Introducing RDI…
…Or, Why Small Businesses Need to Think About Training (But don’t call it training!)

Sometimes, I work with small companies who want to implement employee training, customer education, or sales channel coaching. These businesses realize such activities can give them an edge in an increasingly challenging marketplace. The recent emphasis on Rapid eLearning, using easy and affordable production tools, has become a key factor in convincing smaller companies to embrace eLearning.

I recently spoke to a group of about 50 small business owners. My topic was Strategies for Rapid eLearning. I was on an agenda sandwiched between experts in website design and web marketing. The audience listened politely, and the post-mortems expressed interest in hearing about something new, and listening to someone who was obviously an expert in her field…..but most did not see how eLearning applied to them.

A few “got it”. Most did not. Going back a couple of years, I suspect that many of those folks regarded the Web in a similar vein. Today, they understand that websites can be indispensable to their businesses.

OK…I expected that reaction….I knew I had a tough audience. So I set the stage by suggesting that training was just another word for communication and I tried to convince them that eLearning should be an integral part of their marketing and communications plans. I tried to bridge the disconnect between their understanding of promotion and sales, and their critical – and quantifiable - need to educate employees, customers and sales channels. But, learning, training, and education were not in their current business vocabulary…. and, consequently, not on their radar.

If they themselves enjoyed learning something new…..why didn’t they grasp that connection? Why couldn’t they understand that customers might also be interested in learning more about their products or services? Or that promoting better understanding of their products might help sales?

One gentleman came up to me afterwards and remarked, “I worked for a number of companies, and I never had one day of training. No one ever thought of it! If we’d had some training, it certainly would have saved a lot of frustration – and saved the company a lot of money !”

Ah ha! That is indeed the value proposition! Knowledge has value. Information has value.

Training and learning are words that conjure up classrooms, teachers, exams, grades….and all the anxiety and discomfort that can go along with that. Most adults love to learn, but on their own terms. Maybe our terminology can be improved.

So, I hereby coin the term Rapid Deployment of Information – RDI. Everyone is on the “information” bandwagon. Everyone wants new and better ways to deliver information, process information, manage information and use information. Is this training? Teaching? Learning?

RDI (Rapid Deployment of Information) suggests action, movement, positive energy. It’s all about the need to know…and the need to know now!

The tools used for RDI are similar to those used for Rapid eLearning. Just as small business owners are turning to eBusiness to effectively promote their products and services, maybe RDI would be more appealing. And just maybe, RDI developers would become important additions to marketing teams.

The next time I have an opportunity, I’m going to deliver the same seminar, but, I’ll substitute RDI for Rapid eLearning, put it in the marketing domain, and see how it flies.

©2006 Joan Goloboy

The Power of eLearning….Batteries Not Included

When approaching software purchases, I’m sometimes reminded of comedian Stephen Wright’s observation, “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included… So I had to buy ’em again”

I have to keep reminding myself – and clients – that even the niftiest, feature-rich software is not going to power eLearning. Neither is the product upgrade that’s just around the corner. Content, design, and effective delivery are still (and always will be) the real power source.

Developing an eLearning strategy should always be the power generator. It is tempting to try to construct a strategy around software capabilities and potential. However, if the strategy isn’t there, then the “cool tools” most likely won’t make a difference.

Matching the software to the strategy is essential. As I said before, software should not be the driver of your plan. Software should complement your strategy. Certainly, commitment to your eLearning strategy demands some amount of commitment to software products. But, in the end, you will want the power tools that enable you to implement your plan, and achieve your goals now.

Graphics, video, animation -- rich media can play important, powerful and legitimate roles in devising an effective eLearning strategy. However, focusing on your target learners, your critical communication needs, and your business goals should always come before the lights, cameras and action.

…And that reminds me of comedian George Carlin’s remark, “Electricity is really just organized lightning”…the right combination of strategy and software can harness the power of eLearning and create that spark that we’re all looking to ignite in our learners.

©2005 Joan Goloboy

The Future of eLearning

Recently, the Vice President of a training development company asked me, “If you could look into your crystal ball, what would you see as the future of eLearning?”  I replied, without hesitation, “Simplicity”.

That question – and my quick reply – stayed with me, long after our meeting.  As I had time to reflect, “simplicity” still seemed to be the number one thought that came to my mind.  I could think of a few nuances to throw into the mix, but they all seemed to be functions of “simplicity”.  Why was I so set on this?

There was one immediate reason.  I had just completed facilitating an online course for one of the major technical colleges, whose proprietary learning management system was so complex -- so data-driven and “over-produced” -- that it was user-UNfriendly in the extreme.  There may have been legitimate reasons for designing the system in such a way, but its unwieldiness became an obstacle to learning, and its limitations discouraged meaningful instructor-student interaction.  Clearly, the software engineers had a field day designing a system that could jump through every imaginable hoop. But, simply sending a message required twelve clicks!   

