© Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 1 of 10
St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning:
A Case Study with Industry Insights
Sandra An...
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end of Q1 2004. This was a problem because th...
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interface or leases access to a system design...
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Human capital – the combined value of workfor...
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training, necessitate the purchase of softwar...
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3. Learning Management Systems (LMS)
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Portable Computing Devices
Handheld devices a...
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system with “Power users” and centers of exce...
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interacting with one another. Due to the natu...
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St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning: A Case Study with Industry Insights

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With more than 1,200 sales personnel across North American in 39 regions and 50 states, St. Jude Medical – a $2 billion worldwide manufacturer of heart valves, catheters, introducer, pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillator devices – needed a cost and time effective training solution in a short amount of time. The company’s e-commerce team was tasked with creating an action plan. This paper explores their investigation and evaluation into e-Learning solutions – complete with industry information, analysis and recommendations.

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St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning: A Case Study with Industry Insights

  1. 1. © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 1 of 10 St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning: A Case Study with Industry Insights Sandra Anderson, MBA Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Debra K. Moring, MBA MatthewAGilbert.com mttglbrt@gmail.com (661) 513-3370 Abstract With more than 1,200 sales personnel across North American in 39 regions and 50 states, St. Jude Medical – a $2 billion worldwide manufacturer of heart valves, catheters, introducer, pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillator devices – needed a cost and time effective training solution in a short amount of time. The company’s e-commerce team was tasked with creating an action plan. This paper explores their investigation and evaluation into e-Learning solutions – complete with industry information, analysis and recommendations. I. Overview: St. Jude Medical St. Jude Medical is a $2 billion worldwide medical device organization specializing in the manufacturer and sales of cardiac devices including heart valves, catheters, introducer, pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillator devices. The company has more than 1,200 sales personnel in 39 regions and 50 states across North America – each of whom are proficient with heart, electrophysiology and implanting pacing devices. Sales representatives typically work alongside cardiologists and surgeons. There is little time for classroom training. Since 2002, St. Jude Medical has recognized the need for web-based business solutions to gain a competitive industry advantage. To support this vision, in 2003, the company launched a hardware rollout deploying laptops, printers and PDAs to all sales employees. Along with the hardware, classroom training was implemented. Within 90 days of training, many sales reps achieved a 30% utilization rate with the sales order application system and 65% utilization for the expense reporting process. The statistics were impressive and these successes gave the reps confidence and initiative to become computer savvy with state-of the art business solutions. As the confidence level grew among the more technologically oriented sales reps, they started asking for more web-based materials and other time saving solutions. In the fall of 2003, two key projects were initiated: Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Training and Compliance Training on Code of Ethics in the Medical Field. These programs had to be implemented by the end of December 2003 and required the entire sales force be trained by the
  2. 2. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 2 of 10 end of Q1 2004. This was a problem because the company could not easily pull representatives out of the hospital into a classroom at that time of year. The Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Training program alone required over 6 hours of training – not to mention travel time. Typically, a paper-based training module was offered with an instructor-lead class. However, this would have negatively impacted sales revenues. Securing trainers was another complex and costly problem. Senior management became concerned about the time and costs of traditional training. Removing a sales rep from the field for the length of a traditional program would prevent them from generating revenue. Costs associated with the traditional classroom style training – which range from $500 to $1000 per person – were also quite staggering when multiplied by the 1,200 individuals who would require the instruction. An obvious question was asked: how can we train all these people quickly, efficiently and cost effectively? The company’s e-commerce team was tasked with translating this problem into an action plan. Charged with examining what industry leaders were doing to manage costs and achieve full