April 21, 2014

A Functional Perspective to Managing Change in Learning: Part 3

E-Learning Strategy Online LearningOver the last couple of months I’ve blogged about change management when introducing technology (e-learning) into a learning strategy (see part 1 – setting the context, and part 2 – organisational perspective). Today is the third of five posts on the topic of change management, this time looking at how a learning technology strategy impacts Human Resources and the Learning and Development team and function, and how the change can be managed.

Let’s take a look at five areas of impact:

1. Readiness to design, develop and manage technology

The term ‘learning technology’ has an onerous word associated with it – technology. Generally speaking, learning practitioners are often not origionally engaged for their technology prowess. They were chosen for their ability to design and facilitate memorable learning face to face. Skills in systems design and administration, multimedia design and development, e-facilitation and platform usability were not generally part of the job description.

There is often a disconnect between the humanistic perspective of learning and the process perspective of technology. This disconnect affects how practitioners transition to learning technologies; how they perceive learning design, learning outcomes, their relationship with learners, and their prioritisation of reporting and analytics. For some learning practitioners, ‘systematising learning’ is an oxymoron.

Change management tips: Work towards striking a balance between ‘systematised learning’ and the ‘high touch’ of classroom learning and coaching. Work as a functional team to decide what principles will guide your decision-making about how learning technologies will be used. The overall desire of e-learning should be to enhance the learner’s experience and outcomes – not simply to substitute the classroom experience.

2. LMS and the ‘One stop shop’ systems integration

Sometimes a Learning Management System (LMS) is part of a wider Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, such as SAP. Or it may be part of a wider Human Resources Information System (HRIS), such as Cornerstone. In these situations, the Learning and Development (L&D) function is required to integrate with broader HR & IT functions. ‘Give and take’ is required as different functions tussle with competing priorities. The L&D function is required to learn new language and new knowledge in systems integration.

Change management tips: Separate the systems administration function from the training functions – the skill set is quite different. Work hard to build relationships with IT & HR administrators. It’s often helpful to develop a ‘process map’ illustrating the relationship between systems, and the touch points between the LMS and end users – to be sure the Learning and Development team has a clear mental model about what the system does, how end users interact with it, and how traditional learning functions are translated in a system environment. The L&D function plays an important role as end user advocate, helping to ensure the platform’s usability from an end user perspective.

3. Assessing learning outcomes

Multiple choice assessment can ‘dumb down’ what was previous more rigorous and personalised classroom assessment. Additionally, using online education techniques for assessing learning, such as contribution to a discussion forum doesn’t really work in organisational learning because the activity is difficult to make compulsory. Finally, learners will usually travel the path of least resistance. If they can cheat or shortcut an assessment, they will. It is difficult to eliminate cheating in an online assessment.

Change management tips: Provide learning practitioners with training in e-facilitation and writing online assessments. As a team, develop shared values in how assessment will be approached. Engage managers and subject experts to understand what evidence is required to assure competence, and how this evidence gathering may be best systematised for a workplace setting.

4. Striving for excellence

There are lots of mediocre e-learning courses and assessments out there. It’s easy for learning practitioners and trainers to fall into the trap of essentially cutting and pasting content into an online environment. E-Learning instructional design is all about using techniques to help learners understand, assimilate and apply what is learnt back into the workplace. Skills in e-learning instructional design takes time to master.

Change management tips: Be sure the Learning and Development function develops a shared mental model on what quality online learning looks like. Identify best practice from industry and examine the instructional, assessment and visual elements. Look at navigation usability. Generally speaking, implementing an e-learning strategy requires a multidisciplinary team and a project management process. Rarely is someone skilled in all aspects of e-learning design, development and implementation. Create an e-learning style and function guide, a quality parameters checklist and a project management methodology to ensure standards and governance. The Connect Thinking E-Learning Academy has guides, checklists and other tools to get your team started.

5. Preparing managers and learners

Immersing in e-learning design and LMS administration can take resources and time away from the Learning and Development team interacting with managers and learners. Relationships and priorities change. Learners are suddenly required to use a system to self-enrol, rather than call the L&D department. Learners are expected to be self-directed and self-governing when learning online. Managers are required to understand the online function and to manage staff self-development.

Change management tips: Ensure the e-learning strategy ultimately frees L&D to deliver to the business the things they have never had the time to do. Develop other ways for the L&D function to embed in the workplace and identify staff development priorities. Help the L&D team to identify new opportunities to interact with managers and staff.

I’d love to read yuor thoughts on these areas of impact. Please feel free to comment or ask me a question.

In my next blog post on change management I will be looking at a Manager’s perspective to managing change during e-learning strategy implementation.

To watch this e-learning change management series on our E-Learning Academy YouTube channel, go to our playlist: Managing Change in Organisational Learning.

Comments

  1. Ara Ohanian says:

    Alison, you’re right that change management is crucial when introducing technology as part of learning. For me the crucial point on your list is #5 which I would re-title “preparing and involving managers and learners”. Effective change management has to be more than a push of information. Managers, learners and other stakeholders must be involved in the process from the very start. Without that, there’s a serious risk the whole process may fail.

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