Your content is ready to go. Your LMS is in place and ready to deliver quality online courses to your entire organization. Is the implementation simply a matter of flipping the switch? It can be, but that is not an effective way to change the organization’s mindset when it comes to online training. And a new e-learning program is certainly going to require a new mindset. When you’re ready to implement, you must market with a message – and look at changing how the organization thinks about training.
First, marketing is not reserved for the organization’s products. Marketing must occur with an e-learning implementation. You should determine how you want to “brand” your online learning. Do you want to use the organization’s brand and continue it into the program? Or do you want to create a secondary brand that’s used in-house? Either way, you may need to engage your in-house marketing department or an outside consultant to help you design the look and feel of the courses and their rollout. But overall, think about how e-learning is going to change the organization’s “life”: it’s learning that’s easy, effective, and a new and exciting way to meet learning requirements! Consider these aspects as you plan your marketing.
The presentation of the message and marketing is equally important. Consider creating informational emails or memos that market the learning program and encourage learners to check out the new system. Along those lines, consider going on “road trips” to various groups in order to plug the new and improved learning. If your organization is already technologically advanced, put your marketing into every virtual location, such as blogs, online collaboration, e-newsletters, and Intranet articles.
In addition to marketing, it is a necessity to obtain buy-in from the executive level in the organization. This group must be ready to get behind the online learning program and sing its praises at every opportunity. In more advanced organizations, the executives even go out on the road trips to talk to the populations. In these organizations, training personnel sometimes test the LMS and new courses on executives. A high-level testimonial from someone’s favorite CFO is a great marketing tool and should be used to every advantage. When it comes to marketing the e-learning program, remember that you are pushing a new product – and you need “buyers” for it.
From the operational standpoint, first consider if the rollout of e-learning will be one large act or a phased-in approach. Do you want to hit the entire organization with a few excellent courses, or do you want to roll to a smaller group to get them up and running first? There is really no wrong answer here. It all depends on your organization. Along with this, be sure that you know what the initial headcount could be. You don’t want your delivery system to crash because you underestimated the number of users who will be acessing it in the first day, week, or month. A final word on operations: test the system before you roll it out. You can begin testing within the training organization and then expand. Have everyday users go to the courses and evaluate content, ease of access, wait times, and recording. If the test on a small scale goes well, you know you can expand and roll out to a larger number of users.
Finally, remember that implementing e-learning is a change in the mindset of many organizations. It’s not just a new system and a new way to take classes – it’s a new way of life, one that will make things easier for all involved. But with this new way of life comes new opportunities. For example, managers must learn to schedule employees for training, even if that employee is sitting at his or her desk. The temptation is to call them back into action before they are finished, simply because they are present in the workplace. Plus, someone has to be held accountable for getting learners on the system and allowing them to complete their courses. Typically that accountability also goes to organizational managers. Along with these considerations, remember that if employees are able to access training at home, there may be issues with pay, unions, and maximum work time requirements. The best thing to do with “mindset” is to make a list of all of the considerations, from buy-in to accountability to hourly pay – and decide how the organization will work with each. This way, no question will go unanswered during the implementation phase.