How to make the best of e-learning with a limited budget

by L&D14 Nov 2016
L&D professionals often need to overcome what at first seems like an unrealistic task, but some of the most creative ideas come from a lack of time and money.

In a recent article in The Training Journal, Rokas Buciunas, the People & Performance Coordinator at Restless Development, shared some examples.

His organisation launched e-learning from the Charity Learning Consortium to 400 staff across 10 countries and multiple regional offices – with no training budget, or a full-time L&D professional in place.

“Geographical disparity across offices was a significant barrier, given our limited resources and time,” he wrote.

“The majority of our staff are under 32, often hired on potential. Our belief is that young people can, and must lead development. We wanted to offer e-learning to them to better support their professional development.”

Buciunas points out that over the course of seven months, from approval to implementation, her organisation faced – and overcame – barriers which truly put its vision to the test.

“As our e-learning site is now up and running, I’d like to share four key lessons we learnt from our global launch with no budget,” he wrote.

Buciunas went on to outline ways in which other organisations can achieve similar results.
E-learning is designed by everyone for everyone
Limited staff capacity was seen as a fantastic opportunity to seek allies in other departments outside L&D. We asked our in-house marketing department to design our brand and over 40 volunteers from various teams in every country office were recruited to help our team champion and launch e-learning globally.

Our collaborative approach was the most effective advertising technique as the majority of staff were already engaged with e-learning even before its launch. As other teams helped us build the site, they were essentially creating the platform they wanted to use and felt ownership of the project’s success.

Our call for support was welcomed by other teams who felt it was a truly consultative and inclusive process which ensured diverse learning needs across different countries were respected and considered.
Junior staff are at the heart of launching eLearning
It was crucial that senior leadership fully bought-into the project, and essential for them to champion e-learning to turn this into a success but management teams were too stretched to give the time and energy necessary to launch it.

So we recruited and supported junior staff from 10 countries to create a Global Superhero Club to promote e-learning and train other colleagues in their country offices.

We presented this as a structured development opportunity to gain marketing and facilitation skills. This created an engaged, voluntary task force which drove success, with immense levels of enthusiasm.
The power of fun
Nothing motivates people more than a chance to have fun with a task at hand.

Junior staff in the Global Superhero Club loved the idea of collecting points for completed superhero missions, such as inviting a certain number of staff into the project team.

More staff were proactive in our e-learning name competition than in other office campaign. Our light-hearted games and competitions served as positive interventions, to help maintain high staff engagement throughout months of preparation prior to the launch.

Our tactics worked well in the London office, where our team was based, but we wanted to share the same level of excitement across nine other countries. Without a chance to fly over to remote offices and meet ambassadors in person, our training sessions had to be done online. Video calls presented an excellent opportunity to connect with our international counterparts and build strong relationships. This resulted in a shared feeling of ownership over the project.
Your brand is king
Thinking about our brand was a crucial and rather simple way of achieving more buy-in from our employees.

We let our staff create and vote for their favourite e-learning name. Maarifa Platform was chosen – Maarifa means knowledge in Swahili, the official language of Tanzania. The name has quickly become part of our office jargon because the staff themselves voted for it.

The look and feel of our e-learning platform was of huge importance. We personalised everything we could to make it look like an extension of our agency’s website. We captured photos from our field work and ran an office-wide photoshoot to allow our colleagues to become the face of Maarifa Platform.

Prior to launch, we devised a global communications plan to raise awareness of e-learning on a regular basis. We made announcements in our monthly newsletters, shared news in management meetings and office-wide training days. We even used the good old office poster.
The difference we made creating an e-learning culture
The launch was tied in with Learning at Work Week, our first day entailed 13 launch events, taking place in 10 countries simultaneously around the globe, driven by 40 junior volunteers.

Our e-learning training sessions were turned into a competition where our staff learnt about our new site as they completed missions, such as finding the right modules and saving their progress correctly. This made our training seem interactive, hands-on and fun. Those who needed more support could later book in one-on-one training sessions with our e-learning ambassadors.