The 4D Development Methodology for Modernization

In some recent blogs, I mentioned about the xSMART framework for modernization and its benefits. In this blog, we’ll have a look at the 4D development methodology which operationally complements the xSMART framework.

A typical modernization project could be divided into 4 distinct phases – Define, design, develop, and deliver. This 4D development methodology enables teams in managing and executing modernization projects in a controlled manner.

Let us look at all 4 phases in detail:

Define

This phase is the foundation of any modernization project and kicks in as soon as project scoping begins. It ensures that short and long term business objectives are tied with the outcomes of the project.  Some basic questions that L&D stakeholders need to answer during this phase are listed below.

  • What are the business objectives that we want to achieve at the end of this project?
  • Are we looking for as-is conversion or is there a scope for enhancements, instructionally and visually?
  • Would we require SME support during the modernization process?
  • Should the modernized courses be accessibility compliant?
  • Do we want to consider micro-learning as one of the key value propositions?
  • Is there any preference for any specific tool or technology for modernization?

There is a possibility that for some of these questions might not fetch immediate answers and that is perfectly fine. Atleast, there would no ambiguity on the knowns and unknowns as we move to the design phase. And that is a key achievement.

Design

The define phase sets us up for designing a solution which is geared towards meeting specific business needs. In this phase, we’ll look at three key areas to focus on prior to getting into the development phase.

  1. Change log format for communicating edits: Change log is a tool which helps bring in agility in the development process. It could be designed using an excel file or a word doc. Since we are not doing an overhaul of the existing course from an instructional design point of view, we need not do the entire storyboarding again. Change log can be used to communicate changes to be made at a screen level in a course.
  1. Design and development of template library: Whatever authoring mode we choose, the key is to develop a library of templates which is reusable. These templates are designed after analyzing the legacy courses to ensure best fit. At this stage, a thought might cross our mind that what is the need to analyze courses and then design a template library, couldn’t we simply develop a template library which could be used across all types of courses? Well, to answer it, yes it is possible, but it is not necessary that one size will fit all. This phase is to ensure that every design aspect is fulfilled using the best possible solution. Another important benefit that we get using this approach is that it gives us an opportunity to implement accessibility and compliance standards such as section 508 or xAPI at the template level itself.
  2. Quality checklist for various combinations: During the define phase, we generally would have shortlisted the browsers, devices, and operating systems on which modernized courses would run. We would have also decided on the accessibility standards being implemented. The design phase can ensure that we have all the performance and functionality features captured in the QA checklist. It is important to have these checks in place before production starts.

Develop

It is time to get the production wheel rolling in this phase. To start off, we need to extract all reusable assets and content from existing legacy courses. If source files are not available, then a custom automation utility can be used to extract content from existing courses. Extracted content can be stored in a way that it enables us to bring in automation into play while developing the courses. For example if we decide to go with custom HTML5-XML based course development, then extracted content could be easily populated in the XML structure using an automation utility. This would help reduce development timelines further.

While the content extraction team gets busy, the instructional design team can start churning out change logs simultaneously. They can review the existing courses screen by screen and record their recommendations in the change logs. These recommendations can be used to build new templates. Client stakeholders can review and sign off completed change logs.

Once the template library is ready, the production process literally takes off. All efforts that have gone into planning the modernization project culminate at this stage. The production team can start producing and releasing modernized courses rapidly, after successful content mapping with existing courses and quality testing.

Deliver

Once courses are developed and the first version is released, there are certain steps and processes to be accomplished before we label it as a successful delivery. The first version of the courses is delivered to review teams through specified file sharing protocols. Once reviewed,  issues are logged in a pre-defined tool or system, and then sent back to the development team for fixing, retesting, and delivering it again.

The fundamental objective of this 4D development methodology is to streamline the entire process and make it compatible with the xSMART framework. It would be wonderful to know your thoughts and any experiences you might have had with this working methodology. You can drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Benefits That An Organization Can Reap Through Content Modernization

In my last blog, we looked at how the xSMART framework could help in driving the content modernization initiative. In this post, we’ll talk about the benefits that the key stakeholders, namely – the modern-day learner, the L&D heads, and the CXOs, can derive from the modernization initiative.

Let’s begin with talking about the consumer of content – the modern-day learners. For them, the biggest benefit that modernization brings along is that they can be in-charge of their learning. They can consume content at the time and pace which best suits their needs. For example, they can consume content through their mobile-devices when they are commuting, and when in office, they could switch to their laptops or desktops. Since modernized content could be made available in various formats, sizes, and shapes, it could meet varied learning needs and preferences of individuals. 

For L&D heads, there are multifold benefits that arise out of this initiative. It helps them to align the modernized content to competencies rather than just being driven by learning objectives. Couple this with detailed analytics and it gives us a recipe for a faster and efficient way to close on the skills gap. The other key benefit they can derive out of this is culture transformation – moving from a culture of training to a culture of learning. Modernized content developed once can be deployed in multiple scenarios. For example, content which is broken down into micro-learning nuggets could be SCORM packaged and made available through the LMS or it could even be made available and searchable on a mobile-app through metadata-tagging.

For CXOs, the biggest benefit that the modernization initiative brings on the table is the broad-scale opportunity to align their learning, talent development, and performance management strategies with business goals. The other key benefit is that it gives them an opportunity to future-proof content against any technology disruptions and increase its shelf life. For example, if an organization wants to enable AI-based learning solutions, then implementing a modernization initiative could become an overhead. It will be better to have such aspects addressed during the initial modernization exercise itself. Modernization gives us this opportunity and benefit.

