reduced our printing costs and gave the learner quick access to relevant, searchable content when they needed it.

Having made the transition to electronic guides we began to develop the central public area so that learners could also access related e-learning content. This included both generic and custom content, the latter being developed by my team.  We learnt how to deep link into the e-learning platform so that following login learners were signposted direct to the content they needed.

It took several years before e-learning was accepted by the majority as a valid way to learn. During it’s implementation we marketed, marketed and marketed, delivering taster sessions to get people started, attending team meetings to encourage a team based approach to learning online, publishing posters, tips and tricks and desk reminders. We also published usage statistics and case studies across the organisation to promote how the content was being used and adding value.

Whilst the electronic guides and e-learning were being used well, we still heard rumbles across the organisation from learners who “missed being in a classroom” “missed having a trainer at hand to ask questions” and “felt isolated learning alone”.

To overcome some of this we looked for other ways to engage learners and trialled the use of virtual classrooms (VCs). We experimented with course sizes, duration and the product functionality before running our first series of VCs which were based around the top five how to calls received by our helpdesk. 

Virtual classrooms provided our learners with something in-between the classroom and e-learning: they can still learn at their PC but are able to communicate with other delegates and ask a trainer.  The most common feedback we get about VCs from learners is that they were anxious before their first experience but once they take the plunge they’re hooked!  This delivery method has been accepted far quicker than e- learning and in our first year of use we moved a third of our classroom based delivery to VCs. In the most recent financial year this figure has increased to over 60%.

So, as you can see, my learning technologies journey has been ongoing for longer than I had even realised and still continues.  The latest technologies we are working with/exploring are Moodle, Wiki’s, video content, interactive electronic user guides and the range of SoMe tools available.

If any readers are on a similar journey I’d love to share and would welcome any tips from those of you that have already taken the plunge into some of the newer areas we are now exploring.