Driving Digital Learning Innovation: Who You Need and What You Need

By Kristan Davis, Director Digital Learning and Education Technology, Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group, Jefferson Health & Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)

Kristan Davis, Director Digital Learning and Education Technology, Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group, Jefferson Health & Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)

While academic and healthcare institutions may be steeped in history and tradition, educational innovation is thriving at Jefferson. Jefferson is also growing rapidly. Once a single university and hospital in Philadelphia, our academic population essentially doubled when Thomas Jefferson University joined nearby Philadelphia University. Our clinical arm (Jefferson Health) has grown to 14 hospitals, 7 urgent care centers and 19 outpatient centers throughout the region. Combined, we employ 30,000+ employees. That’s 30,000+ employees who need training.

Our Digital Learning and Education Technology group has converted a substantial number of training from classroom to online, simultaneously saving the enterprise millions of dollars and improving the learner’s experience. We are also partnering with faculty to bring their lectures to life on a digital canvas.

This work was daunting at the onset and has only gained speed since. But we’ve led change and adoption, and ushered in new ideas and technology by focusing on the consumer experience, and now educational innovation is thriving at Jefferson. This takes having the right team in place.

The Innovator: Immersed in learning new technology and theories, this big-picture person is always on the lookout for innovative ways to engage learners, enhance their experience, and refresh content year after year. Instructional designers and classroom trainers offer this expertise.

The Creative: A visual and verbal communicator who not only executes on the Innovator’s vision, but expands on it, the Creative is a storyteller with technical prowess. Think designers, writers and videographers.

The Champion: Subject matter experts (SMEs) to kick things off, organizational gurus maintain efficient workflows, and upper-level management who push and reward the team are essential. Classroom trainers, as they work directly with learners, must be enthusiastic advocates, as well.

The Analyst: Pull back the curtain on any digital learning team and you’ll find these software wizards and end-user heroes. They troubleshoot, test and retest, anticipate issues, overcome obstacles and communicate resolutions, often directly to learners. They’re the final stop in the delivery line and its first responders.

Collectively these roles are stewards of learning and technology. To help overcome resistance to change and dispel bias on what “training” looks like, all team members should approach big projects and small tasks with one top-of-mind consideration: How can we make learning as frictionless and relevant as possible?

Simply reducing the number of fields in a form or clicks in a navigation path can be the solution. We’ve found that by training managers first, they help train employees. Testing “early adopter” types helps us enhance our products before they’re released. Post-launch, surveys and hard data help us spot ways to keep improving, even incrementally.

At every step, we look for ways big and small to reduce friction and increase learning engagement, including:

e-Learning Development: Slide decks full of policies may check the boxes, but we think outside of them to create our annual mandatory education. We infuse evocative imagery, sound and relevant current events to pull learners in from the start. Interactive elements, like multiple choice quizzes throughout a lesson versus only at the end, keep learners involved. Whenever possible, we use role-specific branching so learners can make the lasting connection between the lesson and how to apply it on the job.

Learning Deployment: We can create award-winning content but if our learners can’t easily find, complete or track it, it’s pointless. To deliver training that is traceable and easily accessible, we build our collective knowledge base daily including studying user experience and design, and ever-increasing our LMS expertise. Experimenting with new technology is just as important, as well, as recent developments in xAPI make it possible to travel outside of the traditional LMS.

In-person Training: When classroom instruction serves better than eLearning, we provide it — on various dates, times, and multiple locations. By physically going to and working one-on-one with staff members who are accustomed to their own software and processes, our trainers help bridge the knowledge gap and close the cultural divide. They not only teach, they also listen to make sure the learning experience is customized.

Documentation: Navigating complex software and workflows can be tricky, so our technical writers create step-by-step instructions to help learners get the hang of it. Sometimes a quick tip sheet is all an employee needs. For larger initiatives, we build a library of resources and continually survey end users on their experience with it in order to improve organization and ease of search. Because outdated documentation can be more frustrating than no documentation, maintenance is key too.

Communications: Many of our learners are busy caring for patients and saving lives. Any messages we present to them must be accurate, helpful and concise. FAQs can help address both perceived and real effects of change. We craft short and scannable emails, add visuals if they help, and follow a timeline of contact points to roll out information without overwhelming learners. To start out on a positive note, we explain the learner’s benefits loud and clear.

Collaboration: From the CEO to support staff, our stakeholders have requirements that must be met alongside our learners’. We partner closely while advocating for the learner to ensure the end result satisfies and hopefully excites all parties.

At Jefferson we are digital, we are innovative, we are consumer-focused, but most importantly, we are people-focused. With these key elements, driving creative change is possible.

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