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"SyberWorks, Inc. is a leader in the custom e-Learning
Solutions and Learning Management
System industry for Fortune 1000 corporations, higher education, and other industries. Since 1995, SyberWorks has
developed and delivered unique and economical solutions to create, manage, measure, and improve e-Learning programs
at companies and organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the world."
Source : SyberWorks Industry
E-learning Best Practices - SyberWorks
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Table of Contents
- Author’s Biography
- White Paper Focus
- Scoping out your Organization’s e-Learning Needs
- Evaluating e-Learning Platforms
- During your LMS Implementation
- Building and Programming e-Learning Content
- LMS Selection Criteria
- Closing Remarks
Dave Boggs is the founder and CEO of SyberWorks. He has been involved with computer-based
and web-based training for over twelve years. He is responsible for directing the company's
overall business strategy and overseeing its financial growth and prosperity. Dave has positioned
the company to provide customizable solutions to its customers. These solutions often meld
performance support, job aids, reference information, and other tools with e-Learning in one
integrated site to increase the productivity of key target audiences such as sales, distribution, and
Before founding SyberWorks, Dave was the VP of Sales and Business Development for
Relational Courseware. Dave holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Union College
in Schenectady, NY and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern
University in Evanston, IL.
White Paper Focus:
The e-Learning industry has grown tremendously since the early days of computers and the
Internet. Today there are lots of products and services out in the market place from which to
choose. This white paper will provide some basic information to help you as you begin your
research into e-Learning and learning management systems.
The document is not meant to be the complete source of information on e-Learning nor will these
guidelines be suitable for every single situation. This white paper has been created as a learning
aid help you get started.
These findings represent the research, experience, and techniques gleaned from working in e-
Learning since its infancy in the late 80’s to today. At the end of the paper, Bob Goldschneider,
Director of Business Development at SyberWorks, Inc., will provide a summary and closing
Scoping out Your Organization’s E-Learning Needs
The first step is to get a clear understanding of your company’s e-Learning needs. Below are
some guidelines to consider:
- Identify e-Learning needs in the broadest possible sense, including tracking, analytics,
collaboration, and other important organizational constructs.
- Define what AICC or SCORM compliance means for your company so you know what
types of functionality are vital for the success of your e-Learning implementation.
- Institute a formal process for collecting and documenting needs that require a director
- Select the programs and initiatives that are appropriate for delivery by e-Learning.
- Align e-Learning initiatives with current business issues.
- Use business metrics to help evaluate and validate e-Learning priorities based on
- Involve the many stakeholders and internal constituencies to achieve buy-in.
Identify e-Learning needs:
Take some time to map out what you think you would need your learning management system to
accomplish and whom the system will serve. Think about the potential users and categorize
them into groups. How would the e-Learning management system (LMS) meet each of the
different user group’s needs? Take an initial pass at thinking about the functionality required, but
at this point, don’t get too enamored by one feature that you think you must absolutely have
because the parameters of the project have yet to be set. Try to imagine what other groups in
your organization might benefit from using the LMS once it has been thoroughly integrated.
Define what AICC or SCORM compliance means for your company:
AICC standards apply to the development, delivery, and evaluation of training courses that are
delivered via technology. AICC stands for the Aviation Industry CBT [Computer-Based Training]
Committee (AICC), which is an international association of technology-based training
professionals that develops training guidelines for the aviation industry. SCORM stands for
Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a set of specifications that, when
applied to course content, produces small, reusable e-Learning objects. A result of the
Department of Defense's Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative, SCORM-compliant
courseware elements can be easily merged with other compliant elements to produce a highly
modular repository of training materials.
Determine whether interoperability is important to your company and your e-Learning initiative.
Do you have libraries of content you wish to combine that were developed on another system?
Institute a formal process for collecting and documenting needs:
Set up a way to take surveys or gather feedback on your online training initiative from other
departments or internal entities that the LMS would touch. It’s a good idea to have the
recognition and approval of the various directors in the departments that would be stakeholders in
your online training initiative to gather this information. Obtaining director level signatures along
the way while gathering data for various capabilities that may be requested is a good way to
communicate the importance and priority of your online e-Learning initiative. It also helps to set
the stage, shape expectations, and creates pre-implementation documentation that could help
you justify your costs internally to your CFO or Controller who may not be accustomed to seeing
a line in your budget for online training.
Select the programs and initiatives that are appropriate for delivery by e-Learning:
Like the Internet, traditional media, or any other mechanism for communicating and conveying
information, certain types of media are NOT appropriate for conveying certain types of
information. This construct also applies to e-Learning. Once you have identified the programs
you would like to target with your e-Learning initiative, it’s helpful to set up a test plan that
compares users learning the material in traditional settings or mechanisms vs. online so you can
accurately assess the effectiveness of delivering a course or certain types of training online.
