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Self-Directed Learning Like Netflix

The Netflix Factor in Self-Directed Learning

How self-directed learning can be used in companies, what it adds, and where its limitations lie

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Few things are exercising the minds of today’s L&D managers more than the question of how to give employees greater flexibility in their learning. This is part of a trend in many companies away from formal and towards informal learning. And from informal learning, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to self-directed learning.

 

Self-directed learning, in a nutshell, is about giving employees the flexibility to decide for themselves what, when, where and how they learn. That sounds simple, but it actually requires a great deal of conceptual design work and careful technical implementation, not to mention trust in one’s employees. But it’s worth it because, planned properly and implemented strategically, self-directed learning can be a valuable complement to classic top-down learning.

 

This key fact is not lost on Mercedes-Benz Group AG’s Michael Temme and imc Learning's Marion Sander-Feld, who are currently working on ways of integrating new self-directed learning components and functions directly into the imc learning management system (LMS). In this article, we explain the benefits of self-directed learning, what its limitations are, and what Netflix has to do with it.

The question is not how much someone has learned, but how much they retain
Michael Temme
Manager Innovation Projects
Mercedes-Benz Global Training

The case for self-directed learning

Given the current skills shortage, employee upskilling and professional development are matters of top priority for all companies, regardless of size. Automotive giant Mercedes-Benz Group AG is a case in point. Its approach to employee learning is guided by five key questions: what, who, where, how and when.

Mercedes is also looking closely at how face-to-face training can be translated into online learning. This requires new approaches because it is not possible to take analogue training digital without careful modifications and workarounds. Anything short of this will serve only to turn employees off.

Michael Temme, Mercedes-Benz Group AG

Michael Temme, who manages innovation projects at Mercedes-Benz Global Training, is an expert on this. He has no doubt that for a training course to be effective, learners need to be able to see and understand how it is relevant to their work.

 

“We need to face the fact that what matters is not how much an employee learns, but how much they retain”, he says. “We know that learning content is more memorable if learners are able to apply their learnings immediately and are free to select the learning method that works best for them. People have to be able to decide for themselves what, when and how they learn. That’s why we use self-directed learning methods.”

No obvious benefit = no lasting learning

According to Temme, one of the major challenges with self-directed learning is that it requires both different skills and different (digital) systems from those required in conventional learning. For example, when trainers are in the same room as all the course participants, they can ask whether everyone has understood the material and, if necessary, can provide additional details or explanations.

This learning-reinforcing element is a lot more difficult to create in digital settings. To make up for this, Mercedes is employing a number of approaches, including the use of sharing and learning-specific networking (social collaboration) in the LMS.

 

Self-directed learning also requires employers to place a great deal of trust in their employees, in return for which the employees need to be extremely self-organized and highly self-motivated. The point is that employees will only feel motivated to learn in the first place if they can see that what they are learning is relevant and will benefit them in their day-to-day work.

Just as importantly, they will only retain what they have learned if they are able to apply and reinforce it in their day-to-day work very soon afterwards, as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve shows.

INFO

The Forgetting Curve produced by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus shows that after 20 minutes, you will recall only 60% of a text you have learned. The loss of retention continues over time, so that after 60 minutes, you will recall only 45% of what you learned, and after 24 hours only about 34%. Long-term, you will retain only about 15% of the text you learned.

Paradox: More courses, poorer learning outcomes

Temme also notes that the vast amounts of digital learning content generated during the pandemic resulted in many learners feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of courses and unable to tell which ones were actually relevant for them. In other words, offering more courses does not necessarily lead to greater initial learning or long-term retention.

 

For this reason, Temme increasingly favours problem-based learning over classic ‘ready-made’ learning content. Learners engaging with a real-life problem or question can, by using the right social collaboration tools, for example, quickly and easily work their way towards a real-life solution with support from other learners and/or from experts.

By using social collaboration in this way and by learning in the moment of need, learners retain their learning for much longer. They progress from inert knowledge to understanding and, by applying that understanding immediately, they achieve specific competencies.

Netflix-style learning with channels

This leads into an important new feature that imc AG is currently developing for its LMS, the imc Learning Suite, in partnership with Mercedes: channels. The idea of channels is to make learning as easy as watching Netflix or YouTube: learners simply select topics they find interesting or that are relevant to their needs and are then presented with matching content recommendations.

 

It doesn’t matter what a topic’s form or scope is. The learner is shown everything that matches the topic: everything from short learning nuggets to in-depth explanatory videos to learner-made tutorials. The main focus, however, is on learning nuggets that are readily consumed as part of independent research and can be created without too much investment of time and effort on the part of experts.

 

These short learning units offer the added benefit that they can be quickly consumed in the moment of need and on the job, which leads to improved internalisation and retention of knowledge. Consequently, the learning outcomes are superior to those achieved in situations where employees first learn and then try to recall the knowledge months later when they need to put it into practice.

Channels in the LMS

Users receive notifications whenever new content is added to the topics to which they have subscribed. Marion Sander-Feld, Head of Product Management for imc Learning Suite, explains: “Channels are topic-based containers. They are represented on screen by tiles and can contain various didactic learning nuggets, such as videos, links or PDFs. The scope is not limited to highly professional and expensive-to-produce training courses.

This is intentional, because we also want the channels to provide content that can be produced quickly in order to meet urgent learning needs. In providing this new feature, we also want to enhance the learning experience because making it faster and more intuitive to navigate the LMS and find the desired content significantly improves learning outcomes.”

 

By expanding the learning offering beyond the usual highly polished web-based training sessions and enabling all users to post their own learning content, channels will make learning a more bottom-up and accessible experience for all. This addition of user-generated content, which all subject experts will be able to create with ease, will help to reduce knowledge loss.

Limitations of self-directed learning

So far, so good. But as is so often the case, self-directed learning is not necessarily the one and only solution that’s needed. There will always be content that employees are loath to engage with – courses on data protection, compliance or IT security, for example.

 

These are extremely important topics that require not just learning, but genuine internalisation, so it’s best not to leave that entirely to voluntary self-selection. But even with compulsory training like this, the managers responsible should still apply the problem-based strategies of self-directed learning.

 

Thus, if the topic is cyber security, the content should present concrete examples and real-life problem scenarios that show employees how they can help prevent cyberattacks. And if this approach works with less-than-popular courses, it is sure to be a major success when it comes to self-selected content. Because learning should be like watching Netflix: child’s play.

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Diary of an LMS

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Informal learning: Everyday hero of work

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
LMS Hot Topics Header, diary of an LMS
LMS Hot Topics
Diary of an LMS

Diary of a Learning Management System

imc Learning Suite: Six pro tips to make your life easier when working with the LMS

Ever had words with your car? Yelled at the TV? Sworn out loud as you stab angrily at your PC keyboard? Or muttered “stupid system!” – only to discover, somewhat sheepishly, that the problem lay with you, not the system? It’s OK, we’re no different. Our consultants are intimately familiar with this phenomenon, too.

 

That’s why we talked to our consultants about the misconceptions and obstacles that most frequently cause LMS clients grief, and how they can be overcome. And sometimes it’s good to see things through the other person’s eyes, so we’ve decided to write this from the point of view of our learning management system and share some tips for a better handling of the LMS. That’s right, you may not be aware of it, but our LMS has feelings too, and it’s only trying to help!

 

The following excerpt from the diary of our learning plattforn is a light-hearted take on human-system interaction, but it contains genuine and practicable expert advice that will hopefully make working life less stressful and more relaxed for all concerned – you, the system, and our consultants.

LMS Hot Topics seperator queue

Dear Diary,

8 a.m.: Dealing with a sudden mass influx of visitors

This morning, I wasn’t even fully awake and was hoping for a slow start to my day, but then I received another error message from China. It was from that important guest who checked in recently. Humans, by the way, always call guests “clients”, but “guests” sounds so much nicer to me.

