Idea Learning Group

"subject-matter-experts" Posts

IdeaLearning Group Case Study: Vestas – Three-Phase Training Program

Vestas is a leading international wind energy company headquartered in Denmark. For the past 30 years, Vestas has installed more than 46,000 turbines in 66 countries. The company’s mission is to enable energy independence demanded by the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies by building wind energy innovations as a natural alternative for finite fossil fuels.

IdeaLearning Group partnered with Vestas to develop a robust three-phase training program that focused on electrical safety and the control of hazardous energy. More than 20,000 people needed training with a tight timeframe for development. Our “train-the-trainer” program was designed to educate Vestas master instructors, who in turn trained their teams. We also designed an internal Vestas brand logo and templates, which are used throughout the company.

The training program included several goals: address identified behaviors; promote consistency and safety throughout the company internationally; highlight change management tools and strategies; and incorporate hierarchical technical components. Our learning curve was steep and our time was short, but we were determined to deliver a substantial program with measurable positive results.

Phase 1: Master Training Rollout

The purpose of the first phase was to partner with master trainers and subject matter experts during face-to-face work meetings in Germany to finalize content for the electrical safety and lockout tagout training program. IdeaLearning Group staff developed an instructional video and supporting materials that focused on simple, complex, and group lockouts. We also created a three-part energy control coordinator course that included eLearning, pre-work, a teacher’s plan, and support materials with a focus on technical and soft skills development. The role of the energy control coordinator was a new one in Europe, and we worked carefully with Vestas in the US to define best practices and develop the materials outside the Unites States.

Phase 2: Global Rollout of Electrical Safety Training

During this phase, IdeaLearning Group finalized all electrical safety and lockout tagout materials for master trainers for the rollout of the seven-course series, which included a PowerPoints, teacher’s plans, and participant guides. We also travelled to Denmark to facilitate the soft skills course for master trainers.

Phase 3: Global Refresher of Electrical Safety Training

IdeaLearning Group created eLearning modules to refresh technicians’ knowledge on electrical safety and lockout tagout procedures.

As a result of partnering with IdeaLearning Group for the large-scale training program, the program manager for Vestas in Denmark called IdeaLearning Group “my go-to vendor” and continues to collaborate with our company on additional projects. “It’s rare to find a stress-free, no-drama, let’s-get-the-job-done vendor,” he said. “IdeaLearning Group was extremely easy to collaborate with. They quickly got up to speed, and the creative juices started flowing. I knew I was in good hands, and I didn’t need to check in constantly. I felt very confident we were dealing with absolute professionals. It literally went that well.”

Working With Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

As an instructional designer who’s worked with hundreds of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)over the years, my perspective is that SMEs and Instructional Designers (IDs) need each other. In the end, we all want the same thing: a dynamic learning experience that captures the audience’s attention and makes a meaningful difference.

IDs and SMEs bring different strengths and information to the project. The learning design expert can build an innovative, beautiful framework, but without the content expert’s contribution, the structure could easily crumble.

Here’s more about what I’ve learned from collaborating with subject matter experts.

Subject matter Experts and Instructional Designers working together

Understand your roles. Instructional designers are not often experts in the content areas they write about, nor should they expect to become experts. As an ID, I want to learn as much as possible in order to create a learning experience that’s meaningful for the audience.

When I begin working with a SME, I make an effort to get to know what she’s responsible for at work, how she likes to collaborate—email, texting, phone calls?—and how she sees herself contributing to the project. I explain that her expertise will enable me to do my job: organizing and creating a fabulous training program for her business.

 It’s mostly about respect. Regard SMEs as true experts. Sometimes they bring 30 years of detailed knowledge to the project! Even if this knowledge comes to me in the form of a pile of printed materials thicker than my tallest coffee mug, I still take the time to look over the information the SME compiled. By building respect with the SME, I also improve my access to reliable resources that I’ll need to accomplish our goals.

Keep the lines of communication open. Even after our official discovery period is over, I make sure that SMEs know they can contact me by phone, email, Skype, or in-person meetings as needed. I find that SMEs are very receptive to answering questions and providing additional details when I run into roadblocks, even if I’m in the middle of developing a course.

Guide the conversation. It’s important to respect the SME’s expertise, but make sure that he understands the big picture for the training program. Guide the conversations and ultimately design the course only using the content that supports the learning objectives. If multiple SMEs are involved and they’re saying different things, as the ID it’s my responsibility to actively listen to seek clarification and consistently.

 Engage your curiosity. Demonstrating sincere curiosity and asking intelligent questions are essential for instructional designers. Sometimes SMEs are so knowledgeable that they forget the rest of us don’t know the inner workings of a solar panel system, a human resources certification process, or what certain technical acronyms stand for. I am never afraid to ask for clarification or an alternative explanation.

 For more perspectives on the ID/SME relationship, check out Jane Bozarth’s article and Patti Shank’s series. And add your voice to the conversation below!

IdeaLearning Group Case Study: Coaxis – Software Development Training

IdeaLearning Group partnered with Coaxis to create a custom series of software management and development training courses. Coaxis serves the US and international construction industry, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon. The company is rapidly growing with an expanding customer base. Viewpoint Construction Software, a division of Coaxis, is currently the fastest growing construction accounting software provider in the construction industry.

Coaxis needed a way to quickly ramp up employees on technical skills to avoid a revenue bottleneck and to keep up with demand. Needing a “SWAT team” approach to training, Coaxis hired IdeaLearning Group to address their needs quickly and efficiently.

We got to work right away creating two key technical training programs, which included elearning, job aids, and classroom materials, with built-in mentoring opportunities and assessments. We were able to start with zero content and developed a full-fledged training program within 90 days. The result was impressive: a 50% reduction in ramp-up time and an increase in experts dedicated to revenue-generating technical services.

The first project involved creating database training for Viewpoint Construction Software. The material focused on interpreting data in key tables, finding information and resources, and identifying naming conventions and patterns in various tables. We also created a custom user guide to supplement the training, which Coaxis employees and contractors describe as an invaluable resource. The entirely self-paced training is widely applicable across the company. Overwhelmingly positive feedback flowed in from all over the company following its rollout.

Our next project focused on data conversion and was intended for a much more specialized audience. Our training goals were to explore the process of data conversion, review key tasks, and to emphasize the importance of mentor/mentee relationships in supporting ongoing development. The pilot session received extremely positive feedback, and attendees reported highly valuing the materials.
Although IdeaLearning Group was new to the construction software industry, we attribute our great success in both programs to the effective partnership we built with Coaxis subject matter experts and our ability to conceptualize and execute the technical training based on solid instructional design principles.

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