Believe…A Stress Free Year End is Possible

November 14, 2017 10:46 by Dana Peters
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are right around the corner, and before we know it the New Year will be upon us. The end of the year always comes with the traditional holiday stressors like family, cooking, shopping, and holiday travel.  But for virtual instructor-led training (vILT) professionals, the end of the year can bring on even more stress if proactive steps aren’t taken throughout the year. We’ve compiled a list of the most common stressors faced by many vILT professionals, and more importantly, how to avoid them. Last Minute RequestHere it is November and the rush of calls, emails, and instant messages from learners declaring their need for more opportunities to take “xyz” course before year end is in full swing. Despite several scheduled courses during the first ten months of the year, this mad dash to meet course completion goals seems to always crop up in the last two months of the year. Avoid this stressor by making sure to effectively communicate your learning opportunities early and often. Think about how an effective marketing campaign works and apply some of those strategies. Regular communication from a variety of channels and encouragement to enroll now in the courses needed will offer some relief to the year-end rush. Scheduling on Short NoticeWith the last minute request volume that seems to come at year-end, the desire to serve learners and accommodate these needs leads to the attempt to schedule a few more sessions before the year is over. Between the holidays, vacation schedules, budget restraints, and other year-end business demands, this can be next to impossible. The key to avoiding this stressor is preparation. Build in a buffer. Schedule extra classes around the end of the year several months in advance as part of the preparation for the onslaught of learners needing classes. Extra classes can be consolidated or cancelled if need be but adding them last minute is very difficult.Low Attendance RatesSchedules at the end of the year are jam packed for everyone, including learners. Despite extra effort to add a few last minute classes to the learning calendar, often the result is low attendance rates and cancellations. Avoid this stressor by communicating year round learner expectations for attendance and participation. For more information, check out this post we previously wrote on setting learner expectations.  Finalizing Next Year’s BudgetThe end of the year often means final budget decisions for the New Year. It’s a stressor every department in every company has to deal with, and one virtual learning professionals have to deal with too. All dollars need to be justified and accounted for. To relieve some of the stress, continuously demonstrate value and contribution to business results throughout the year, not just when it’s time for budget discussions. Plan for the budget meeting by understanding what the goals of the business are in the upcoming year and creating the connection from your learning programs to meeting those goals.  We’ve done a few posts on earning executive buy-in that you might find helpful.Can you relate? What else is stressful for you this time of year? While each of these may resonate with you, survival is possible with proper preparation.

Say What You Mean: Defining Learning Lingo for Your Organization.

June 6, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all heard (and regularly use) terms like e-learning, webinar, web-based training, virtual training, digital learning, and distance learning.  However, ask ten people what e-learning means and you’re likely to get ten different answers.I’ve had the pleasure of working with all sorts of clients, large and small, with varying degrees of sophistication within their learning and development departments. Working with different clients means learning their learning culture’s unique language. Even the simplest of terms may mean something different to the client than it does to me and the Mondo Learning Solutions team members on the project. To make things more confusing, terms are often used interchangeably, even though technically, they do have different meanings. If you are in a situation where an outside professional is assisting you with the development and delivery of learning programs, establishing definitions is important. If that weren’t enough, let’s consider the other internal folks outside of our profession. While the learning terms used may be clear to everyone on your learning and development team, it may not be clear to your learners or stakeholders. Taking from my personal experience, I think of this issue a little bit like the different terms or words for items used all over the country. The same terms to name certain items in Wisconsin, where I’m based, might be called something completely different in a different part of the country.  A few examples: bubbler and drinking fountain, shopping cart and buggy, or even pop and soda. Not having moved here until I was 24, imagine my surprise when someone asked me where the bubbler was.When defining terms related to learning delivery methods, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Let’s take a quick look at the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) official definitions for the following terms: Web-based Training (WBT): Delivery of educational content via a Web browser over the public Internet, a private intranet, or an extranet. Web-based training often provides links to other learning resources such as references, email, bulletin boards, and discussion groups. WBT also may include a facilitator who can provide course guidelines, manage discussion boards, deliver lectures, and so forth. When used with a facilitator, WBT offers some advantages of instructor-led training while also retaining the advantages of computer-based training. E-learning: A wide set of applications and processes, such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, CD-ROM, and more. Webinar: A small synchronous online learning event in which a presenter and audience members communicate via text chat or audio about concepts often illustrated via online slides and/or an electronic whiteboard. Webinars are often archived as well for asynchronous, on-demand access. ILT (instructor-led training): Usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners. The term is used synonymously with on-site training and classroom training (c-learning). Asynchronous Learning: Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email. Synchronous Learning: A real-time, instructor-led online learning event in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts. While these may be the official definitions for the profession, organizations across the country have their own “dialect”.  This is where it can be challenging.As you can see, virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is not defined independently by ATD, but that is the term, we here at Mondo Learning Solutions, use to define what others might call synchronous learning, a webinar, or even e-learning.I agree that official definitions are helpful, but what is more important is that everyone is on the same page. Existing company vocabulary and semantics might mean your company refers to a web-based training as a webinar, or a vILT class as e-learning, and that’s ok. As long as everyone is aware of those semantics and what is actually being defined. What about you? Has definition differences of common training terms caused any problems within your organization? We’d love to hear your stories.  