Anyway, this super-important guest thinks it’s okay to check in an additional 50,000 learners without first telling us and giving my human colleagues – imc’s consultants and architecture experts – a chance to make the necessary server preparations. These preparations are quick to implement, but they’re not instantaneous. I mean, have you ever tried to find room for 50,000 guests who show up on your doorstep unannounced? We pride ourselves on being great hosts, and part of being a great host is being prepared.

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Pro tip 1:

If you know you are going to need a large volume of additional licences, please give the consultants in charge seven to ten days’ advance notice.

Note: This does not apply to completely new clients or enterprise groups. In these cases, the preparations take an average of three months, as the process is a lot more involved.

12:15 p.m.: Bugs vs. user errors: Banishing misconceptions

My personal coach, Lia, always says I need to work on my stress management – it was her recommendation to keep a diary. I like Lia. She listens and helps me manage my endearing little peculiarities – the things that humans for some reason call bugs.

Bugs! Such an unkind word to use, given that everyone has their little quirks and tics. And to be perfectly honest, many of so-called bugs are not actually my fault, they’re user errors. There is always potential for user error, which is why my human colleagues and experts – wonderful people like Andreas and Christian – are there to help. They are excellent human-machine interpreters and are only too happy to clear up these sorts of little misunderstandings and misconceptions.

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Pro tip2, for system administrators

Please do the user training sessions with our consultants and refer to the relevant training documentation. It will save a lot of time, boost productivity and reduce stress. That’s a promise!

1:00 p.m.: How gamification boosts motivation and enhances learning outcomes

It’s so pleasing to see that my new functions are being accepted and used by more and more guests. And to think that only a couple of years ago, they still had to log in separately to every system I’m connected to. Such a chore and a bore! But now, thanks to single sign-on authentication, it’s all so much simpler, and they can now access the entire learning ecosystem with a single click.

A lot has happened on the gamification front too. Being able to collect badges after completing courses is extremely motivating and makes learning much more fun. Up until quite recently, gamification tended to be frowned upon, especially in the more staid German companies. They’re supposed to be learning, not playing! Well, I disagree, because I can combine learning and play.

Successful learning comes from motivation, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend my skill management feature. With skill management, I can facilitate employee development by highlighting the skills employees already possess, and those they are yet to acquire.

The employer can then compare this information with the skill requirements in job profiles to identify which candidates still need development in specific areas, and which ones are suitable for the role because they already have the required skill set. This can be applied to all selection scenarios, from promotions to filling vacancies. I firmly believe that not using this feature is a wasted opportunity, particularly for guests who have a lot of office-based employees.

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Pro tip 3

Don’t be afraid to move with the times! E-learning is so yesterday. Today, it’s all about creating unique learning experiences. Whether it’s small hacks, the use of gamification, or skill management, your employees will not only love it, they will become more productive.

imc LMS Hot Topics Netflix learning

3:30 p.m.: Using Netflix-like features to create unique learning experiences

Time for a coffee break, time to share a little secret: I will soon be getting some amazing new functions. And the best thing about it is that people are comparing me with Netflix – finally, a function that’s instantly recognizable for every user! Very clever of my developers to have come up with this: my new ability to recognize when different items of learning content deal with related topics. I can now recommend new courses or learning videos based on these similarities.

I can’t wait to see how this function is received once the first guests start trying it out. Who ever said learning systems are unsexy?

 

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Pro tip 4

You should definitely check out the new channel function. Channels not only look great, they transform learning into a real experience.

3:45 p.m.: Courses and learning paths made easy

That’s my caffeine fix sorted. Time to move on to the next real challenge – in the form of a new guest from Australia. This guest creates three new courses, then complains that there’s no easy overview of who has done the courses or completed the tests.

But that’s another major misconception, unfortunately, because the solution he needs is already there: learning paths. Let me explain. First of all, there’s learning content. That can be any kind of training, whether face-to-face or digital. If I combine multiple items of content, then that’s a course. I can then combine multiple courses to create a learning path. If I want to, I can then also define various course prerequisites.

 

The idea of prerequisites is that the learner can’t progress to a higher-level course until they have passed the courses below it. You can even create placeholders – course templates – for individual courses in the learning path if, say, the course dates have not yet been finalized. Guests can then book the relevant courses in the learning path once the dates have been finalized, and the courses created. With this set-up, the administrator will always have total transparency regarding how far along the learning path the individual learners are, and can see full details of the courses.

LMS Hot Topics courses vs. learning path
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Pro tip 5

Learning paths need to be well thought out because they are intended for longer-term development programmes. In that sense, they are like semester schedules at universities. The latter comprise various lectures or courses, and by the end of the semester, students need to have attended all the lectures in order to pass.

So, it’s important to think carefully in advance about the purpose for which an item of learning content, a course or learning path is being created. Once you have created a learning path, it’s not that easy to make changes. If you are unsure, it’s best to double check with our consultants.

5:00 p.m.: Smart decisions with learning analytics

What a day! But the end is in sight. Meanwhile, there’s something I really want to get off my chest: I’m a precision system, and I can show humans exactly what they want to – or are allowed to – see, but only if they correctly specify what they want via my user interface.

The same principle also applies to authorisations. It makes total sense that sales consultants who only sell, say, drilling machines should not need access to user guides for gardening tools. But to give effect to that, you actually need to specify it in the roles and rights concept. That way, the group defined as “sales consultants for drilling machines” will only be able to view user manuals for drilling machines.

 

Also, my creators are constantly talking about learning analytics and how it can be used to create really cool dashboards. That’s another new functionality that I’m very proud of. Learning analytics enables you to “measure the business outcome of the learning process,” as my big boss and Head of Product Management here at imc, Wolfram Jost, would say. In other words, learning analytics lets humans track whether they are getting a good return on their investment in learning. Definitely a key technology to keep an eye on!

 

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Pro tip 6

To get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions, so, if you would like to make purposeful use of learning analytics, it’s worth talking to a data expert or asking our consultants about targeted training courses.

6:00 p.m.: Performance review and new developments on the horizon

Well, it’s nearly time to finish up for the day, and I’ve got a really nice evening planned. The product management team will be coming by shortly, and I’ll be paying really close attention to what they say, because it’s about my future. I love my product managers because they’re always checking me over closely to spot untapped potential and find ways of making me even better than my competitors. Time to grab some data snacks, sit back and relax. I can’t wait to find out what updates they’ve got in mind for me.

 

Ok, Diary, talk to you again tomorrow!

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
how much for an LMS
LMS Hot Topics
How much for an LMS?

How much does an LMS cost?

Why good planning saves time and money when investing in a learning management system

Who actually needs a learning management system (LMS)? What should you consider in your planning? Above all: How much does an LMS cost?

It is questions like these that many decision-makers are looking at when seeking to professionalise and digitise learning in their company. That is reason enough to get to the bottom of it all.

If you ask a real estate agent how much a house costs in general, they will likely roll their eyes at you and bombard you with a number of questions: What location are you looking at? How many rooms? What size? With or without a garden? Are you looking to self-build and be actively involved, or would you prefer a turnkey house? Solid construction or prefab? How do you want it finished and furnished? Laminate or wooden flooring?

 

There is a never-ending stream of questions needing clarification. As you can see, quoting costs without considering the parameters is not reasonable or tenable.

Bernd Heischmann, imc Learning

Bernd Heischmann, LMS expert at imc Learning

The same applies to learning management systems. As LMS expert at imc learning, Bernd Heischmann helps customers find answers to such questions, and ensures that the chosen LMS maps all requested scenarios and meets the (future) requirements. It pays to remember, that miscalculations and unnecessary changes after implementations are far more expensive than an investment based on a thorough needs analysis.

 

But one thing at a time: We asked Bernd about the most common questions relating to LMS costs and his tips for implementation.

Hello Bernd! First tell us, what contributes to LMS costing?

You are always looking at one-off costs and recurrent costs. One-off costs include things like implementing a customised configuration or LMS adjustment. Then you need to link other systems. Similar to a house, the planning, design and set-up of an LMS also needs to be tailored to the user so that their needs are met.