The information from the tests will also help you improve your traditional and online e-Learning
initiatives. As you and your staff grow in its knowledge and experience in applying e-Learning to
your programs, you may be able to come up with ways to apply e-Learning to materials that you
originally designated as not appropriate for e-Learning or create highly effective training that
incorporates both traditional and online e-Learning techniques.
Align e-Learning initiatives with current business issues:
Today’s business environment is very competitive. The growth and influx of technology in every
area of business has increased overall productivity and results. Budgets and cash flows are
scrutinized with the latest applications and analysis techniques. There may not be any extra
dollars available for programs that do not contribute to the bottom line.
Your organization’s current business issues are in some way connected to your company’s
financial existence. Your boss, the CEO or the CFO may be more inclined to be supportive of
your e-Learning initiative if it will help them cut costs or help to achieve the sales growth required
to reach the company’s goals.
Use business metrics to help evaluate and validate learning priorities:
Use numbers and statistics that make sense to most managers when building a case for your e-
Learning initiative and learning priorities. For example, your department analysis tells you that
you currently have a 35% failure rate for every new sales person that starts at your company.
You know that it costs you approximately $15,000 (probably even more when you figure in hidden
labor costs, opportunity costs, etc) to bring a qualified sales person on board. If you start an
average of 2 sales people a month, your company has lost $126,000 over the year. If in the first
year you reduce the failure rate just 5% you have saved your company $18,000 or 15% and even
more if you start looking at other metrics that are impacted by your LMS initiative like lost
production time, etc. If you reduce the failure rate to 20%, you have saved your company
Involve the many stakeholders and internal constituencies to achieve buy-in:
After you have solicited feedback from various departments on their e-Learning needs, it’s a
really good idea to go back and share your findings with them, how you arrived at setting your e-
Learning priorities and how their feedback was constructive to the process. The IT department
must be included in your process at every juncture, especially in the evaluation phase of the
Evaluating E-Learning Platforms
- View platform decisions as long-term investments understanding the TOC (total cost of
- Emphasize the value-add elements of the platform to drive acceptance.
- Start with the minimum standard appropriate for the situation and work upwards based on
- Practice a bandwidth stingy; no plug-in approach unless the parameters of the initiative
call for otherwise.
- In line with a no-plug-in philosophy, consider easier-to-use authoring tools that do not
require a lot of programming knowledge and support rapid content development.
View platform decisions as long-term investments understanding the TOC (total cost of
When assessing various systems, try to understand the total cost ownership associated with each
of the platforms you review. Generally, cost-of-ownership factors vary according to technology
and environment. The costs are categorized as direct and indirect. They are incurred throughout
the life cycle of an asset, including acquisition, deployment, operation, support, and retirement.
TOC is an excellent way to establish a baseline for your LMS initiative.
Emphasize the value-add elements of the platform to drive acceptance:
Spend time stressing the benefits that will be gained by the various groups in your organization in
relationship to specific aspects of the technology as it relates to job performance. For example,
highlight the blended learning functionality with your organization’s trainers who run traditional
training programs so they can begin to visualize how they would incorporate the LMS into their
brick and mortar training events.
Start with the minimum standard appropriate for the situation and work upwards:
Begin with a baseline of requirements and add features as required. Extra functionality is terrific if
it fits with your LMS initiative’s specifications. Adding unnecessary complexity to your system as
you are working to get your online training initiative off the ground could sabotage your efforts.
Generally, the adage ‘walk first before you run’ is a good rule of thumb when applied to LMS
Practice a bandwidth stingy; no plug-in approach:
This type of approach will help to insure that your online training program can be easily accessed
online and used by the largest possible audience. But, if your LMS requirements call for specific
functionality that requires more bandwidth or a unique application, then follow your project
Along with a no-plug-in philosophy, consider easier-to-use authoring tools:
Even with the popularity and predominance of the Internet, not everyone knows or has the time to
learn HTML or Dreamweaver. Course authoring tools that are easy to use remove any real or
imagined barriers that trainers, instructors, or any other stakeholders may have using your LMS
technology and supporting your online training initiative.
During your LMS Implementation
- Actively lead and manage the process.
- Practice strong process management techniques and document along the way.
- Partner with internal and external vendors.
- Develop a suitable skills base for e-Learning.
Actively lead and manage the process:
Like any other project management implementation, your LMS initiative needs to be lead and
managed. It is helpful to have and cultivate internal champions that will support your e-Learning
initiative along the way. They can be a great source of guidance and strength as you work to
implement your online training program.
Practice strong process management techniques and document along the way:
Standard, proven process management techniques are equally effectively in LMS
implementations. Documenting the various stages of your LMS implementation will provide you
with the information needed to leverage the various aspects of your online training program with
various stakeholders as it is being developed.
Partner with internal and external vendors:
Partnering with internal and external vendors will work to insure that your deliverables are met on
time and in line with your mutual goals and objectives. Partnering with your vendors can help you
to save time and money. It also helps to maintain standards across the entire enterprise.