Many more benefits could be derived from the modernization initiative. Not necessarily all of them are covered in this blog post. We are all ears to know your thoughts on the same. Reach out to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Five signs that indicate the need for a modernization initiative

Five Signs That Indicate ‘It is Time to Consider Modernization’

The modern day corporate worker’s profile is changing. Not just millennial, Gen Z seems to be getting into the workforce as well. These segments of the target audience have a very positive outlook on the value of eLearning but the way they want to consume content is very different from how it happened in the past.

If you too are sensing this profile shift, then probably it is time to take a stock of the situation and look for some additional signs listed ahead.

  1. Need for Standardized Content

Your content is the most valuable asset your company has. If you have a large volume of legacy content sitting idle, or if your employees or customers are facing issues in courses because of the content being stuck in old formats, then it definitely indicates the need for change. Furthermore, if you can’t make important edits to your courses because the content is in legacy format or created using different tools, then you know modernization is the right way to proceed. It will help you to upgrade your content in accordance with the latest tools and technologies. Modernization can also help you convert your content to one standardized format which is widely accessible and future-ready – for instance, a format like HTML5, which standardizes everything and in-turn brings efficiencies for future.

 

  1. New Tool Adoption

An organization, when it uses a tool for a long period of time, develops a significant level of comfort with it, and it becomes difficult to get out of that zone. But with the rapid advancements in technology, many new tools evolve into the market. These tools generally possess better capabilities than the one(s) already being used. For example, there are several tools in the market that allow creation of content in interactive video format instead of tools using simple text and images. When you use such a tool, the learning experience can change for good.

 

So if you, as the content owner, come across many such new technologies and tools but cannot take the plunge due to comfort issues, it is time to consider modernization. Modernization can smoothly facilitate new tool adoption process.

 

  1. Learning in Employee Preferred Formats

An infographic by ‘Bersin by Delloite’ states that 67% of the modern day workers learn on mobile devices, only 42% learn at their office desk, rest access learning at their convenience, interestingly 27% of people learn on the way to and from work. Apart from the statistics and preferences listed above, each of these learners has different learning styles. Meeting these expectations through different learning formats is quite difficult as that would imply much more content production. Then how do we handle this situation? Modernization practice can help put together a solution which can use artificial intelligence, natural language processing and voice-enabled technologies to make the same content available in various formats.

  1. Complying with Regulations and Industry Standards

With the recent enforcement of new regulations that demand support for accessibility and standards-compliance, accessible content is now a must-have. If you are looking at re-using any of your non WCAG 2.0 compliant legacy courses, you need to modernize them. But just taking an old course and trying to make it compliant is not sufficient. It may technically get some of the compliance checkboxes ticked, but it doesn’t ensure 100% accessibility. For instance, your compliance checklist might not take care of font readability and color choices. Unless you are confident that someone with special abilities can fully make use of your content, it is just a battle half won.

 

To ensure that differently-abled learners find value in your courses, it is important to redesign them. A well thought out modernization approach that aims at making your legacy content fully accessible by making use of automation, is your best bet here.

 

  1. Accelerated Time-to-Market with New Product Offerings and Upgrades

If you are looking to do something new for your customers with a faster time-to-market, there are two things you could consider – launch newer products or take old products and refurbish them with newer design and experience. At the speed with which technology is changing, it is critical that your product (course) design is resilient yet flexible. A well-defined modernization approach helps you achieve the same. And when coupled with automation, it can help you roll out newer courses or newer versions of old courses out in the market rapidly. This helps strengthen your course catalog portfolio.

If you are reading any of the above signs, then the time is just right to contemplate a modernization initiative to cater to your organization’s and customers’ evolving learning needs. In case you would like to have a discussion on this, or if you are looking for an experienced and reliable partner who can help design your modernization roadmap, write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Legacy Content Modernization Journey – Getting the Right Start

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The time is always right to do what is right

You must be wondering how these words from Martin Luther King Jr. are relevant to our discussion today. Well, with Flash officially slated for sunset in 2020, should you really wait on the sidelines and hope to jump on the last bus that would take you out of this situation? I think the answer would be no from majority of us. This is an important business decision, and all perspectives need to be analyzed before taking it, but the time to take this decision is now. In this blog, let’s explore various situations playing on your mind while making the right choice about modernization.

The first thing would be to identify the courses that need to go through the modernization process. Your organization may have a huge library of flash courses and not every course needs to be modernized. The decision on retiring or retaining a course needs to be framed on the basis of the following factors:

  1. Relevance of the course content today
  2. Current market requirement for each course
  3. User enrollment analysis for each course
  4. Feedback given by users after taking the course

Most of these factors will eventually boil down to adding to the bottom line. If a course performs adversely on the above parameters, consider retiring it.

Once the course inventory is shortlisted, the other piece of puzzle is to decide who is going to do this job. Is it your internal development team, should you bring in a third party vendor or should it be a combination of both? Some guiding factors that would help you make this decision are:

  1. What is more important for your existing internal teams, working on new product development and servicing existing customers or modernizing legacy courses?
  2. Do you have the relevant skill-set in your in-house team for this job?
  3. Are you willing to ramp up your internal team temporarily for this task?
  4. Should you bring in a third-party supplier with the appropriate skill-set to help you with modernization?
  5. If you intend to bring in a third-party supplier, what should be criteria to bring them onboard? Of course a supplier housing a team with the right technical skill-set is the one you should shortlist, but you also need to give some emphasis on what values this supplier brings on the table. Do you want to onboard just a vendor or you need a partner who is with you in this important business decision? Read this blog – “You need a partner not a vendor”, that shares information on the ideal behaviors to notice while partner selection.

Well, the fact is that you might get lucky in hopping on the last bus when it comes to planning the modernization project, but is it worth the risk? The time is now to make the right decision, so it is ideal to plan things right away. To know more about some of these guiding factors, drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com. We would be happy to share our experiences with you.