The BT Group is a global provider of networked IT and communications services that employes more than 100,000 people worldwide and operates in more than 170 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia, so its e-learning requirements are extensive.
The BT Group’s strategy is a combination of outsourcing content production and having the capability to continue to produce local content.
The local training has to be produced rapidly and inexpensively, meet certain standards, and load easily onto BT’s learning management system, which is called Route2Learn (SumTotal). Recently, after assessing requirements and capabilities, the group decided to implement a collaborative system for authoring, managing and deploying learning content.
A learning and development team from the BT Group Human Resources Department took the lead on finding a solution: three systems engineers, a training administrator, an LMS administrator, a systems implementation manager and training leads.
The team defined the requirements for a content authoring tool:
>> meets accessibility standard (W3C AA)
>> records computer application /screen capture
>> converts PowerPoint including animations.
>> enables synchronized narration to be added to PowerPoint
>> has questionnaire capability
>> randomizes questions
>> randomizes Answer Position
>> has video delivery capability
>> output to AICC/SCORM
>> is server based, allowing remote authoring and standardized uploading process
>> enables high-quality production (use of Flash)
>> has template capability
>> is relatively easy to use requiring minimum technical skills (doesn’t require HTML or Flash coding skills)
>> is competitively priced.
>> can be scaled up for use across BT
>> compatible with BT PC desktop build
>> content deliverable via iDesk
>> content easily uploads to Route2Learn (LMS)
Selecting a Solution
Based on the requirements, the team looked at 16 different authoring tools. In most cases, this was done by arranging an on-line demonstration, most of which were conducted on-line using Live Meeting.
The software that best met BT’s requirements was a collaborative authoring system from Atlantic Link, which provided an integrated suite of tools for creating, managing and tracking learning content. The tools in the suite include a collaborative authoring system that provides a collection of pre-built templates for creating online courses (ContentPoint), a tool for capturing screen activity for the development of IT training applications (CapturePoint), and management system for deploying and tracking finished courses (Knowledge Point). Users access all of the components of the system by using a Web browser to log in to a centralized application server.
The system’s server-based architecture is the source of many of its features and benefits, which include collaborative authoring, centralized content management, and an integrated content management system (ICMS), The collaborative authoring system has features designed to simplify and accelerate the authoring process, including authoring wizards, Flash-based templates, and a PowerPoint importer.
Expanding the Scope
Deploying a new authoring system and putting development capabilities into the hands of end-users has redefined BT roles and processes for developing learning in several ways. First, the system has empowered subject matter experts to create their own training; second, it has expanded the use of e-learning to new applications; and third, it has decreased the cost and increased the timeliness for deploying certain types of training.
The easy-to-use authoring system has empowered in-house personnel and subject matter experts to produce training content on their own, bypassing external vendors. It also has changed the cost equation, making new courses economically viable to create. Finally, instead of relying on external vendors, the new system has allowed for updating and maintaining courseware in-house.
One advantage of the collaborative authoring system is the cost-efficiency of sharing a small number of licenses across a large pool of authors. Another advantage is that it provides centralized storage and management of training courses as well as the media assets that they contain. Centralized assets also facilitate course updates. Use of a standard authoring tool allows nearly anyone in the organization with access to the system to maintain applications. This approach also supports collaborative authoring by multiple contributors, and the possibility of bridging differences of place and time.
Reflecting on BT’s experience in selecting and deploying a collaborative authoring system, its HR Learning & Development manager identified recommendations he would offer to any one planning to undertake a similar initiative:
1) Involve all stakeholders, and give them real opportunities to provide input.
2) Collaborate with IT, to secure the necessary server capacity as well as establish plans and resources to provide ongoing systems administration.
3) Provide training with courses provided by the vendor, as well as training that may exist within the organization.
4) Provide post-implementation support with training resources and clear authoring guidelines.
5) Accommodate new users by establishing a simple, quick process that allows them to acquire a license quickly and easily. The system should support the tracking and management of these licenses after they are deployed.
6) Practice quality control by establishing guidelines, standards and processes for any course created.
7) Manage requests for enhancements by defining and implementing a process for managing them.
8) Manage change by possibly dedicating a project manager to handle systems implementation and manage communications with the business and system end-users.
8) Manage the vendor to build a mutually beneficial business relationship.
For BT, the introduction of a collaborative authoring system does not signal the end of working with external vendors. The company will still rely on vendor expertise to address more advanced and formalized training needs. However, the system is affecting change in when, where, and how e-learning is deployed in the company. With its ease of use, centralized, server-based architecture, the collaborative authoring system is empowering the creation of faster and less expensive e-learning solutions. It is also increasing e-learning use by engaging new authors and making new applications commercially viable to create.
—For more information on Atlantic Link products and services, visit the Website www.atlanticlinkglobal.com.