Tuesday, 02 April 2019 08:06

ChoiceU 2.0 – Transforming Our Learning Ecosystem

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By Tim Tobin

Choice Hotels is a leading hospitality franchising company with nearly 6,000 hotels across 11 brands around the world. From a learning perspective, ChoiceU.com is the LMS portal for over 50,000 Choice franchisees to access, complete, and track learning activities. It includes a wide range of required and elective content needed to run their business. The content spans lessons on our proprietary systems, operations and brand programs.

The Mission

Choice Hotels is committed to learning to drive our franchisee's performance. We engage and prepare all levels of learners from front desk and housekeeping to General Managers and Owners. We provide multiple opportunities for learning from the onboarding process throughout one's employee lifecycle. We understand scale by training over 50,000 unique, geographically dispersed learners globally each year. We do so while maintaining a focus on the unique needs and preferences of each of our learners. We make learning easily accessible, fun, engaging, and results-oriented. We seek input from our learners continuously. We challenge ourselves to deliver content that matters most to our learners and their business in the most useful and relevant ways that meet their needs and preferences.

On May 17, 2017, we launched ChoiceU 2.0. The initiative focused on transforming our LMS to be a more engaging, relevant, dynamic and user-friendly learning tool. This evolution did not require a new LMS. We transformed our Learning ecosystem by evolving our learning delivery, processes, capabilities. and content to meet the needs of our diverse workforce.

[ This solution was not all about technology.]

At the Beginning

It all started in 2016 with an enterprise-wide assessment of learning tools, management system and content.   We gathered data from internal stakeholders as well as from our primary learners – franchisees. We obtained input from Owners, General Managers, and across other employee groups such as front desk associates. The purpose of the data collection was to understand what was working well with ChoiceU.com and what needed to be improved.

Very early on in the data collection and analysis, a common theme emerged. The theme was “we love ChoiceU.com, but…” There were high levels of support for the tool. However, learners found it to be “overwhelming,” “difficult to find what they were looking for,” and for the more senior roles of owners and GMs “lacking relevant content for their role.” We also learned that our methods of delivery did not meet the learners needs or preferences. To that point, content was typically delivered in 45-60-minute online modules. Our learners accepted the online nature of learning in our geographically dispersed environment, but the length presented operational challenges because many learners are guest facing and not traditional office workers.

With that data in hand, we set out to re-design and significantly enhance the learners’ experience. We wanted to make it easy to access learning and make the content and delivery relevant and engaging. Our goal was to increase course completions and help drive key business results. Those results included Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), Overall Service, Average Daily Rate (ADR), and Likelihood to Recommend (LTR). 

Our Journey

We combined adult learning principles and leveraged available technologies to develop a comprehensive overhaul of ChoiceU.com. The solution was a major transformation that included many new features and functionality. Utilizing our internal capabilities, solutions in general included needs assessment, user experience testing, micro-learning, learning maps, e-learning, video-based content, and business metrics. It is important to note that all of those listed below are new to ChoiceU.com as part of this transformation.

  •          Created new learning taxonomy

We organized all content by the following four areas: a) systems/operations, b) brand/service, c) leadership/management, and d) functional areas.

  •          Tailored learning and overall user experience to brand and job function.

 Once logged in, the user experience will be based upon the learner’s brand including colors, logos and images.

  •          Integrated interactive learning maps.

One-page roadmaps were created specific to individual’s brand and job function that outlines the content necessary for success in role. Once an activity is completed, the chevron receives a ‘check’ mark. If new content is added, the chevron is unchecked.

  •          Developed Business Solution Maps.

We partnered with stakeholders to identify the top five business challenges facing leaders on property (e.g., preparing for inspection, improving profitability, increasing guest satisfaction, etc.) and built a curriculum specifically to address each of those challenges.

  •          Launched ChoiceU TV

These short (3-15 minute) video lessons are facilitated by an internal subject matter expert or approved business partner.

  •          Incorporated leadership and management content

We partnered with a third-party to add over 80 leadership and management modules in multiple languages.

