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A global training implementation is much more complex than a blended learning solution designed for one country or for one region. Managing learner schedules, understanding the impact of regionalization, and getting content out in the most appropriate way are just some of the considerations the learning architect needs to consider.
A global program will probably be a blend. However, the old metaphor of a blended learning solution being a recipe, where you need to combine the right ingredients to get the right results, is not powerful enough to support the needs of modern organizations. Modern blended learning is more accurately described as a formula: combining the right elements in different ways to achieve a balance that meets the needs of all the stakeholders within the organization.
It’s really about chemistry.
Every element of a blend – content, people, technologies – reacts in a different way depending on where you are in the world. Environment makes a big difference when we are considering how we implement a global solution. Change one small item and you may have a very different result. That might not be a bad result; the formula for implementation needs to be flexible enough to anticipate and accommodate different approaches and outcomes.
If this is the year you’re going global, you need to start by considering your organization’s unique formula. Start with content, people, and connections. Each one of these elements needs to be considered independently and in combination with the other elements. Each is critical to success – focusing on any one over the other will assuredly have an impact on your program success.
Essential Element #1 - Content
There is a reason we always start with content – presumably there is a business need that has identified some combination of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will help the organization to meet a documented business goal. This content needs to be regionally appropriate, delivered at the right time, in the right format, and with appropriate context.
As an industry, we are very good at creating content – but we are not as experienced at delivering that content so it meets all moments of learning need. The key here is to create learning campaigns that combine formal training with performance support, standard operating procedures, and other informal elements that can help keep your global program on track with a consistent message and outcome.
Essential Element #2 - People
It’s critical to engage stakeholders at the beginning of any training program. That’s something else we as an industry do reasonably well. Where we often aren’t as successful is keeping stakeholders engaged throughout the process.
The Business - For example, business stakeholders from every country might agree that the sales of widgets needs to increase. But the way a sales process is approached in Japan might be very different than how it’s approached in the United States or in Brazil. So the same sales training program implemented to increase the sale of widgets may need subtle, nuanced changes from country to country. These nuances may not be immediately obvious – you need representatives from these countries involved not just at the beginning of development but throughout the pilot.
The Training Team - Implementing and managing a global blend is probably new for the training professionals involved. These are the people on the front line – representing the content to the learners. Instructional designers, facilitators, and producers need to be fully prepared how to create and deliver your program, and understand the impact of regionalizing the content, creating an authentic learning experience, and managing groups of learners that potentially represent multiple countries, regions, and cultures.
The Learners - We need to understand where our learners are, how they work, and how they learn. What needs to be designed for mobile environments versus office environments versus work at home environments? This could be very different from country to country. And what does their technology look like? Do they have the bandwidth and computing power available to fully participate?
My biggest concern when it comes managing a global learner population is: are we creating equivalent experiences for everyone? We have to balance the need to get information out while being cognizant of not making any particular country or region feeling unimportant or under considered.
Essential Element #3 - Ensuring Connections Between Content and People
After you’ve considered the content and the people, it’s critical to create a plan to connect them in ways that meet the needs of the learners and the organizations, and automates the process as much as possible. No organization is equipped to manually support every aspect of a global learning program. Fortunately, most of what you need to create these strong connections is already in place.
Create connections by:
- Using technology strategically. It’s tempting to always go with what we know. If we're using Adobe Connect, we try to deliver all of the content using that platform. Perhaps someone on the team knows how to use Articulate Rise – so we choose that tool to drive the learning solution. But think about every moment of learning need, and map learning technologies to appropriately support that moment. And identify what you really want to measure – what data are you going to use? If you have a complex blend with virtual classes, e-learning, infographics, tools, and other microlearning elements, you can wind up with more data than you know what to do with. Identify your evaluation needs at the beginning of the process, and use your LMS to track just what you need. (Learn more about how to use technology by downloading the eBook Sorting through the EdTech Toolbox.)
- Creating a strong communication plan. With a global solution there is going to be a lot of moving parts. Live online lessons, face-to-face events, scheduled assessments, and whatever else your blend entails. Without a thoughtful communication strategy, learners can quickly become overwhelmed with learning requirements, and critical learning components can get lost. Create a campaign map to visually illustrate the blend including sequence, investment of time, and other critical components. Then, create your communication strategy around that campaign map. (To read more about creating campaign or course maps, and to watch a video on this topic, click here.)
- Expanding the role of the producer. InSync has been talking about the role of the virtual classroom producer for 20 years. It’s become an accepted practice when delivering virtual classroom experiences. But as blends become more complex, both with available learning technologies and impact on a global learner community, the role of the producer needs to be expanded. The concept of “producer as learner advocate” can really be exploited here. The producer can manage all the technologies, support learner participation, and help the facilitator of the experience identify potential concerns before they become problems. Whenever possible, use a producer that understands the regionalization impact of the content. Common language, time zones, and other experiences can truly help connect learners to the content.
Getting the Chemistry Right
Identifying the correct elements of a global learning solution, and combining them in just the right way, is critical to balance the needs of the organization and the learner population. As with any successful program, creating a strong plan up front, developing appropriate content, and constantly engaging your stakeholders will help ensure success.