Content Modernization Strategy: Need of the Hour

To adapt to technology disruptions and meet the modern-day learners’ demands, many organizations are looking at modernizing their existing learning material. But modernization is not only about repackaging an ‘old wine in a new bottle’, but it should ideally be looked at as a transformational strategy to deliver business results by creating new and unique experiences for the learners. In fact, it should be embraced as an opportunity:

  • For business leaders to align strategic objectives
  • For L&D heads to transition from a culture of training to a culture of learning
  • For HR as an ongoing upskilling initiative
  • For people leaders to provide learning in the flow of work

Having said the above, modernization comes with its fair share of challenges. In order to arrive at a robust and proven modernization framework that can be successfully implemented, it is absolutely essential to spend efforts on understanding the key factors that are driving the need for modernization. Here are a couple of factors that could be considered while designing a modernization strategy:

Technology disruptions

There are multiple technology disruptions that are happening all around us. Technology in itself has undergone numerous transformational processes impacting the way learning is delivered, perceived, and consumed. While organizations need to leverage technology to meet the need of the hour; the modernization strategy has to factor in this reality by future-proofing the content for new technological disruptions.

Skill Gaps

The Covid 19 pandemic has suddenly accelerated the need for new workforce skills. According to a new McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs, nearly nine in ten executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. Owing to the new generation of learners and needs of modern-day workplace, new skill areas are popping up regularly. Closing on the skills gap and enabling employee growth should be one of the strategic themes of the modernization initiative.

The Modern-day Learner

The profile, preference and habits of learners keep on changing because society, workplace, and technology continue to evolve. While the modernization initiative should account for the needs of the modern-day learner, it should not be limited just to millennials and Gen Z. It should be more holistic, starting right from the baby boomers.

Maintenance

As content owners, one of the key things is to ensure that we are able to maintain content that we are developing. For instance, a pharma company has to ensure that the content is updated as per latest FDA regulations. The other aspect of maintenance is the variety of technology infrastructure that is being used to deliver content. Today you might have a SCORM LMS in place and you design and develop content for it, but tomorrow, if an xAPI compliant LMS comes into picture, the requirement would be to pass data into the Learning Record Store (LRS) of the LMS. The modernization strategy should account for such technology changes and make content available in a format which could be easily transitioned.

Have you come across any other factors which might be driving the need for content modernization? You can write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com and we would be happy to have a conversation.

The EdTech Story: Designing Products for Impacting Student Outcomes and Student Engagement

The education landscape around us is disrupting rapidly. This was happening even before COVID hit us, and the pandemic just accelerated it. What is even more interesting is, that these changes are not happening at a focal point, but cutting across age groups – K-12, Higher Ed, and adult learning. With more and more teaching related activities moving remotely on devices through digital apps, impacting student outcomes and student engagement is coming across as a key challenge for various stakeholders.

The need of the hour is to blend instructional pedagogies with innovative use of technology. There are various aspects that are critical while designing an EdTech product. We have broadly categorized them into four key areas listed below from our experience.

Impacting Student Outcomes

An article published by Forbe’s magazine says that the only metric that matters in EdTech is student outcomes. The role of technology is to act as an enabler to impact these outcomes. At times, it may sound as a controversial stance, and debate it and say there is more to it. But eventually it all leads up to student outcomes. Broadly, if I had to list all such key outcomes, they would be:

  • Driving social mobility and prosperity in economically weaker sections of societies
  • Bridging the gap between formal education and jobs of the future
  • Making education inclusive and equitable for specially abled students
  • Closing the achievement gap for students

We should also consider making the product design process a more collaborative one, by involving educators. Educators would be able to put together a totally fresh perspective in front of EdTech investors and providers about how they perceive real world challenges, which then could be used to into a line of code or an algorithm for a feature.

Harbinger has been providing various engineering services for its EdTech customers. As part of our UI/UX services, we do interview teachers and professors, in the target market, to understand their needs, usage patterns, and pain points. And based on the inputs, our team works with product managers to design product features, improve current product and its design. This helps in not only designing relevant features, but also increase product usage, which in turn helps the business with their objectives.

Designing it Right for Enhanced User Engagement

When it comes to designing products for EdTech industry, design is an extremely important aspect. In fact, a bad design is a death knell for your product. There are numerous cases of debacles in the EdTech industry due to bad design. Once such remarkable case is when New York city’s education department created a data system to replace Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS. The investment that went into this was in tunes of USD 95 million over a period of 8 years. When an audit was done to determine the user adoption, it revealed that only a meagre 3% of parent population had logged in into the system. Further investigation revealed that the main reason for this was bad design.

Why designing for EdTech becomes different as compared to some of the other industries is that varied persona types that you have to cater to. The same application or platform could be used by students, teachers, administrators, and parents. And each user type will be using it for a different purpose. This adds a layer of complexity and makes it fun and challenging to design an EdTech product.

