I spend a fair amount of my consulting time working with large organizations to help define how they will apply technology to particular business / performance / learning needs. This is either in terms of specific needs, e.g., improve customer satisfaction, or as part of an overall eLearning strategy.
I've spent several hours this morning trying to find good resources on eLearning Strategy development and particularly looking for examples to use in this post. I've really been striking out. I'm hoping that people will help out.
Update Nov. 2010 - I just did a search for eLearning Strategy articles and through eLearning Learning found a bunch more around eLearning Strategies, Learning Strategies that resulted in Top 35 Articles on eLearning Strategy.
Most of the time I'm working with a centralized technology groups within Learning and Development that acts as a services arm to corporate L&D and to distributed L&D that is spread throughout the organization. I wish I had a good name for these groups, but they are called something different in most organizations. For the purpose of this post, I'll call it the L&D Technology Group.
It's interesting working closely with L&D Technology Groups because you are a key influencer, but you don't really decide much about the performance and learning strategies. Rather, you are very similar to a services company. You get requests for help building particular kinds of solutions. You determine business requirements around that solution and get to influence where it goes. But ultimately, the internal customer and likely someone who is in another department within L&D who is responsible for learning design (ID) ultimately decides on the approach that will be taken.
Another interesting aspect for the L&D Technology Group is that you really don't know what your next client may ask you to do. So, you have to be prepared for a wide variety of different kinds of requirements and be ready to service them. You can't afford to be constantly saying, "We can't help you with that." At the same time, you can't over-engineer because it costs too much to prepare for every last contingency.
This is the heart of the challenge in defining eLearning Strategy:
- predicting future needs,
- planning to effectively and efficiently service those needs.
The starting point for an eLearning Strategy is predicting needs. This is very hard. Clearly, you are going to go around the organization to various business owners, partners such as IT, KM, Corporate Library, etc., and to your distributed L&D organization to understand what you can about the kinds of requirements they will have in the future. Of course, you can't say - "What requirements will you have for me in the future?" Few of your internal customers or partners will be able to answer that question in a way that really helps you.
Instead, the eLearning Strategy discussion is a learning, teaching and evangelist discussion. You start the conversation by understanding what their real business, performance, talent and learning challenges are. And then you shift from those challenges to the myriad of different kinds of solutions that might be part of solutions. You have to walk people through different tools and learning methods. Show potential customers within the organization what they are and how they can be applied. Then collaborate around where and how they might fit with the organizations needs.
This conversations can result in some really great outcomes. But most often, it's quite a mess. You will hear about many different kinds of possible future needs. Some wish list kinds of things. Often you have to talk your internal customer out of something that's pretty crazy. "Sure that 3D telepresence stuff if pretty cool. I bet we could get similar outcomes by using X. It wouldn't be quite as cool, but is probably much more cost effective."
Still in my experience this is messy stuff and you try your best to capture what it means for you in terms of requirements.
I would love to hear how people do this and if they have good ways of capturing this mess of requirements.
From this messy set of requirements, you are really looking at a strategy where you define the set of services you will deliver to the rest of the organization. This includes:
- Learning Method Support
- Tools / Technologies
- Process / People / Vendors
You need to be the one who is aware of what's happening generally with technology in the organization. You have to be a really good partner with IT. You are going to be learning's liaison to IT.
You likely are also a liaison to vendors. As parts of the organization have variable needs for technology solutions, part of the strategy is to be able to quickly and effectively engage with vendors to address particular needs.
Technology steward – you likely can't say to the rest of the organization, "Don't use these tools." But you can say, "We know this set of tools works. If you use this other tool, we won't be able to support you as well."
Packaging Your eLearning Strategy
In most cases, if you are going after significant dollars, a key aspect of your eLearning Strategy will be how you present it. Most often this includes some kind of vision for what you are looking to provide. It will summarize at a high level the requirements you are hearing and then will talk about what this means in terms of your Learning Strategies and then how the technologies fit into this.
Most of the time, it's best not to focus too much on all the different individual types of solutions you are prepared to deliver, but rather on the net effects. Still almost every eLearning Strategy will contain something like the Learning Methods from Reuters:
This is broader than the technology group, but there are implications for the technology group. You can also see that there are talent elements in this list.
It will also contain a list of major technology or related initiatives along a timeline:
I did a bit of searching looking for examples of corporate/workplace eLearning Strategy presentation decks. I didn't find a lot. It would be really interesting to see what people produce around these things. Please point me to them!
Bigger eLearning Strategy Questions
- See Learning Performance Business Talent Focus. This question of focus and scope has a major impact on the strategy.
- What's your role relative to Talent Strategies? Are you involved in Selection, Onboarding, Reviews, Development?
- What's your role relative to providing business and performance focused initiatives? Are you on the front lines of improving customer satisfaction? Do you get in and analyze aspects of performance relative to that and provide Data Driven performance solutions? Or are you going to be brought in to provide training?
- Are you focused on and responsible for informal learning solutions? What responsibility do you have after the learning event?
- Providing a set of tools (wikis, blogs, discussion groups, etc.) that can be used as part of informal learning support does not mean that you are really supporting informal learning in the organization. There's a lot more to it than that. And part of your strategy should be to be prepared to help your internal customers with those aspects.
- Off-the-Shelf / External Content?What's your responsibility for finding, vetting, facilitating the acquisition of external content sources, e.g., Skillsoft, Books 24x7, Safari, etc.
- Content management, re-use
- Portal and portal integration
What are some of the other big eLearning Strategy questions?
Bersin provides a great high-level list of issues to consider in their Modernize Corporate Training: The Enterprise Learning Framework. It is good to raise possible areas to consider.
Also worth a peek is: The eLearning Guild : Guild eBooks: Handbook of e-Learning Strategy
What other resources are there on this topic? What would help me think through what I might be missing in my strategy? What would help me create a presentation to executives with our eLearning Strategy?