23 minutes | Jul 31, 2020

Repurposing and Refreshing Course Materials

Change is inevitable and the need to revitalize a learning program comes for every company at some point in time. But there is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater when updating training courses. In this episode, we hear from Barbara Greenstein, a Senior Instructional Designer, and Jerry Lake, a Senior Web Developer, on how to repurpose and refresh existing course materials. Barbara Greenstein is a performance improvement specialist providing proven and creative ways to improve human performance in the workplace. Highly regarded for her instructional design and facilitation skills, with over 30 years in the learning and development field, she helps clients put the systems in place to more effectively manage in today’s changing business environment while ensuring optimal performance and job satisfaction for all employees. She received her M.A. in Human Resource Development from Marymount University.  Barbara is a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), from ISPI. Jerry Lake has over 18 years professional programming experience. He holds expertise in trouble shooting, research/integration, and documentation. Jerry has developed interfaces and application templates for the production of large projects, has a broad understanding of cross-browser and cross-platform issues, and a strong affinity for web standards compliance. He develops training programs that are compliant with SCORM and Section 508 of the Federal Disabilities Act. Jerry has served as Web Developer programming courseware for the Internal Revenue Service’s Link & Learn Taxes and Understanding Taxes, The Department of Education, and the U.S. Navy’s Information Systems Technician Apprentice and the Journeyman Schools, and Volkswagen North America.   Host – Steven Maggi: Change is often something we put off, but change is important, especially when it comes to business learning — how to do it efficiently and effectively. With us today are Barbara Greenstein — she is the Senior Instructional Designer at Epsilon Systems Solutions, and Jerry Lake is a Senior Web Developer for Epsilon Systems Solutions. Well Barbara, let’s start with you, it’s a big deal, right? When people want to make a change, but sometimes the way you’ve done training in the past may have to change. What are the first things that come up when you want to repurpose a class into something with more technology?   Barbara Greenstein: Well, first of all, thanks so much for having us today. This is a privilege for me to talk to you and to share with you some information in regards to how you go about repurposing classes. One of the things that I will say is that frequently, we have an organization that comes to us and they say “I have this class – it’s been going on for the last 10 years and I really think it’s an important piece of our learning program, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t go away. We’re in the COVID environment and people can’t come face-to-face anymore. Is there any way we can take that and turn it into an e-learning program?” And the first thing I always want to know from them is — how effective was that course in its current state? If they’re talking about 10 years ago that they just did this course, when was the last time that they updated it? How is it perceived by current learners — the ones that are actually sitting in the class? What are they getting out of it? How is the return on investment? What are they getting out of that class? When somebody sits in that class, when they go back to the office, what do they see happen as a result of those individuals having sat, take that learning, and then what do they do with it? So, the first thing I want to know is — is it really meeting the objectives of the organization still, before we even consider taking what was originally, let’s say, a face-to-face learning and turning that into whether it be an e-learning or a virtual facilitated type of class? How well is that class doing, and does it need an upgrade? Do we need to sit and redesign it before we actually decide what platform would be best for it, because there’s not necessarily a singular platform that we would use in the virtual world, so that’s something that would be discussed too.   Steven: Well, that makes sense. So, the first thing is to take a strong look at it and see if it’s even worth doing. Now, let’s say the answer is “yes” to that, then you want to look at, I’d imagine, what worked from the original class, right? So, we don’t lose that?   Barbara: Yes, that is correct. We want to make sure that 100% what worked previously is going to work in the current state for whatever we put it into. We need to make sure that the objectives of the lessons are viable, that the reason why we are putting the class or keeping the class in place is because it stands still today, tried and true, to what the organization’s bottom line is trying to accomplish. I mean, the purpose of any learning program, whether it be one that, it could be one that is done self-paced by a book or by e-learning; or it could be something that in today’s world we’re talking about micro-learning, where somebody learns something on the phone. No matter what the type of learning is, we always want to make sure that what we’re teaching people, what they’re walking away with, is going to have some sort of an impact on the way they do their job. It’s going to have some sort of an impact that efficiently caused them to do their job better. Suddenly, they are able to complete a task quicker than they were before because we’ve given them some morsels, some gems that they can take and use in order to help them to get their work done in a more efficient way. So, we’re always looking at, we’re always asking the question “How are – the bottom line is the objectives – what are the objectives of the course and how do they tie into the organization’s goals?”   Steven: So, Jerry, from a technical side, you’re looking at these things and saying, okay, the content like what Barbara is talking about – you don’t want to change a lot of those, right, if you don’t have to? The idea is to try to make this as seamless as possible.   Jerry Lake: Yes, absolutely, and thank you Steven for having me on to address this from a little bit more of a technological standpoint. There exists a situation where there’s a lot of content that has been developed for organizations over time that is still very viable. The rules haven’t changed for this information. Things may be facing minor updates, but by and large, the core of the content is still very viable. The problem is, with the changing face of technology, is that there is no longer a good way to get this particular content to the end users that need to see it in the first place, and that’s where we’re up against a situation where we need to examine the technology that people are using and how to turn this content into something that can be used continually, based on current technological situations.   Steven: In most of this e-learning, Jerry, it’s still through the web, isn’t it?   Jerry: By and large, most of your e-learning is going to be delivered via a web browser. You can have other situations where things are just videos that are over the web, things that are forms and quizzes, and things of that nature, but by and large, you are going to be utilizing a web browser in order to engage with this content. To that end, for the last 10-15 years or so, Flash was a very predominant technology to deliver this content interaction, to make things more interesting and engaging to the end user. We’re at a position where Flash use has come to its end of life, and we have to figure out how to bridge that gap and get to a new day where the content, as I mentioned, that is still very viable, is actually usable.   Steven: We’re going to talk about exactly how we’re going to do that transformation, but Barbara, one of the things I think people need to know, and you say, is that the resources to make these transitions from the face-to-face platform to the virtual platform, you’ve got to really think this thing through, right? Because it’s a different way of delivering this information.   Barbara: Yeah, there is a need to ensure that some sort of a design is in place so that the content is delivered in a way that makes sense. So, whether we are delivering it, like you say, face-to-face, or through the Internet; or through, in the old days, we delivered e-learning on a disc, on a CD-ROM, and so now everything goes up to the learning management system or it’s being delivered on a platform through the cloud, so that we don’t have to worry about the content being delivered on a CD. The technology is certainly something that is part of this design. What Jerry is talking about is something that has to be considered in the design of whatever the learning is, and the reasons that I ask all those questions at the beginning with the client, is to make sure that we thought everything through before we sit down and develop our materials.   Steven: Yes, so before you go to Jerry then, you’re going to be thinking ahead and thinking like “Ok, we can’t decide which way to present this until we know exactly what we’re going to need”?   Barbara: Yea, because there’s often times in situations you might think, for myself as a designer, I go in and I think everybody has the latest and the greatest equipment. The reality is that not everybody has the latest and the greatest equipment, and I’ve been in situations before where I have to find an e-learning for people who are out in the field. The people out in the field have an old tablet. The old tablet doesn’t have the necessary requirements for v
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