By Hans van Bergen, Hogeschool Utrecht
As the experience of this organisation shows, anybody can become expert in creating training content fast.
It all started when Hogeschool Utrecht, a University in Holland, faced a huge challenge. They needed to train hundreds of educators for their certifications—and fast.
Unfortunately, the instructors couldn’t attend traditional in-person classes because they were teaching seven thousand kilometres away in the Caribbean.
Fortunately, the institution already had a solution. Using the Eurekos learning management system (LMS), the school’s subject matter experts began building online courses to replace classroom courses. With well-defined processes and technology, the university built 400 digital courses in just a few months and 1,700 courses in three years.
This case study shows the journey we took to develop those processes, get the help of subject matter experts, and find the right technology. With this information, you can do the same yourself.
What’s important about Utrecht’s example is that it’s easy to translate to the corporate world, where it’s more important than ever to rapidly convert to online training.
Utrecht’s School of Education were already testing online training to reach two groups of students.
The first group were students located in the Netherlands but couldn’t move to Utrecht for their master education. The students couldn’t come to Utrecht every week, so we had to find a different solution for them.
The second group of learners were enrolled in specialized degree programs that were small, with too few students for formal classroom training.
For example, there were few students pursuing careers as German-language teachers. But by collaborating with other universities, we brought those small programs together to make group of learners that were large enough for online training.
In both cases, online learning was an alternative to the expensive in-person instruction. Most importantly, the digital component improved the learning experience.
If we had been a company instead of a university, our first group of learners might have been employees in remote locations; and the second group could be learners from outside the organization that needed the same training as those inside—such as customers, individual franchisees, sales representatives from resellers and service providers.
Bringing those individuals to one location for classes on new products, procedures and regulations is expensive. With the right technology, you can develop and deliver online training anytime and anywhere.
While a few people at the University had been doing a little digital course creation, they struggled with a Microsoft SharePoint deployment to get training modules to students.
To promote “lifelong learning,” we developed a course concept that combined strong social interaction between teachers and students and blended learning.
At that time, I was a consultant for education innovation. The university asked if I could design a digital learning platform that used video and other training materials that could support learning teams. Nick Erikson, the CTO at Eurekos who had helped me with the first phase of the project, understood what we needed and translated my instructional design into a real working digital solution.
Our instructors were used to delivering training in person. As they told Nick and me, “You can’t deliver my material online.” Working together, however, we built 15 weeks of classes in less than a week.
The “test pilot” faculty members who developed content for the digital learning courses became ambassadors for the other instructors at the School of Education. Immediately, faculty were willing to build courses themselves. We told teachers, “You can wait until next year to do this,” but they lined up in front of my office saying, “I want to start now.”
About that time, the three Caribbean islands, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, became special municipalities of Holland. The Island schools were facing a considerable teacher shortage, so the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science gave funding for the recruiting and training of instructors. Suddenly, Utrecht, one of the major universities for training instructors, was asked to expand its course creation concept and make it available immediately.
The university administrators understood the value of what we were doing and supported the implementation with time and money. That gave us the ability to develop the learning management system that is now known as Eurekos, a real Next Generation Digital Learning Environment.
Because the courses were developed in an inclusive way, we received a lot of support from teachers and students. Both were involved in the development of the platform. After all, both really needed those courses. And the technology supported it.
Very quickly, students began taking courses online and meeting with university instructors every six weeks to finish the training.
Many instructors chose to build courses from their office or at home in their spare time, but the university created on-campus production studios where instructors could go to create videos and other types of content.
Within just a few months, the original 20 or 30 courses expanded to 400. In three years, that count was four times that much.
Each course included instructor videos that lasted between five and ten minutes. There were also videos produced externally, as well as animations, quizzes, gamification, and textual content, among others.
Today, the same students who took those courses, who are now working as interns, are using the same technology and processes to create lessons for use in their classrooms. Their students watch videos on their own and come to class to join the discussions, projects, and other activities.
This program has been transformative. While large corporations can use in-house teams to develop new training or contract out the work to content creation firms, most companies don’t have that luxury. But every organization has internal subject matter experts. These people are willing to build short training courses that would help fellow employees if they knew how to do it and had the right technology.
How to Produce Training Content Quickly
The secret to rapid content creation is having the right technology for content creation and distribution. For Hogeschool Utrecht’s School of Education that was the Eurekos LMS, which specialized in helping people develop rapid courses. It’s easy to learn and set up the course structure in Eurekos and add the content—like videos, games, and other elements.
The features of the Eurekos LMS that are most useful to us:
Collaborating on content.
Sometimes you need to create content with teams working from multiple locations. Eurekos has several features that support co-creation, page locking and advanced version tracking.
Cloning courses and localizing.
You can easily make copies of a course and build multiple variations for different applications and different locations.
Keeping courses fresh.
Maintaining and updating courses is a challenge. They can become out of date quickly and for all sorts of reasons— new processes, regulatory changes, new product updates. With Eurekos, users make universal changes that can automatically change other courses. For example. Hogeschool Utrecht had many instructors sharing YouTube videos with their students. When YouTube changes their video links, it was tedious to update every link manually in each course. Eurekos applied changes universally throughout multiple courses.
Easy to learn.
A great advantage of this platform is that users just point and click to build their courses. Instructors learned it easily, and it was fun. That’s why it was so easy to get lots of courses built so quickly.
It’s hard to sit at home learning all by yourself. Eurekos facilitates social interaction through discussion forums and takes it a step further by offering seamless access to Twitter and Facebook in courses.
Content that’s created in Eurekos works immediately with any size display. Students can use any mobile device they have available—laptop, tablet or smartphone.
On the administration side, the Eurekos LMS includes the ability to create learning paths for a student based on multiple criteria like level of expertise, role, or interest. A learning analytics tool gives the learner the ability to track progress and address skill gaps. For managers or instructors, the system also reports on progress and performance.
If you have a course idea, you can build it quickly. Subject matter experts are enthusiastic about building their own courses because technology is no longer a roadblock.
5 Ways to Build Courses Faster
Find experts to spread the word.
Identify people in your organization who know what they’re doing and are willing to create training modules and help others do the same. Once you learn that SMEs are everywhere, you don’t have to wait for training professionals (or actors) to build courses. Content creation will accelerate dramatically. Employees will teach each other and share content back and forth. They don’t have to start from scratch.
You may need auditions. Some people have a knack for teaching others and immediately know what content is meaningful, based on their expertise. Your objective is to unleash the potential inside your organization and find those people who want to share their knowledge.
Monitor results to avoid wasting time.
The best LMS delivers reporting on what courses are most popular and how much they’re being used. With insight into those and other trends, you can create related content that has traction with learners. If nobody is watching an introductory video, then you know why there are very few people in the discussion forums. Dump those from your courses and move on.
One example of a great integration is H5P, which simplifies the sharing of interactive lesson modules to make training much more engaging. If you have external courses, using a learning platform that supports integrations will save you the effort of having to create the courses yourself.
Choose a partner wisely.
There are companies that promise their LMS will work in any situation—if you change your processes to fit their technology. That doesn’t work well. I’ve found it’s much better to identify an LMS provider that is responsive and will integrate your good ideas into their product and make them a reality as quickly as possible.
Hans van Bergen specialised in the use of IT in education for more than 25 years. He created e-learning courses in music for primary school teachers. Then he was involved in developing and implementing a digital portfolio in teacher training for many years. And finally, he was a consultant for innovation in education at Hogeschool Utrecht. Hans has presented his ideas on blended learning at Dutch universities and other educational institutes all over the world. Hans recently retired from Hogeschool Utrecht and is now senior partner at Creblz International.