I Want Cake, and Yes, I’ll be Eating It Too

on June 26, 2008

This little nugget of wisdom baffles me: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Why? Is there anyone who ever had cake who wasn’t able to eat it too? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I would counter that you can in fact get everything you want.

As I write this blog on my tiny wireless device 50,000 feet in the air, I am certain in my knowledge that it can and will instantly transmit and post to a site where people in any country can read it. Because I have access to great technology, I am constantly surprised that with the pace of technology developments there are still organizations that don’t have the latest flash plug-ins, or (gasp) don’t even have computers.

This problem of not having the right technology to implement e-learning to employees seems to be most prevalent in the retail sector. Stores often don’t have the space, need, money, and/or security to support a computer in every store. Let’s talk cake…. the industry with the most employees in the “gamer” age range – retail – doesn’t have the technology to roll out the kind of training that this group could most comfortably respond to and learn from.

One of our retail clients understood the benefits that e-learning would bring to this demographic, and wanted to eat their blasted cake. With great courage, they decided to make the changes necessary in their company and stores to make it available. They took the plunge with us and developed some interactive game-like e-learning targeted at new employees to get them quickly up to speed on the training that the whole company experienced last year (as a group) with a DVD and manager facilitators.

After it was built, the focus test returned exciting results. The associates were engaged, they retained the knowledge, and they were excited to learn and return to it again. One obstacle was left – I.T. issues still remained that could not be resolved in time to meet their deadline.

Rather than wait for that change to happen, our client came back to us, hands in the air, and cried, “Help!” (It was really very dramatic, if you can picture it – and folks, this is the climax in the plot.) She was scared that all the money and time invested in this training was about to go down the toilet, and that they would miss the deadline and the opportunity to move forward with their first dive into e-learning. What could we do to help them meet their goals?

Together we came up with a plan to build all 5 of the modules into one interactive DVD that the learner could manipulate through remote control. It would have the same look and content as the PC-based modules and was still built for an individual learner.

Some adjustments had to be made, and there were a few key losses in the transition, including some of the characteristics that had made it game-like. Scoring and tracking were lost, and it moved to a more linear approach. We wanted to keep some level of competition, so we built paper score cards and a facilitator response into the DVD audio to tell them every time they got a right or wrong answer so that they would write X points on their score card.

Though our solution worked, it placed some limitations on the engagement. The good news is, they now have three different methods to deliver the same learning – a DVD that runs like a film and is built for a group setting with a facilitator, PC modules for individual learners, and an interactive individual-based DVD.

With a little collaboration, there are solutions that can ensure that e-learning works no matter what kind of technology a company has, and that same content can be built upon and moved to different delivery methods as the technology support in an organization grows.

If you have learners who are in the gamer generation, you’ve got the cake. Don’t let your current technology situation keep you from letting them eat it.

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