training compliance in the field, the team was responsible for developing an immediate solution to this costly and inefficient problem. They recommended that the training team investigate and evaluate e-Learning solutions as a possible answer. II. Capitalizing on a Competitive Advantage Well trained employees are an asset to any organization. With the appropriate strategy, an e-Learning initiative can enhance an organization’s training program and, ultimately, its bottom line. Recognizing the efficiency, accessibility and flexibility of computer-based learning, corporations have been increasingly integrating e-Learning into their training protocol. As illustrated by Hall (2004a): A 1999 benchmarking study of 501 U.S. companies conducted by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) shows not only a year-to-year increase in spending on e-learning, but also a direct relationship between company performance and spending on training. Companies that reported improvements in business performance also reported a higher level of spending on training measured as a percentage of payroll. (p. 1) By modifying their training operations to include e-Learning, a company can leverage the benefits of the technology. The biggest reasons companies are switching to e-Learning cost savings, time savings, improved retention, and flexibility. Of these, however, the greatest incentive for companies to use e-Learning is cost savings. The total cost of an e-Learning training initiative includes the cost of program development and the cost of delivery (technology). It is important to note that initial investment costs can be quite large – the range depends on whether an organization implements and managers its own
  3. 3. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 3 of 10 interface or leases access to a system designed by an application service provider. So, careful calculations must be done to ensure the most feasible option is embraced. Despite any significant initial development costs, e-Learning represents an affordable alternative to classroom training. Hall (2004c) explains, “corporations save between 50% to 70% when they replace instructor-led training with alternative electronic delivery. Housing and travel costs account for the majority of the savings. Lost productivity and revenue can actually be higher if you consider that classroom days include not only travel time, but also total time away from the office,” (p. 2-3). Notably, large companies benefit most from e-learning because the high development costs can be spread among more employees. Case in point: IBM saved two-thirds of the money it previously spent on traditional training ($200 million) as a result of implementing an e-Learning program (Hall, 2004d-e). Saving time is also a significant advantage of e-Learning. Time spent for the actual learning process has been proven to take less time than traditional training. As reported by Hall (2004d), “An average of 50% time savings has been found when comparing time-to-learn in a classroom versus on a computer,” (p. 1). E-Learning also reduces the time and expense (both direct and indirect) of transporting employees to attend training – which often comprises two-thirds of a corporation’s training budgets. Productivity can also be maintained because the employees will no longer need to leave the office to attend training at remote locations. St. Jude Medical estimates that current its company-wide training efforts – which usually occur three times per year – average $300,000 each (for a total annual cost of $900,000). This amount includes transporting, feeding and housing 1,200 people – in addition to the revenue lost by their inability to generate revenue. St. Jude estimates that migrating future training to an e- Learning environment could reduce costs by as much as half! Consistency and accuracy of content is an additional benefit – which is especially important to an organization such as St. Jude. This is an essential factor for organizations operating in highly regulated industries. Companies can incur fines for not adhering to required testing and tracking when accreditation or certification is mandatory. Notably, there are vendors who specialize in providing compliance training to the insurance, banking, securities, health care, law and real estate professions (Hall, 2004d). An e-Learning system can simultaneously provide thousands of isolated individuals access to the same information. With instructor-led training, there is no guarantee that the same information will be provided to all the students. Conversely, “e-Learning has shown to improve consistency by 50-60%,” (Hall, 2004d, p. 1). Morale can be improved with e-Learning. Employees are aware that they must develop their skills to strengthen their career path. The ability to acquire knowledge in a flexible, interactive way is an exciting benefit to current and prospective employees (Hall, 2004d). Business owners also favor e-Learning programs because they make their employees more knowledgeable, productive and, therefore, more valuable. As explained further by IOMA (2003):
