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Virtual classrooms warrier&preeti


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Virtual classrooms warrier&preeti

  1. 1. 1 | P a g e “Virtual classroom” using e-Learning techniques is an attractive proposition for insurers to handle the larger part of their routine learning on the job Virtual Classrooms Redefining learning on the job Introduction Effective „Knowledge Management‟ holds the key to competitive advantage in an atmosphere where customer expectations are ever rising. Insurance being a knowledge based industry, this assumes even greater importance. Learning has long been recognized as a continuous process. Learning on the job is no different. Traditionally all insurance companies have strong training programs. But most of these are in the traditional classroom mode. The age-old „teacher-student‟ model of classroom training has several disadvantages.  Cost of organizing class room training  Difficulty in getting „faculty time‟ as most of the trainers are busy on their routine work  Lack of flexibility for the trainees to have training based on their convenience  Heterogeneous mix of trainees reducing the effectiveness of the training  One method of learning for all / lack of consistency across delivery  Trainees cannot „pace‟ the learning to suit their needs and work pressure With consolidation of business being the order of the day, many companies have experienced APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004
  2. 2. 2 | P a g e frequent mergers. This means that new employees are closely followed by new training requirements. Quicker „Change Management‟ requires a continuous learning process.  Shorter cycle time required  Though CBT modules have made the process of learning more flexible for the learner, they are more static in nature. This has prompted insurance companies to look at innovative ways to handle knowledge management. e-Learning is an emerging alternative that makes „learning on the job‟ efficient and cost effective What is e-Learning ? In the traditional classroom model, a trainer makes the delivery to a live audience of trainees. e- Learning is a total shift from this approach - it turns the classroom into a virtual mode. The trainer and the trainees need not be in the same point in time or space as it is required in the usual classroom model. The contents are designed and delivered by experienced trainers. This body of knowledge is made available to the trainee through virtual media – this could be web-based, CD-ROMs, videos, interactive mechanisms, games etc. There are several new technologies which facilitate effective virtual delivery of trainings. Many of these allow the trainees to access the body of knowledge from anywhere anytime. Why are companies looking at e- Learning ? The advantages of e-Learning are many, making it a very effective alternative for traditional training. Some of the advantages are :  Cost savings o Trainee expenses reduction (travel and associated costs) o Cutting repetitive Faculty costs o Indirect savings of „off line‟ training  Flexibility for trainees o Can set their own pace for learning o o APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  3. 3. 3 | P a g e o Choose options (listening, interactive learning, simulations etc) based on personal preference o Learn at a convenient time and location o Explore topics of interest in more detail  Flexibility for trainers o Convenience of time and location o Considerably reduced disruption to work schedule o Consistency of delivery  Advantage to companies o Make training an enjoyable experience o Reduce „drop outs‟ o Cater to the needs and wishes of multiple groups o Include customers and partners in the training plans  Gain for Customers , Partners o Participate in trainings based on their need and convenience o Cost effective for providing training to their employees Virtual Class Rooms The virtual classrooms are the technical interface provided for the trainees to access and freely use the body of knowledge. This body of knowledge would be maintained by the team of trainers and subject matter experts. The training base created by the subject matter experts would be delivered using technologies like web / WAN to the wider audience of trainees. This would help in asynchronous training programs, happening at the convenience of the trainees. They key inspiration for designing and developing Virtual classrooms is the enormous effort, logistics and cost associated with class room training programs. Figure 1 gives a line sketch of Virtual class room environment. APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  4. 4. 4 | P a g e Using e-Learning effectively Though e-Learning is a very effective tool to address several of the lacunae faced by traditional training methods, it has limitations as well.  The main drawback of the method is the absence of a man in flesh and blood in front of the trainees. The personal touch and interaction to make the training enjoyable and effective is missing to some extent in e- Learning.  For high end programs like focused executive development programs, the method would be ineffective.  „Class room experience‟ is absent. Learning together is a time-tested method to knowledge dissemination.  An expected level of trainee maturity and commitment is essential for the program to work efficiently.  The method could be ineffective when „workshop‟ mode of training is needed, where the trainees need to work together and the trainer is more of a facilitator.  Challenges – no personal interaction, so cannot judge the effectiveness APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  5. 5. 5 | P a g e How to leverage eLearning ? eLearning is a powerful tool, but needs to be used appropriately for purposes which are susceptible to this method. We could broadly classify the training programs conducted by insurance companies into three major areas :  Pure information based programs are simple and straight forward knowledge transfer sessions where the main purpose is to convey knowledge and provide the learning support and clarifications as and when required. Collaborative programs where the participants have a very acti ve role and the instructor is a key part of the facilitation process to ensure that the group dynamics operate effectively and deliver the desired results.  The highest level of prorams are the experience based programs where the trainer shares his/her experience in an effort to elevate the skills of the learners. APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  6. 6. 