Especially in the planning phase, there are often enormous differences between different projects. In many cases, an LMS with an extensive feature set can be used “as is” and configurations are limited to a custom set-up.

 

If necessary, modules can be added. However, many customers want their LMS to be 100% tailored to their specific requirements. In that case, it’s worth looking at customising the system. Of course, that is more expensive than implementing an LMS in line with the existing system standard.

It is also important to remember that the “interior design” of an LMS is an added cost – for things like creating attractive learning content.

 

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution also involves recurrent fees. Typically, usage fees for such an all-in-one package of system provision and cloud hosting are charged per user. Yet, even with an alternative on-premises solution where the LMS is hosted in-house, software maintenance and support represent ongoing expenditures and hosting costs are incurred in addition to the one-off licence fees.

How big does a company need to be for an LMS to pay off?

An LMS can be a worthwhile investment for companies of any size – from SMEs to large corporations. It just depends on how it is used for what purpose. For instance, many of our customers not only train their own employees, but also their customers and partners. This helps them retain existing customers and partners, increase loyalty and attract new customers.

Many create a business model whereby they offer targeted e-learning courses in their system to third parties for a fee. The LMS then pays for itself very quickly.

 

We should also remember that professional development has become a major focus for employees and applicants. A company can no longer get away with neglecting training for their employees. Regular up-to-date professional development is no longer considered an optional benefit, but an integral part of a modern corporate culture that should be expected.

LMS Hot Topics picture for costs

How long does it take to roll out a learning management system?

The technical implementation of an LMS without custom programming or sophisticated interfaces takes roughly three months. Of course, this can vary depending on the scope of the project.

Then, you also need to factor in the time to select a suitable and viable LMS and develop an effective concept for introducing e-learning in the company.  Costs can quickly explode if suitability issues are only detected after implementation, or the selected system fails to evolve with the company and becomes obsolete after only a few years.

What are your top tips for a successful rollout?

As stated earlier, careful planning is absolutely crucial. Anything you miss in the beginning could turn into a major expense later on. I would therefore advise thinking carefully about future plans and other potential ways to leverage the system. If add-ons and extensions are considered from the start, a modular system that is easy to upgrade might be the answer.

Modern LMS have many functions, but different companies need different feature sets. With a modular system, the functional scope needed at a given time can be selected, limiting costs. As requirements change, additional features can be added one by one.

 

Stakeholder management is another important aspect. An LMS rarely involves just a single department. It usually affects the entire company. It is important to get the buy-in of key decision-makers. Typically, you are looking at IT, Personnel Development and L&D, but you might also want to consult Sales and the Works Council.

 

My final tip: It is vital that sufficient relevant content is available, and that you start off with excellent learning content. When the first learners start using the system, it is an absolute must the learning content they find there is exciting.

Investing in a small number of flagship projects that really inspire your learners is well worth the effort. First impressions count, and a bad impression is hard to rectify. Among our customers, the current trend for flagship projects involves learning games in 2D or 3D environments that allow learners to explore specific worlds. These look and feel nothing like traditional e-learning courses and create a unique atmosphere. You can also choose to create your own learning content, leverage content libraries or purchase off-the-shelf learning content. Simply remember that making a good first impression is key to wide-spread acceptance of the system.

 

Thank you very much!

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
LMS Hot Topics Headless LMS
LMS Hot Topics
FAQ: Headless LMS

Headless LMS – definitely not brainless

The purpose and benefits of a headless LMS

Anyone involved in software development will likely be familiar with the term “headless system” – but the same cannot be said about HR or L&D staff.

Yet, it’s worth taking a look at the topic, given that headless systems – that is, systems without their own manufacturer-defined user interface – are gaining importance in many fields. This also applies to learning management systems (LMS). That is why we created an overview of the structure and benefits of headless LMS and answer the key questions here.

LMS Hot Topics

Definition: What does “headless LMS” mean?

A headless LMS has no pre-defined user interface or “head”. This makes it easy to integrate its content and functions into other systems’ user interfaces, resulting in a significantly enhanced user experience. The content can be played in various formats and through different channels or devices. This means that the frontend and the backend are no longer monolithically integrated.

 

The LMS is used exclusively in the backend and serves as an administrative system. The functions and content are not shown via a human user interface, but through application programming interfaces (APIs). This facilitates customised frontend development and adjustment for different user groups.

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Why choose a headless LMS?

It has several benefits. User experience is one of the major challenges for all learning platforms. After all, these systems house enormous data volumes, which must be played to thousands or even millions of users in a targeted and clear manner. Developing a generic user experience that is suitable for all these different user groups and use cases is difficult – if not impossible.

 

It is also extremely difficult to decide which content is shown to which user group (e.g., administrators, course administrators, learners, trainees), and how exactly that content is presented. The more an LMS can be tailored to a specific company and the more additional systems are integrated, the more complex it becomes. In such cases, a headless LMS can provide greater clarity, as tailored content can be shown to each user group.

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How does this work in practice?

Say, a learner receives a badge or certificate for passing a course, and this is displayed in their learning status in the LMS. With a headless LMS, this progress could also be shown elsewhere – for example, in the employee’s profile on the company’s social intranet.

Third-party tools and other e-learning marketplaces  can equally be integrated and shown in the same interface, removing the need for the learner to keep switching between different systems.

Some customers also use this type of system when they only want to integrate selected courses or content from the LMS into a dedicated portal they are setting up.

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Headless LMS and learning ecosystem: Is it a match?

Indeed, they could make a perfect couple – but only if they can talk to each other! In this case, that primarily relates to the interfaces (APIs). A learning ecosystem comprises several systems that must maintain continuous communication with each other. If the LMS has no own frontend, it delivers its data to a higher-level system within the ecosystem which displays the information.

What benefits does a headless LMS offer?

Especially within a learning ecosystem comprising several systems in communication with each other, a headless LMS makes data maintenance significantly easier while also facilitating greater flexibility and customisation. Administrators can use a single source, rather than updating, managing and publishing the same data set on several platforms.

This data source serves the entire learning or software ecosystem and offers complete version control. The data is automatically synchronised across all interfaces that use this feature via APIs.

 

Flexibility increases at the same time, because administrators can precisely select the LMS components they want to display or hide. Ideally, this provides the user with a leaner user interface that is easier to navigate.

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What are the pitfalls?

The things that look easiest tend to require the most work. This also applies to any software: A user-friendly, learner-centric environment requires significant technical and strategic know-how. It is important to invest in sound conceptual design to prevent incorrect content entries, buggy interfaces or frequent system fixes that may not even deliver improvements.

Once the decision has been made to purchase a learning platform, the real work begins. After a long-lasting struggle to reach a decision, the ones in charge are then highly motivated and want to start as quickly as possible with the selection of a provider and implementation.

However, they too often forget to involve important stakeholders in their own company in good time. If there is no early exchange about responsibilities, requirements or possible risks, and if other departments and employees are left out, problems are inevitable. Therefore, despite all the euphoria, first write a list and get those responsible around the table. Then go for it!

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
lms hot topics E-Learning Glossar
The eLearning Glossary
All elearning terms and abbreviations from A to Z

The Ultimate eLearning Jargon Glossary 2022

LMS, LXP, SCORM, WBT, EPSS, NGLE, CBT, ITS!? Lost in a world of elearning terms and abbreviations? 

Digital learning is teeming with cryptic terms, many of which are not at all self-explanatory and have various, equally-confusing alternatives.

 

In this A to Z, we shed some light on the subject and have compiled a list of the most important terms and abbreviations in the field of e-learning in 2022.

 

Jump to a relevant section or scroll on to browse…

 

A to F   /   A  -  B  -  C  -  D  -  E

 

G to M   /   G  -  I  -  L  -  M

 

N to R   /   N  -  O  -  P  -  R

 

S to Z   /   S  -  V  -  W  -  X

A

Adaptive Learning Systems (aka Intelligent Tutoring Systems / ITS)

Adaptive learning systems gather data on the learner's activities and use this to adapt the learning journey to the individual’s observed needs. Using algorithms, the system will deliver image based content to a visual learner and interactive content to a communicative learner, or advanced content to a learner showing expertise in the subject area.