Accelerating Digital Transformation through Integrations

In the current context of things, your products are key to help educational institutes make the leap of digital transformation. And integration is a key enabler for digital transformation. You no longer have the option to leave out integration for next time; you need it and you need it now.

Adoption and eventually success of your product heavily relies on integration readiness of your product. In the beginning, the stop gap arrangement for educational institutes was to deliver instructions on web applications like Zoom or Webex. But these were not designed to meet the focal needs of impacting student outcomes and engagement.

There are a variety of products that an educational institute might start using, but if they do not talk to each other, then the entire purpose is defeated. And imagine how the entire experience would be from a student or faculty perspective.

A majority of their time would be spent in navigating from one application to another. And of course, there is the entire angle of data. How do we manage this navigation problem and make sense of the data and provide meaningful insights to stakeholders – if the applications and products are working in silos? The need of the hour is to leverage integrations to accelerate your digital transformation strategy.

Let me bring up a case here to further support the case of integrations. Lately, educational institutes have turned to digital credentialing to validate and recognize skills. Credly, a leading player in this field integrated with Canvas. And a result of this integrated ecosystem – universities are now able to seamlessly and efficiently provide digital credentials to their students on completion of learning programs within the LMS.

Preparing for an Economy of Scale and Disruption

Preparing for an economy of scale and disruptions, both at the same time. Looks contradictory. Allow me to elaborate it a little further.
When the pandemic curveball hit us, and educational institutes closed their physical campuses overnight, replacing it with remote learning and instruction models. It was an act necessitated by the circumstances at hand. The curve to stabilize operations was steep for some and for some others it was relatively easier.

One key reason behind this was that EdTech products which were optimized for cloud could quickly scale up, but the others struggled, some crashed. This entire experience has helped convince stakeholders that preparing for an economy of scale is must and getting on the cloud is the key.

There is one thing that the recent disruptions have taught us is that this is not the last disruption. There could be more, something else, in different sizes and shapes. And while you prepare for an economy of scale, by migrating your products to the cloud, it will also provide you the much-needed elasticity for the next disruption. You can downsize the technology infrastructure and save on costs while you wait for enrolments to pick up.

These are the most interesting times in the EdTech space. This is an opportunity to contribute towards shaping up teaching and learning in the future. In the subsequent blogs, we will peel down the layers of each of the four key aspects we touched upon. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

PESE Model – The Framework to Design a Scalable Remote Learning Solution

The legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan once said, “I want people to understand, gambling is not a bad thing if you do it within the framework of what it’s meant to be, which is fun and entertaining.” Pretty riveting depiction of framework. In the context of learning and development, the key role of a framework would be to enable CLOs to help businesses meet desired objectives through intervention of learning programs.

Today, we’ll be looking at a framework which Harbinger has designed to help L&D leaders navigate through the new normal of remote work and remote learning. The framework is called the PESE Model. It stands for prepare, engage, support, & evaluate. At a high level, this framework breaks down the successful implementation process of remote learning solutions into four distinct phases. In this blog, we would be looking at these four phases from a bird’s eye view. And in the subsequent, blogs we would peel the layers for each of these four phases, one at a time.

Prepare

Prepare is the starting point, this is where we lay the foundation of success of the learning program.

To start with, it is important for us to agree upon the specific business challenge that we are solving and there should be a consensus amongst all stakeholders on this. The second point is knowing your audience – who are they, where are they, and how are they. Then you have to define the type of learning modalities that you want to use to implement your learning program – do you want to have a virtual instructor-led session, do you want to include game-based assessments or have SME videos. At this stage, it is also important to understand and define the role that you want technology to play, assess if you have the relevant technology in house or you would want some additional support to implement your remote learning program successfully. And last but not the least, clearly identify what role your virtual instructors need to play, assess where they are with their current skills in terms of facilitating virtual sessions and if they require any upskilling or reskilling.

 

Engage

Now, we move onto the second pillar of the framework, which is engage. In the times when remote work is becoming the new normal, keeping employees and learners engaged is key.

While implementing remote learning, there are three distinct stages at which we need to take care of learner engagement. Those three stages are pre-event, during the event and post the event. For e.g., let us consider the event as a virtual instructor-led session, in that case some engagement points which we could think of for different stages are:

  1. Creating a teaser animation video on the topic of the session for pre-event engagement. This can generate curiosity and motivate the audience to participate in the session.
  2. During the event, we can have group activities for learners where they can participate. Sleek and modern visual design is also a great hook to ensure engagement from the learners during the event.
  3. Post event is an important piece in the entire engagement cycle. This is where we should have a reasonable focus. Couple of engagement points for our learners during this phase could be nudging with supplementary learning material for reinforcement or providing support tools like job aids.

 

Support

The third pillar of our framework is about supporting your learners. This support is required throughout the life cycle of remote learning; it is more about continuous learning.