As an eLearning consultant, I work with clients to cut through the clutter, and to find effective and affordable ways to deliver online learning.  I am continually looking for new products and better ways to deliver training.  I thought back to all of the panel discussions and vendor presentations I had attended over the past year.   Instead of concentrating on the “cool” new features from one company or another, I had the “ah-ha” realization that things may be getting way out of hand.

So, what do I think are the critical elements of a simple, yet effective eLearning plan?  Gazing into my crystal ball, here is what I see.  

Simplicity in an eLearning system should consist of:

Rapid Response capability To quickly address business needs    By using
  • sharable content
  • easy developer tools
  • familiar user interfaces
Multiple media formats To address multiple styles of learning    By
  • re-purposing content
  • making content accessible in a variety of formats
Continuous learning opportunities To build a culture of learning    By:
  • enabling ongoing follow-up
  • identifying and addressing skill gaps
  • offering opportunities for personal and professional development beyond the classroom

I am reminded of the classic book on systems theory, "Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail" that John Gall wrote in the 1970’s.  He stated,  “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked…A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.”

Achieving simplicity is not always easy. When the technology is transparent, and when the learning is tangible, then you will know that the time and effort to simplify was well spent.

©2004 Joan Goloboy

Is Your Organization Ready for eLearning?

With Learning & Development budgets beginning to increase again, the need for prudent and cost-effective investment in training is critical. Whether you work for a small-business, a large corporation, or a non-profit entity, online learning tools – ranging from online job aids, to web-based seminars, to full-blown graduate level
coursework -- can positively impact your bottom line.

Startup investment in eLearning may appear high, but cost over time can significantly decrease your training expenditures.
Careful planning and implementation of an effective eLearning strategy is key to meeting and exceeding those bottom line goals.

You may have given some thought to launching online learning, but you weren’t really sure where to begin.
In my role as an eLearning consultant, here are the Top 5 questions clients ask:
  1. Why eLearning?

  2. With carefully planned deployment of eLearning:

    • Corporations can maximize their ROI in training, and more efficiently enroll, track, deliver
      and re-purpose their L&D efforts.
    • Small businesses can create additional revenue streams.
    • Non-profit organizations can more efficiently disseminate and update training, while sharing
      best practices and establishing a sense of community.
    • Educational institutions can expand their learner population and enrich current course offerings

  3. "Isn’t online learning isolating?"

  4. For those new to launching computer-mediated instruction, it’s hard to imagine learning at a distance,
    outside of a classroom, while sitting at your desk. A fundamental goal in any online learning experience
    should be to bring the "human touch" to technology. Two-way interactions – via e-mail, message board,
    or live chat enhance the learner experience, provide support, and build community. Trained facilitators
    can help maximize the learning and minimize the solitude.

  5. "Can’t I just put my lessons on a Web or Intranet site?"

  6. Effective online instruction is not simply posting your print materials online. Aside from implementation issues, there are essential design and delivery considerations. Online learning requires thoughtful preparation with respect to length and breadth of content for each "chunk" of learning; effective hyperlinking to support materials; and optimum navigation and interface characteristics for both instructor and learner.

  7. "How do I choose a learning system provider? Do I need an LMS, an LCMS, or an ILS?"

  8. With so many learning-platform providers competing for a limited number of training dollars, it’s important for businesses, non-profits and educational institutions to look beyond the "bells and whistles" and the "alphabet soup". Flashy design and long lists of features don’t necessarily translate into effective, goal-driven, learner-friendly instruction. When choosing a vendor for technology-assisted instruction, it’s critical to clearly identify your training goals and assess your students’ readiness at the outset, and then hone in on the best options. It’s equally important to identify your core measures of success, and evaluate how each product supports those goals.

  9. "My employees are so busy, they don’t have time for this"

  10. Remember that online courses help reduce or eliminate travel to class sites. For eLearning to become successfullyingrained in an organization’s L&D culture, it’s imperative that senior management makes learning a priority, and communicates that commitment to leadership at all levels. Managers and supervisors should create continuous learning environments within their workgroups – setting mutually agreed upon learning goals for employees, and allowing uninterrupted opportunities for workers to devote to training. 
The above considerations are only a starting point for planning an eLearning strategy. Next steps include plotting
an implementation strategy that will support your learners, as well as meeting the goals of the business. Stay tuned for more.

©2004 Joan Goloboy

More Articles 

    Top 10 Secrets of Successful Online Educators  (.pdf)

    New Year’s Resolutions 2004 - see how things have changed!

All Rights Reserved | c. 2008