  4. 4. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 4 of 10 Human capital – the combined value of workforce skills, knowledge, experience, and attitudes is a top priority among CFOs…building leadership capabilities and raising workforce productivity [are] top priorities…a well thought out e-Learning plan is likely to find an eager audience. (p. 13) Flexibility is also a key benefit of e-Learning. With technology, employees have an opportunity to become “pulled-in” to the educational process by personalizing their progress. Employees can accomplish work at their own pace – which may exceed that which a traditional course would provide (Hall, 2004c, e). Further, the employee can use a modular type of e-Learning in which parts of the training can be spread out. According to PBS (2003a): Business travelers or students in isolated areas can enjoy interactive, virtual classrooms no matter where they are…With the introduction of affordable digital communications and cellular handheld devices, our world now has an abundance of distance learning opportunities. (p. 11) Lastly, the amount of information available on-line is incredible. Ongoing improvements in computer technology in concert with the increasing functionality and reliability of the Internet have created a new generation of distance learning. Offering speed and interactivity beyond what all other forms of distance learning can, computer-based education has engaged teachers and students alike. According to Nancy Lewis, director of worldwide management development at IBM‘s corporate headquarters in Armonk, N.Y, as quoted in Hall (2004d), “We have been able to provide five times as much content, at one-third the cost, with e-Learning’ says.” (p. 4). III. Strategic Steps In order for an e-Learning initiative to be successful, an organizational strategy must be devised. Typically there is one person who spearheads this effort and gets things rolling. Usually, a person in this position is referred to as a CLO – Chief Learning Officer (Hall, 2004c). It is the responsibility of the CLO to set the strategy and ensure all subordinate elements are in place. One of the fundamental tasks of a CLO is to develop a strategy that integrates all areas of the company into the e-Learning initiative, thereby motivating all employees around the shared vision. And, in order to ensure the success of the effort, the CLO must first convince those at the highest leadership levels about the merits of the program. In short, “executive support is critical,” (Hall, 2004e, p. 3). Corporate management must understand the importance of closing business- critical knowledge gaps and that e-Learning is the most effective way to do this. Once their support is garnered, adoption of the initiative throughout an organization is ensured. Fortunately, “given the very substantial business imperative and impact of e-learning…executive-level support and involvement is high among most best-practice organizations,” (Hall, 2004e, p. 3). An initial e-Learning analysis must spell out all of the pragmatic issues, challenges and opportunities. It needs to be presented as an investment for the company to justify the costs. Launching an effective e-Learning effort will incur substantial development costs, require staff
  5. 5. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 5 of 10 training, necessitate the purchase of software and generate a need for the creation of course materials. Budget must therefore be adequate and flexible. Technology and metrics also need to be taken into consideration, such as bandwidth and network capability. IT will need to support human resource trainers in order to implement this process effectively. This proposition is only cost effective for companies large enough to offset the expenses of cost development. With regard to the cost of delivering e-Learning, while the actual training is not expensive, the initial outlays are. Once the appropriate parties validate a proposal, a team needs to be assembled. A virtual team can be useful; thus again using technology. As the budget process is being developed, human resource and finance need to be included. IT also is very important in addressing bandwidth and network capabilities. IT can be an important partner in convincing management to accept e- Learning – beyond their responsibilities of implementation and management. There are several sources one may use to implement e-Learning, such as using a vendor or authoring a program and an application service provider (ASP) to deliver the courses. There are e-Learning partnerships, learning portals and tutoring and mentoring services as well. Pricing is defined by the complexity of the courses, level of interaction and graphics. Customers evaluate the proposition using a per-student or per course rate. IV. Implementing Technology Whether an organization’s focus is academic or corporate, a successful e-Learning effort requires a technological platform that integrates within the existing infrastructure and makes the learner’s experience enjoyable (Research Bridge, 2003a). In selecting which is best for your organization, “if you consider the elements of maintainability, compatibility, usability, modularity, and accessibility when choosing your software, you will have a smoother, more effective e-Learning strategy,” (Research Bridge, 2003a, p. 2). According to Research Bridge (2003a), there are five primary types of e-Learning technologies: 1. Programming Languages Hypertext Markup Language is the most common programming language used for e- Learning. HTML-based e-Learning programs can be accessed by any common browser without the need for special downloads or plug-ins. However, interactivity is minimal. Java, JavaScript, PEARL, FLASH, or even CGI scripting can be implemented to counterbalance this. 2. Authoring Packages These packages are designed to overcome the difficulty most instructors have with using programming languages. Most authoring packages are visually oriented so the designer doesn't need to know any coding. The challenge with authoring packages is that they can be cumbersome to learn well enough to be able to deliver high-quality e-Learning in a reasonable amount of time. That’s why many companies choose to create their own content and then outsource the technical development.