API

The term API stands for Application Programming Interface. This is a tool that acts as a bridge between two software platforms, allowing them to communicate data with one another. 

 

In the context of e-learning, an API can be hugely valuable by allowing your learning platform to communicate learner data with related business systems, such as your HR software or collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. This saves time by reducing the need to duplicate the management of employee data across multiple platforms.

Authoring Tool

An authoring tool is software for making it easier to create e-learning content. This could include interactive applications with which text, graphics, sound and interactivity can be combined to form a piece of content. Authoring tools can be used to create simple presentations or WBT (web-based training), or with an advanced tool - a full interactive module. No programming knowledge is required for using an authoring tool.

 

Learn more about our own authoring tools:

imc Express and imc Content Studio.

B

Blended Learning

Blended learning uses a combination of online and in person training to deliver training. The term often also refers to a blend of instructional methods, pedagogical approaches and technologies.

 

More about blended learning advice on our blog.

C

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is the housing of digital resources or applications across multiple servers, often across multiple data centres or even countries. This can help to reduce the risk of downtime from a single machine failure.

 

Also known as cloud-based hosting, this can be a highly effective way for organisations - especially large, multi-site operations - to ensure speed of resource delivery regardless of location, and to scale as needed without the potential limitation of a single machine.

Conversational Learning (aka Conversational Interfaces)

Conversational learning interfaces utilise the basic concepts of social learning to create an interactive learning experience. The chatbot guides the user through the learning material with a question and answer conversation between user and bot. 

 

Emoji's are a key part of conversational learning. Used as a replacement for body language, emoji's provide the learner with the non-verbal cues that are missing from digital training tools. 

Custom content (aka bespoke content)

Custom elearning content is developed specifically for the needs of any individual client, in order to best meet their current and future training needs.

 

The alternative is ‘off the shelf content’, which is typically lower cost and used to deliver quick, compliance-based training. This can be good for ‘tick-box’ kind of training in areas such as basic health and safety awareness.

 

However, if you’re looking to use e-learning to engage learners and drive performance in the context of your business, then custom content will tend to be much more effective.

 

Learn about the custom elearning content development services we offer at imc.

D

Digitisation, Digitalisation and Digital Transformation

Digitisation is simply the transfer of assets from analogue to digital. In the context of learning, this is often taking paper based training materials or face to face classroom delivery, and creating online learning media, which is often housed in an LMS. 

 

Digitalisation is the tactical use of digital tools to improve business processes. For example, this could be analysis of employee or team data within a performance management system (or even just a spreadsheet), in order to identify skills gaps or improvements to training materials. Digitalisation could go as far as changing a business model - for example, a physical goods store moving to ecommerce or a training company switching to selling courses online. 

 

Digital Transformation is the broadest move that happens as a strategic shift orchestrated by the highest level of management. It is a long-term, highly coordinated series of digitalisation projects that may need to overlap and interact with each other. 

 

Digital Transformation can be a powerful modernisation of an organisation that enables it to find new efficiencies, adopt the latest and future technologies, and literally change the organisational culture.

E

e-Learning

This is what imc Learning is all about - the term e-learning stands for ‘electronic learning’. Also known as elearning without the hyphen and digital learning, the word dates back to the days of installing training software to your desktop computer from a CD-ROM. 

 

Now though, e-learning tends to be seen as synonymous with online learning and mobile learning that’s available anywhere and any time.

Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS)

An EPSS supports just-in-time (JIT) learning. In contrast to formal learning, this takes place at the point of need. EPSS is typically deployed to support a piece of software and can either guide a user through a process or act as a JIT tool, on hand to provide support when needed. The user gains independence and confidence by efficiently learning new systems and processes without the aid of expert trainers.

 

More about Electronic Performance Support.

Extended Enterprise

An extended enterprise means a company that needs to train, for example, franchisees, external service providers, brokers, their supply chain etc. Such training can be tackled strategically and efficiently by creating learning portals, customised for each type of audience, built into your LMS.

G

Game-Based Learning

The term Game-Based Learning refers to learning experiences that are delivered through the use of a game. A learning environment must be created that is attractive for the user, in which he or she can develop through positive, entertaining learning experiences.

 

More Game-Based Learning advice on our blog.

Gamification

This term refers to player motivation principles, such as rewards, to drive learner engagement. Gamification elements within training could be scores that are displayed to the learners and allow them to compare themselves with other players. Further gamification elements are badges and badges, which are awarded after completed tasks.

 

Gamification principles for motivation can be incorporated into training without the learning experience actually involving a game.

I

Instructional Design

This is a skill and process that combines foundational principles in learning psychology with the latest available technologies to design content for the best possible learning experience. Trends in recent years have moved towards learner engagement, as well as the effectiveness of content, helping people want to follow the training materials.

 

Multimedia content options, such as video that is now more accessible with ubiquitous, fast internet access, and principles such as gamification and games-based learning, are now key elements of the instructional design toolkit.

 

Modern e-learning software, such as our own authoring tools, allow L&D professionals and subject matter experts with no formal industrial design training to create effective learning content.

Interactive Learning

Interactive learning requires a greater level of learner involvement than the stereotypical, ‘click next’ e-learning experience. Interactive training content has been shown to bring better learning outcomes than a passive learner experience, as it tends to be more engaging and forces the learner to process information and put their learning into action.

Interactive Video

Interactive videos are films that allow learners to decide for themselves what they want to see next. The learner is thus not only a passive viewer, but actively determines what he or she sees and learns.

L

Learning Experience Platform (LXP)

The LXP is a relatively new concept that takes e-learning beyond a top-down, employer-led platform into being a more immersive environment where employees can explore what to learn next. This allows them to proactively develop their own knowledge and skills. 

Many LXPs take principles of context exploration and recommendation engines from the likes of Netflix. They can be a key tool for large companies to encourage a culture of learning.

Learning Nuggets

A learning nugget is a short learning unit or a building block or a mini module in e-learning that usually lasts no longer than five minutes. The term is often used in connection with Micro-Learning.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A Learning Management System, (LMS for short) is software used to digitally host, manage and track learning content, which is typically assigned by tutors to their learners.

 

More about Learning Management Systems on our Learning Suite page.

Learning Content Management System (LCMS)

A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) is software that enables the creation, storage and management of reusable learning objects. It also enables web-based learning to be organised and maintained by multiple authors. An LCMS combines the functionality of an LMS and a content management system (CMS).

Learning Record Store (LRS)

A Learning Record Store is connected to an xAPI or Tin Cab and collects, stores and retrieves data and learning activities. An LRS can be integrated into an existing LMS.

Learning System Suite

The concept of the Learning System Suite is a combination of an LMS and LXP, as well as a NGLE.

It provides all the top-down training delivery and assessment capabilities associated with a Learning Management System (LMS) for the essentials of onboarding and compliance, combined with the intuitive and engaging environment of a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) and the broader ongoing training, collaboration and interoperability you might consider to be a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) (or NGLE). 

 

The imc Learning Suite is built for exactly this purpose - a solution for learning management, experience and performance all in one place, while integrating seamlessly into your existing tech stack.

M

Micro-Learning

Learning content is divided into small units or building blocks for the user to access as individual elements at any time. This flexible approach is also often termed as 'learning nuggets'.

Mobile Learning (M-Learning)

Mobile Learning refers to training accessed through mobile devices. This makes the learning experience more flexible and more independent of time and location. 

 

Mobile Learning modules are typically designed primarily for a smaller screen size, especially phones, enabling any time, anywhere learning. This requires streamlined content that is less taxing on bandwidth, and a different approach to user navigation. 

 

More about Mobile Learning on our blog.

MOOC

A MOOC (a Massive Open Online Course) is an online course aimed at a large number of participants and is usually free of charge. Pioneers of this format are Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.

Multi-tenancy LMS

In the field of software, the term multi-tenancy refers to a single application (so in our context, the LMS) shared by multiple user groups who each experience their own, individualised learning environment. This means that different user groups can have different learning portals (each with its own entry portal, its own features, user rights, content, look & feel, etc.), while the system is centrally managed through a single LMS. 

