Time waits for no business in today’s competitive global market. Demandsfor competitiveness, flexibility and creativity require an entirely different way of proceeding in the corporate learning environment. In most global companies, it takes much more than the occasional one-day seminar for employees to keep there skills updated. Learning must occur daily, throughout the working hours.
A good example of a company that is exploring innovative ways of enabling its employees to quickly and conveniently gain knowledge and skills is high-tech firm Motorola. By using leading-edge performance-improvement methodologies, applied research, and technology, the company’s College of Learning Technologies (CLT) provides learning solutions to employees worldwide through the use of Web-based systems, CD-ROMs, instructor-led training, on-line communities of practice, video and satellite conferencing, and even virtual reality.
The CLT comprises a team of skilled performance technologists and learning architects who are constantly developing new ways to promote learning on a global basis.
“People always think of a classroom when they think of learning. We have to look at making learning part of what people strive to do on a daily basis – a natural part of living. Technology has to make that possible,” says CLT Director, Christine Good.
“By putting instructional designers, researchers and course architects together, we have a community that can collaborate and share more readily, meeting needs faster and giving the best solution from a broad spectrum of learning experts,” she adds. “This keeps Motorola focused on continual learning and not just training.”
THE CORPORATE UNIVERSITY
Motorola University (MU), which began life in 1981 as a comparatively modest training and education centre, is now a US$100 million global strategic learning organization. With a work force of more than 600 professionals, the university manages seven major learning facilities around the world and has 99 sites in 23 countries.
The CLT is a department of Motorola University Colleges, a cadre of experts in instructional, multimedia design and educational technology. Its charter is to provide innovative learning via classrooms, on-line experiences and multimedia components such as video and satellite conferences. The department develops courses, learning tools and methodologies and conducts applied research to make sure it is providing the best services available.
As MU continues to pursue its comprehensive learning strategy, the CLT is at the forefront in providing the learning solutions to reach all company employees with “the right knowledge, at the right time, anywhere in the world.” A key strategic element is providing tools for instructional designers and subject matter experts to easily create online learning for global distribution.
A TOOL FOR LEARNING
The Learning Design Wizard is the first CLT tool available to assist in the design and development of courseware and performance support systems via MU’s Intranet. For designers and subject matter experts, the Wizard quickly integrates learning concepts and topics, multiple choice questions and feedback, glossaries, discussion groups and reflective activities for an online learning environment.
THE PURSUIT OF QUALITY
Perceiving that some of its wireless communications competitors were surpassing them technically, Motorola launched the ‘5NINES’ System Availability initiative in 1997. 5NINES guarantees customers will experience no more than five minutes of downtime during a year of operation, and assures those systems and services work all the time, every time.
A cornerstone of launching 5NINES was the provision of a globally obtainable Systems Availability Foundations course that could be easily maintained and immediately updated. To meet these goals, CLT designers and subject matter experts used the Wizard to create and deliver this Web-based course through MU’s global Intranet. Accessed via a Web browser, the course utilizes video, audio, graphics, text and interactivity in an easy-to-use interface.
Participants are introduced to learning practices that, when applied in the work place, can increase product availability. “They are challenged to identify one or two ideas to include in their personal performance plans and workplace practices they believe can support or hinder their work group from making 5NINES System Availability a primary goal,” says Wells.
To support the 5NINES effort, the availability of qualified instructors and physical classrooms could not be a barrier. To meet this challenge, CLT partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to implement a technology-based learning architecture called Just-In-Time Lectures (JITL).
Delivered on CD-ROM with the ability to link to the Web, a JITL allows a designer to convert expert lecture-based materials to an easy-to-use format. The architecture integrates approximately 60 minutes of video segments, PowerPoint slides, a topic index for navigation, and frequently asked questions into one easy-to-use learning environment. Offering the ability to capture content experts in digitized video, the format allows for the retention, standardization, immediate updates and global distribution of core knowledge.
“Just-In-Time Lectures provide an effective, low-cost way to create and present educational materials to associates worldwide,” says Ingrid Fernandes, a lead instructional designer for CLT. “Through them, we can deliver a consistent message from one or more experts. This can have an impact on large manufacturing and engineeringpopulations who do not have access to certain levels of expertise.”
OTHER LEARNING OPTIONS
CLT instructional designers and developers have also targeted video teleconferencing as an alternative delivery vehicle. With teleconferencing, more people can be reached in less time than with traditional classroom sessions. Teleconferencing also provides participants with direct access to experts.
“You save money distributing and implementing the training this flexible way because people can access it whenever they want. That’s critical to a large organization,” says Art Paton, MU’s program manager for 5NINES.
Another learning technique is ‘virtual reality’ simulations. In this desktop learning environment, an operator can explore equipment and learn basic operating procedures such as starting up or troubleshooting equipment, while receiving instructor feedback. This allows all participants to have equal, quality learning time, as well as individualized instruction. Participants are free to learn at the pace, and by the strategy, they prefer.
This type of learning method provides a safe environment unique to the participants. They can take their time and not worry about damaging equipment or experiencing downtime. MU designed and developed the ‘virtual reality’ methodology and architecture, which makes use of 3-D live models, graphics, video, text and audio.
“Even if it’s simply to supplement a lecture, adding multimedia can be a powerful tool,” says Clayton Chamberlain, an MU multimedia designer. “As people get more comfortable with training technology, see the obvious benefits, and as it gets more powerful and reaches more people, the demand for multimedia training technology will continue to increase.”
And as that demand increases, so too will Motorola’s ability to deliver the right knowledge, at the right time, anywhere in the world.
Rochelle Rucker is a freelance writer and media coordinator for MOTIVATORS, INC., a Houston-based public relations and advertising agency that writes about changes in industries’ workplace and work force.