Extension Engine

Corporate online education for marketing & sales

At ExtensionEngine we help companies implement online learning that meets their corporate education and professional development goals. Each client has a different need, and each one has implemented their learning …experience within a different technology environment (or “stack”). In this article I focus on three implementations that use the Open edX platform. This is the same platform upon which edX.org is built so no one needs to worry if the software can scale. Further, if needed, an Open edX instance can be deployed on Amazon Web Services, so scale really is not a concern. However, even if scale is not an issue for the client, the Open edX platform provides a flexible, modifiable, and integrable base upon which to build a course for any size audience.

The companies with which we have worked have been pleased with the effectiveness and business results of the online learning we’ve helped create and develop. In this blog post I highlight a three projects we have and are working on as a way of getting you to think about how you might use corporate online education in your firm.

Corporate online education #1: Training resellers

A large technology company came to us because they needed help with a problem — they were spending too much money with while not effectively training their 1000+ external product resellers. We created two courses that train these vital partners on the details of their products, and on which a large portion of their revenue depends. The cost for putting on these courses was dramatically lower than their costs for their previous educational program while reaching many more people much more quickly. Further, 90% of the partners who took the course came away very satisfied. (Can you say the same about the last training program, online or not, that you attended?)

Corporate online education #2: Training end users and decision makers

A medical device company wanted to share the results of some groundbreaking research with doctors in the medical community who are potential users of their products and services. They realized that their traditional means of information dissemination (i.e. conferences and symposia) was too costly and did not reach enough people. In response, the company worked with us to create a MOOC that cut their training costs by 75%. They reached many more doctors with this new approach; further, they were so happy with the results that they have recently decided to create many more classes and shift a much larger portion of their marketing budget to these efforts.

I also want to highlight a major dimension of how we do things here at ExtensionEngine. While we theoretically favor instructional approaches that encourage learning-by-doing, project work, and collaboration, we also recognize no single approach is ever right for every project. We iterate and test. For most projects we A/B test two approaches to learning the content. One of the first steps is to analyze the content to determine two different but potentially effective approaches to structuring the content. For the Open edX platform used in this case, we used edX Studio to rapidly author a representative week’s worth of content and tested it with a small, but representative, sample of actual users. This served us, the client, and the learners quite well given the end result.

Corporate online education #3: Training employees on compliance and ethical guidelines

A financial services firm wanted to develop two separate courses but here I focus on just one. The goal of this course is to improve ethical conduct and compliance with industry regulations, collectively engendering durable and measurable behavior change across the target audience. Its dynamic learning environment would include elements of adaptive assessment, personalisation, and collaborative learning. This is quite a different type of course than the two highlighted above. The focus is on changing behavior of (as opposed to information dissemination to) highly paid professionals. The adaptive portion of the project was key to its overall success — the client, as well as the trainees, didn’t want their employees spending any more of their time on the training than they had to.

For this project ExtensionEngine provided project management, development, and instructional design capabilities as well as creation of relevant graphic design elements. In order to deliver all of this we deployed instructional designers, a creative director, a project manager, graphic designers, instructional designers, developers, software architects, and quality assurance engineers. (It truly takes a village to successfully deploy a successful online course.) Further, for this project we delivered adaptive learning by writing the code to integrate the Knewton engine into the Open edX platform. We are late in the development stage for this project but all looks good so far.

Next step

The above are only a few examples of corporate online education. The uses and benefits of this tool are limited only by your imagination. We provide professionals with lots of experience in the many dimensions needed to make online learning a success; you only need to provide a good idea and subject matter expertise. This has the makings of a successful team.

But how should you get started? Here are two options for you to consider:

  • Attend next week’s MeetUp in Cambridge MA: Sign up to attend the MeetUp on this very topic on Tuesday, August 18.
  • Contact us: If you want to talk with someone about corporate uses of online education, send an email to me and we’ll set something up.

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