Tuesday, April 3, 2012

UGA Graduates Discuss Corporate Learning Paths

 By Danielle Slatinsky

Four graduates from the University of Georgia's Instructional Technology Master's Program discussed how their degrees have benefited them in their careers at the March 6th meeting of ASTD Atlanta’s Technology-Based Learning SIG. 

Each of the four panelists shared valuable and applicable information.

The Learning Organization at Home Depot

The first two panelists, Mike Law and Jenn Lortz, are employees at Home Depot. Mike was the first to present, and he provided information about how his team has been using e-learning for the 15 years he has worked for the company. Employees of Home Depot need to have immense product knowledge to help their customers with projects. To meet this need, the company spent over $14 million on learning just last year.

Mike explained how Home Depot centralizes learning by having 9 room locations where employees can access a variety of webinars taught be master trainers. To cater to the more fast-paced generation, training modules are limited to 10 to 15 minutes each instead of 1 to 2 hours; that way employees can learn in intervals. Experienced employees are given the option to pre-test out of the modules if they already know the material.

There are three major field support teams at Home Depot: solutions, design, and execution. The solution group does a needs assessment, and then the design group that Mike works with fulfills the request for needs. Finally the execution group figures out how to roll out the program. Mike concluded by saying that their motto is “Teach Me, Show Me, Let Me Try.”

After Mike, Jenn continued with the presentation about learning at Home Depot. Jenn’s team is working on transferring 18,000 pages of learning into applicable e-learning modules. They are trying to generalize topics by creating tool categories as opposed to having a separate module for each of the thousands of tools Home Depot carries. Home Depot also creates modules for employees to learn how to determine the right tool for projects, as well as how to operate the tool properly and safely.

Jenn went on to explain that the master's program she attended at UGA had a studio model that she still uses today. This studio model showed her how to learn a tool, practice with the tool, and then create with the tool. This applies to the creation of Home Depot e-learning modules because they have employees learn the tool in the module and they include simulations and animations. Then they let employees role play with face-to-face interactions to help them apply what they learned.

Interactive Learning at AT&T

Ben Rockwood, Associate Director of Training Design at AT&T, gave a fascinating presentation on “Easter eggs,” 3D simulation learning environments, and paperless courses on iPads. He explained that Easter eggs are hidden keys that program designers can put into their presentations. He showed some examples of fun designs that his team hid in their projects. These hidden keys can also be used by the designer to make the editing process easier. For example, a hidden key can display a menu that would take the user to any slide in the presentation.

After demonstrating the hunt for Easter eggs, Ben went on to discuss how AT&T is currently developing 3D simulations to use as assessments. He previewed the 3D simulation and showed how it allows the user to go through the motions of assisting a customer in an AT&T store. This form of assessment provides new employees with an opportunity to apply their newly learned skills using practical application as opposed to a paper test. Questions appear throughout the simulation to test the knowledge of the user, and then a score is calculated at the end. Ben explained that this form of assessment is going to be used in stores within the next month.

Ben went on to talk about how his team just launched a completely paperless training course. Participants in the course use iPads to follow along instead of using spiral bound notebooks. He commented on how instructors and learners alike enjoy this new form of learning. Ben concluded by saying that it is important for corporate training designers to first figure out what they want to do and then find a way to use technology to effectively accomplish their goals.

Managing Learning at ICF International

Jessica Wals is a Sr. Instructional Designer at ICF International, where she completes various projects for federal clients. She started out by saying that her main goals for this presentation were to cast a critical lens on managing and to evaluate learning.

The main portion of Jessica's presentation was devoted to describing the ADDIE model she learned at UGA and how she applies it in her line of work.

A stands for Assessment (instead of the traditional Analysis for ADDIE); in this case assessment means that the designer needs to assess the main goals of the project and what participants should learn from the presentation.

D is for Design, and this implies that a design team has to figure out what methods they will use to design the presentation.

D is Development; the development stage consists of actually making the training offering with whatever mode was decided upon in the design phase.

I represents Implementation, which is the part of the process where the team introduces the training to the participants.

E is for Evaluation; this stage is very important because it evaluates the effectiveness of the training.

Jessica spent more time on evaluation than on the other four. She described various types of evaluation that can be utilized: reaction, departmental meetings, online surveys, focus groups, and analytics. This phase is very essential because it is important to know if the training course had a positive impact on participants. Jessica explained that much of what she does at ICF International is informal evaluation. She gathers data from co-workers casually talking amongst each other or from small meetings. She stated that she wants to begin to apply more formal evaluation tactics to get better feedback from participants.


The takeaway from these presentations was very beneficial. The presenters did an amazing job of discussing multiple aspects of corporate learning. They gave an inside look into what they do on a daily basis and provided the audience with enriching tips on how to improve corporate learning.

Do you use any of these methods and tools for corporate learning?

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