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Posts Tagged ‘eLearning’

I’ve had two client discussions this week that are leading me to write this blog post as a public service to all my professional training colleagues.

lockPlease beware of getting locked into proprietary software platforms!

I have a long history with technology-fueled training, and I understand the appropriate place for software development. Many new systems had to be developed from scratch over the past 20 years, and I enjoyed being a part of that evolution when working with Pedagogue Solutions back in the day.

However – the software world has matured now, and when it comes to training applications and delivery platforms, if you have a fairly complex need, such as learning management, content management, on-line video training, event management, HQ-to-field information exchange – there are very likely some commercially-built solutions that you can license.

In the vast majority of cases, you do NOT want to have a custom shop (or internal IT people) re-invent the wheel for you.

One of my clients had some modules developed a couple years back into some kind of proprietary eReader software. Now, when it comes time to update it, what happens? They’re either stuck with the original supplier (with a very high price tag), or they essentially have to extract the content and have the modules re-developed using a commercially-available authoring tool so that it can be maintained and updated in the future by anyone they choose.

Another client told me about a pretty complex platform that cost an arm and a leg to develop from the ground up. After consuming all kinds of time and effort, it never really got off the ground in its intended form – while there were other commercially-available platforms that could have been quickly deployed, and would have been supported in an ongoing way.

Some thoughts, based on many years of experience in the industry:

  1. Developing new, complex platforms and applications is extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming. It should be left to companies that specialize in platform design and support. License what already exists!
  2. Training development companies that happen to also do some digital stuff are absolutely NOT the companies you want to take on the creation of an ambitious complex-system platform. They won’t have the resources to do it right, or to support it. I am especially thinking about overly-ambitious marketing/advertising agencies, who like to say that they can do anything.
  3. Every sophisticated software platform takes 2-3 times as long, and costs 2-3 times as much, as you and your development partner initially think. Trust me on this.
  4. Supporting a sophisticated software system custom-created for one client is enormously expensive. On the other hand, when a commercial software shop – say, a Learning Management System vendor – is spreading ongoing development and support costs across a larger number of clients, then it becomes a viable business model.
  5. It’s not just about the immediate need. You must think about sustainability.

One other thing: whatever software platform you choose to use for whatever purpose, make sure that it is written into the contract that you always have full access to all of your content and data, in a usable and industry-standard format, including the ability to completely remove your “stuff” and migrate it to another system.

I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve seen this lesson learned the hard way. And I’d like for you to avoid costly mistakes. So here is my offer, for any of my life sciences colleagues who are considering training software applications and platforms: feel free to reach out to me ahead of time and let’s brainstorm a bit. I’m quite serious about this. I don’t charge you anything for this kind of advice, and I want you to succeed.

Just send me a note: AskSteve@impactiviti.com. I’m glad to chat with you.

Fifteen minutes could save you…well, you know the rest of the ad!

15 minutes

 

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Some of your vendor-partners are great at more limited learning initiatives – but what if you need something with greater breadth and depth, like a global learning program?

That’s when you need a training partner with a deeper pool of resources.

Today’s case study is how one of Impactiviti’s premier partner companies executed a global eLearning program for a Consumer Healthcare client.

>> Case study_Global Learning Program

CaseStudyGlobaleLearning

Reach out to us here at Impactiviti (973-947-7429) for any outsource training needs you have – we’ll be happy to recommend an optimal partner!

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Impactiviti provides vendor-client “matchmaking” services in the life sciences training area, built on a unique trusted referral network model. We consult and provide vendor advice at no charge for life science companies. Contact Steve Woodruff at asksteve@impactiviti.com

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Yes, we’re in the midst of the digital revolution. If you know me, you know I’m totally into it (and have been for a long time).

We made a slow but steady move toward taking our training and marketing and communications, and migrating them to digital formats and platforms. Learning Management Systems. Content Management platforms. iPads. YouTube. Closed-loop Marketing programs. On and on.

That’s not what’s primary, however. It’s inevitable that we evolve into using these new tools. But digital conversion is not enough.