 

This can greatly reduce the cost and time needed to adapt the training experience for different teams, partner organisations, or even customers. 

 

Read more about multi-tenancy LMS solutions in our in-depth article on the topic.

N

Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE)

L&D professionals and industry commentators have been bemoaning the limitations of learning management systems and predicting their imminent death almost since they were invented. One of the key complaints is their closed nature that requires a great deal of additional administration alongside other business and HR systems.

 

The idea of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment or NGDLE is that it opens up a learning and people performance ecosystem of tools with open standards and principles, perhaps with single sign on (SSO), which will greatly reduce the siloing of learning assessment, collaboration, feedback and general communication.

 

Some people drop the ‘Digital’ as a given, giving us NGLE.

 

Our own imc Learning Suite is an example of such an integrated solution that plays nicely with other popular business tech solutions.

O

On-site Hosting (aka on-premise hosting)

In contrast to cloud hosting where data can be stored on multiple servers, and possibly even across multiple territories, on-site hosting will house data at a single client location. 

 

While data security has generally improved over the years and many organisations have moved entirely over to the cloud, on-site hosting can still be appropriate for some organisations where security is of extra concern, and / or to ensure compliance with specific industry or local regulations. 

 

The downside of on-site / on-premise hosting compared to cloud tends to be reduced scalability as resource needs grow or the economies of scale associated with a company maintaining thousands of machines at one or more data centres, rather than a small number on-site. However, this is not a concern for some single-site organisations.

On-the-Job-Training (OJT)

On the Job Training refers to learning that takes place alongside activities at the workplace, and usually under the guidance of a colleague, coach or mentor or also through an EPSS. In colloquial terms, "learning by doing" refers to this type of training.

P

Performance Management System

A performance management system enables the ongoing, regular monitoring of employees against KPIs and individual targets. These targets and expectations will be set to support collective contribution towards the wider organisational strategy. 

 

A good performance management system will include learning resources to help support individuals and give them data on their own performance, while providing a management dashboard so that L&D and HR teams can identify an issues, in order to offer additional support or intervention where needed.

 

The imc Learning Suite incorporates the functionalities of a Performance Management System in the LMS. With its extensive Learning Analytics modules, the imc Learning Suite provides both learners and tutors as well as managers with clear dashboards regarding the learner's progress and performance.

Predictive Analytics

The leading modern learning management systems can aid in the use of learner data to identify potential training requirements of individuals or certain groups. 

 

Predictive analytics is a foundation of adaptive learning systems and learning experience platforms.

R

REST API

API (Application Program Interface) as explained above is a general set of protocols that enables various software to interact and communicate data between each other. REST API or RESTful API (Representational State Transfer) is a subset of this that deals specifically with web applications and is mostly used to handle HTTP requests. 

S

SCIM

The abbreviation SCIM stands for System for Cross-domain Identity Management and is one of the open standards for managing user information across platforms. In the context of L&D and HR, it can greatly streamline IT tasks and reduce admin time when using cloud-based apps and services, as it allows your IT team to automate many repetitive tasks, such as employee details and learning requirements.

SCORM

The abbreviation SCORM stands for "Sharable Content Object Reference Model" which references the digital packaging of e-learning courses. Through this format, SCORM courses can be imported and launched through any SCORM compliant platform. Industry standard LMS all include SCORM players.

Serious Game (related terms: Adventure Game or Learning Game)

Serious games are not exclusively for entertainment purposes, but instead convey knowledge or skills through playful actions. See also: Gamification and Game-based Learning which aim to engage and motivate learners through adventures and competition.

Social Learning

Social Learning promotes an interaction between learners through sharing learning experiences. e-Learning can include social elements through comment functions, social media postings, instant messages, forums, wikis, video chats, etc. which can typically be integrated with modern LMS. In addition, virtual communities can be set up to exchange ideas, knowledge and new contributions.

More about Social Learning on our blog.

V

Validated Learning Management System (VLMS)

Many companies – for instance, in the food, pharmaceutical or medical sector – need to meet strict regulatory requirements such as FDA Title 21 CFR Part 11. These requirements include that all processes leading up to the production of a product have to be documented and verified at any time. This also applies to employee training, as it is an essential factor in the quality management process.

 

A Validated Learning Management System (VLMS) - like the imc Learning Suite - enables organisations to make their training processes compliant with these strict requirements. Read more about Validation and Validated Learning Management Systems here.

Video-Based Learning

Learning through videos is popular with both employers and learners as it can convey much more information than static formats in a short space of time, and can appeal to those who prefer visual or auditory content. Videos can be designed and animated in different ways to contextualise learning, or directed by real people - 'characters' - who guide learners through a topic. 'Explainer videos' can be highly effective for onboarding new staff and introducing new concepts.

 

An advanced use of video-based learning is the interactive video.

 

More about Video-Based Learning on the blog.

W

Web-based Training (WBT)

Unlike computer-based training (CBT), no specific software installation is required. Instead, with WBT, the user accesses learning materials via a website or online learning platform.

X

xAPI (also Experience API or Tin Can)

xAPI is often seen as a further development of SCORM. In principle, learning content and learning management systems (LMS) can exchange information with each other in order to record a wide variety of data and learning activities. 

 

To this end, xAPI has redefined some of the basic practices for tracking learning experiences. The main difference between xAPI and SCORM is the type of learning that each participant can follow.

While SCORM is limited to recording online learning, xAPI can track almost any activity. Here xAPI provides a much more detailed view of learning progress, both online and offline.

 

Different learning methods that xAPI can track include reading a web page, attending an event, borrowing a library book, playing a game, blended learning, and team-based learning. The xAPI data is stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS).

?

Do you miss anything?

We hope we’ve shed some light on the most mysterious e-learning terminology.

 

Do you have any questions, additions or suggestions?

Feel free to contact us!

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I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

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Discovering new worlds of corporate learning

The L&D sector has largely reached a consensus: Customisation must play a bigger role in corporate learning. We must strive to democratise knowledge. The panacea needed to achieve these ambitious goals? A learning ecosystem. The focus is almost exclusively on soft factors related to the corporate and learning culture when establishing such a system, neglecting technological aspects.

 

Yet, suitable software such as a learning management system or learning experience portal is vital. Let’s take a step back to grasp what a system needs to achieve to map a meaningful learning ecosystem.

Inflexible systems and uniform learning paths for all employees are a thing of the past. Nowadays, companies face the challenge of creating a learning ecosystem that promotes self-directed corporate learning in the long term.

Such a system links various platforms and creates a clear structure for the different formats within a learning portal. The search function leverages all integrated systems, taking account of both internal and external sources.

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So much to the theory. The question now is: What technical structure enables a learning ecosystem to meet all requirements and offer real benefits to the employees?

What role does a learning management system (LMS) or learning experience portal (LXP) play within such learning universe?

imc expert Andreas Pohl, Director Research & Development, leads the development of such systems. Thanks to his many years of experience, he is very aware of the hidden potential learning ecosystems offer.

LMS Hot Topic Learning EcoSystem

Hello Andreas! What would a learning ecosystem look like in practice? Can you give us a specific example?

Let’s say we have an industrial client who manufactures special parts for large-scale equipment. All new employees and trainees must know how to use the equipment employed to make these parts.

They train on a training machine to learn the workflow. Now, it is possible to link this training machine to a learning management system (LMS). In that case, a new employee could log into the training machine with their personal identifier. Once they have mastered the workflow, the machine automatically transmits the training success to the LMS where the training is marked as complete.

 

This is then booked in the employee’s learning path or as learning progress – for instance, as part of their on-the-job training. Thus, the communication between the different systems makes learning easier. This example might be a little staged, but I think it illustrated the practical application of a learning ecosystem very well.

What does a learning ecosystem need to do to make learners use them?

Before you start thinking about a learning ecosystem, a suitable cultural framework must be in place.