Making the Pitch: Selling Your Executives on Virtual Learning (Part 2)

April 26, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As we reviewed in Part 1 of this post, more and more companies are turning to virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs to support their skill development needs and competency attainment goals. We know that gaining executive level support is crucial for vILT programs to be successful. In order to do so, learning and development professionals need to put on their sales hats and move beyond the day-to-day mechanics of how a vILT program works to communicate the big picture value. Success lies in positioning. What business need does vILT address? If leaders don’t see relevant benefits, they will not be on board. In the five-step sales process we outlined in Part 1 of this blog; steps 2 and 3 require the seller to identify the needs of their buyer and then present a solution that solves the immediate business need. In essence, we are the sellers, our decision maker is the buyer, and our solution is our product so it makes sense to consider a sale process as we determine how to win this support. So what are some common needs vILT addresses? In our work, we have watched our clients leverage vILT to address a multitude of challenges they are facing. We’ve outlined several of those challenges below, and discussed how vILT can solve the problem. Our hope is, that if you, and your executive, are dealing with the same or similar challenges this post may shed some insight on how to frame your sales pitch. Challenge: Budget Cuts Despite all the research and documentation telling us not to; in a down economy or a struggling market, training and development is, unfortunately, one of the first things to be trimmed back. Companies may eliminate some programs all together to save money, or may implement a company-wide travel ban which restricts employees and trainers from traveling to conduct or attend company training. A virtual instructor-led training program can provide an opportunity for companies to reduce expenses while maintaining or even exceeding their learning and development goals. When budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses in order for employees and trainers to attend or deliver training sessions is not practical, making a modest investment in vILT to connect training facilitators and learners virtually is a solution to consider. When proposing that vILT will solve a budget challenge, make sure you go into that conversation with some solid numbers. Any executive is going to want to know how much savings is estimated and how you arrived at your number. Challenge: Bridging Geographic Gaps Between Departments and Regions As covered in Part 1 of this post, business is done on a global scale today. More and more companies are turning to vILT programs to effectively manage globally disbursed employees, and develop a consistent culture and message across departments and divisions in different geographic locations. Virtual training sessions allow participants and facilitators to connect from anywhere there’s an Internet connection – allowing for more opportunities for collaboration and exposure to expertise and insight from colleagues across the globe. When addressing how vILT will bridge different segments of employees and help break down silos, it is important to help executives envision the potential impact. Compare the exposure people in the organization have with today’s learning and development strategy in comparison to what they will have with a robust vILT program. Challenge: Reaching Segments of the Population at a Deeper Level This challenge is related to the last one. In geographically dispersed organizations in which there are smaller pockets of employees in more remote locations, it is often times challenging to get them the same learning opportunities as your larger populations. Whether the issue be distance, facilities, or adequate employee coverage while folks are in training, virtual instructor-led training can eliminate or at least reduce some of these obstacles – thus allowing the expansion of your learning offering to these hard to reach segments. When proposing how vILT can effectively reach these segments of the population we suggest supporting this value with data. The comparison of today’s approach to vILT enabled training should demonstrate the power of the solution to combat this challenge. Challenge: The Need for Fast Delivery of More Information Virtual training programs offer an air of convenience for learners and facilitators. A virtual learning environment can quickly and visually connect employees from all over the globe, and do it in a personal way. The speed of delivery provides the opportunity to be more productive by utilizing less time. Travel time eats into productivity. With virtual sessions, learners can reserve a couple of hours during the day to complete the necessary training instead of spending days on the road or a full day in a training session. Time that isn’t spent traveling can be spent working.   Again, data is on your side when proposing how vILT provides the opportunity to deliver more in less time. Compare time investments of both the learner and the training team with today’s delivery approach in comparison to programs delivered virtually. Another angle on the time savings benefit is to compare how long it takes to deploy a training initiative today, start to finish, vs. a comparable vILT initiative. Many executives live and breathe speed to market. You’ll be speaking their language with this one. These are just a sampling of the variety of situations where a vILT training program can solve a business challenge. What are some ways that you’ve gotten executive buy-in for your VILT program? Are there other challenges your vILT program has addressed? We’d love your feedback.