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Monthly Archives: October 2015

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International E-Learning Part 2: How to Overcome the Challenges of Rolling Out E-Learning Across Different Countries

When rolling out a new e-learning programme across multiple countries, you will undoubtedly need to overcome a variety of different challenges. At CDSM, we have experienced these challenges first-hand, and have decided to relay our experiences in a three-part blog series on ‘International E-Learning’. In Part 1, we looked at 5 challenges that can impact on the success of an e-learning rollout. In this second part, we’ll look at how to overcome these challenges to achieve an easy and successful rollout across multiple countries.

International E-Learning Part 2

As explained in Part 1, performing an international rollout of an e-learning programme is a massive feat, with large scale co-ordination and organisation required. With 10,000 learners, spread over four-million square miles, our rollout of e-learning across all European Honda dealerships is a fantastic example of how to strike a balance between concept and budget. Our experience with this type of rollout has enabled us to develop innovative solutions to the challenges detailed in Part 1, and we want to share them with you.

Piloting to Success

We found that piloting is a really useful exercise, as it enabled us to engage with end users in different cultures and understand their preferences. We received first-hand feedback from the people who were actually using our content. Not only was this of great benefit to us, but it also made the users feel involved in the development of the programme, helping to increase the uptake and buy-in as the e-learning was rolled out.

However, with budget constraints in mind, it’s not possible to pilot everywhere. With Honda, we found that using their in-country representatives (i.e. Honda Area Managers) to devolve some of the piloting across their region made the localisation process easier without having an exorbitant cost.

Many Different Languages

We previously explored the importance of consistency in production in our blog post: ‘Why Developing Standards is Critical’. This focus on standards was a key foundation block for our work with Honda, and allowed us to ensure a consistency in translation across countries.

We worked with reps from different Honda regions to aid the creation of the company’s Pan-European Specification of Standards. This gave us and Honda’s L&D professionals a universal database, helping to decrease lengthy back-and-forth discussions over terminology, processes, etc.

Our partnership with SDL enabled a smooth translation process, avoiding the possibility of the procedure becoming a bottleneck in the project (in Part 3, we’ll look at how we achieved this in more detail).

Future-Proofing Technology

The consideration of what technology to use is a major evaluation point in the production of e-learning. With Honda, we overcame the problems of different user setups (e.g. different browsers, internet speeds, etc.) by creating a custom user interface, adopting cloud-based media file delivery, and enabling cross-browser support. To learn more, take a look at our white paper for the Honda project: ‘How to Produce Gold Award-Winning E-Learning’.

We also invested a lot of time in future-proofing. Several years ago, in response to the increasing impact of mobile devices in learning, we made the decision to move to using HTML5 and JavaScript as our core technology for presenting interactive content. Although we were under no pressure to render Adobe Flash Player obsolete within Honda’s e-learning programme, our commitment to HTML5 and JavaScript meant we avoided a logistical headache when the recent Flash vulnerabilities came to light.

Lighter Push Load

A key part of making the administration load lighter for Honda was the creation of engaging, contemporary e-learning. This meant that minimal pushing was required on the part of the customer.

When performing an international e-learning rollout, the last thing you want is your admin team spending all their time nagging people to complete it. Creating e-learning that engages the end user means that administration time can be better spent synchronising product releases and further training with what’s happening in the business.

It’s also important to make tracking and reporting as easy as possible, and with an LRS (Learner Record Store) in place you’ll get full coverage of everything including what works and what doesn’t without having any impediment on your LMS.

These are just a few of the ways we managed to overcome the challenges of rolling out a new e-learning programme across multiple countries. In Part 3, we’ll share the clever production technique we used to ensure the successful rollout of Honda’s BER course.

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International E-Learning Part 1: 5 Challenges When Rolling Out E-Learning Across Different Countries

When rolling out a new e-learning programme across multiple countries, you will undoubtedly need to overcome a variety of different challenges. At CDSM, we have experienced these challenges first-hand, and have decided to relay our experiences in a three-part blog series on ‘International E-Learning’. In this first part, we’re going to look at the 5 challenges we think you need to consider, and how they can impact on the success of the rollout.

International E-Learning

  1.       Production Preferences

How do you actually produce content that’s going to work across different countries? Each country is different, and the people you deal with from each country will have a variety of specific likes and dislikes – so how far do you let them pick and choose what they want?

Before you begin working on an international e-learning rollout, you need to decide how accommodating you are prepared (and able) to be. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re creating bespoke content for each individual country, as this will not be practical or cost effective.

However, that’s not to say you don’t want to consider a country’s preferences and cultural differences, but it’s about finding a balance that won’t put pressure on production.   