  6. 6. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 6 of 10 3. Learning Management Systems (LMS) These systems are specifically designed to track the progress and performance of a multitude of learners. There are literally hundreds of academic and commercial systems from which to choose. The commonality among LMS e-Learning platforms is that they can track and store user performance; they can track the number of hits to a certain area of the site; and they can track the amount of time a learner has spent in a certain area of the course. 4. Content Management Systems (CMS) A CMS helps instructors catalog, track, and manipulate corporate information. For an individual instructor or a person working alone, content management is usually not a critical element. A CMS is effective when large amounts of information must be tracked and managed. Such as system is not as useful for e-Learning, because it lacks…end-user delivery and tracking mechanisms. 5. Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) These systems are combine LMS and CMS models. Such systems can track users, author content, and store, retrieve, and reuse content when needed. These “mega” packages allow an organization to have an enterprise-wide solution that takes care of every…need. In considering technical platforms, remember that any effort should be developed using SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model). Doing so facilitates portability between different LMS platforms. SCORM is a set of specifications for developing, packaging and delivering education and training materials (ALTRC, 2003). SCORM-compliant courses leverage development investments by ensuring courses are R.A.I.D.: Reusable Easily modified and used by different development tools. Accessible Searchable and available as needed by both learners and content developers. Interoperable Functional across an array of hardware, operating systems and browsers. Durable Does not require significant modifications with new versions of software. After the course content is created, either by one’s own internal development or by a custom developer, the courses are imported into a preconfigured LMS for tracking and distribution to the students using LANS, WANS or the Internet. An option to creating a program is having someone author the courseware by engaging in a partnership with a software developer or packaged courseware providers. Looking ahead, Research Bridge (2003b, p. 1), foresees the development of many new technologies, including:
  7. 7. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 7 of 10 Portable Computing Devices Handheld devices and laptops are likely to be the mainstay of computer use in education. According to the latest market research, public school districts in the United States are expected to spend $9.5 billion on information technology by the 2005–2006 academic year. Wireless Technology At the regional and local levels, the use of wireless technology is exploding. A recent development is the emergence of equipment for the 802.11a wireless standard which allows wireless networks to perform better, stronger, and faster. With the help of this increase in throughput, wireless LANs will become an acceptable conduit for applications such as video and streaming media. Tele-Immersion and Three-Dimensional Imaging Tele-immersion allows users at diverse geographical locations to collaborate in real time in a shared environment as if they were in the same physical space. Multimedia Projectors Multimedia projectors are getting smaller, lighter, and much brighter. Most manufacturers have launched new projectors into the categories of “ultra-portable” (units between 6 and 12 pounds), “micro-portable” (units that are under 6 pounds), and “mini-projectors” (units that weigh less than 4 pounds). The future will certainly offer units that are brighter and lighter. Technology cannot be considered a comprehensive educational model by itself. Embracing a blended model of on and offline tools, successful distance learning programs will develop integrated approaches to instruction. Doing so might also help reduce any challenges. V. Implementation Obstacles According to Training Dimensions (2001), “Bandwidth issues represent 58% of e-Learning complaints.” (p.3). St. Jude defined this problem early in their rollout and, to overcome it, obtained management support to reimburse sales reps for high-speed internet connections. Although the high-speed solution was double the cost of a dial-phone line, it was worth the cost if the reps were processing their orders electronically saving data entry resources. While some critics feel e- Learning lacks