Thought Leader Q&A: Talking Rapid eLearning Best Practices And The Expanding Role Of L&D With Dr. RK Prasad

Thought Leader Q&A: Talking Rapid eLearning Best Practices And The Expanding Role of L&D With Dr. RK Prasad
Summary: In this eLearning Thought Leader Q&A, we discuss rapid eLearning myths and viewing L&D as a strategic partner with Dr. RK Prasad.

Exploring Rapid Accelerators, Immersive Learning Staples, And Smart Tools

Dr. RK Prasad has nurtured CommLab India from concept to commercial success and is responsible for formulating the business strategy. An entrepreneur at heart, RK has 35 years of experience in sales, corporate training, university teaching, and eLearning. He shares his experience with the L&D fraternity through seminars, webinars, and workshops, and holds a Ph.D. in Mobile Learning from Lancaster University, UK. Today, he speaks with us about common rapid eLearning misconceptions and why 2023 is the year that L&D goes mainstream.

Can you give our L&D readers one piece of advice to help them effectively implement blended learning? Is there a common mistake that organizations make when launching a blended training program?

My advice? Keep an open mind—don’t jump the gun when recommending a particular blend just because a particular format is more popular, or is trending, or you have very advanced skills in that area. Take a holistic approach to the whole design, development, and deployment of blended learning. Leave your pet preferences aside and craft the solution purely based on the actual customer need.

First, listen. Identify the scope and structure of the training program by engaging in conversation with project stakeholders.

Then, gather inputs. Don’t make the mistake of creating content from scratch. While this may seem necessary, with a little groundwork, you’ll see that it isn’t. Curate and gather all available resources so you can decide what can be repurposed. For example, while classroom PPTs can be repurposed for VILT, webinar recordings can be repurposed as ready reckoners.

Analyze: proceed only after a thorough audit of all relevant factors, including the learners, their requirements, intended outcomes, budget, content, infrastructure, technology, etc. Understanding the learner demographics and their work environment is especially crucial. This will ensure they receive the right asset based on their learning journey.

Only after this should you decide on the blend. Discuss it with the stakeholders and then make your recommendation. This is because, as L&D professionals, we sometimes lose our objectivity in our enthusiasm and come to the table with a blend already brewing in our brains. The important thing is to remember that “form follows function”!

Another common mistake that organizations make with blended learning is getting disparate digital assets developed and hoping to use them together. Blended learning assets should address the entire spectrum of learning needs—from pre-assessments to post-training just-in-time support at the moment of need. So, they need to be tailored for the blend that is chosen for the training.

Finally, look for a partner who has experience with this format of learning and who can help you get the best ROI with online assets such as VILT, microlearning, eLearning, performance support, translations, and more.

CommLab India is well known for its rapid eLearning solutions. Is there a common misconception or myth that you believe prevents organizations from making the most of rapid eLearning services?

Rapid eLearning has become a necessity for organizations today to upskill and reskill employees and support their growth. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about rapid eLearning. Here are a few examples:

  • Rapid eLearning means a lack of creativity—courses will be designed with a cookie-cutter approach
  • Rapid eLearning means no Instructional Design, poor quality
  • Rapid eLearning offers no scope for new-age learner engagement
  • Rapid eLearning means click-next screens and boring assessments

The biggest myth of them all is that “rapid” implies a lack of innovation or creativity. But rapid eLearning does not mean sacrificing quality/effectiveness/robustness on the altar of speed and scale. On the contrary, rapid eLearning is based on robust Instructional Design, minus the fancy frills.

But how can eLearning be rapid and still be effective and robust? That’s because rapid eLearning leverages authoring tools that make it easy to develop courses and save SMEs time. Most popular authoring tools available now offer:

  • Templates for assessments and common screens
  • Intuitive interactivities
  • Video editing capabilities
  • Free assets such as images, icons
  • Multiple publishing options
  • Scope for online review

A competent L&D team that follows an agile, iterative design and development process can help deliver impactful rapid learning solutions that deliver the promised results.

What is one of your biggest eLearning client success stories?

How does an organization in the highly regulated field of biopharmaceutical research train its global end users to seamlessly use a new Regulatory Document Management System (RDMS) from the day it’s launched?

This was the challenge we successfully met for our client, a leading US research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, and commercializes innovative medicines for the unmet medical needs of patients living with life-threatening diseases.

The Need

Biopharmaceutical research needs all research data to be documented accurately in compliance with stringent industry standards and approval processes. Its growing organizational needs and regulatory demands made it necessary for our client to shift from their old RDMS (Regulatory Document Management System) to a more sophisticated one that would work seamlessly for their global user base.

They were seeking a qualified training partner to help in the development and delivery of an effective “role-based/blended-learning” training program that would provide the content and tools required to demonstrate, educate, test, evaluate, and allow for end-user adoption of the new RDMS for their global user population of around 2100 employees in 3 locations.

The Challenge

The main challenges for the RDMS training were the dynamic nature of the system itself (that was still being reviewed, tested, and updated), the multiple roles (four) and functions of end users, their global spread, and a fixed go-live date before which all training formats had to be ready.

A major challenge in developing courseware simultaneously along with the software’s customization is that developing the training curriculum cannot wait until the customization is completed, finalized, tested, and accepted. The training had to be delivered to the 2000+ users before the system went live. Learners had the option of going through eLearning or on-site training.

