Vol. 15 : No. 6
Editor's Note: This was an outstanding presentation within the Corporate Training track: Moving to the Next Generation of eLearning, delivered at the eLearning Conference & Expo in Washington, D.C., April 2001. The study provides an impressive model for all areas of education and training.
Successfully Migrating from the Classroom to the Web: A Case Study from the Heart of Texas
Barbara E. Tischler
INTECH Interactive Technologies thanks the e-Learning Conference and Expo for the opportunity to present in detail why the online training program developed for the Betty Hardwick Center in Abilene, Texas, is an outstanding example of a public-private partnership that has successfully applied web technology to improve the training process and reduce costs.
While the following pages detail why the Betty Hardwick Training Project is a prime example of how web technology can be economically and effectively leveraged to improve the staff credentialing and training process, these are the key points:
The project has the potential for a state-wide cost savings benefit of over $750,000 annually, yet started out as a modest investment by an agency which receives 85% of its funds from federal and state sources. Public dollars were partnered with a private agency with the potential to not only recover development costs within one year if only 16% of the counties in Texas avail themselves of the program, but also to save considerable public funding each year thereafter for each county which signs on.
The development process maximized client input without placing undue burden on an already-stretched agency staff. We were able to design and program eight courses within eight months, using on average just a week and a half of Center staff time per course, including allreviews and approvals for each of the courses. Moreover, the resulting online program will save the staff training coordinator an estimated 35 hours per month in teaching time and about eight hours per month in administrative time - effectively adding back a week or more per month into the coordinator's schedule.
Existing content was repurposed to limit costs. In an effort to contain costs and minimize development time, our client to sought permission from the State of Texas to re-purpose existing lesson plans. This had the added benefit of providing content we knew in advance would meet state training requirements.
Recognizing the fiscal constraints of the state agencies served, the product was designed to assure speedy download times for client sites still limited to 28K modem connections. As is typical with many state funded public health agencies, funding for advanced technologies is limited. High speed connectivity could not be assumed at all client sites, so by judiciously using graphical elements and special effects, we could create a product which is engaging and interactive yet not a 'bandwidth clogger.'
INTECH Interactive Technologies, a certified woman-owned business enterprise established in 1983, produces custom interactive products for a variety of human resource and marketing needs.
Our products, of which there are more than 150 titles, are delivered via CDs, intranets and the Internet.
Our clients include multinational corporations as well as smaller businesses and non-profit organizations, with product lines and services ranging from manufacturing and finance to oil refining and information technology. Since our customers have operations world-wide, our materials are deployed globally in English, French and Spanish.
As a small but nimble organization, INTECH responds quickly to customer needs without bureaucratic delays, produces products more cost-effectively because of low hourly rates achieved through low overhead, and provides more direct client contact which helps assure products match or exceed client expectations.
The Betty Hardwick Project
Description of Business Process
The Betty Hardwick Center provides a broad array of services to residents of Taylor, Jones, Callahan and Shackelford counties in Texas who have serious and persistent mental illness, mental retardation and related conditions (such as autism), developmental delay, emotional and behavioral disorders, and chemical dependency. The agency has some 30 different funding sources. State funding accounts for 43% of the budget, and 42% is from Medicaid reimbursement. The remaining 15% is derived from local funds and other earned income.
The Center provides services to over 3,200 people and their families every year. It employs more than 200 people, and operates eight different sites.
The Center must meet Texas Department of Mental Health Mental Retardation (TDMHMR) standards for training its staff both pre-service, during the first 30-90 days of employment, and on a refresher basis. It is a complex body of requirements, because there are differing requirements for a variety of job categories: direct contact, limited direct contact, non-direct contact, ancillary, professional, paraprofessional, etc. A single training coordinator is responsible for scheduling classes and assuring staff compliance with training requirements. This coordinator has to teach a broad array of adults working with mentally ill and mentally retarded consumers. The staff ranges in educational background from high school graduate to persons holding medical and doctoral degrees, and includes everyone from accountants to custodial staff to doctors and counselors. The number of classes taught per month can range from ten to 20 monthly, depending on the needs of the Center staff in terms of new hire training, refresher training, and other certification needs. Limited funding cannot support more than one person in the training function, so the Center has had to recruit contracted trainers and non-training personnel in house to help with the class load, resulting in a patchwork of services which is strained to cover the minimum training needs.