engaging content, it’s easy for the St. Jude to measure ROI when we use the costs of sales order support as one of the models. Technically speaking, firewalls can cause some problems and limit user access, however St. Jude was able to leverage their extranet solution and integrate with their software vendor. Online content development can be difficult however hiring professional and skilled vendors or development can mitigate this. With a strong partnership with IT and a good preparation for what e-Learning is about, many of these problems can be alleviated. Another challenge with e-Learning is basic software support. Some employees who may need extra support may not have a live person to contact for assistance – or be uncomfortable with online knowledge base systems. An organization must plan for this and create a field support
  8. 8. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 8 of 10 system with “Power users” and centers of excellence to ensure that people aren’t lost in the technology abyss. Obviously, people with special needs would more easily be identified in a traditional classroom setting (assuming the instructor is perceptive and engaged with the students). However, even in a traditional setting, there is no guarantee that the person will ever learn. Some people are simply slow learners and need time to absorb and get familiar with the product. E-learning is not for everyone, but neither is traditional learning – some people are not inclined towards education. Knowing this, St. Jude Medical will need to train all their help desk staff in the basic logon processes and provide a FAQ list in order to make the process seamless. Some vendors offer software support service either in real-time or with time delays, including e-mail questions. VI. Conclusion: Blending Models Distance learning has come long way since it was first implemented in 1837 by an English phonographer who taught correspondence courses in shorthand. Clearly the continued emergence of e-Learning systems has improved the interactivity and impact of educational programs for busy people. And, as long as the desire for personal fulfillment and professional advancement survives amidst a fast-paced, demanding lifestyle, distance education will evolve with the times. Further, technology cannot be considered a comprehensive educational model in and of itself. Some topics require personal presentation (Hall, 2004d). Embracing a blended model of on and offline tools, successful distance learning programs will develop integrated approaches to instruction. After thorough analysis, St. Jude Medical determined that these two programs should be developed and supported by an expert in the field. They could leverage a vendor’s experience, resources and professional expertise and rapidly get into the e-Learning arena in a cost effective and timely manner. The vendor would be able to develop the critical programs, trouble shoot issues and provide an enormous benefit and time saving solution to the entire organization. More importantly, the courseware development would be in the hands of a team of experts. The vendor would also provide an ASP model to manage and deliver the courseware, alert reps of classes at a fraction of the cost of internal resources. Once the initial programs have been implemented the project team will run reports and evaluate utilization and statistics. A survey will be created and distributed to the trainees for feedback before the organization moves to too deeply into the program. As recommended, the VP of education should evaluate the entire training strategy of the organization and provide direction and plans for a full-scale deployment with budgets, resources and quality courseware. St. Jude Medical believes that time savings will allow for more productive training on the basics and a more effective training experience for the reps during the face to face programs. Employees of St. Jude Medical are very social and generally like face-to-face meetings and