  1.       Cultural Differences

You need to distinguish between objections that arise from personal preferences, and objections that are linked to cultural differences. Vague objections such as “it’s not like that in our market” will need to be explored to gain a better understanding of what is appropriate.

Again, decisions will need to be made about how accommodating you can be. For example, some countries will be adamant that their end users prefer video in their own language, rather than subtitles, but this could mean that production costs spiral out of control.

Demonstrating the benefits of a one-size-fits-all approach will help to ease tension – with an emphasis placed on the way that a centralised process ensures consistent, high-quality content. But remember, failing to recognise the importance of differences in culture between countries may mean that your end users feel disengaged, so make sure that every country-specific objection is carefully considered.

  1.       Translation

Translation can be a major challenge. For example, German text is typically 35% longer than English text, which can pose a problem if your content needs to fit in a set amount of space. So creating a consistent production process for translating e-learning into different languages is crucial.

Ultimately, all translations will be proofed by the country of origin, and then these checks themselves will need to be evaluated – are they asking for terminology changes or preferential changes? The more leeway that’s given, the more processes there are to undertake.

We previously explored the importance of consistency in production in our blog post: ‘Why Developing Standards is Critical’.

  1.       Technologies

Rolling out e-learning to multiple countries means catering for a diverse user base, not just in terms of language and culture, but technology too. How do you ensure that you are catering for users accessing the e-learning in different geographical locations with different setups? (e.g. different browsers, internet speeds, etc.)

For example, if the e-learning has sizeable media content, this will cause problems for users with low bandwidths. There may be an opportunity to create a ‘no-frills’ version of the e-learning for this type of user, with text summaries of video content and animations. Sizeable media content could then be placed in a separate repository within the UI for them to view if they wish.

However, creating branched versions for different user types can drive up costs, and so it may be more effective to perform an evaluation of potential content prior to production, making decisions about what content is absolutely necessary for the end user.

  1.       Administration

Rolling out a new e-learning programme across multiple countries will require a substantial amount of administration. This could range from setting up the e-learning on the LMS, to tracking and reporting the progress of end users.

Administration may also extend to promoting the completion of the programme, and synchronising the learning with other training.

This amount of administration will undoubtedly be time-consuming should you decide to take it on yourself. And if your e-learning is a compliance box-tick, then you may not have time to remedy any problems experienced by users, or gain a deeper understanding of the actual effectiveness of the e-learning.

These are the five main challenges you will come up against when rolling out a new e-learning programme across multiple countries. They may make an international rollout seem daunting, but don’t feel apprehensive…in Part 2, we’ll explore how to overcome these challenges to achieve an easy and successful roll out across multiple countries.

Got to International E-Learning Part 2 >

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The Donaldson Report – A CDSM Perspective (Part 2)

Earlier this year, Welsh Government published a comprehensive, independent review of the curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, written by Professor Graham Donaldson. Now, in a two-part series on the Donaldson Report (Successful Futures), CDSM explore the headline findings and provide a context from our perspective as an Education Technologies company based in Wales. In this second post, we’ll look at the implications of the report for teachers, the classroom and technology in the classroom.

happy students in computer class - donaldson report

As already discussed in our first post, at CDSM we feel that we have a huge role to play in the implementation of Donaldson’s recommendations. We broadly support all of the report’s proposals, and strongly believe that it provides the opportunity to make a real difference to future generations in Wales. However, we understand that others may be a bit more tentative. After all, the report represents significant change that can only be achieved with time and, ultimately, teacher re-skilling. Teachers are at the forefront of this change, and so these fears represent very natural reactions.

At CDSM, we believe it’s our duty to support teachers, schools and regional education consortia through this transition. Our innovations in education technology, our understanding of pedagogy, and our commitment to their profession enables us to make teachers’ lives easier and their everyday tasks less time-consuming. We want to be there to aid them in their re-training, always listening for their pressure points and hearing their requirements. We’ve seen, many times, how useful the private sector can be in developing the holistic, niche or bespoke innovation that fulfils a need and ultimately helps teachers, schools and authorities to improve the services they provide. As the supplier of Hwb – which has become the gateway for a centrally-provisioned national toolkit – as well as region-specific services, CDSM is in a privileged position to work at the heart of this historical change.

One of the more profound changes is summed up in Recommendations 6 & 7 of the report:

“6. Children and young people should have their learning developed across the curriculum through three Cross-curriculum Responsibilities that should be the responsibility of all teachers: literacy; numeracy; and digital competence.

7. A digital competence framework and an accompanying ‘Routes to Learning Digital Competence’ should be developed and be included as a Cross-curriculum Responsibility.”

