Maintaining market leadership through learning
by Rochelle Rucker
TIME WAITS FOR NO BUSINESS these days. Demands for competitiveness, flexibility, and creativity require an entirely different kind of corporate learning environment, one in which employees quickly gain knowledge and skills. Motorola, a leading provider of wireless communications, semiconductors, and advanced electronic systems, is one global company that has developed such a learning environment.
Motorola University's College of Learning Technologies (CLT) is a team of skilled performance technologists and learning architects who are constantly developing new ways to promote learning on a global basis. By using leading-edge, performance-improvement methodologies, applied research, and technology; CLT provides learning solutions through the use of CD-ROMs,Web-based systems, instructor-led training, online communities of practice, video and satellite conferencing to employees worldwide.
“By putting instructional designers, researchers, and course architects together, we have a community that can collaborate and share more readily, meeting needs faster and giving us the best solution from a broad spectrum of learning experts,” says Christine Good, CLT‘s director. “This keeps us focused on continual learning and not just training.”
Motorola University's Role. Motorola University (MU) combines communication, content expertise, learning methodologies, and technology to provide its customers with timely and relevant integrated education solutions. Breakthroughs in online learning systems make new on-demand knowledge and information readily available for participants.
“Traditionally, people think of a classroom when they think of learning,” Good says. “By coupling learning and technology, we focus learners not on memorizing lectures but on making learning a part of what people strive to do on a daily basis, a natural part of doing business.”
MU began in 1981 as the Motorola Training and Education Center. The ’80s also saw the establishment of corporatewide training plans and training investment policies. By the end of the decade, the university expanded its operations both in the United States and around the world. MU also began offering new and more comprehensive services, such as online learning systems, translation and cultural training, and an expanded portfolio of executive education programs. Staffed with a work force of more than 600 professionals, the university is organized into regions and colleges. It manages seven major learning facilities around the world and operates 99 sites in 23 countries on five continents.
Rochelle Rucker is a freelance writer and media coordinator for Motivators Inc., a Houston-based public relations agency that writes about workplace and work force change. For more information on Motorola University's College of Learning Technologies, contact Charles Loew at +800-446-6744; 602-777-4880; e-mail Charles.Loew@mot.com; or visit www.mot.com/mu.
The CLT is a department of Motorola University Colleges—a cadre of experts in instructional, multimedia design and educational technology—and its charter is to provide innovative learning via classrooms, online experiences, and multimedia components such as video and satellite conferences. The department develops courses, learning tools and methodologies, and conducts applied research to make sure it is providing the best services available.
In a typical corporate setting, training is thought of as learning how to do something, such as how to use Microsoft Word to create and format a paragraph or how to use Excel to create a spreadsheet. “But it is what you do with that information afterward that makes you effective,” Good says.
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Web-Based Learning. As the university continues to pursue its comprehensive learning strategy, CLT is at the forefront in providing the learning solutions to reach all employees with “the right knowledge, at the right time, anywhere in the world.”
With the Wizard, “this step is completed for you,” says Brandy Wells, manager of Learning Applications with CLT. “Designers no longer need to know HTML in order to build a usable and successful online course,” Wells says. “However, designers and subject matter experts with knowledge of HTML have the additional flexibility of being able to further enhance their Wizard-based courses.”
Quality Goals Require Global Training. Since quality is a way of life at Motorola, everything from the antenna on a two-way radio to accelerometer sensors on automobiles is touched with this driver. Quality is driven not only by management but also by teams of employees at every level throughout the company.
Hence, new and innovative telecommunication infrastructure strategies such as the 5NINES initiative were required to give immediate access to content experts, reference materials, and training for engineering and system architect groups worldwide. The focus for 5NINES is to ensure that every system will provide customer service at least 99.999 percent of the time by 2001, and offers a bold new opportunity for all employees to rededicate themselves to superior product quality, cycle time reduction, and total customer satisfaction.