  9. 9. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 9 of 10 interacting with one another. Due to the nature of the business, classroom training will be the only way to provide that human touch which e-Learning is typically unable to provide. For example, the Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Training is too sophisticated and complicated and will only work in traditional clinical or classroom training. Ideally a combination of both types of training should be offered to maximize e-Learning and reduce travel costs when possible. As long as the rep is able to measure the time benefits they will be very accepting of the e- Learning solution for basic product training and compliance issues. Ultimately, like any educational effort, an e-Learning initiative needs to consider the audience who will experience it. Bullen (2003) claims, “E-learning technology must be combined with innovative course design that makes use of collaborative and interactive approaches requiring the active engagement of learners to construct and share their understanding of the topics they are studying,” (p. 1). What’s more, as Ali (2003) warns, “valuable learning time is wasted when the use of any medium, especially when it becomes an add-on, competes for attention with content,” (p. 44). Basically, the content must be relevant, accessible an informative – and not become victimized by the method by which it is distributed to those who hope to leverage knowledge from it. References Ali, A. (2003, Sept/Oct). Instructional Design and Online Instruction: Practices and Perceptions. TechTrends. 47 (5); 42-45. Bullen, M. (2003, Jul/Aug). E-learning emergence. CGA Magazine. 37 (4); 4. CIO. (2001, November 6). Metrics: E-Learning jumps 8% in organizations. Downloaded January 22, 2003 from http://www2.cio.com/metrics/2001/metric286.html D’Cruz, D. (2003, June). The Secret to Successful e-Learning. New Zealand Management; 47. Hall, B. (2004a). eLearning: Introduction. Downloaded January 11, 2004 http://www.forbes.com/specialsections/elearning/e-01.htm Hall, B. (2004b). eLearning: Economic Drivers. Downloaded January 11, 2004 http://www.forbes.com/specialsections/elearning/e-02.htm Hall, B. (2004c). eLearning: Corporate Drivers of eLearning. Downloaded January 11, 2004 http://www.forbes.com/specialsections/elearning/e-03.htm Hall, B. (2004d). eLearning: Corporate eLearning Economies. Downloaded January 11, 2004 http://www.forbes.com/specialsections/elearning/e-04.htm Hall, B. (2004e). eLearning: Benchmark Study of Best Practices. Downloaded January 11, 2004 http://www.forbes.com/specialsections/elearning/e-05.htm IOMA. (2003, September). How to Sell Your e-Learning Initiative to Management. IOMA’s Report on Managing Training & Development; 03. 9: 1-14. PBS. (2003a). A Brief History of Distance Learning. Downloaded January 22, 2003 from http://www.pbs.org/als/dlweek/history/
  10. 10. St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning… © Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA Page 10 of 10 PBS. (2003b). Glossary: A-C. Downloaded January 26, 2003 from http://www.pbs.org/als/dlweek/abc/index.html PBS. (2003c). Glossary: R-T. Downloaded January 26, 2003 from http://www.pbs.org/als/dlweek/abc/indexrt.html Prosser, Laura M. (2003). Distance Learning: The Solution Has Arrived. Downloaded January 22, 2003 from http://www.search4communitycolleges.com/distant_learning.asp Resource Bridge. (2003a). Fundamentals of e-Learning. Downloaded December 6, 2003 from http://www.resourcebridge.net/ResourceBridge/e-Learning-Articles- WhitePapers/Fundamentals.htm Resource Bridge. (2003b). Latest Technologies in Education. Downloaded December 6, 2003 from http://www.resourcebridge.net/ResourceBridge/e-Learning-Articles- WhitePapers/technologies.htm University of Idaho. (2002a, November 6). Distance Education: An Overview (Guide 1). Distance Education at a Glance. Downloaded January 22, 2003 from http://www.uidaho.edu/eo/dist1.html University of Idaho. (2002b, June 18). Computers in Distance Education (Guide 6). Distance Education at a Glance. Downloaded January 22, 2003 from http://www.uidaho.edu/eo/dist6.html U.S. News & World Report. (2003). E-Learning Glossary. Downloaded November 20, 2003 from http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/e-Learning/articles/glossary.htm Sage Learning. (2001). Facts and Figures from the Worlds of e-Learning, Training, Work and Jobs. Retrieved on November 30, 2003 from www.sage- Learning.com/papers/Facts%20and%20Figures%20from%20the%20Worlds%20of20e.do c. Training Dimensions. (2003). E-Learning Market. Retrieved November 30, 2003 from http://www.trainingdimensions.com/id183.htm. The Advanced Learning Technology Resource Center (ALTRC). Downloaded December 4, 2003 from http://www.altrc.org/specification.asp Publication Credits Anderson, S., Gilbert, M., & Moring, D. (2004). St. Jude Medical Embraces e-Learning: A case study with industry insights. In Gordon, J., Demirdjian, Z. & Senguder, T. (Eds.), Business Review, Cambridge, Vol. 2 (2) (pp. 85-90). Anderson, S., Gilbert, M., & Moring, D. (2004). St. Jude Medical embraces e-learning: A case study with industry insights. In proceedings from 4th Annual Hawaii Int'l Conference on Business, Honolulu, HI. (pp. 151-158).

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