From chaos to order in e-learning admin
If you are not familiar with the term workflow, don’t be alarmed. It’s simply a process any organisation can follow to get consistent results and improve efficiency. Workflows aren’t new (they’ve been around since Henry Ford started mass-producing motor cars) but nowadays they’re a hundred times easier to automate.
In the world of e-learning workflows offer numerous benefits:
They free up staff time and let people concentrate on what they’re good at. Checking a thousand new student signups for an online course and keeping all your participants informed as they learn could take days. A well-designed and automated workflow will do it in seconds.
They can help you create an audit trail of contact with learners by recording student participation, achievements and contact so that your organisation is accountable and fair.
Workflows help you achieve accuracy and speed. They can reduce human error and they help your organisation respond quickly to learners wherever they are in the world.
At Coracle we use workflows to automate the sending of personalised certificates and test results, to time the release of scheduled learning materials to students, to get new participants signed up for courses and to promote courses and news of interest to learners.
The nitty gritty: workflows in action
To see how a workflow can be implemented, let’s take the example of an organisation wanting to improve its efficiency and consistency in processing website enquiries.
In the case of a small team, it’s possible that, over time, the employees get overwhelmed with the sheer number of enquiries. The manual process used to respond to each enquiry may creak, a backlog may build up and the responses may not be sent back for some time. The organisation’s good image is being prejudiced by this slow response. This is a clear signal that some measure of automated workflow is needed to respond to each enquiry
To avoid chaos building up, some simple workflow steps should be designed and implemented as soon as possible. Even if the only improvement is to send an automatic response to the enquirer acknowledging their contact and promising to get back in touch within a couple of days, that is better than being silent.
A further step should be considered such as assigning enquiries to individual employees and adding further automation to enable “standard” enquiries to be answered without further human intervention. This would allow for greater attention to be given to more complex enquiries whilst satisfying the bulk of enquiries without added effort. The objective throughout is to show the public that the organisation is in control of its destiny and is clearly capable of dealing with enquiries both efficiently and consistently.
Now that a small degree of workflow has been implemented, the chaos will have been transformed into order, the backlog eliminated, learners and potential contacts will be satisfied and some management information will be available to measure the success of the whole process.
The key to this success is not only the IT department; it lies with the experienced staff who, of course, know only too well how the job has to be done and the panic that can arise when they and their colleagues get overburdened.
Using the knowledge already in your organisation
The greatest tool teams have to improve the business process is their deep knowledge of the existing processes used and the required outcome.
They will need to input that experience into the workflow design process and to maintain excellent relationships with other colleagues. Beware of trying to achieve everything in a single pass: workflow building is an iterative process and is constrained by what is practical and desirable.
Which processes are selected to be improved depends entirely on what your organisation needs in terms of professional development, training and staff learning. Generally, the most effective workflows will deal with the standard processes and thus free up experienced staff to deal with more complex business.
At Coracle, we have implemented a large number of workflows to handle an ever growing number of web enquiries, delivery of email courses and for the administration of professional examinations from bookings to delivering results and certificates. These workflows not only increase the capacity of the company’s range of e-learning services but also provide useful management information to the course administrators and trainers we work with.