The conversation should not primarily be about digital. When delivering information to any audience, these three things should be at the forefront, driving every format and delivery decision:

  • Clarity
  • Relevance
  • Timeliness

Whether it’s 1954 or 2014; whether it’s print or .pdf or television or Twitter; whether it’s sales or marketing or training; these three issues are our primary concerns.

> Is it clear? Whatever you’re trying to convey has to be understood by your audience, not just put in front of their eyeballs. Even the Golden Gate Bridge cannot be appreciated when it is buried in fog.

> Is it relevant? The most wonderfully formatted and expressed information will not move any needle strategically, if it is delivered to an audience that doesn’t see a WIIFM.

> Is it timely? Communications of any sort have to reach people at the point of felt need. Digital may – or may not – be an important part of the timeliness equation.

We (and our vendors) often think about tactics and programs in terms of deliverables; e.g., this is going to be blended learning module on A&P and disease state which will be compatible with iPad delivery. That’s fine, but it’s a layer below the top-tier concerns. How will the information design be incorporated to achieve maximum clarity? How can the most prominence be given to the most relevant information? How can ensure that our audience can access what they most need when they most need it?

Utility is primary

Format isn’t the focus. Utility is primary. If it’s not clear, relevant, and timely, it’s not useful.

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Way, way back when Apple’s iPad was first announced – you know, a year and a half ago – I predicted openly on this blog that it would be a game-changer for eHealth. Which goes to show that even someone as crystal-ball-challenged as me can get it right – sometimes!

At least 6-8 pharma companies (so far) have already committed to deploying the iPad to their sales forces, and I predict that it will become the new standard for delivering marketing messages, implementing eLearning and eCommunications, and facilitating territory management. In short, the iPad will displace the laptop.

And this means that an awful lot of applications will be re-designed for the new platform.

So here’s my new prediction for the rest of 2011-2012 – it’s going to be one freaking mess. Fun, because it’s the iPad, but a big tangled digital mess nonetheless.

Why? Because each company is going to have to “piecemeal” over a bunch of legacy functions and apps, from a variety of vendors, plus each department in the pharma company that communicates electronically with the field force will be throwing their stuff into the electronic stew.

Let’s say the iPad initiative starts with a major brand, or a therapeutic area. And the initial focus is on eDetailing. Do you realize how quickly, and how chaotically, everything else will start jumping on board once the initial commitment is made to go iPad? You’d like to think there was a master plan somewhere, right? Someone thought through all the ramifications and made a big-picture blueprint? Yeah, right.

The mess is already happening to the first wave, because this is how the transition will go initially:

As I was saying to one of my clients a few weeks ago during our brainstorming lunch, it’s just going to be the wild west for a year or two, and much of the true potential of the iPad will not be realized because we’ll be too busy moving the used furniture into the new house while still putting up the drywall.

The solution to this will come from the vendor side, and it will take the form of an “engine” underneath to

  1. handle the data flow,
  2. consolidate content management, and
  3. provide a common UX (User eXperience) interface to multiple applications.

It will allow much easier “plug-in” capability for new apps and give an integration layer that all the onesie-twosie apps we’ll see in the first wave won’t have. The user experience will be the starting point, not the afterthought. I’m guessing that one or more of the eDetailing and eTerritory providers are already working on this. I would be surprised to see this come out of the eLearning camp.

It’ll be a bit rocky getting there. But of all the vendors peddling apps and solutions for the iPad, keep your ears tuned for someone taking this approach (and having more than vaporware to show). That’s where the big win will be.

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eLearning continues to morph into mobile, 3-D, and social (web 2.0) directions – but it’s going to take a while to see these new directions mature. Here are some links to chew on as you consider new learning technologies:

:: New book and website: Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds

:: eLearning Predictions for 2010 from a number of leaders in the field

:: Elliott Masie‘s site, with loads of learning events (including social learning)

:: An eLearning meta-site (collection of eLearning blogs) on Alltop.

Impactiviti keeps a finger on the pulse of new technology learning and the best vendors to partner with. If you’re looking for providers to help you advance your training, contact us for a recommendation! (stevew@impactiviti.com)

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