Staff at the Betty Hardwick Center determined that by placing select required training online, several benefits could be achieved:
The Center staff also sought to build a data management system for the courses, so that student training records would update automatically with test scores, and the training coordinator could generate reports by student, by course, or by date.
An RFP was issued to get an initial set of courses online with a data base management system to track student testing for each course. Several agencies and businesses had to partner to make this venture a practical reality.
While the RFP was out for bid, the Center proceeded with obtaining permission from the State to reuse existing course content for the web-based curriculum. By the time the contract was awarded to INTECH, the state had granted permission and all parties were ready to proceed.
After evaluating all the required training that is universal to all job classifications within the Center, INTECH and Center staff jointly determined that eight courses were suited for migration to the Web. Others were ruled out because the content was more affective than cognitive, and better suited to classroom discussions based on existing highly effective videos. Courses that applied to only certain categories were not considered, either, because to achieve the greatest return on investment, the highest number of trainees was desirable.
Description of Technology
The courses are delivered via the Internet.
The training coordinatorbenefits from the online training program because it provides convenient and efficient tracking of the baseline and refresher training of each employee. In particular, the database allows the coordinator to verify at a glance what online training has been taken, and to print out reports that allow easy analysis of who is in compliance with training requirements and who may need reminders or remediation. Additionally, the online program saves the training coordinator from collecting, grading, recording and filing the assessments associated with the courses. With the time saved, the coordinator can better focus on providing classes more specific the needs of the Center and its staff.
The staff itself benefits from the online program, as well. Staff no longer has to wait for a scheduled class, or struggle to find a class time that does not conflict with time spent in providing services to consumers. As an added advantage, having training available 24 hours a day, seven days a weeks helps staff effectively use gaps in their schedules, such as when a client misses an appointment-an unexpected opening in the day can be used to meet a training requirement when the class is instantly available online and can be taken in an hour or less. With online training, the staff is able to see more consumers and take more job specific training, giving the Center more efficient and better-trained staff.
Total Cost Savings
Initially developed for The Betty Hardwick Center, the courses chosen for online delivery are standard requirements for the other 38 'sister centers' in Texas. There is a marketing plan in place to provide this online program to the other centers on a fee basis to recoup the initial development costs. These recovered dollars will then be available to migrate other modules to online delivery. Concurrently, the other centers statewide who join the program will realize the same cost savings as the Abilene center as their staff members take more training on-site and in less time than when traveling to classroom-based training.
There is a wide mix of training requirements in place for the broad range of staff functions, so cost savings are projected estimates, but the Center expects to save approximately $12,000 in training costs per year, or roughly $3,000 for each county it serves. If these cost savings are paralleled in each of the 254 counties in Texas, over $762,000 in state funding will be saved.
The training function at The Betty Hardwick Center has realized these improvements with the implementation of the online training program:
Screen captures from Internet-based training
Recent Projects - ScotiaBank
Screen captures from systems training for bank tellers
Recent Projects - Deere & Company
Screen captures from recruiting CD
About the Author:
Barbara Tischler is a senior instructional designer and project manager at INTECH. She has extensive experience in technical and soft skills training development, with particular emphasis on computer-delivered products. Her most recent clients include John Deere, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Bausch & Lomb, and the Betty Hardwick Regional Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center (Abilene, Texas). She is the recipient of awards of excellence from DOE, ASTD, and Lockheed Martin.
Barbara has been a presenter for the International Quality and Productivity Center (IQPC) and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). She is a guest lecturer at the University of Tennessee.
She can be contacted as follows:
Barbara E. Tischler, Project Manager
INTECH Interactive Technologies
309 College Street, Maryville, TN 37804.
Phone: 865 984-0200 Fax: 865 984-0207
company website: www.intechinc.com