Brandon Smith has been growing his training and development career for more than 16 years at a large American association serving insurance commissioners. Currently, as an instructional design manager, he leads teams in online and in-person course development while juggling multiple additional projects.
During D2L Fusion 2022 in Boston, Smith sat down with us to share how his association is using technology, adult learning theory and agile development practices to optimize how staff and learners spend their time.
One of the major challenges our learners and members face right now is turnover. People are retiring and there’s a lot of movement. With that in mind, our goal is to make the learning process as frictionless as possible for our members so we can get them the quality training they need quickly. Technology plays a significant role in reducing that friction so people can get up to speed.
For example, we’re trying to automate routine processes by using intelligent agents. They help us keep in touch with our members through things like welcome emails and reminders when they haven’t logged in for a while. We can also use intelligent agents for other administrative work like changing learner roles in the system and enrolling them in different courses or exams. This reduces friction for the learners while limiting the amount of manual work for staff so they can focus on other tasks.
Technology plays a significant role in reducing friction so people can get up to speed.
Getting Members Up to Speed
We’re also looking at how to optimize our training by combining courses into learning paths based on how the learners are doing and implementing competency-based learning. We’re working with our subject matter experts and our members to find out what learners need and when. So in the first three to six months, what do they need to do their jobs? We know that optimizing those pathways and using competency-based learning will get our members up to speed quickly.
The last thing we’re doing is trying to gauge whether it is worth it to use badges and micro
–credentials to provide additional value to our members. They can export them to LinkedIn, and these badges are verifiable so they can use them on their resumes and stuff like that.
Maximizing Value for Members
These strategies are particularly well suited to association learners because they can build their profile and experience even as they balance this extra responsibility with their job. Setting up these valuable educational paths not only helps them learn and demonstrate certain competencies it also shows we respect them as adult learners with multiple responsibilities. By providing quality content and reducing barriers, we’re helping them get value out of the time they’re committing to training.
Using Agile Development Practices to Improve Quality and Manage Workloads
Something new we’re working on is implementing an agile process for instructional design. We’re working on failing faster, which means we’re just trying to get a product out to our learners and subject matter experts. They can review it as quickly as possible so that we can fail early and often and have time to go back and review it before the whole product is released.
We’re hoping to achieve a more even workload for our team. Two previous designers with 45 years’ worth of experience left. And we’ve just hired two new awesome designers. But what we noticed during those times when we were trying to hire folks is that we had to reshuffle workloads. Hopefully with an agile workflow, it’ll flow better downward, will just put work in the queue and the next person up will get it as opposed to moving around our whole workload. We’re super busy at certain times of the year but at other times, the pace slows. We’re hoping to level things out to make it easier on all of us.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Karen Karnis has a BA in sociology from the University of Guelph. She has worked in social services, higher education, communications and journalism. Karen is currently working toward a Master of Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation through Cape Breton University.
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