Background

We were approached by a global Fortune 500 construction company seeking to revamp some key leadership training. The audience of senior project managers is accountable for the success of very large-scale construction efforts. Time spent away from their projects is at a premium, and as a result many site managers have received little formal training. The existing curriculum consisted of a two-week long instructor-led course during which a rotating slate of guest speakers gave PowerPoint-based lectures.

Considerations Discovered in Analysis

  • Audience – Very mobile, high energy upper level project managers with little tolerance for sitting still at a computer. Used to working long days, very positive about learning opportunities, open-minded. Wide range of previous experience (some new to company, some long tenure), as well as a wide range of comfort and experience with technology.
  • Highly competent SME – Dedicated, credible, talented, very committed VP willing to help facilitate.
  • Existing content – Strong case study, too much lecture, overall much too long.
  • Commitment to active learning – Company culture supports an interactive learning approach.
  • Limited time and budget – Course scheduled for four months from project start date.
  • Online resources – Abundant, though underutilized, online resources. Can be hard to find, and it is sometimes unclear when to use what. Field projects tend to feel disconnected from corporate resources.

Our Solution

We proposed an updated curriculum that would be delivered over a six-month span. Our recommendations included an introductory conference call to help establish a cohesive learning community, and an element of self-paced learning to introduce the most important learning themes and to create a sense of urgency as participants realized they have much to learn. One of the goals of the program is to create a cohort of site managers that can rely on each other and company experts when facing new challenges and to share lessons learned, so we maintained the face-to-face component and provided additional networking opportunities. To save both time and money, we leveraged existing content as appropriate, and bolstered skills transfer by increasing interactivity and hands-on learning while shortening the overall ILT experience to 4.5 days. Behavior change is reinforced over time through post-course microlearning text messages and regular conference calls.

Technology

What technology tools are available to empower this audience of learners to collaborate?

  • The client had a well-developed set of resources available on their intranet, so trainees were provided with opportunities to practice using the tools at their disposal.
  • We used the most basic technology – group email lists and a pre-class conference call – to create a learning community.
  • As this particular audience relies heavily on its smartphones, any remote learning should ideally involve that platform.

Experience

What learning experiences will best meet the needs of the learner, and when should they occur?

Pre-ILT

  • eClip – An emailable five-minute communication piece to preview the top learning themes of the curriculum
  • Quiz – Quick six-question mobile quiz based on real-life site manager dilemmas to create awareness of knowledge gaps

ILT

  • Case studies
  • Activities – team-based interactions, kinesthetic activations
  • Discussion – group learning elements
  • High-profile experts – highly credible experts provide regular feedback on deliverables produced in class
  • Social engagements – each evening includes a networking/social opportunity

Post-ILT

  • Individual mentoring on personal development plans established with a senior mentor and based on a skills inventory designed to highlight gaps
  • Three conference calls over the course of next four months
  • Mobile phone distribution list – text message quizzes

People

How can learning bridge social and geographical gaps, enabling collaborative learning? How can we give all learners, no matter where they are located, a sense of social presence in the learning community?

  • Establish a learning community (invitation to training followed by conference call)
  • Share class roster, provide networking opportunities
  • Continue conference calls post-class (three over a four-month period)
  • Distribute group text message quizzes

This case study is an excellent example of how blended learning informs all of our design choices. We incorporate the most adapted technology and learning experiences for the audience and organization, and don’t neglect the social aspects of knowledge and skills acquisition.

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