By Fiona Leteney, Fosway Group.
Extending L&D’s focus from employees to customers and partners
At Fosway, we have been tracking the massive increase in the use of learning technologies as a result of the global pandemic. One area where this has had a big impact is customer and partner education, which was traditionally delivered in the classroom by trainers often traveling the world. L&D professionals with experience of online learning are well placed to train external stakeholders digitally, however there are significant differences to supporting internal learning.
This blog explores a few of those variations, in particular the different requirements and level of sophistication your learning system will need to support learning beyond the enterprise. This blog covers:
- Delivering learning in a complex hierarchy
- Changing the modality of courses rapidly
- Becoming a profit centre.
Delivering learning in a complex hierarchy
An organisation’s external customer or partner landscape can be complex, and the level of complexity will dictate the sophistication of the learning system. For L&D, internal employees can be split into groups and audiences and this segmentation can be used externally if the requirements are simple.
However, it may be necessary to segregate learners for each customer organisation or brand to the extent that each customer has their own web link to access a dedicated part of the learning system. So, a single instance of the LMS in effect provides multiple LMSs with each one being autonomous and having its own administrators, business rules, notifications, languages and security controls that could even include different password configuration policies. The ability to enable and disable functionality in each part of the system allows you to provide each customer or brand different features and experiences as they require them.
In certain contexts, it is useful to decentralise and delegate administration to your customers, who can be given sophisticated security roles (permissions) to be able to add learners, create and add content, produce progress reports, create other admin roles, customise the branding, and add further groups or audiences. They become a superuser in their own system.
Changing the modality of courses rapidly
Trainers who have been responsible for the delivery of customer education in the classroom will now need to repurpose it for online delivery. A rethink will be required, as this is not simply a matter of substituting classroom with live delivery through a virtual meeting application. However, there may not be enough instructional design resources with experience of more complex authoring tools available in L&D to support the production of courses and online resources. So having a simple authoring tool as part of a learning system will help get courses online quickly by allowing subject matter experts (SMEs) to create repurposed online resources themselves. Fosway Group’s Digital Learning Realities Research 2022 shows that over 50% of L&D professionals are planning to extend their digital learning resources using SMEs.
Becoming a profit centre
Learning systems that support internal employee training mostly do not need ecommerce capabilities, and Fosway research shows that the less mature learning systems rarely have native financial capabilities. However, this is exactly what is needed for customer education especially when the training is sold as a product. As the training goes online and the opportunities to operate at scale increase, so automating financial transactions becomes even more important. As a result, some learning systems are starting to integrate with existing storefront products and payment gateways, while only a few have native and more configurable options. For example, there may be the need for invoicing and receipts for certain customers because not everyone will purchase via a credit card. Being able to use multiple monetisation strategies, such as subscriptions, coupons, and licences to sell certification, within the same system or for a specific customer could be essential. And then there is the functionality required to support payments in multiple currencies as well as ever-changing local taxation rules. Yes, it’s complex!
Meet the expectations of external stakeholders
Internal L&D departments have a lot of experience of supporting those involved in the delivery of customer and partner education. However, to ensure the learning system meets the expectations of external stakeholders, learning teams will need to carry out an in-depth investigation to understand whether the learning system can support these potentially complex requirements. If you have an existing internal learning system, check if it has the hybrid capabilities needed to support internal and external audiences. If it doesn’t then look for a more specialised system which focuses on the right areas for your external needs, paying particular attention to those mentioned above.
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