As an employer, I need to motivate employees to use a system and allocate time for that purpose. At the same time, the user experience of the learning ecosystem (LE) must be structured in such a way that the employees enjoy using it, and make it easy for them to find relevant content.

A user will be far more likely to use the system when they can see an immediate and direct benefit. If that benefit is not obvious, you have lost.

How do you realise that from a technical perspective?

There are two approaches: First of all, I can make the LMS or LXP the central hub for my learning ecosystem. In this case, the LMS also needs to be able to present contents from external sources.

 

The learner can find materials from the entirety of the ecosystem through the frontend of the LMS. It makes no difference to them where learning content is stored – in the company LMS or, for instance, an integrated content library. For the learners, it is important that the system is easy to navigate and that they can quickly find relevant contents without jumping through hoops. Whether or not this takes them into a different system is irrelevant.

 

The second approach is to subordinate the LMS to the overarching portal. Rather than being at the centre itself, it delivers its results to the top level. This is useful when a central portal already exists and the LMS is integrated at a later stage.

How does an LMS become part of a learning ecosystem? What are the prerequisites?

In the second case – when the LMS is a cog in the wheel – the contents must be supplied to the overarching system. Indexing then becomes a major factor. That means that content must be provided in a format that triggers useful search hits presented and shown in a meaningful manner. The same applies to recommendations the system gives the user based on learning habits or interests.

 

Good APIs (application programming interfaces) are the key success factor for these types of functions. They facilitate the communication between the different applications. Effective and standardised interfaces are always important in IT, but whenever several systems come together, they become absolutely crucial.

LMS Hot Topic Learning EcoSystem Rocket engine

How does an increase in content affect the individual interfaces and components?

This is a very interesting question. Let’s break it up into two parts. To illustrate: Your universe might grow because the number of planets is increasing, or because the existing planets are becoming more populated. These are two very different scenarios.

Similarly, you can expand your learning ecosystem by integrating or linking new components, or by adding more content to the existing elements.

 

After all, the purpose of a learning ecosystem is to continuously and frequently change the volume of the learning content, and the integration of user-generated content (UGC). Going back to our analogy, user-generated content merely increases population density on a given planet. From a technical perspective, this is not a critical process, as the growth takes place within an existing system with no effect on the complexity of that system. It would therefore not qualify as a true expansion.

So, what is “true” expansion? What do we have to watch out for?

I would say a true expansion of the ecosystem involves the integration of additional systems or a new interface. This expansion process is somewhat slower, as each new system needs new interfaces or gateways.

 

Each “planet” needs to provide the information within the LMS to the other “planets” – and ultimately the user – through standardised interfaces, and various APIs as well as an event bus are utilised for this purpose. Meanwhile, the central system must be able to absorb content and integrate it in its search function to make it accessible to its users.

LMS Hot Topic Learning Satellit

How does the system know which content should be shown?

The system can only show content it knows. That means either the index content must be transmitted to the system – for example, via a data or event bus – or the system must have direct access to the index. Naturally, this can only work if indices are properly maintained and clearly structured.

What role does the data or event bus play?

An event bus is basically a messaging system. One system throws a message onto the bus, the bus takes off, and the next system can retrieve the message.

The message does not disappear after it is retrieved by one system – it remains available for the other systems. For example, systems A, B and C “take” the message, but system D ignores it, because it’s not relevant to it. Meanwhile, system D might “take” a different message that A, B and C are not interested in. Messages are thus distributed in real time, making manual message transfer to each system redundant (publisher-subscriber approach).

 

The challenge with this approach is that each system involved must be able to understand the message contents. This often requires some adjustments, as some systems might not be able to translate it directly. This is a major current topic for our development team.

What trends would you say can make learning ecosystems even better?

There is certainly room for improvement in system alignment, which also encompasses IoT (internet of things) and ESB (enterprise service buses). In other words, systems need to know both, which message they need to retrieve from the bus and which immediate adjustments they need to make.

This reduces the need for system adjustment. Now, an ESB is not a trivial thing, and might be overkill for a straightforward set-up with a small number of systems. However, my learning ecosystem is fairly complex and serves more than 10,000 employees, it makes an enormous difference.

 

Another thing we are working on at the moment is switching over to external contents. Right now, we can integrate external content in the search through our LMS, for example, through the LinkedIn Learning Content Importer. We want to expand that capability to enable the user to switch directly into the external system. We are currently collaborating with a major client to achieve that.

Finally, what should we pay particular attention to? Where do you see the most potential? Are there also disadvantages?

It comes at a cost. None of this is free. Everything we talked about needs investment. The systems need to be maintained continuously, as do the connections to the interfaces, and some of these systems might be proprietary. It’s not an automated process.

Ideally, that will enable me to create a learning ecosystem which optimises how the different needs of all my learners are met. Everything then comes from a single source, which is a whole lot more user friendly and actually feels like one system. A good learning ecosystem goes a long way towards improving the learner experience and providing real support to employees in their daily work.

 

My advice: Good planning is half the battle! It is important to clarify from the outset what you want to achieve, how many systems should be maintained and how much maintenance can be provided.

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
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Why companies cannot afford to skip training their external partners

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Only considering your own workforce when planning your training is short-sighted. After all, distributors, franchisees, agents, brokers, as well as association members and even volunteers contribute to corporate success just like your in-house employees.

Consequently, these external partners need to know all the details of your company’s products and services. In this article, our experts show how to set online training up for success in such an extended enterprise learning scenario, and how to turn a learning curve into an earning curve.

Revenue losses through deficient distributor and network partner training

To understand “partner training” let’s picture the following scenario: A manufacturer of glasses and other optical aids is launching new contact lenses that are particularly thin and suitable for sensitive eyes. First of all, the company’s own sales staff need to know the benefits of these contact lenses, as they sell the products either directly to the customers or to other companies like Company B.

If the products are sold on via a trading partner as an additional distribution channel, the sales consultants employed by Company B also need to know the particularities of the new lenses. The crux: You can only sell a product if you know its benefits. This holds true even more when a trading partner sells products from more than one provider and has several suppliers.

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NOTE

Distributors, trading partners AND external sales people all have the same need for specialist and product knowledge. Leaving out this target group when arranging learning and development measures is a missed opportunity for significant revenue growth.

Which target group should an extended enterprise training scenario take into account?

The circle of distribution partners includes more than just external sales employees. Depending on the sector and the orientation towards B2B or B2C business, a completely different set of target groups should be addressed and included. For example:

  • Distributors and dealers (car dealerships, opticians)
  • Franchisees (restaurants, insurance companies, real estate agents, etc.)
  • Specialist staff in the insurance, health or medical technology sectors
  • Joint ventures
  • Partners
  • Customers
  • Members and voluntary staff
  • Friends and family
  • The general public
Young woman presenting facts for Salessomething

Sales training for external partners: online or in person?

Once the external partner network has been defined, the question is: Is it better to train these employees online or in person? Both options have advantages and disadvantages which need to be balanced precisely. The idea to present such distributor training online – for instance, in a learning management system (LMS) – is not new.

The benefits are obvious: Instead of sales consultants travelling to attend on-site training, all employees ultimately involved in selling the product can complete relevant product training in the convenience of their home or their workplace using various devices. For instance, an optics manufacturer placing their products with various chains can provide remote access to the product training to all sales staff of those chains’ branches.

However, the drawback of such online training is that employees are often under time pressure or lack motivation to get started with such training. It is therefore crucial to minimise any barriers to entry for training measures.

For instance, complicated registration processes act as a deterrent. Combined online and face-to-face training within a hybrid learning concept or even a true blended learning scenario may also be suitable options.

 

Having assisted numerous imc customers with the development and support of such training, training expert Anika Rabe recommends:

Anika Rabe, imc AG

Anika Rabe

“Most of the time, product training is not designed for the general public and must therefore be set in a secure area. An LMS is a suitable option for this.

Yet, the training courses must be easily accessible for everyone and, above all, they must be interesting. In particular, external employees must be involved on an emotional level rather than stopping at technical product knowledge.”

group of employees laughing

Facts tell, stories sell

No emotion – no sales. Especially when technical differences between products or brands have no major impact, brand loyalty and great storytelling are key.