The Solution

We met the challenge of developing the eLearning courses and other training materials by ensuring that courseware development happened simultaneously with their software customization! We shadowed the technical teams, documented the changes, and developed the training material simultaneously along with the customization. All while also ensuring customized training curriculums for each of the four user roles (and for the ILT part of it, scheduling training for learners with multiple roles).

The Results

The training was very well received by the learners, and almost 100% of the participants completed the training successfully. All learners from the US headquarters to their satellite offices and subsidiaries in Europe and Japan were able to use the new system seamlessly from the day it was launched.

You’ve published numerous articles and eBooks with eLearning Industry over the years. Can you give our readers a sneak preview of what’s in store for 2023?

2023 will be the year L&D goes mainstream. It is increasingly taking the center stage in areas not traditionally associated with training, those important for an organization’s growth and sustenance—such as employee well-being and sustainability. Here’s what I think is in store for L&D in 2023.

1. The growing role of L&D

L&D, as a strategic, consultative internal partner for key stakeholders within the business, is going to be tasked with demonstrating results in a tangible way, going beyond mere statistics (such as completion rates), to actual performance improvement (which is our raison d'être in the first place!). It is emerging as a consultative partner whose role is expanding from just rolling out training programs to something more—building a learning culture in the organization—whether it is for sustainability training, DEIB, or more.

With a growing number of business leaders believing that Learning and Development is key to business success, L&D will continue to deliver value for business leaders through consulting on competency-building roadmaps, supporting internal mobility, future-proofing the business through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, and maintaining their role throughout learners’ learning journeys. They will play a key role in building, maintaining, and growing the learning ecosystem within the organization, using both internal and external resources for improving performance through training.

With L&D teams now speaking the language of the business and involved in consultative conversations with key stakeholders and creating a learning culture, they will continue to work more closely in the future with executive leadership and HR. They will play an active role in attracting, retaining, and growing talent and helping the business gain a competitive edge through its most valuable asset: its people.

L&D will have to support the hybrid workforce and keep up with the latest in technology. Going digital isn’t the only way—L&D should demonstrate the impact of training on business results by leveraging learning analytics. This will help them make an impact and cement their place at the decision-making table.

L&D pros will also need to invest in their own learning, so they are cutting-edge when it comes to addressing current and future training requirements. Learning agility, design thinking, and emotional intelligence are among the crucial skills they will focus on in addition to other professional competencies such as business acumen, strategic planning, and execution. They should also invest in getting to know their organization inside-out and in building their brand to make meaningful, long-term contributions.

2. Technology and rapid accelerators

Technology will both widen and deepen the scope of corporate training like never before! LMS, LXP, and social learning are the top investment areas—clearly showing the increasing preference of organizations to build and support learning ecosystems. And L&D will make use of emerging technologies to create robust virtual learning, even as we see an increase in the return of in-person training events.

What excites you most about the future of eLearning, especially regarding the transition from on-site classrooms to online learning?

Before I go into the future, I’d like to talk about the recent past. What’s exciting is that L&D has met the challenge of what once seemed to be a “mission impossible” and made it highly possible. During the pandemic and post the pandemic, training programs traditionally delivered only through classroom ILT were transitioned smoothly to the virtual medium, without any loss of impact.

On the contrary, these virtual courses also had the added advantage of enhanced reach and convenience, matched with cost-effectiveness. The skeptics and late adopters amongst our fraternity and business leaders in our organizations have been largely won over. They have seen that online training works, and now there is no going back! Technology, which once used to be slightly overwhelming, has now become L&D’s best friend.

I see more and more organizations transitioning their training programs online while reserving the precious face-to face time for collaborative learning and practice of skills. Immersive training is no longer a word associated only with on-the-job or classroom training. Today, we can replicate almost any ILT virtually!

I think you will agree with me that the future of corporate training, especially online learning, is brimming with rich possibilities! I’m personally excited by how immersive learning and tools are making the transition from the physical to the digital space meaningful for organizations. Let me share what I see is going to happen in online learning of the future.

1. Immersive learning

Today’s learners work and learn amidst a cacophony of distractions and digital devices. Workplaces are seeing the influx of digital natives for whom videos, games, and the metaverse, are staples, not buzzwords. In this context, our learning solutions need to be visually engaging and easily accessible. Here are the favorites:

  • Learning games
  • Interactive videos
  • Scenarios and avatars
  • Simulations
  • AR/VR-based courses
  • Microlearning assets

2. Tools and tech

Smart tools that save efforts and cost while decreasing development time are the next big thing in L&D’s journey. Text-to-speech software is an amazing example of AI replacing humans. After a few initial hiccups, this space has seen machine voices having emotions, recognizing nuances, and more. Imagine not having to worry about finding the same narrator if your course needs updates after three years!

Technology is a great leveler, and with costs becoming less prohibitive, this is what organizations are investing in:

  • AI-enabled tools for translations, audio, image editing
  • Smart tools for video creation and development
  • Easy-to-use authoring tools
  • Stock sites
  • Gamified and microlearning platforms
  • LXP and learning ecosystems

Wrapping Up

Many thanks to Dr. RK Prasad for participating in the Q&A. RK was featured in our 2022 eLearning Trailblazers list, and you can read his articles by visiting his author profile on our site, where he covers transitioning to VILT, dynamic visual engagement principles, and much more.