6 | P a g e eLearning is most effective in the pure information based programs. (please see figure 2) In such programs an interactive eLearning module could effectively replace the role of instructor. In the collaborative programs where the role of the facilitator is critical, the information sharing sessions could be made into eLearning modules so that the classroom sessions could be considerably reduced. Table 1 (at the end of the article) gives a sample list of training programs viewed from the eLearning perspective. eLearning framework The three critical spokes of the eLearning framework are strategy, content and delivery. Strategy : As discussed earlier, a very careful evaluation is necessary to pick the appropriate training programs which could be fully or partly converted into eLearning programs. The preliminary step in the framework is to evaluate the suitability of trainings to check whether they are adaptable to the eLearning methodology. Appendix 1 gives a conceptual evaluation sheet for ascertaining suitability of a program . Content : The program contents need adaptation to facilitate computer based self-study. This calls for a one-time effort to convert the existing content into eLearning friendly matter. The key changes would be the introduction of self-evaluation features and methods of ensuring that the learning module contains features which replace the learning support/guidance provided by the tutor in class rooms. Delivery : An important factor which governs the effectiveness of virtual classrooms is the delivery mechanism adopted. This needs to dove-tail into the work environment of the trainee. Modern technology offers many interesting technical solutions to host the learning modules, but the budgetary and other constraints prompt the companies to optimize their existing technology framework and build the learning platform on top. APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  7. 7. 7 | P a g e As evident from the table above, major chunk of the training programs which are information intensive could be tackled by the e-Learning methodology. Appendix 2 shows the typical technology architectural tiers behind virtual class-rooms Return on Investment While reduction of costs as a benefit due to online learning is just stating the obvious, one should go beyond mere cost savings and analyze the ROI in e-learning. In order to arrive at the ROI, one needs to compare the costs with the benefits associated with e-learning. Some of the broad headings under which costs can be classified are:  Cost of infrastructure  Costs associated with designing the course  Costs associated with deployment and ongoing maintenance  Opportunity costs of the learner / trainer The benefits on the other hand, can be separated into „tangible‟ and „intangible‟. Some of the direct „tangible‟ benefits of e-learning are:  Reduced training time- an increased number of learners can receive the same set of instructions. The need for hiring multiple trainers for different locations is eliminated. Online learning also ensures consistency across different learning sessions. o There is also a considerable reduction in dead time (or overheads) associated with classroom training due to breaks etc.  Reduced Travel costs – Online learning nearly eliminates the costs associated with travel and accommodation both for the learners as well as the trainer.  Savings in opportunity costs – The learner does not require being away from his/her APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  8. 8. 8 | P a g e place of work and so can maximize on the available time by self-spacing the e-learning to suit the demands from work. o In addition, the learner also has the flexibility to study hat he/she needs and skip the specific topics where reasonable level of knowledge exists. Some of the intangible benefits are  Increased productivity – this can be measured differently for different target groups. While the sales conversion ratio is a good measure to evaluate the increased productivity for the field force, decreased „talk time‟ or „customer service callbacks‟ is a good measure for evaluating the productivity of the customer service representatives.  Improved quality – this could be measured by amount of repeat business for the sales force; a decreased abandonment rate would be effective for the customer service representatives. There are yet other „soft benefits‟ like improved communication, better customer management, and better employee loyalty etc. that pose a bigger challenge while measuring. While evaluating a new training program, one can measure the ROI by measuring the total benefits as a percentage of the total costs associated with the Online-learning program. While doing so, all the above measures need to have a monetary value associated with them. If a comparison needs to be drawn between an existing classroom training and conversion to online, one needs to compare the administrative costs associated with both the programs. Appendix 3 shows a sample ROI evaluation sheet. Conclusion “Virtual classroom” using e-Learning techniques is an attractive proposition for insurers to handle the larger part of their routine learning on the job. Adopting this methodology would give considerable cost and effectiveness advantages. APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  9. 9. 9 | P a g e But the standard classroom model would still be required for high end as well as „sharing based‟ programs. Insurance companies could develop an optimal mix of virtual and real classrooms to make their learning on the job programs efficient and productive. APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004 VirtualClassrooms
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e Table 1 : Sample list of training programs – suitability analysis APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e Appendix 1: Evaluation of the suitability of a program for eLearning Parameters Evaluation Rating Type (information / collaborative / experience sharing) Training locations currently available Average cost of training (travel, lodging & boarding, miscellaneous expenses, honoraria, class room expenses etc) Frequency of programs Average trainees per year Number and size of target groups Role & importance of the facilitator Ease of availability of facilitator Existing Technology infrastructure Cultural adaptability of the company to eLearning methods Profile of trainees Notes:  Each of the parameters should be evaluated qualitatively and a suitable number scale for quantification should be defined depending on the accuracy that could be achieved in the organization.  The threshold levels for suitability could be defined in the evaluation framework depending on the number scheme adopted APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e Appendix 2: Typical eLearning architecture APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e Appendix 3: ROI evaluation sheet (conceptual) Cost head Quantum Tangible benefit Quantum Soft benefit Quantum Technical infrastructure Travel savings Benefits of wider coverage Hardware Lodging / boarding savings Increased productivity Software Other candidate expenses saved Improvement in quality of service Content creation Trainers expenses saved Maintenance costs Savings on Operating expenses Operating expenses Savings by way of reduced training time Total cost Total Benefits APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004
  14. 14. 14 | P a g e Appendix 4 : References 1. Grading Virtual Classroom : Pass or Fail – Meta Group – Mike Gotta 2. Many Happy Returns : Calculating E-Learning ROI – John Setaro – Learning Circuits website 3. E – Learning : Training Strategies for Home Office and Field Employees – LOMA 4. Improving Productivity and Business Performance- Ohene Kwapong & Sudheer Koneru – Click2learn 5. E Learning in insurance industry – S Baskar & Sreedevi L – Asia Insurance Review 6. Making eLearning simple – 7. Several news items and write-ups about eLearning. About the authors : Rama Warrier is an independent Management Consultant and Preeti ChandraShekhar heads the Benefits Practice (South India) of Towers Watson. Both have long experience in the field of insurance and risk management. Warrier & Preeti focus on business transformations and have several publications to their credit. They could be reached on / preeti.chandrashekhar APRIA Conference, Seoul, South Korea 2004