Saturday, October 3, 2009

The AGILE in Agile, Accurate Training

Our Holy Grail in this e-learning business is to have an extensive library of agile, accurate training content. That's why we chose those adjectives as a tagline for GCPLearning's marketing purposes.

"Accurate" is pretty obvious and easy to understand - we develop courses that are based on regulations and focused on keeping people safe and companies within the law, so they'd better be right - correct and up-to-date in terms of the regulations, realistic in terms of the world in which our learners work.

But we get a few questions about the "agile" part. Isn't agile like nimble, the characteristic of Jack that allowed him to jump over a candlestick?

Yup, that's pretty much what the dictionary says:

  1. quick and easy of movement; deft and active
  2. keen and lively

We strive for agility on a number of fronts: in our business practices, in our effect on our customers' businesses, and as reflected in our tagline, in our product itself.

As for business agility, Google points to 4,290,000 instances of the phrase agile business - the general theme being the ability to react quickly and flexibly as situations arise.

Product agility - wind me up and watch me talk! I love this aspect of what we've created. We measure the agility of our courses five main ways:

  • Are they portable? Can you easily move them from LMS to LMS (Learning Management System)?
  • Are they flexible for training administrators? Can you play them in an LMS, straight off the web or desktop, off a CD-ROM?
  • Are they customizable? Can you add and subtract elements like pre-tests, post-tests, certificates, etc.?
  • Are they flexible for learners? Can you choose a path through the content, learn at your own pace, preview what's to come and review what you already looked at?
  • Are they editable? Can you make changes to the content without throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Videos are a hallmark of training media - done right, videos are entertaining, portable, reproducible, and instructive. But they're far from agile when it comes time to revise or update them. Generally speaking, when a regulation or industry best practice changes, you throw away your videos and buy a new set.

That's not agile. That's ponderous. That makes staying accurate a slow and expensive proposition.

Drill down to the finest detail of our course design, and you'll find agility as the defining principle. The courses are highly modular, made up of chapters, chapters made up of screens. Each screen is a short, discrete chunk of learning content. How short? Under 80 words - about 30 seconds of narration. That gives the learner agility - reviewing a 30-second screen is easy and quick.

And when a regulation changes, it's usually some small detail that shifts. So 90% or more of the course is still completely accurate and needs no changes. Bringing the course up-to-date entails rewriting the text, re-recording the narration, and updating the Flash content - but only for the 1-3 screens affected by the change. Drop the revised files back into the content folder of the course, and it's an accurate, up-to-date offering.

That's agile!

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