When ALLTEL, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States, wanted to train employees on some of the newest advancements in sophisticated telecommunications technologies, it turned to a highly customized e-learning solution designed to cut training costs without compromising quality.
ALLTEL is a customer-focused communications company with approximately 20,000 employees, 13 million customers and $8 billion in revenue, which provides wireless, local telephone, long-distance, Internet and high-speed data services to residential and business customers in 26 states.
Training is part of ALLTEL’s ongoing strategy to capitalize on technological developments within the industry. To compete effectively in the highly competitive telecommunications industry, ALLTEL must continually train its technical professionals to take advantage of the latest advances in DSL, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), frame relay, voice over IP and more.
“Ensuring that our people have the knowledge and skills to rapidly deploy state-of-the-art technology and deliver the best customer service is absolutely critical to sustaining our competitive advantage and increasing shareholder value,” said Steve Mosley, director of ALLTEL University. ALLTEL’s training organization set out
to develop a comprehensive, ALLTEL-specific curriculum on emerging technologies and deliver it to 2,400 front-line and back-office technicians in multiple locations nationwide. With numerous challenges to overcome, including limited training staff, budget justification and geographically dispersed learners with tight schedules, varying backgrounds and limited access to training facilities, ALLTEL decided at the outset that the solution would have to be Web-based to offer the greatest reach and accessibility at a reasonable cost. But this approach posed an additional cultural challenge, as ALLTEL employees were not accustomed to e-learning methods. To overcome those issues, ALLTEL turned to NETg.
“We were very impressed with NETg’s customer support,” Mosley said. “And NLO+, its learning-object customization tool, far exceeded the competition’s offerings by enabling us to tailor learning to the exact needs of our technicians in a way that no other provider could match.
Pulling from a sample of more than 1,700 IT and desktop e-learning courses, ALLTEL used NLO+ to seamlessly interweave content covering fundamentals such as LANs, WANs, TCP/IP, B-ISDN and SMDS with ALLTEL-proprietary content, resulting in a completely customized, seven-course data and broadband curriculum called Datatrak.
The 35-hour Datatrak curriculum was developed, tested and launched nationwide in just 60 days. “One ALLTEL staff member was able to single-handedly create the entire Datatrak curriculum in record speed using Thomson NETg’s one-of-a kind NLO+ tool,” Mosley said. “This is a testament to the cost-efficiency and ease-of-use of the NETg solutions.”
The tool enables ALLTEL to mix and match thousands of learning objects, delete overlapping content, organize the flow of learning from basic to advanced concepts and create personalized learning paths for different types of technicians. “Now we can be sure that each and every ALLTEL technician gets the right amount of learning and be sure that learning correlates directly to their specific job role and objectives,” Mosley said.
ALLTEL offers Datatrak through ALLTEL University, the company’s online learning portal, which allows technicians to develop their skills around the clock and regardless of whether they are at the office, on the road or at home. In remote locations where connectivity is an issue, ALLTEL distributes the curriculum via CD-ROM.
Datatrak also interoperates seamlessly with ALLTEL’s TrainingServer, the company’s learning management system. When a student registers for a Datatrak course, TrainingServer automatically monitors their progress, giving ALLTEL an easy way to track, analyze and measure learning usage company-wide.
“When you account for the cost of classroom-based training, travel expenses and time off the job, we estimate that the Datatrak e-learning program saves us an average of $500,000 per year,” Mosley said. “Thanks to our partnership with NETg, we’re now able to provide highly tailored training to more workgroups, in less time, with lower costs and greater convenience.”
While the Datatrak initiative originally targeted 2,400 technicians, effective marketing and promotion has made it the default data and broadband curriculum across the entire company—further bolstering the program’s ROI. Less than a year after program launch, Datatrak participation exceeded 43 percent.
The resounding and widespread success of the Datatrak program has also secured the role of e-learning as a mainstay of the ALLTEL culture. The company’s online learning portal now features 350 course titles to meet the ad hoc training needs of every workgroup across the organization. Building on this momentum, ALLTEL plans to create a customized “Managementrak” curriculum in the future, targeting the unique training needs of its frontline managers and supervisors.
Joe Dougherty is president of Thomson NETg (www.netg.com), a global enterprise-learning leader delivering Open Learning solutions that include a comprehensive offering of award-winning content, multiple delivery options, cutting-edge technology and expert consulting services. For more information, e-mail Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.