An external employee needs at least the same degree of emotional investment as a team member of the manufacturer - they must both convey enthusiasm for the product. That is exactly what product training needs to deliver. Items like smartphones, jewellery or cars are frequently bought for emotional reasons, rather than based on mere facts.

If a sales consultant can share their enthusiasm for a product, customers are more likely to buy it – even if, objectively, it is not better or cheaper.

Tap clogged with money

One size fits all is a thing of the past

The training that helps external partners internalise these stories differs from that most helpful to your own employees. Internal team members already have a special connection to the brand or the products. They already believe in the quality standard, and need not be won over.

This is an important aspect to take into account. One-size-fits-all solutions no longer have a place in training design – and even the best training will fail if it is unnecessarily difficult to access. This is why training expert Anika Rabe recommends: “Making it easier to access learning means making it more likely for the learning experience to be shared by everyone. For example, adding a QR code to products that are new or involve a steep learning curve is easy, and can be used to direct the user to the relevant training course with a simple scan.”

However, Anika notes that simplified access also makes it harder to verify training. If a training course requires no prior authentication, the creator of the learning content cannot know with certainty whether the end user really completed it, nor how much time they invested. It also remains unknown how much the learner actually learned, and whether they actively apply that knowledge.

Yet such assessment is important, especially when optimising and evaluating learning content. While in-depth learning analytics would be taking things too far in this context, it is a topic L&D managers should keep an eye on.

Combining both worlds to boost sales

According to Dr. Wolfram Jost, Board Member and Head of Product Management at imc, the only thing that really matters in the end is this: The learning curve must be transformed into an earning curve. No company trains employees just for fun – whether that is internal employees or external partners. Especially in the extended enterprise learningscenario, the fundamental objective is to increase the company’s sales. Partner training must contribute to corporate success.

It helps to keep these key questions in mind when designing your extended enterprise training to transform the learning outcome into revenue.

  • Objective: What is the training designed to achieve?
  • Target group: Who is meant to be trained? What prior knowledge does my target group have? What information and which stories do they need?
  • Conceptual design: What type or combination of training is suitable?
  • Performance assessment: How do I define success? How and when do I measure it?
  • Training access: How can I simplify training access?
  • Learner motivation: How can my training design ensure that external partners enjoy the training process and retain the learned content?
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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

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Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
Langeweile, Akten
LMS Hot Topics
Submitting control, gaining safety

Never file folders again!
How a validatable LMS significantly saves on time and paper

An interview with a representative from the medical technology industry

There will always be challenges to face when converting or introducing a Learning Management System (LMS). However, it becomes even more difficult if the learning platform also needs to map validatable processes. This is a particularly important issue in the medical, pharmaceutical and medical technology industries, as work processes and training courses must be fully documented. We spoke with a representative from the medical devices industry who recently made this type of changeover.

Hans-Heiko Müller, pfm medical ag

Hans-Heiko Müller, Team Manager for Organisational Learning at pfm medical ag

Hans-Heiko Müller works for pfm medical ag, an internationally operating medium-sized family business from Germany that offers special solutions in the healthcare sector. As Team Manager for Organisational Learning, he is responsible for the documentation of internal training and professional development.

He had already been working with imc's LMS and the imc Learning Suite since 2014 and initiated and oversaw the company's conversion to a validatable system. In this interview, he tells us how the conversion went, what challenges he and his team faced, and how many metres of DIN-A4 folders he now saves.

INFO

The term validation or validation obligation means that detailed evidence that a technical process has complied with requirements must be documented. Simply stated, the aim is to assure the quality of a product in order to prevent serious errors. This is extremely important for eliminating the endangerment of patients in high-risk industries such as the pharmaceutical industry and the manufacture of medical devices.

INTERVIEW
file folders

Hello Mr Müller, please tell us: What do validation processes and learning management systems have to do with each other?

The European Medical Device Regulation MDR and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA impose very strict requirements for this. These requirements state that, if a computer-aided system is integrated into a quality-relevant manufacturing process, documented evidence of this must be provided.

This evidence must show that the system meets the requirements and will perform exactly as specified, both now and in the future. In other words, the system, or in our case the LMS, must be verifiable at all times, and every process must be clearly traceable. This applies, for example, to any changes made to training materials.

At pfm medical, you decided to take the step towards a validatable LMS in mid-2020; how did this come about?

There were several reasons. For one thing, we have to meet the legal requirements, and the European Medical Device Regulation, which was enacted in 2017 and is mandatory as of May 2021, included some innovations that had to be implemented.

Another consideration was the fact that, generally speaking, documentation prior to validation was very time-consuming. We had to carry out a great many procedures manually.

file folders stapled, lms hot topics

How can I picture this manual documentation?

Basically, all employees must complete certain training courses, for example professional development courses on the individual products. Depending on the type of training, it may need to be repeated or renewed on a regular basis.

Before the conversion, the documentation worked like this: We manually enrolled an employee in the course, and they were able to complete it either online in the LMS or in person. Afterwards, they had to print out a certificate showing that they had taken the test, acknowledge this with their signature and either submit the slip in person or send it by post.

After receiving the letter, we had to check whether the employee was really enrolled on this course and confirm their participation manually in the system. Because we are required to keep these records by law, and in some cases for decades, we manually filed the supporting documents in paper folders.

 

This added up to about ten running metres of DIN A4 folders within two years. My colleague and I spent several hours each week comparing and categorising. This standard procedure, which is the order of the day in many companies in the medical technology sector, ties up a lot of resources.

100 PAGES DOCUMENTATION PER UPDATE

That sounds very cumbersome indeed. What does this process look like now with a validatable LMS?

All employees are assigned to different groups, and I can book these groups in specific training courses and onto specific learning paths. The additional professional development courses that are relevant for validation are also found there.

Let's take the example of medical device consultants who have to instruct doctors on our products. If I specify that the group with all consultants must attend a training course on the latest products every year, the system automatically books the entire group into the appropriate training courses. I can also set automated reminders (called escalation management) in the system. This will send a reminder to those who have not completed the training course by a certain time.

 

Once the employees have completed the course, they can log it directly into the system. To do this, they have to be logged in with their user name and password and also confirm their participation with their electronic signature (e-signature). That's it. We can then see when the employee has completed the training course, and the certificate is stored in the system. We don't have to print anything out or file anything extra.

LMS Hot Topics happy guy

Can you give us some insights into what was important to you when selecting a vendor?

We not only wanted support with the conversion of the system, but also help with the documentation going forward, because with every update, with every small change I make in the LMS, the potential impact of the change has to be documented. This is extremely time-consuming, and each update quickly adds up to 100 pages.

Theoretically, we could also do this work ourselves, in other words, run through all the scenarios completely and document them. However, I would need to hire at least one full-time employee to do this. We wanted a "comprehensive, worry-free package" that would not only cover the issue of security, but also make our work considerably easier.

What was the actual conversion process like?

First, we worked with imc to create a requirements analysis of the company's learning processes. This involves such aspects as the organisational structure and the structure of the learning content or learning processes. This was followed by the reconciliation of validation documents and the provision of user requirements and functional requirements including risk analysis.

 

Then, in the planning phase, we were provided with a development system (DEV system) for initial workshops. In the workshops, for example, the administrators were trained, and we set the system up and used it on a test basis together. In the third phase, a test system, or STAGE system, was put into production, and this in turn was tested. This was followed by the deployment of the productive system.

The process took just under four months altogether. If we had done it completely on our own, it would have taken us an estimated 18 to 24 months.

MORE SECURITY - LESS FLEXIBILITY

Did you have any fears or anxieties about the conversion beforehand? How did you deal with them?

Of course, we had respect for a project of this magnitude. But we saw the conversion as an opportunity to bring the old world into the digital age. For example, we took another look at all the processes and checked to see where they could be streamlined.

