Although release conditions and intelligent agents have been available for years, they weren’t anything our team had given much thought to—until it became necessary to meet a rising demand for training. As requests increased, so did our interest in automation.
I’m an instructional design manager at a member–driven association, and it’s my team’s priority to provide high–quality training opportunities that are both accessible and user friendly. But a growing demand for training is often challenged by budget restraints. As a result, we need to develop courses as efficiently as possible—and automation is one of the ways we can do that. Since implementing automation, our team has been able to save significant administrative time while also improving members’ experience.
In this post, I’d like to share how our instructional design team created a strategy for implementing automation in our online courses while addressing roadblocks and staff concerns along the way.
Why Incorporate Automation in Our Courses?
Like I mentioned, our interest in automation increased with the demand for training. We quickly discovered that not only are intelligent agents easy to implement, but they also help make our team significantly more efficient. Here’s how:
- Improve the learner experience by reducing learner points of contact
- Increase communication with learners
- Implement proactive notifications
- Auto-enroll learners in courses based on performance
During the implementation process, we addressed a wide variety of concerns, ranging from whether we were automating jobs away to which tasks it makes the most sense to automate. Each concern and obstacle was valid but easy to address.
Are We Automating Jobs Away?
Our team has plenty of work to go around and automation has assisted our team by improving our efficiency and allowing us to focus on strategic goals. To some extent, we have already been able to adjust and shift our focus to strategic priorities like working on a badging program for designation candidates, implementing transcription software, and looking into integrating D2L’s learning path structure with our course design.
Which Tasks Does It Make the Most Sense to Automate?
We decided to focus on four key areas that were existing priorities for our team.
- Targeted communication
- Adjusting learner roles
- Awarding certificates
- Enrollment in new courses/exams
Implementing a targeted communication plan through automation allowed us to provide better customer service and increased communication with learners while streamlining a variety of manual tasks, such as welcome emails, class participation reminders, course completion notifications, and emails advising learners they have earned a certificate of completion.
Adjusting Learner Roles
To make it even easier to communicate with the right groups at the right time, our team created five unique learner roles with a variety of capabilities. While implementing these roles, we actively tested how each interacts as it progresses through courses.
The role types are:
- Student (Course Review Period)
- Learning Path Student
- Designation Student
- Restricted Student
The Student, Designation Student, and Learning Path Student roles are assigned for active students during the course. Each role is similarly set up but allows us to send learners on different paths as they successfully complete courses.
The Student (Course Review Period) role allows learners to review material but not to complete anything after the course is over.
The Restricted Student role is where all learners end up eventually. This role allows us to keep students in self-study courses that remain open throughout the year, while we still restrict their access.
Awarding certificates automatically through intelligent agents saves significant amounts of time.
For example, some of our courses have over 100 learners. Reviewing each learner’s progress manually can require days of work.
By linking certificates to specific release conditions, we can replace a manual, time-consuming task with an automated process that takes less than 10 minutes to set up—and needs to be done only once.
Enrollment in New Courses
Learners enrolled in a course with designated roles will be automatically placed in new courses upon successfully meeting the course requirements. All other learners will be immediately filtered to restrict their status. Here’s what setting it all up looks like:
- Requires learners to meet all conditions listed in order to be automatically enrolled in the next course.
- Selects the action that must take place in order to enroll the learner in a new course and identifies the course to enroll the learner in.
- Learners will be enrolled in the role identified by the intelligent agent.
This is not a complete list of intelligent agents or release conditions, but it is meant to encourage you to develop an implementation plan of your own. As you begin your own process, remember a few key takeaways:
- Define your why—Why will it benefit you and your organization to incorporate automation?
- Determine which tasks to automate—Each organization is different, but there are likely a variety of tasks that will make sense for your team.
- Put an implementation timeline in place.
- Remember a little time and energy upfront can save you a lot of time, energy, and money in the long run.
While the process can seem intimidating, it’s easy once you get started!