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e-Learning standards: think globally, act locally

Organisations trying to implement e-learning across a diverse organisation are often worried about ensuring consistency across each location. Steve Dineen, Chief Executive of fuel, offers advice on how to ensure it happens.

One of the issues of instructor led training, particularly when rolling out learning on a wide scale has always been consistency. Two trainers can teach the same course very differently, even an individual can vary their teaching approach from one day to the next.

One of the strengths of e-learning should be that the course is designed and taught to the same high standard every time. However, when local market variations demand local differences in the e-learning, then consistency again becomes an issue.

Organisations are right to have such concerns about each location acting independently as it is essential that a standardized platform and programme is put in place. Systems must be able to communicate and, more importantly, learners must be able to communicate and share knowledge across the enterprise. Learners also expect a uniform look and feel with consistent standards of quality, and the organisation expects a consistent message to be distributed.

The other drawback to each location acting independently is, of course, cost. From a financial standpoint, there are obviously economies of scale to be had when learning is commissioned/purchased on a global scale. Local purchasing will miss these opportunities to purchase efficiently. Not just because of the 'bulk buy' economics, but also the corporate bargaining power to be leveraged.

It is a tricky situation because whilst organisations may want central control of the e-learning strategy, context and localisation are obviously important. Learners need knowledge that is appropriate for their location/country not only from a language standpoint but also the relevance and accuracy of the content itself. In addition, the location wants to be able to 'get on with it,' and not be held up until the central supplier focuses on that area. As a result of this, local staff want to branch out and choose their own supplier - they want the training in place quickly and when it suits them.

So how can organisations think globally but act locally?

The answer is standardisation.

At fuel we have been approached by several organisations looking to standardise their approach to e-learning and created for them a 'Global Standards & Process Document.'

This document aims to create a set of standards for e-learning within the organisation. It provides the process and guidelines that are to be adhered to by all parts of the organisation in the sourcing, evaluation, commissioning, procurement, creation, implementation and marketing of e-learning. Once in place, each location can 'do it's own thing' as long as it follows the guidelines laid down.

Some of the areas that should be considered when looking at standardisation include agreement on common terms, what technical standards the content must adhere to and also design specifications. In addition, thought should be given to how to select a vendor and, following selection, how to then interact with them to ensure the best results. Guidelines on the internal marketing of the e-learning will also help to ensure consistency between locations.

The other tool in the global vs. local issue is a content management system, which allows organisations to do just that - manage content. This means that each location/country can adapt the existing content to suit its needs, whether it be editing product numbers, legislation, process or of course full translation into the home language. Those who work for American organisations know how US content does not always go down well with UK learners - and that is in English! Imagine trying to learn complex information in a foreign language. No wonder each location is keen to get its 'own' e-learning.

In a nutshell, a unified approach to the adoption of e-learning enables:

  • A fast and seamless movement of knowledge across the enterprise with integrated systems capable of intelligent communication
  • Lower investment required per business unit
  • Better use of resources, ability to tap into collective expertise
  • Building and sharing of core knowledge, distributed on common platform

Training and development will grow business and is an organisations competitive advantage - therefore it is essential that consistent messages are being learnt in every part of the business. There are ways of having your global cake but eating it locally!

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© 2004 fuel Group. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.

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