Credit unions prepare for e-learning

One of the desires companies have when investing in large corporate intranets is to use them for e-learning. In most cases this is not a difficult task, since content management can be driven from the top.

But for societies with dozens of independent members, not all of whom want the same thing, the task is more difficult.

The Credit Union Institute of Canada (CUIC) recently decided to use Mountain View, Calif.-based Docent Inc.’s enterprise suite as the infrastructure for its e-learning solution. With more than 650 credit union members spread across the nation, organizing a solution was no simple task.

All Canadian credit unions are members of provincial trade associations, which are in turn all members of CUIC. But CUIC also had strategic partners to consider when building the site.

“We had a lot of consultations with these various parties to determine what the requirements were,” said Cheryl Byrne, executive director of the Credit Union Institute of Canada in Toronto. This took several months. Once that was done, CUIC went back with a finalized-requirements document and asked all those involved to prioritize it.

A final document was then sent out and CUIC received 14 proposals from learning management companies.

CUIC built a matrix (functionality, support, robustness and value were a few of the parameters) to measure each solution. They came up with four finalists, who were then invited in for two days of presentations before a selection committee, which included representatives from across the country.

One advantage to the Docent solution was Docent Live, Byrne said. It enables live communication, collaboration and learning over the Web. Given CUIC’s members geographical dispersal “it was very important for us to have this functionality,” she said.

The informal knowledge management was also a plus. This includes such things as case studies and best practices from which users can learn. In addition, CUIC officials liked that the individual credit unions could create a domain for internal use. The CUIC solution is designed with a top-down structure where everyone has access to the national learning organization, all provincial credit unions to the provincial portion of the domain, and individual credit unions to their own portion of the domain (if they choose to develop one).

And if a smaller credit union chooses not to create its own domain structure, the system can still be personalized to individual users and their set of e-learning courses.

A larger credit union can customize its own domain. All it would need is to appoint an administrator who would run anything from the credit union’s portion of the domain downward. Some individual credit unions may have already built their own e-learning solution, but this is its first incarnation at a national level.

CUIC hopes to have the site up and running by the end of Q2. It will run out of the Toronto office. CUIC has purchased 20,000 licences, which it will resell to the individual credit unions.

Though CUIC has yet to go live with the technology, Cingular Wireless LLC has. The Atlanta-based company has 35,000 users and is happy with the implementation.

“We have had great results with it here,” said Rob Lauber, executive director of learning services with Cingular.

The company also looked at a variety of solutions, narrowing its list from the 11 originally in the running. Ease of making changes, scalability and time to implementation were all contributing factors in choosing Docent, he said. It took about 100 days from contract signing to going live, he added.

Since there are a fair number of e-learning solutions it is important that companies figure out exactly what it is they need and find the closest match, Lauber said.

“We drive a ton of volume, last year we averaged 1,800 enrolments per day,” he said. This includes signing up for individual courses.

Lauber said all Cingular employees have used the system, which has been live for about 18 months, at least nine times. Employees were also required to finish nine compliance courses. Cingular is running the solution on Sun Microsystems’ Solaris platform, though the Docent solution also runs on Windows.

Data used to populate the learning management system can be pulled from Oracle, SQL or DB2 databases. For example, “they can take their learning courses that sit on their Oracle database and plug it right into the system,” said Tobin Gilman, vice-president of product and field marketing with Docent.

Lauber said the two improvements he would like to see in the Docent solution – a live communications and collaboration option, and analytics – are both available in the most recent release.

Gilman agrees with the need for the new additions. “The next big thing in this industry is analytics,” he said.

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