Oxfordshire County Council in the UK

Accessible, engaging e-learning supports customer-focussed service at Oxfordshire County Council

Published on 19-Jan-2010

Validated on 03 Feb 2014

"We had a fairly clear idea of the type of e-learning materials we wanted to deliver but we needed IBM’s expertise to realise an engaging end product. IBM provided video clips, professional voiceovers, pop-ups and self-tests to bring the material alive and ensure its success. " - David Gaulton, Programme Manager, Oxfordshire County Council

Customer:
Oxfordshire County Council in the UK

Industry:
Government

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Overview

Keen to provide a more customer-focussed and efficient service, Oxfordshire County Council is implementing an IBM Electronic Document Record Management System (EDRMS). Offering secure, ready access to appropriate information across its business operations, this helps Council staff and partner agencies act as one integrated team when dealing with citizens.

Business need:
To help embed the new way of working the council was looking to provide cost-effective, accessible training for around 6,000 Council and partner agency staff plus new starters.

Solution:
Oxfordshire County Council partnered with IBM to develop engaging e-learning. After a detailed design and planning phase, the course materials were produced offshore to maximise productivity.

Benefits:
Meets stringent accessibility criteria • Effective – 95% of users surveyed agreed the material helped them meet their learning objective • Fast and cost- efficient deployment to a large and dispersed audience • Material can be reused or revisited with no additional costs apart from the user’s time • Provides a self-service, personalised learning experience • Material can be refreshed in-house and rolled out centrally • Built-in capacity and flexibility for future growth.

Case Study

The county of Oxfordshire is internationally renowned as a centre of academia and research as well as a place of architectural and natural beauty. More than 635,000 residents and over 9 million annual visitors look to the County Council to provide a range of services including roads, schools, museums and social services.

Keen to provide a more customer-focussed and efficient service, Oxfordshire County Council is implementing an IBM Electronic Document Record Management System (EDRMS). Offering secure, ready access to appropriate information across its business operations, this helps Council staff and partner agencies act as one integrated team when dealing with citizens.

David Gaulton, EDRMS Programme Manager at Oxfordshire County Council says: “Embedding the EDRMS effectively within our daily operations requires a mindset shift. We had to communicate and instil that change across more than 6,000 people in a wide variety of roles within the Council and our partnership agencies. Finding a cost-effective and sustainable solution was crucial – with new hires every week, material has to be kept up-to-date."

Challenging existing perceptions
Technology enabled training was the obvious answer to the Council’s needs but when this was tried two to three years earlier on a different project, the organisation was not ready for this kind of approach, creating a poor perception of e-learning. Lacking the necessary skills within the organisation, Gaulton looked for a credible, experienced partner able to change people’s minds by delivering engaging e-learning materials.

"The people IBM put forward are accredited by the Institute of IT Training which was comforting. It means they understand the issues behind the design, development and delivery of successful e-learning. They also advocated a partnership approach which I liked – we had to work closely if this was going to be a success."

Putting on the style
There were two pressing reasons why Gaulton wanted close working with IBM. The e-learning had to comply with the Council’s stringent accessibility requirements and the tone and language had to be appropriate. "The style of a local government organisation differs from that of a business", explains Gaulton. "We tend to be more inclusive and supportive in our approach. If the tone of the e-learning didn’t match that style it would alienate the people we needed to reach."

Throughout the project, one IBM team member took the role of both Instructional Designer and Project Manager. Working onsite with core subject matter experts and key stakeholders for the first few weeks of the project helped him understand requirements, share ideas, develop the high-level design and create the project plan.

Production line efficiency
To reduce costs and maximise productivity, IBM used its Knowledge Factory approach to develop the e-learning materials. Maintaining a close relationship with the Council, the Instructional Designer liaised with a specialist IBM team based offshore (in this case in Spain) to produce the course content. The team are experts in the tools and methodology required to produce online content, and are able to reuse and tailor existing templates and schemas wherever appropriate to accelerate development times.

"It was the first time we’ve worked with global resources like this," says Gaulton. "We had to adapt to arranging conference calls around different time zones but this was a minor adjustment and the approach worked well."

The e-learning produced comprises two modules. Module one focuses on the concept of EDRMS, what it is and why the Council has implemented it. Module two is more technical and shows how to use its basic functions.

Simple navigation is provided throughout and a series of case studies demonstrate where EDRMS has already been used successfully in a Council context.

"We had a fairly clear idea of the type of e-learning materials we wanted to deliver but we needed IBM’s expertise to realise an engaging end product,” says Gaulton. “IBM provided video clips, professional voiceovers, pop-ups and self-tests to bring the material alive and ensure its success."

As the e-learning developed, Council representatives from the main business operations tested and reviewed the materials. Strict change control agreed between the Council and IBM helped to keep the project on track from a time, budget and content point of view.

Accessible by design
The accessibility requirements the Council demanded of its e-learning materials were extremely stringent and the building blocks used to create the materials were extended to meet that need in any future projects.

"Without doubt this engagement extended IBM’s understanding of the requirements of accessibility," confirms Gaulton. "I believe that tools and processes had to be adapted and developed to accommodate this aspect of the project. IBM was extremely flexible and met our requirements within budget and with no impact on our project timeline."

Education on tap
The EDRMS e-learning is now in regular use at the Council and is proving to be a fast and cost-efficient way of reaching thousands of people. Optional surveys are built into each of the modules and around 40% of users have completed them. Of those completing the survey in module one, 95% agreed or strongly agreed that the content enabled them to meet their learning objective. In module two, 74% agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the course.

One of the greatest advantages of the online modules for users is the flexible, personalised learning experience they provide. Available on a self-serve basis, they can be stopped, started or repeated at any time, providing access to information whenever it is needed.

From the Council’s point of view, no matter how many times a user repeats elements of the e-learning there is no incremental cost other than the user’s time.

Blended capability
Nine months after the original modules went live, the Council is completing its first refresh of the material. "Having bought content development software and been trained by IBM we’re now in a position to update existing material and develop simple courses ourselves," Gaulton explains. "We’re currently updating some of the case studies. It’s so efficient; we make the changes centrally and roll them out across the whole user community. Announcing the changes encourages people to revisit the material and see how it’s evolved, helping keep our key messages about EDRMS in the forefront of people minds."

Firmly convinced of the benefits of e-learning, the Council has already developed two further courses with IBM - an ICT induction course for all employees and a course providing foundation education on social computing technologies such as instant messaging, blogs and wikis.

"We’ll continue to blend IBM’s capabilities with our own as we learn and develop. The IBM team has a high level of expertise so we’ll work with them when developing complex material or courses," concludes Gaulton.

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