Feedback is more than welcome at this point, says Davies, and the team has a formal process for incorporating any required changes to the product. “We have a reasonably mature change management process in place which is based on ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library practices], so requests for change are reviewed by our change advisory board which acts as our decision maker on whether changes are made or not.”
Although PRINCE2 undergoes revision every few years, with the last major revision occurring in 2009, Davies says the e-learning courses automatically undergo constant change as part of the natural evolution of the e-learning courses. “We generally continually review the course and content, though we would obviously carry out a full review and update of the product on the release of a new manual,” he says. “We also spend quite a lot of time updating exam material, as we continually review our exam statistics and amend content to further support particular syllabus areas.”
Ahead of the game
ILX was an early adopter of the blended learning approach, and an e-learning pioneer in other respects, but because the medium continues to present new opportunities, the courses need to keep ahead of other training providers. Constant evolution of the e-learning courses is therefore an important part of product development for the business to have the best possible selling proposition for its courses.
“The way our courses function and the style and level of interaction continues to develop and evolve,” confirms Davies. “Feedback from customers is fed back in to the design process for all products under development. Sometimes changes actually involve removing features that we thought were a good idea but, following evaluation, we’ve found are rarely used. Often it’s the most simple of ideas which strikes a chord with the end users.”
One such idea was a game developed using the structure of Snakes & Ladders with revision questions as the basis for progressing along the board. ILX have an app designed for iPhone and iPod Touch that supports its courses in PRINCE2, MSP and ITIL. As well as being a revision tool, it allows users to be competitive or play in a team with others who have the app, and integrates with social media such as Twitter and Facebook where players can post their scores.
“It actually started out with a subject matter expert that I was developing with. I said ‘we have all the core e-learning things now, what can we do to lighten things up?’ It’s good for practice, for people to relax before the exam,” says Davies.
While selling the app isn’t exactly a money-spinner, he says it has turned into a value-add for ILX. “As a training organisation, of course there are only a small number of potential users of a product so it’s to our advantage to offer the game. There’s no financial value, but it has created an interest because people will look at it. In that sense it’s hugely valuable.”
The range of these supplementary offerings makes e-learning more effective than just a Powerpoint presentation delivered online. In addition to apps like Snakes & Ladders, ILX courses also include multimedia elements such as podcasts, exam simulators, and animations, some of which participants can take away on portable devices so they continue to learn outside the ‘classroom’ environment.
“A person who fronts up to a classroom who has been given the option of e-learning is much better prepared than someone who has just been given manuals to read,” says Davies. He adds that to work, e-learning needs to provide access to the trainer as well as “lots of opportunities to communicate with others”.
The essential ingredient to e-learning, however, is the participant and in that regard e-learning isn’t for everyone, Davies admits. “You might be doing an online course but are you dedicating the time to it as you should? Are you doing your shopping, reading the news? We’re not just using technology for technology’s sake; it’s all about the user experience and giving them the best opportunity to develop. It’s about making a dry subject area more appealing.”
And since you can’t stop the advance of technology, you can be sure Davies and his team haven’t stopped either. Their next challenge is tackling the iPad and the iPhone4, which both work on Apple’s new iOS4 operating system and, says Davies, more games: “It’s amazing to hear how the games have been received.”