For today’s training organizations, learning content must be efficiently leveraged to serve multiple audiences, multiple contexts and multiple output formats in order to deliver training that meets each learner’s moment of need.
In a recent blog posting, Chief Learning Officer magazine columnist Bob Mosher refers to the 20/30/50 model for delivering and teaching content. In this framework, the most effective and long lasting training results are derived from the following blended learning mix: 20 percent classroom training, 30 percent e-learning and 50 percent performance support.
The reality, however, is drastically different. On average, 60 percent of all training is still instructor-led; the vast majority of training investment is spent on converting this classroom training to e-learning; and, according to Bersin Research, only a small percentage of training organizations utilize on-demand performance support tools.
As an industry, we are far from delivering the ideal blended learning environment for learners. This is due to an overwhelming tendency to design and create content for a singular purpose. According to research compiled by Chapman Alliance and Brandon-Hall, the ratio of development hours to course hours is 34:1 for instructor-led training and 33:1 for converting PowerPoint from this instructor-led training to e-learning. This indicates that each time a new learning product is created, it’s basically done from scratch, even if the content is the same. This should give any CLO reason for pause.
As the shift from monolithic training courses to learning at the moment of need continues, training organizations must find a way to efficiently and cost-effectively meet the customization and performance support demands of learners. That means designing for reusability.
Back to the Future
It’s well known that previous attempts at reusable learning content have come up short. As a result, many training organizations still remain skeptical about the reality of it. However, they do this at their own peril. Reusable learning objects are a sound and proven methodology. When they were introduced at Cisco in 1999, the key enabling technology – native XML content – simply lagged behind the concepts. However, almost 10 years later, the challenge of how to integrate proven XML publishing techniques with the SCORM standard has been solved.
Content reuse has been amazingly successful in other domains such as product documentation and publishing, and to not explore its potential for training organizations is rather short-sighted.
Reducing Cost, Speeding Development Aross Delivery Formats
Designing content for reuse allows content developers to author content once and package that content on-demand as printed classroom materials, Web courses, performance support or mobile applications. A few years ago, instructor-led training was the singular channel for learning. This resulted in a plethora of legacy content that today cannot be effectively reused for e-learning.
Unfortunately, the industry does not seem to be learning its lesson. According to research by the eLearning Guild, the biggest barrier to mobile learning is that e-learning content currently being developed does not transfer well to a mobile format. In a serious case of déjà vu, mobile learning applications from existing content will have to yet again be recreated from scratch.
Let’s compare this to an organization that embraces reusable learning objects. On average, 60 percent to 80 percent of the same training content is used for different job roles. For example, a leading provider of IT certification courses decided to end their standard industry practice of taking each of their legacy textbooks and converting them to an individual e-learning course.
Instead, they invested in an automated process for converting their legacy print textbooks to XML, deleting all redundant content along the way. The ROI was immediate and substantial: The average cost of creating an online course went from $20,000 and a 12-week lead time down to $1,000 per course compiled in less than a week. The reason: They no longer had to recreate existing content for an online delivery format. Instead, they simply assembled existing learning objects into an online course. And, because their content is now stored in open, format-independent XML, it is ready to be delivered to mobile applications when the time comes.
Meeting Dynamic Performance Support Requirements
Designing for reusability has another significant advantage in that it allows training organizations to leverage content across geographies, brands, customers and job roles to meet dynamic training requirements. Performance-support guru Dr. Conrad Gottfredson rightfully argues that the training industry is only truly effective at meeting a learner’s first two moments of need: when learning for the first time and when wanting to learn more. He says where the industry falters is delivering on-demand performance-support tools, which are a critical to meet the remaining three moments of need: when trying to remember, when things change and when something goes wrong.
Designing for reusability is the fastest route to meeting these critical performance-support needs. A key element of content reuse is tagging and chunking content so it can be filtered and shared, instead of serving an individual purpose. This drives an entirely new paradigm, one that allows end users to create and customize their own learning experience in the form of courses, procedures, job-aids, check-lists, etc. In this scenario, the cost of customization is negligible as new versions of content are not required. Instead, existing learning objects are simply assembled on-demand based on individual preferences.
Designing for reuse is not applicable to every training situation. However, content reuse is your only road to success if your vision is to:
· Provide a true blended training environment that meets all five moments of need.
· Ensure timeliness and consistency across multiple delivery formats.
· Adapt on demand to different audiences.
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