Although full-blown Web-based skills training has its place, many organizations feel the ability to rapidly build and deliver online content that raises employee awareness is an equally important strategic asset.
KPMG Consulting Inc., a McLean, Va.-based global consulting firm, is one such believer. The organization's learning and development group uses an "e-briefings" concept developed by San Francisco-based DigitalThink Inc. to educate consultants logging on to a learning management system (LMS) from around the globe. E-briefings give KPMG staff a baseline understanding of topics, and where additional skill building or detailed study is required by job specialty, refers consultants to more rigorous training options, including job simulations on a knowledge-management portal.
"One of our core values is 'speed with purpose,'" says John Higgins, KPMG's chief learning officer. "When we launched e-learning, we felt if we couldn't build a course from scratch in 90 days or less, it wouldn't be worth doing. With e-briefings, we often can build a course in the morning and publish to our LMS in the afternoon."
One e-briefing series, called "Managing Our Business," consists of seven short (one hour or less) modules that provide users with a fundamental understanding of the tools, processes and reports KPMG uses to run its business, as well as common terminology and reference points. To take the e-briefing users access the LMS and first encounter a "course wrapper" — a welcome and orientation to the course. "One thing we've learned about e-learning is you really have to manage new users' expectations," says Higgins. E-briefings themselves usually consist of PowerPoint slides accompanied by streaming-audio voice-overs from KPMG subject matter experts as well as short quizzes. Developers may also employ Macromedia Flash to add animation, and add links to URLs and other learning resources.
The tool fills an important gap in KPMG's training strategy, Higgins says. "Without e-briefings, you're either stuck buying off-the-shelf content or building custom courses on your own," he says. "But to build truly engaging and instructionally sound Web-based courses, you not only need instructional designers but graphic artists and Web developers. Not only does the average training department not have those skills in house, it doesn't need to develop that level of content for every learning need."
The latest version of the DigitalThink tool transfers publishing power to users' hands, allowing clients like KPMG to author and publish E-briefing content themselves, greatly reducing the publishing cycle time.
Higgins knows the tool's allure also has the potential to be its downfall. "The danger is getting so wowed by the ease-of-use and speed of the tool that e-briefings begin to replace true skill-building interventions with awareness-creation tools. We're aware of that, and will guard against it." D.Z