– Successful Futures, page 42

The focus and drive to implement the LNF in recent years has been an all-consuming task for teachers, local authorities and regional education consortia alike. Embedding a digital competence framework across the curriculum promises to be even more challenging. Teachers will need to be able to support the use of digital technologies throughout their lessons, whether they are teaching Drama, History or ICT. We know from experience that not all teachers feel comfortable or equipped to do this, and so again we find ourselves in a position where our services and expertise can make a difference. We’re already working with Welsh technology and teaching professionals to create a training programme that will help to alleviate much of the ongoing concern around this recommendation. Through our technologies, we’ll be facilitating communities of professionals who can support and learn from each other in order to become the teachers this report requires.

schoolboy with laptop and teacher - donaldson report

Although the report goes to lengths to make clear that it does not favour one teaching method over another, it does make some key recommendations about the very nature of the classroom itself. Children and young people want lessons to be more relevant and engaging, with more practical lessons, more fun, more interactivity, and more out-of-classroom activities. We know from a number of studies, including one by the US department of state (summarised in this CDSM infographic), that a blended learning approach has real benefits to learning and retention. In this sense, blended learning is mix of classroom based and non-classroom-based learning (e.g. e-learning).

We aren’t suggesting that Professor Donaldson was specifically advocating e-learning when referencing non-classroom-based learning, but it’s clear that well-constructed learning in this format has a significant role to play, both in adding variety to lessons and homework, and providing different stimuli and challenges for the learner. It’s also an approach that aligns with the Digital Competence Framework, and supports other key recommendations of the report. For example:

“Children and young people should develop their own e-portfolio, possibly including ‘e-badges’, to record key achievements and experiences.”

Successful Futures, page 83

“Significantly better and more creative use should be made of technology in the teaching and learning of Welsh and also modern foreign languages.”

Successful Futures, page 60

The classroom will undoubtedly maintain a physical form for some time yet but, for learners of all ages, it is now well-established in a virtual form too. Learning no longer takes place solely in school or at home, but through all interactions with the digital world. Through Hwb, a learner now has the ability to record that interaction, aggregating the learning seamlessly into an e-portfolio which can be used as both a revision aid and as evidence for assessment/evaluation.

CDSM have a role to play in formative and summative assessment too, with tools that create a variety of testing activities for use in multiple environments. The key differentiator in Hwb is that these tools form a part of the learning and development cycle, engaging the learner as an active participant, rather than simply providing a benchmark on their ability to learn and repeat.

“Testing, both multiple-choice and open-response, is an important element in the repertoire of assessment techniques. Regular classroom testing is a long-established feature of teaching and learning. The construction of tests that do more than focus on recall and simple application is, however, both complex and time-consuming.”

Successful Futures, page 79

“Innovative approaches to assessment, including interactive approaches, should be developed drawing on the increasing potential contribution of digital technology.”

Successful Futures, page 80

Donaldson Report - children in classroom

From a teacher’s perspective, technology already available in Hwb enables the collection of a young person’s learning. It tracks their progress automatically, and provides real-time analysis of achievement. It also offers instant feedback, and can be used to engage parents, carers and other stakeholders in the learning process – something the report cites as important:

“There is likely to be a greater emphasis on recording procedures that enable teachers to keep track of each child and young person’s learning…”

Successful Futures, page 77

“Increased use of digital media should be explored to help to improve the immediacy of feedback to parents and carers and engage them more directly in supporting learning.”

Successful Futures, page 83

Outside of the classroom, CDSM continues to have a responsibility to provide solutions for key stakeholders in our education system. We’re already working with the regional education consortia to provide technological systems and structure for School Improvement and External Verification processes. So, from our point of view, references in the report to assessment and verification are a welcomed inclusion.

“Where the results of assessment are to be used for purposes of comparison, issues of reliability in teacher assessment should be addressed through effective moderation; where the prime purpose of assessment is assessment for learning there is less of a need for reliability between schools.”  

Successful Futures, page 80

Assessment and verification are, without a doubt, important factors in ensuring that the next generation of young people have a consistent and comprehensive education, no matter what part of Wales they are from. In a conversation that has largely focused on curriculum and process modernisation, Professor Donaldson’s highlighting of these less talked about (but equally important) facets will ensure that they receive the attention and consideration they deserve.

If this series of blog posts has one message, it’s that all of us here at CDSM are excited by the changes recommended in the Donaldson Report. We can’t pretend that the transition to a truly forward-thinking education system will be easy, nor can we pretend that it will be quick. However, we can guarantee that we’ll do everything we can to make the transition an engaging, empowering process – one that supports and benefits all of our teachers and learners in Wales.

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