  •          Supplemented Human Resource and Legal educational resources

Because we are a franchisor, we have limited ability to provide HR or Legal educational resources. We partnered with a third-party provider to include a wide range of these resources to our franchisees.

  •          Added full mobile-enabled functionality
  1. com is fully mobile-enabled across multiple platforms.
  •          Engaged messaging feature

Once logged in, users see the most recent messages. Messages can be tailored to each user by job function and brand.

  •          Added multiple language interface

On the log in page, users have the option to select from five languages to translate the user interface.

  •          Content ratings collected.

Introduced a five-star rating system that allows users to rate and leave comments on every piece of content. Top rated content rises to the top of searches, and it serves as a diagnostic for the ChoiceU team to monitor content.

  •          Enhanced search functionality

Learners can now search by topic, title, keyword, or type of learning.

  •          Easier course registration

Introduced a calendar feature with one-click registration for all live, instructor-led and webinar course; also, once logged in, no course is more than 3 clicks away from registration.

  •          Added documents and Resources section for job aids

Included this new tab to host job aids and other quick tip resources organized by our new taxonomy.

  •          Hosted multiple apps

Introduced brand specific apps to support Daily Huddle/Stand Ups for two brands (Comfort Inn and Suites and Sleep Inn). We built upon their service principles and blended discussion and action into a short (~15 minute) format.

Learners ChoiceU Experience

Personalized Dashboard with Integrated Apps & Live Stream Updates


Relevant Content Centralized in One Location


Learner’s Achievements


Our Results

Results to date have been impressive. We have attracted more students to ChoiceU.com and they are completing more content. Early indications are showing promise for business results as well. As of year-end 2017, we achieved the following:

  • Surpassed 57K active student accounts on CU.com
  • Increased course completions from 336K in 2015 to over 1.3M in 2016 to 1.7M in 2017
  • Increased the number of course completions by owners by over 3x (from 9K in 2015 to over 29K in 2017)
  • Reduced page views by 20% and session duration by nearly 50% indicating learners are finding content faster
  • Achieved nearly 200K completions on ChoiceU TV
  • Increased webinar registrations by over 25% since 2015
    •          Increased brand program adoption rate by 3x with Comfort Service Champions
    •          Achieved 1500 certified Champions in 4 months compared to 1-year w similar previous initiative adoption
    •          ChoiceU.com Superusers – the top 100 in completions – have ADR of $87.04 compared to $79.76 for all other hotels. This same group has LTR of 8.56 versus 8.07 for all others
    •          Increased LTR scores for properties engagement levels with ChoiceU.com. Using Comfort Inn as an example (see chart 1 below), those with no engagement with ChoiceU.com have average LTR of 8.11; low engagement has 8.19; mid-level engagement has 8.27. Properties highly engaged with ChoiceU.com have average LTR of 8.46.
    •          Overall Service scores increased from 8.36 for None and 8.83 for high engagement. Similar results exist across each brand with the greatest increase in scores from the None category to Low suggesting that even some levels of engagement with ChoiceU.com may noticeably increase results across key metrics.


    Chart 1: Likelihood to Recommend Improvements



    This solution was not all about technology. Although ChoiceU.com was the primary anchor of this transformation, the successes we have realized to date are due to the front end work we did to fully understand the needs of the business and our learners, the current state of ChoiceU.com, taking into consideration our operational environment (franchisor, geographically dispersed, 24/7 service model, etc.), subject matter expertise in adult learning principles and theory, and how we structured the team to be more customer centric. It would be easy to overlook any single aspect of what went into the solution. However, it was the combination of these considerations that drove the solution.

    [ The successes we have realized …are due to the front end work we did to fully understand the needs of the business and our learners.]

    We asked, listened and understood. Then we tested, partnered, monitored – and continue to monitor results – and modify accordingly. We have come a long way since we initially identified the need, but we have not fully completed the transformation.   In the near term, we are looking at ways to champion user generated content, demonstrate stronger ties to business results, establish additional business partnerships, enhance the user admin functionality, and introduce leaderboards and badges.

    About the Author


    Tim Tobin is CLO of Choice Hotels International. Choice Hotels has been named a Learning! 100 Award-winner in 2017 and 2018.


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