As a result, we now have training processes that are uniform for all employees, including those of our subsidiaries. There was a real change in culture which was also initiated by the fact that we worked with so many different departments.

 

At the same time, this presented a certain challenge, in that we first had to find out which "language" everyone spoke. Terms such as system or DEV system can be interpreted differently by each department. For example, since we worked with HR as well as IT, it was immensely important to make sure that everyone knew what was meant by which term. Clear agreements and a regular exchange are essential for this.

Were there any other challenges?

Personally, I didn't find it easy to relinquish some of the responsibility and rely on an outside vendor, because as I mentioned, I had already been working with the LMS since 2014, knew how it worked, and could make changes myself.

During the conversion, however, it was the provider, and not I who worked on the system. In a way, that was a leap of faith, because I didn't know exactly what was going on in the background. It made me a little nervous at first. However, we agreed on short sprints, in other words, weekly coordination meetings with the possibility of readjustments, so that I was reassured and could follow where we were in the process at any time.

 

However, you should be aware that you lose some flexibility with this sort of system. Changes that I could previously make myself with a check mark are now locked and have to go through a change process which has to be applied for, checked within the context of a four-eyes-principle and documented before it can be implemented. This strict process ensures the prescribed safety, but the price is less flexibility. Still, the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages for pfm medical.

Medizinproduktebreater, OTS imc AG

What would you recommend to companies facing the decision to have their system changed?

My advice: You have to take a careful look at the processes in advance and then have the courage to adapt them to the technology. Not the other way around. This way you can be sure that there will be no problems during audits.

 

Thank you so much for all your insights!

Further information

Curious to find out more about pfm medical's validatable LMS? Then check our reference page.

Or download the whitepaper about how to master validation with an LMS.

Not enough? Then watch the webinar recording with Hans-Heiko Müller related to the topic validation in a LMS (German only).

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
LMS Hot Topics Hero
LMS Hot Topics

Requirements an LMS must map for validated processes

... and how the series “Breaking Bad” would have stood up against 21 CFR Part 11

Do you know why pharmaceutical and medical companies might envy Walter White, the drug chef from “Breaking Bad”? Well, in contrast to those producing legal medication or medical products, he never had to deal with validated processes in a Learning Management System (LMS)! We reveal the processes suitable software must map if patient health is of concern, and where 21 CFR Part 11 comes into that.

Good to know

The US-American series “Breaking Bad” revolves around 50-year-old chemistry teacher Walter White. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, he starts a career as a drug chef and is caught in a downward spiral. The series received many awards around the world, and aired in the USA from 2008 until 2013.

What does the FDA regulate?

Let’s assume anti-hero Walter White and his companion Jesse Pinkman had managed a regular pharmaceutical or medical company. They would then be subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like all companies in this high-risk sector.

 

As a government agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA imposes strict rules on companies that manufacture food products, drugs and medical devices in general. All companies offering their products and produce in the USA are bound by these rules. In addition to the FDA, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also enacts such rules through the EU. This also includes good practice guidelines (GxP).

Info

GxP guidelines include GMP and GCP guidelines, which relate to the correct processes (Good Manufacturing Practice: GMP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) that must be applied in the production of medicinal products and substances.

Keeping with our analogy, Walter’s opponent, police investigator Hank Schrader, would have worked for the FDA instead of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and supervised the proper and traceable production.

Validation requirement pursuant to FDA 21 CFR Part 11? What?!

Imagine, Walter and Jesse had now established the legal company “Heisenberg Limited”. To ensure that their substance – sorry, the drugs – stay pure and are produced in a sterile environment to the highest hygiene standards, production takes place in a cleanroom instead of a caravan.

However, the only way to access this cleanroom is via an electronic airlock secured with a card reader. Only individuals who have passed the training course “Conduct in sterile rooms” in the past 12 months have access. Jesse would therefore have had to complete proper training first, rather than being trained on the job by Walter.

LMS Hot Topics breaker

A Learning Management System assumes the airlock and access control, only allowing suitably trained personnel to enter. Given that this makes the LMS an integral part of the production process and errors could put patient lives at risk, it is subject to a section of the Code of FDA, which is entitled 21 CFR Part 11 (CFR: Code of Federal Regulations).

In 21 CFR Part 11, the FDA formulates its requirements for producers of pharmaceutical and medicinal products in relation to all electronic records that are digitally created, amended, stored, transferred or accessed in any form. This can be in the form of texts, images, videos or audio files [Source: Johner Institut].

 

The validation requirement applies, demanding documentation of detailed proof that a technical process fulfils the requirements. Basically, this aims to assure the quality of a product to prevent serious errors. After all, nobody wants to produce or take drugs that are ineffective or even harmful.

Definition validation

  1. Validation means furnishing proof that a process permanently produces a product according to specifications and quality standards with a high degree of assurance.
  2. Validation of a computer-based system means the documented proof that the system satisfies the regulatory requirements, and that it currently works as required according to the specifications and will continue to do so in the future.

[Source: FDA Guidelines on General Principles of Process Validation]

“Never trust the user”: What a system must fulfill

To prevent this, production is guided by the following two mottos: Never trust the user! And: Anything that can be checked will be checked. To minimise human error, the FDA requires that any system used in this production process is validated and performs visible functions of such a validatable system, which include:

contact person

1. Audit trail

All data must be available in valid form, traceable and logged automatically, and it must be possible to export it. All modifications, planned courses and registrations are recorded using audit trails. Moreover, defined rights and roles must be clearly visible. It must be possible to trace at any time, what was changed when by whom and in which form.

Icon representing save and integrated

2. Electronic signature

An electronic signature can be defined as a requirement for the performance of certain critical actions. Changes may then only be carried out by authorised persons, who must confirm their authorisation with their user ID and password. This might apply, for example, to the approval of tests or the registration of learning content.

3. Versioning (approved records)

All learning content – from courses through course templates, learning path types, test questions, tests and certificates to cost centres or cost types – are subject to versioning. Any time the object characteristics are edited, the latest version of the object is stored in the system as a numbered version, and published if required. That means older versions cannot be lost. After all, modifications might need to be stored and documented for several years.

[Source: German only: §20, Prescription of drugs and active ingredients]

But that’s not all: Once these requirements are met, Heisenberg Limited must use validated processes to ensure that a risk analysis is carried out for each process and function before it is implemented, including the LMS. What happens if a user from category Y with X rights clicks Z button? What potential errors exist, and what is the effect resulting from these errors? What risks or dangers does an error create for the patient?

This can only be successful, traceable and verifiable if roles, processes and rights are clearly defined. The same applies to things like authorisation concepts and patches.

Validation good – all good – deal?

If this is starting to give you a headache and you’re tempted to reach for pharmaceutical products like headache medicine to ease that, we won’t be of much help. However, if you decide that you want to learn more about validation, we can offer you a deal.

Take a look at our webinar recording on validiation and LMS (German only).  Or send us a message. We really are nicer than the DEA or FDA. That’s a promise!

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Contact person

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager
lms hot topics E-Learning Glossar
LMS Hot Topics
Topics, trends & tools
LMS Hot Topics

Topics, trends & tools all around LMS

"LMS Hot Topics" is a series of articles dealing with all topics related to Learning Management Systems. No matter if you are already a real LnD-Pro with years of experience in the support of an LMS, or if you just want to get started - there is something for everyone here.

ALWAYS UP TO DATE

Topics, trends and tools

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Learning Management Systems (LMS) and everything that goes with it is what "LMS Hot Topics" is all about. The latest trends and tools are presented as well as various application possibilities and best-practice applications.

Whether E-Learning novice or LnD-Pro, "LMS Hot Topics" offers a broad spectrum of topics, interview partners and practical tips and tricks.

Do you have a topic or an exciting use case that we should report on? Then contact us!

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If you would like to find our more about the Learning Management System of imc, please find all information here.

Contact

I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.

Communication, creative content and social media are my passion. "KISS - Keep it short and simple" is my credo.

 

To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.

 

Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.

I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.

Photo of Nadine Kreutz
Nadine Kreutz
Communication Manager