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Armscor implements solutions-driven approach for skills development

Johannesburg, 04 Apr 2006
Read time 5min 20sec

With transformation as the motivation, Armscor realised the critical need for skills-development within its workforce. At the time, the company was experiencing challenges in consolidating the existing knowledge base of long-term employees and effectively transferring this knowledge and experience to newer employees. As experienced by many companies in South Africa, the transformation of Armscor`s employee base to reflect the political changes of the country is a priority that needs to be managed in terms of knowledge and skills development.

Reusable Objects was approached by Armscor in 2004 to assist the organisation in developing a sustainable, blended learning programme, utilising an online system that would be more flexible, effective and have the ability to track learners` progress. In response to this need, Reusable Objects recommended a solutions-driven approach that would facilitate an effective and speedy skills transfer.

According to Bryan Griffiths, senior manager of training development, this method of learning was a way of capturing tacit knowledge from organisational subject matter experts.

"The sporadic intake of employees at Armscor made the scheduling of face-to-face classes, which need critical mass, a logistical problem. We needed a structure and discipline in a self-paced learning environment that encourages responsibility and a self-directed focus - a cost-effective Learner Management System (LMS), independent of an enterprise IT solution. Using the available technology at Armscor, the blended learning solution can be applied on a daily basis."

In order to deliver the solution, Armscor implemented the Construct e-Learning Suite of tools from Reusable Objects. Construct LMS serves the course material to learners and tracks their progress through the system; authoring software enables Armscor to take ownership of its course material and to quickly convert existing course material to digital, Web-based content; The Learning Object Repository (LOR) acts as a meta-data driven repository of Armscor courses, with the additional ability to enable the harvesting of relevant course material from the Internet; and the NQF Library provides fundamental unit standards-based courses, developed in line with the National Qualifications Framework.

According to Griffiths, not only does Construct LMS offer all the features required to support the learning environment effectively for learners, the supplementary products - such as Construct Author and the Learning Object Repository - lend themselves to enterprises that wish to have course development capabilities in-house, in a cost-effective manner, without having to invest in large numbers of highly trained personnel.

"Reusable Objects assisted us in managing the whole learning environment, from Project Office support to aligning our efforts to SAQA requirements. Although much of the courseware will be unit standards-aligned and accredited, all of it will be designed as outcomes-based," said Griffiths. "We plan to run the NQF levels three and four generic management qualifications as learnerships. In addition, once the courseware has been developed, Armscor`s unique level five diploma in Complex Procurement, which has also been accredited, will be offered as a learnership."

Alison Jacobson, managing director of Reusable Objects, said: "By working together with the client to implement their vision in a way that we have proven to work, we have not only successfully implemented an e-learning solution, but have also developed a really solid customer relationship that is proving to be of great benefit to both companies."

Initially, the project was run as a pilot in order for the Armscor project owner to gauge the effectiveness of an e-learning solution. The project was given the working title of the Armscor Learning Portal Pilot and a cross-section of 63 Armscor employees, ranging from senior management to clerical staff, were enrolled as learners.

Annah Mokori, in logistics staff support and an e-learner at Armscor, enjoyed the opportunity to study at her own pace. "The system was very user-friendly and the assessment from the reference library easily accessible. I do believe that other employees will benefit - it has fulfilled my need to become a technical administrator. And with the recognition or prior learning, the learnership has provided me with the opportunity to work towards an NQF level five qualification. It`s about investing in education!"

As a result of the very successful pilot, Armscor embarked on an ambitious e-learning development strategy and commenced the development of e-learning courses for core business functions. Additional external course developers are being trained to gain an understanding of the Construct Product Suite and the Reusable Objects` solution, before being given the go-ahead to develop course material for Armscor.

Said Griffiths: "E-learning often gives rise to visions of Shrek or Madagascar-like courses, where the knowledge sinks in subliminally in a most entertaining and pleasurable manner. Maybe all content will be like that one day, but for now e-learning must engage the learner much lower down the entertainment scale and learners have to put in the effort. I see that such courses will integrate well with the workflow, ie just-in-time courses when you need to learn a new function quickly to do a job. When it gets to the point where learning and work are seamlessly integrated, we will have workflow learning."

"And while the e-learning content is the most expensive component, as well as the direct point of contact for the learner, it is not just the content that must engage the learner; the LMS is vital in tracking haphazard self-paced learning and providing a large degree of facilitation to the learners by way of notifications, reports and reminders. And behind the LMS the human component is always critical, including diverse roles such as LMS administrators, online facilitators, assessors, project sponsors and project managers. E-learning is an environment, an ecosystem, and like the ecosystem in nature, each participant must be nurtured," said Griffiths.

Editorial contacts
Reusable Objects Kathy Mumford (011) 447 3453
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