It is interesting how often professionals working in elearning / learning and development sectors are unaware about delivering elearning services using IT service management practices such as ITIL v3 or analysing the elearning system using business analysis skills.
All these skills and practices become very important when implementing solutions as well as delivering a reliable service, whether for internal stakeholders (staff / employees) or as a service provider / business who delivers courses or host learning technology platforms for other organisations. This article covers how ITIL v3 and some business analytical processes can help in delivery of elearning services along with real world examples.
Before we continue, it is important to address certain concepts about the fascinating world of learning technologies. Learning technologies are defined differently by each professional based on how they use this in their work environment.
Based on my experience, I would define learning technologies as a set of tools or technologies, processes and theories / teaching techniques for delivering online elearning. Elearning refers to the actual online learning activities.
Learning management systems (LMS), refer to the platform(s) that host these online learning activities including the courses. There are other terms used, such as Scorm, which is a set of specifications that specify how the above platform would manage or run the elearning objects.
The main roles in an elearning business include: instructional designer, graphic designers, LMS administrator, learning and development manager and back-end developers. There are other roles included but the above are some of the key ones and can sometimes mix and match responsibilities. So how do ITIL and business analysis fit in?
ITIL as a learning technology service
ITIL v3 (IT Infrastructure Library) is all about service management and delivery using frameworks and best practices. In an environment where different people do different roles, it makes sense to implement some if not all ITIL practices such as service level agreements, help desk systems, etc. for both internal and external stakeholders.
For example, let’s consider a team consisting of instructional designers, lms administrators, back-end developers, website hosting service providers (can be internal or external), sales team, and the management team. Putting ITIL v3 into practice, we have a helpdesk / service desk team or individual who acts as the first point of contact with the customers or employees (depending on the business).
They use ITIL tools such as incident management systems to log calls and prioritise the type of services offered. To deliver the product, they send customer requests to different members of the team to take care of different functions. Each work item is logged on the system, hence keeping track of its status.
The sales team make sales and log them on the system and the helpdesk then start processing the sales and allocating the specific team to work on the different aspects of the product sold (like building an elearning course, setting up access on the LMS, instructions on how to access the site, etc).
Customers can view the status online. If the task is in the form of a major fault then we use a problem management system to find the root cause of the problem. Usually senior or experienced staff get involved in this stage. This is the simplest example of using ITIL to handle services in an elearning environment.
Business analysis as a learning technology service
Business analysis is all about improving an existing system, process or business as a whole or even introducing a service or a combination of the above using different tools, models, and so on. For training providers, this becomes really useful as it helps deliver improved and innovative learning technology products and services by understanding the requirements of their customers or clients.
Let us consider the above elearning team as example. For the purpose of increasing the sales and improving the products, we apply business analytical concepts here. We first investigate the business and learning technology services offered.
We then consider the stakeholders’ perspectives (stakeholders include service providers, internal staff, senior managers, customers and anyone involved with the business). Next we analyse the need for improving the services offered and evaluate possible solutions. We then define the specific solutions and finally deliver the solutions while working with the team.
These tasks are usually taken care of by the business development managers; internal or contracted business analysts who work with the team. We also use tools such as mindmaps (using visual methods or diagrams for summarising ideas and techniques), fish-bone diagrams (for major problems that require in-depth analysis of the issues at hand by finding the causes and the factors involved with the problem) among other methods.
These are the main areas of the learning technology sector, at a high level. Using ITIL v3 and business analysis techniques can improve learning-technology services.