Recession serves as a driver for innovation, enabling organisations to do more with less. This trend is strongly felt in the corporate education sector where innovative managed training solutions are empowering forward-thinking organisations to save time and money. Arly Faundes, Digital Media Consultant, investigates.

To be a training manager or coordinator in the current climate is no easy task. Having to navigate the plethora of external suppliers in a largely unregulated marketplace can be a daunting task to the uninitiated. Sourcing and procuring quality training solutions at cost-effective rates based on organisational needs while accounting for differing departmental needs and individual learning styles requires a thorough understanding of the external marketplace.

Moreover, in the last few years training managers have been facing new requirements and added pressures mainly because of budget reductions. According to a recent survey by CIPD UK Learning & Development (L&D) budgets have taken a fall of 25 per cent and according to the Institute of IT Training by the end of 2011, 30 per cent of organisations will have released their L&D staff and will be using managed service suppliers.

‘Value for money is ever more crucial for training teams and all development must be aligned to business strategy and objectives,’ Tracey Scott, Training Manager at London Underground Information Management, says. ‘Companies are becoming much more stringent with how training budgets are spent and training teams / HR departments tend to hold budgets rather than individual managers, who could be seen to whittle away the budget on non-urgent / non-important training.’

Social and open

Although e-learning can be considered a known technology for learning, it is still always adding new innovative elements to the learning experience, following the new digital trends, such as social online communities and open source alternatives.

According to the 2010 State of the Industry Report released by the American Society for Training and Development, the total expenditure on training in 2009 was $125.88 billion, which was down 6.1 per cent from the 2008 figure of $134.07 billion. However, 27.7 percent of all formal learning hours made available in 2009 were online, with a growth from 23 per cent in 2008.

Bloomfire is a good example of an innovative digital platform created to improve learning & development. Bloomfire is a social learning community platform for sharing knowledge and discussions. In addition, people can share multimedia documents such as video and pictures and all the tools they need to improve L&D and HR.

The online retailer is one of Bloomfire’s clients. They use the social learning platform to on-board new hires. ‘Team members add tips and tutorials in their free time, which organically develops Bloomfire as an internal knowledge base. New hires are thrown into the Bloomfire and pick up what they need to get started,’ Chu from Bloomfire says. ‘Social collaboration in increasingly important, sharing ideas for learning with others with similar needs,’ Andrew Spence, Director at Glass Bead Consulting affirms.

Tracey Scott from London Underground works with YourCM, an IT and business skills training portal for L&D and IT training departments of all sizes. It enables organisations to access the aggregated portfolios of over 160 education providers across the UK and globally. ‘By having a variety of providers, the dates available are vast, and my colleagues have much more options to fit training around their busy schedules,’ Tracey says.

YourCM as a booking and administrative system and Bloomfire as a new type of social and multimedia e-learning community are the response of learning management systems that need to reduce costs and improve times and efficiency. ‘Generally the pace of change has increased and budgets have been reduced, thus there is a need to do more with less,’ Steve Rayson, Managing Director at Kineo says. ‘Whilst overall learning budgets have been reduced, e-learning has continued to grow as people see the benefits.’

The last launch of Kineo is Totara, a learning product that is based on the open source Moodle LMS, a leading open source in the education sector. ‘Totara is a custom distribution of Moodle specifically for the corporate sector. It has a wide range of functionally designed to support corporate such as individual development plans, team management, classroom management and so on,’ Steve explains.

As an innovative product, Totara is open source and license free, enabling organisations to reduce important costs and improve a wide range of learning management functionality. ‘A large number of organisations have now adopted open source LMS solutions including Tesco, Nikon and the Ministry of Justice. We are seeing an increasing number of organisations look at the benefits of open source solutions such as lower costs, greater functionality, no vendor lock-ins and the ability to fully customise the solution’, Rayson concludes.