British Telecom (BT) successfully launched and implemented a new learning management system (LMS) in 2006. One year later, the learning and development (L&D) team decided to implement a collaborative system for authoring, managing and deploying learning content. Today, BT’s collaborative authoring system is enabling the lines of business to deliver e-learning content more quickly and efficiently—and ensuring compliance with the company’s commitment to accessibility.
The previous year, British Telecom had determined that all new e-learning content must comply with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web content accessibility guidelines (AA) for conformance for individuals with disabilities. This prompted the learning council at BT to assess line-of-business requirements and capabilities. The enterprise recognized two key needs:
1) industry standardization/compliance; and,
2) the ability for the lines of business to produce their own training content specific to departmental requirements. As a result, the BT council sought a way to upgrade its existing LMS.
British Telecom’s approach to the development of training content is to employ seasoned external vendors to produce the majority of its training programs. BT has relied on a small number of custom e-learning vendors and additional content created by its lines of business. Typically, the in-house initiatives dealt with smaller, rapid e-learning projects.
The resulting training content was delivered by whatever method was the most expedient (CD-ROM, network server or intranet server).
While this approach provided a quick fix for selected training needs, custom applications created in-house were hard to maintain: backups did not occur, source files were misplaced, and personnel with the skills to update applications moved on to other jobs.
British Telecom had a library of more than 2,500 learning programs, many of which were stored in a closet filled to overflowing with CD-ROMs and other media.
So the team evaluated 16 different authoring tools against the checklist of BT requirements. Each evaluation also included a product demonstration, most of which were conducted online.
Based on the company’s requirements, the evaluation team selected a collaborative authoring system from Atlantic Link, which provided an integrated suite of tools for creating, managing and tracking learning content. The tools in this suite are:
>> ContentPoint – A collaborative authoring system that provides a collection of prebuilt templates for creating online courses;
>> CapturePoint – A tool for capturing screen activity for developing IT training applications; and,
>> Knowledge Point – A management system for deploying and tracking finished courses.
Users access all of the components of the system by using a Web browser to log in to a centralized application server.
The software suite has server-based architecture, which offers collaborative authoring, centralized content management, and an integrated learning management system (LMS).
The collaborative authoring system contains features designed to simplify and accelerate the authoring process, including authoring wizards, Flash-based templates and a PowerPoint importer.
The L&D team strove to avoid non-standard uses of system templates and, whenever possible, to address end-user requests with existing features. When this was not possible (and when the requested feature had broad applicability), the L&D team worked with the vendor to develop and release a template providing the requested capability.
One other major challenge was how to maintain the quality of courses created with the collaborative authoring system.
The L&D team addressed this challenge by training users before providing them with system access—but also by establishing and communicating rules, standards and processes for quality control.
Deploying a new authoring system and putting development capabilities into the hands of end-users has redefined BT employee roles and processes. First, the system has empowered SMEs to create their own training. Second, it has expanded the use of e-learning to new applications. Third, it has decreased the cost and increased the timeliness with which the business units can deploy certain types of training.
While BT expects to continue to employ external vendors for large-scale projects (such as company-wide compliance training), the collaborative authoring system has allowed the organization to respond with greater agility to smaller projects requiring rapid turnaround.
THE END RESULT
From the perspective of the enterprise’s L&D group, the implementation of a server-based collaborative authoring system offers an entirely different set of advantages.
One of these is the cost-efficiency of sharing a small number of licenses across a large pool of authors. The L&D personnel view this investment as far superior to locally installed desktop authoring programs, which are typically restricted to a single user. For the team, local applications are difficult (if not impossible) to support. By contrast, a centralized, server-based system makes it much easier for the organization to provide training and end-user support to in-house authors.
Another advantage of the collaborative authoring system is that it provides centralized storage and management of training courses, as well as the media assets that they contain. Since applications are stored in a central location, the source files are never misplaced or lost. Centralized assets also facilitate course updates. Use of a standard authoring tool allows nearly anyone in the organization (whose has earned 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.
—For more information on Atlantic Link’s rapid e-learning architecture, visit the Website http://atlantic-link.co.uk/index.htm.