If you're a teacher, you know that keeping the attention of even one student can be a difficult task. But what about if you have to train a community of over 28 million -- and you have to do it virtually?
That was the question recently facing the Small Business Administration (SBA). As the agency that helps develop small business owners, they are tasked with educating entrepreneurs about the best way to make informed choices about operating their small businesses. The SBA presented on Tuesday's GovLoop virtual event about how they tackled their online training content and effectively started reaching out to a network of small business mentors and educators.
The SBA was facing two challenges in terms of quality online education: they needed to reach the nearly 28 million small businesses in America for education, and they also had to train a network of 14,000 mentors and volunteers that help provide those trainings to small business owners.
To tackle the first challenge of reaching those 28 million small businesses, the SBA revamped their learning center to be more engaging.
"We've been changing content design," said Jerry Fernandez of the SBA's Office of Entrepreneurship and Education. "We don't do lengthy tests -- we focus on worksheets and checklists. We work to explain the essence of business topics. Courses are 30 minutes because have to be considerate of time. After somebody has taken a course, we direct the learner to a referral page that gives the learner a choice of four action items – read an article, take another course, try a tool, or find a local assistance."
Metrics are very important in deciding what kind of content to continue creating. Brittany Borg, also of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Education, explained: "We collect user data before each course which helps us determine who are our users, what topics they are clicking on, and what courses we need to develop."
Fernandez said the next steps are even grander: "We want to focus on making our content mobile, available in Spanish, more interactive, and work to create many different content types."
As for the SBA's community of 14,000 mentors, the SBA is in the midst of starting a new project where they are creating a portal for these mentors so they have a consistent message and can help small business owners with proper training.
"We're doing this through a solid design process," said Fernandez. "We're conducting focus groups, interviews, and phone calls to gauge user impact. We really need to meet the needs of a wide range of users."
After the SBA presented, Young Government Leaders (YGL) came onstage to talk about another fascinating learning product -- something they refer to as "Pinterest for government learning."
YGL is an organization actively building a community of leadership for young public servants across the country, through professional development activities, networking opportunities, social events, seminars, fellowships, and scholarships. As part of their mission, they're also hoping to share better virtual learning courses and best practices.
Their answer to that goal is YGL University. Michael Tull, YGL's Director of eLearning, explained what that means.
Last year, YGL did a quick survey of members and discovered they mostly wanted advancement opportunities and places where they can go to learning events to bridge from formal education to the knowledge they need to pursue their careers. To answer this need, YGL decided to build a crowdsourced learning platform -- YGL University.
YGL University – which is still in development – allow users to track, share and discover great learning experiences.
Say you take an amazing learning course -- perhaps at the brand-new GovLoop Academy -- and you want to share it with others. You can submit the link of the training to YGL University to share it with others by category. When hundreds of users are doing the same, at end of year each of them will have list of courses that they've taken – as well as those of 9,000 YGL members who are sharing theirs.
Organizations like SBA and YGL prove that creative thinking about online learning experiences can enhance the careers of all -- it just takes a little thought about how to transfer from training one person to, say, a few million.
If you ‘re interested in working with our GovLoop learning development services team under interagency agreement as we did with SBA and YGL, drop us a line at [email protected] or find out more info here.