Connected learning

SkillSoft works with the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to address agenda for change personal development challengeDespite the fact that the internet has transformed the way many of us work, play and even think, its true potential as a learning tool is still being realised. Training is still seen as something that takes place in a classroom with the teacher at the front – with the assumption that everything else is a poor substitute.              
However, training and HR managers thinking like this will soon be at a distinct competitive disadvantage. The emergence of new, high-quality e-learning material is beginning to illuminate the advantages – and overshadow the negatives – of e-learning. In fact, e-learning is now being seen as a means of delivering flexible training schemes cost-effectively to a large and diverse group of individuals.  
Forward-looking companies in the financial services and telecoms sectors discovered this a while ago. However, more recently, more traditional organisations, such as parts of the NHS, have begun to uncover its potential.  
One of these is the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) which has implemented a SkillSoft e-learning platform and discovered that large numbers don’t mean a dilution of quality or impact. Rather, staff enjoy the benefits of flexibility, immediacy and having information at their fingertips whenever it is needed. Because it suits them so well, they are motivated and keen to learn to improve their skills and their work.  
The NHSGGC made a major decision to include SkillSoft within its range of learning choices. As a result, it invested in a 900-user licence agreement for desktop skills courses including ECDL, Microsoft Office and other software courses and a further 900-user licences for SkillSoft’s business skills courses, grouped to provide links to all the core dimensions of the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework. To complement this, it also bought 300 licences for Books24x7, offering instant access to the complete text of tens of thousands of relevant books and reports.  
As Alex Mowat, e-learning manager at the NHSGGC explains: “People tend to think, ‘I’ve got my personal development plan and I’ve got a development need, so I must go on a course for it.’ But the sheer economics of everybody going on a course would be impossible. “Courses are not even appropriate for everyone. There’s a wide variety of options for employees to consider; e-learning; having an experienced mentor; taking responsibility for something they haven’t done before; shadowing a colleague; and, yes, in some cases, going on a course. But e-learning is now undoubtedly a big part of this, either standing on its own or blended as part of a tutor-led course.”  
The need for personal choice ran right through the entire project and employees were given the option to learn at their desks, in one of the numerous NHS learning centres and even in their own homes. This flexibility really appealed to staff and was partly responsible for the shift in culture which moved e-learning into the mainstream for NHSGGC employees.              

Just six months on from its introduction, some 400 of the NHSGGC’s workforce have taken up SkillSoft and the figure is growing rapidly. Early indications are encouraging. Feedback and independent survey results show that employees are “extremely satisfied” with the quality of the learning material and “particularly well satisfied” with the accessibility of the learning.       
Perhaps a more telling indication of its success is the way employees are actually making time to do the courses. “People will come in early in the morning to do their training or stay an hour later in the evening. It’s completely their choice, but their conscientiousness and willingness is certainly minimising disruption during normal working hours,” says Mowat. Computer courses such as those teaching Excel, PowerPoint and ECDL are popular and are showing good results.  
Specialist areas
While courses in more specialist areas such as project management and Six Sigma are also gaining a following as managers realise just how effective they can be for the business.  With e-learning already working well for the NHSGGC, the long term aim is to implement a personal development planning and review process which enables all staff to realise their potential in a planned and effective way. This will demand a broad range of development choices including learning and educational opportunities – and SkillSoft courses will continue to be a major part of this provision.  
It seems clear that the NHSGGC has found a way to deliver high quality, flexible training which will help create the skills and talent it needs to care for patients now and in the future. But, just as importantly, it has also found a way to motivate staff so they are enthusiastic and diligent about learning, in a way that proves far more economical than traditional methods – a very smart move indeed.

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