The key is to integrate the required support in the flow of remote work. We can consider options like having an AI-enabled virtual coach integrated in an office productivity tool like slack or Microsoft teams to support your learners post the event.

 

Evaluate

And lastly, we come to the evaluate stage. It is imperative to evaluate the results of the remote learning program against the success parameters that were set. And based on the findings, if there is a need to make course corrections in the program we should do that and then re-launch the program.

So that’s the remote learning framework, Prepare – Engage – Support – Evaluate.

It would be interesting to know your thoughts on this framework. Please comment below or drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

 

Foundational Beliefs for L&D Leaders for Implementing Remote Learning

In my last blog, I spoke about how remote learning is strongly emerging as a positive intervention in the post pandemic situation. While we would all agree to the fact that the need for remote learning has been established, what we have to be sensitive about is the adoption rate. We, as L&D leaders and stakeholders, need to have some foundational beliefs, before we embark on a journey of implementing remote learning.

There are 5 key things which I would like to highlight:

  1. Learner engagement is a key priority.

With the evolution of the workplace, the role of L&D leaders is also evolving. One of the key jobs that we have on our hands is to keep our remote workforce engaged by bringing learning in the flow of their remote work. We need to proactively listen-in to the experiences of the learners and chart out a strategy accordingly. If we ever wanted to add agility in our playbook, the time is now.

  1. Remote learning isn’t the same as eLearning.

The speed at which some organizations across the globe have tried to move all their content digital, is certainly debatable. We must be mindful of such rapid shifts when we strategize our remote learning programs. The learning needs to be structured in a way that it does not overwhelm learners. There needs to be a fine balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning.

  1. Remote Learning is not the same as delivering an instructor-led training session on zoom or webex.

A live virtual instructor-led session is different than an in-person classroom session. Right from the presentation, group activities, to engagement points, everything is customized depending on the mode of delivery. And above all, the way the instructor needs to deliver the entire leaning experience is different in both the modalities.

  1. Remote learning is about exploring new options.

L&D leaders and practitioners need to be open to experiment and organize learning differently, away from the traditional mold. Flexibility and patience are some skills that all stakeholders need to display when we go about implementation of remote learning. Do not fret if you don’t get everything right at the first place. It might be an unknown territory for quite a few of us.

  1. Remote learning entails empathy.

We, as L&D stakeholders, need to show empathy towards the new normal. We need to be sensitive about sociological conditions of our learners and try to address some of them through our remote learning design strategy.

These foundational beliefs will eventually guide us around putting together a framework to implement remote learning. In our next blog, we’ll be looking at one such framework. I would love to know how you are strategizing remote learning in your organization. Comment below or drop a note at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Emergence of Remote Learning

The Definition

Remote learning is any kind of learning that happens outside of a traditional classroom because the learner and facilitator are separated by distance and/or time. Remote learning can be real-time or flexibility timed, in other words it could be synchronous or asynchronous.And the role of technology can vary;  the primary reason for variance in technology is that we cannot assume that every remote learner has got access to equivalent technology infrastructure.

The History

Remote learning is not an entirely new concept. We can equate quite a few attributes of remote learning to distance education. In the late 1800s, at the University of Chicago, the first major distance education program in the United States was established, in which the teacher and learner were at different locations. One of the pioneers of distance learning, William Rainey Harper was of the idea that many would benefit by taking up the first two years of college in their hometowns. This led to the founding of American community colleges. But it was never a smooth sailing; the adoption for distance learning took some time and efforts. In fact, it was said that distance education was designed to provide educational opportunities to those who were not among the elite could not afford full-time residence at an educational institution. It was looked down on as an inferior alternative to traditional education.

However, the need to provide equal access to educational and learning opportunities has always been a part of our society’s democratic ideals. Things kept progressing, the adoption rate kept increasing and then the COVID-19 curve ball hit all of us. Ironical as it may sound, it gave us all an opportunity to iron out any shortcomings of distance learning models, and implement it as remote learning.

The Current Context

Today, COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way people work, learn, and teach around the globe. To mitigate the risk of virus and keep people healthy and in turn engaged, organizations and educational institutions are willing to trade off in-person interactions in favor of remote work or virtual events.

In the case of remote work, organizations and educational institutions are keenly observing and studying the effects of the pandemic situation on productivity, efficiency, work quality, customer satisfaction and more. And with a possibility of downturn in economy, at least in some business segments, this might well turn out to be a double whammy. A recent article from Harvard Business Review has in fact flagged that the current pandemic situation will lead to a significantly changed world. And what is more important is that we need to be prepared for the changed world.

This is where remote learning starts to emerge as a major contributor towards balancing things.  Helping us successfully navigate through the current situation, achieving collective goals, and at the same time helping us to be prepared for the new normal, remote learning is taking an increasingly central role in shaping up a better world.