Develop a suitable skills base for e-Learning:
Even though your organization has preliminarily identified the training programs designated for
your e-Learning pilot initiative, begin to identify and collect appropriate content pertaining to
various skills that have been identified as critical to success for your organization and its
activities. Gathering a working library of skills content that is already being used in different
programs and activities across your organization will help you to save time, standardize your
message, and consistently deliver key areas of knowledge.
Building and Programming e-Learning Content
- Define a set of company standards regarding the look and feel of screen displays.
- Use a disciplined planning approach to design that includes paper prototyping, outlines
- Consequential interactions should happen within the “5 minute 3 screen” rule.
- Program developers should work in teams, never alone.
- Perform extensive user testing.
Define a set of company standards regarding the look and feel of screen displays:
Establish the visual characteristics that are important to your LMS implementation. Identify the
color scheme for your online courses. Clearly categorize all functional and graphical metaphors
used throughout the development of the course. Establishing the look and feel of the display
screens in advance will help you to keep your course development team focused throughout the
development of your online content.
Use a disciplined planning approach to design that includes paper prototyping, outlines,
The course content must be organized so that it can effectively map into the learner’s mind.
Paper prototyping, outlines, and storyboards are great tools to use when putting together an
online course. When you use paper prototyping, outlines, or storyboarding, it puts the information
into different mediums and gives you another way to assemble the order of the data. These
techniques help drive course designers and developers to think through the execution of the
Significant interactions should happen within the “5 minute 3 screen” guideline:
As Jacob Nielsen, the world’s most renowned expert on usability states, “People rarely read Web
pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”
(2) Users are easily distracted and can lose focus. The “5 minute 3 screen” guideline sets a
reasonable pace for the learner to move through the material. (3) The “5 minute 3 screen”
guideline is that within 5 minutes timeframe; an online learner should be go through 3 screens of
Program developers should work in teams; never alone:
Several advantages exist when working in development teams. Working in teams provides a
safety net, because it’s easy to miss things when working alone. Development teams are in a
stronger position to come up with a variety of solutions to work through problems and challenges.
The actual course development execution can be spread amongst a group of people. This helps
your course developers from becoming overwhelmed. In addition, one or a few of the team
members can pick up the slack should one of the other team members not be able to complete
Perform extensive user testing:
User testing is essential to any type of online development, especially in an e-Learning context.
It’s important to develop a usability-testing regimen that evaluates the usability of your online
content and system from the perspectives of the different types of LMS users. Your LMS
systems administrator would have different needs and concerns than one of your online learners
or an instructor. Usability testing criteria must be established for each of the various groups so
you can get an accurate assessment of your LMS implementation and make any necessary
modifications before you roll out your program.
LMS Selection Criteria
Below is a general list of features and functionalities required in varying degrees for most
- Infrastructure Features (How it will work with your internal IT framework).
- Collaboration Features of the Software (Enabling learners and instructors to work
together virtually in real time).
- Curriculum and Certification Management (Tracking certification, and customized
curriculum delivery based on job information).
- Database Information (Open standards and non-proprietary database).
- Customization (Has your company’s look and feel).
- Distribution and Deployment (Allows the storage of educational assets, storage and
printing of Word and PDF documents, tracks different types of learning events).
- Financial (Tracking of per student costs, tracking back to cost centers, shows class fee
structures, and tracks course development costs).
- Information Management (Track attendance at outside seminars, stores training history,
manages class rosters, and web-enabled management.)
- Interface (Windows Explore type interface).
- Integration (Can share information with other company wide ERP systems).
- Learner Functions (Book marking, students can print schedules, and accomplishments to
- Notification (Managers and students receive email triggers concerning upcoming
- Registration (Wait lists, minimum and maximum enrollment lists, cutoffs for registration).
- Reporting Capabilities (Robust reporting, customized reports, user can access some
reports, and managers can create their own reports).
- Resources (Glossary of terms, frequently asked questions, job aids, and online help).
- Schedule and Manage Resources (Manage resources in a physical library, instructors
can be assigned to classroom, and “To Do” lists can be created for a course.)
LMS Selection Criteria, Continued
- Standards (System adheres to industry standards in terms of interoperability).
- Support (Support line, implementation support, and consulting services).
- Testing (Contains testing system, random questions, different question types, and actions
are initiated based on test results). (4)
SyberWorks, Inc. (www.syberworks.com) is a leader in the custom e-Learning Solutions and
Learning Management System industry for Fortune 1000 corporations, higher education, and
other industries. Located in Arlington, Massachusetts, the company serves the expanding 11
Billion dollar e-Learning segment (1).
Since 1995, SyberWorks has developed and delivered unique and economical solutions to
create, manage, measure, and improve e-Learning programs at companies and organizations in
the United States, Canada, Europe, and the world.