Wednesday, March 25, 2015

There’s More to Support than Technology


“Football is football and talent is talent. But the mindset of your team makes all the difference.” Robert Griffin III

This is a great quote and it can transcend the world of sport, finding application in most any team situation. But since I am writing from the world of education based on eLearning, especially from the service side of the equation, how does this quote apply. Off the top of my head I would say the single most important aspect of the team you work with, that team that exists beyond your office and its firewalls, is the support they provide behind their products and services.

Support is all about the mindset of the supporter, the information they provide, the ease of access to that information and willingness to share information. It’s also the people providing the support that make that support both seamless and beneficial. Now let’s get a little more specific and talk about software support and break this up between LMS and authoring tools.


Learning Management Systems

A Learning Management System is basically a large database that has two faces:

The public face that serves out learning interventions, in a user friendly website setting, based on the parameters set by the administrators and L&D professionalsThe other side, the actual LMS coal face where the truth is held and the data is mined to provide reporting, continuous improvement, gap analysis and training pathways

Supporting a system with such potential for variation at both ends of the spectrum from users to administrators requires some very specific skill sets amongst the support staff themselves. Primarily because it is virtually impossible to publish supporting documentation that covers all potential system configurations and or customisations that make the LMS work for any given set of business requirements (And for LMS’s every set of business requirements is unique).

The people supporting systems such as this need to have a specific skill profile, which should look a little like this and is also what we model our own LearnFlex LMS support team on:

Approachable – Given that you will be building a relationship with these people over time, the fact that they are approachable and amiable cannot be discounted.Knowledgeable – They should know what they are talking about and be able to provide advice on the spot, even if that advice is “I cannot tell what the issue is without testing but I will get back to you when I do know and that will take X minutes/hours”Honest – In an attempt to sound knowledgeable, I find that support staff will often just go with a scripted response (The most common in my experiences is “The problem is with your content not the LMS”) Quite often by asking some simple questions the actual problem can be found and remedied. How does this relate to honesty? The support person should be honest enough to admit the issue might be with their system or their level of knowledgeDetailed – When an issue is found and fixed the details of the fix should be provided along with the how why when where of the original problem. All of this should also be recorded in the records of the provider and shared across all of the users of the software if issue and fix were universalAccessible – Finally it’s no good having great support staff if you have to wait up till midnight to call or message them. If the provider doesn’t have support in the local timezone you should think long and hard before signing upAccountable – All great support is underpinned by a solid and realistic service level agreement. This agreement should not only outline solution timelines but also guidelines for continuous information sharing and initial contact times as well

Authoring Tools

So if that is software support for an LMS, at least from a support provider’s role description point of vArticulateiew, what should the support of a content authoring tool look like?

In short it should be more about the sharing of expertise and resources than the solving of problems. Even though bugs do appear in software applications, so long as you have access to a global community of users, the answer is usually only a forum post away. (Even though not all forums are created equal as seen in this forum post shared by Tom Kuhlmann).

Articulate certainly took this a step further with the creation of their own user community to provide this type of support, however the Articulate model took the community much further. Articulate also provides:

Training – From a global team of partners delivering a Certified program through multiple channels (face to face, client onsite or virtually ) to tutorials (blog posts and video ) on most of the application functions.Feedback – From both the articulate support team and the wider communityResources – Free templates, icons, images and most importantly ideasCommunity – It might sound strange to say that a community provides support but that is exactly what eLearning Heros does, everyone involved in the community is indoctrinated in the wider community values of sharing, support and applauding the ideas and creative energy of other community members through a range of functions such the monthly eLearning challenge (Check out this month’s challenge here )Experts – Articulate formed a global team of leading expert eLearning developers and designers to contribute to the community. They are all over social media which makes them accessible to all and run community events in cities around the world. Here are a few you can find on twitter – Tom Kuhlmann, David Anderson,  Trina Rimmer, Nicole Legault, Alison LaMotte, Nicola Appel. We have our own eLearning Hero at B Online Learning – Matt Guyan.

So not all support is created equal, and it really is your call as to what your expectations are around support. But once you have truly experienced the superior level you will never want to go back.

Ben Saunders About Ben Saunders
For the past 10 years Ben has been immersed in the world of learning and communication (and training and development), from planning and design to build and implementation, from both the client and vendor perspectives. His experience bridges the gaps between business expectation, technology and learning theory, importantly this allows Ben to translate and articulate business needs into defined learner outcomes. He has experience with various LMS implementations including Moodle, Docebo, Plateau, SABA, DOTS as well as bespoke solutions. Ben is an Articulate Trainer/Developer with B Online Learning.

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