The 5NINES System Availability initiative was launched in 1997 as a response to competitors gaining technological ground with better systems, as well as to attain customer loyalty. A cornerstone of launching 5NINES was to provide a globally obtainable Systems Availability Foundations course that could be maintained and immediately updated. Accessed via a Web browser, the course utilizes video, audio, graphics and text interactively in an easy-to-use interface. It guides participants toward making high system availability an inherent attribute of wireless communications products.
Exhibit 1. Just-In-Time Lectures include content experts from Motorola as well as presentations and materials by leading industry experts. Dr. Monika Aring (above), director of the Motorola Teaching Firm Research Project Education Development Center Inc. in Newton, Mass., conducts a lecture titled “The Teaching Firm: Taxonomy of Informal Learning.” [© Motorola, 1998.]
“They are challenged to identify one or two ideas to include in their personal performance plans and workplace practices they believe can support or hinder their work group from making 5NINES System Availability a primary goal,” says Wells.
Upon completion of the course, participants are able to:
Relate their job performance and/or job output to the corporate 5NINES System Availability metrics
Express the 5NINES initiative as a necessary journey
Describe the corporate sector, group activities and tools that will support them to achieve higher system availability
Commit to at least one performance evaluation criterion associated with increasing system availability (other than increasing reliability) as part of their job performance evaluation.
“This initiative will restore our competitiveness in the marketplace,” says Art Paton, MU‘s program manager for 5NINES. “We have competitors whose systems are better, and we have an industry that's defining higher standards. But we have the opportunity to take a leadership role in the telecommunications industry by providing customer-driven systems, networks and handsets that work all the time.”
Just-In-Time Lectures. If qualified instructors and physical classrooms are unavailable, it creates a barrier to employees learning. To meet this challenge, CLT partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to implement Just-In-Time Lectures (JITL), a technology-based learning architecture.
Delivered on CD-ROM with the ability to link to the Web, a JITL allows a designer to convert expert lecture-based materials to an easy-to-use format. The architecture integrates approximately 60 minutes of video segments, PowerPoint slides, a topic index for navigation and frequently asked questions into one easy-to-use learning environment.
“Just-In-Time Lectures provide an effective, low-cost way to create and present educational materials to Motorola associates worldwide,” says Ingrid Fernandes, a lead instructional designer for the College of Learning Technologies. “Through JITLs, we can deliver a consistent message from a single expert, or several experts. This can have an impact on large manufacturing and engineering populations that do not have access to certain levels of expertise.” (See Exhibit 1.)
As part of the 5NINES curriculum, a series of JITLs were released for system architects, software testers, hardware and software engineers. JITLs include content experts from Motorola as well as presentations and materials by leading industry experts. For instance, the Hardware Reliability and Availability Prediction JITL was developed in conjunction with Bellcore—an industry leader in hardware and software reliability prediction.
Participants learn the theory of predicting the reliability of a component or device and how to apply reliability prediction to simple serial systems. Included in this JITL are video segments of content experts, reference materials, frequently asked questions and a library of related Web sites, books, software and technical support.
In February 1998, a team from CLT held training sessions in Singapore to teach instructional designers and media developers how to design and produce JITLs. As a result, Motorola University South Asia is now producing customized JITL training to address regional business needs. According to Fernandes, “We also share the JITL technology with our partner, Los Alamos National Laboratories, who see this as a very productive learning methodology.”
Leveraging Other Learning Options. To further meet the time demands of businesses for 5NINES education, MU has developed and deployed a diverse media and delivery strategy. Besides Web-based and JITL delivery systems, instructional designers and developers have also targeted video teleconferencing as an alternative delivery vehicle.
The benefits of using video teleconferencing include the ability to:
Reach a wider audience in less time than traditional classroom sessions can offer
Implement each course with minimal updates to the content, which would expedite release of the courses
Provide participants with direct exposure to acknowledged experts in the field of availability and reliability^
“You spend years in a classroom with someone saying ‘this is important, memorize it,’ then you don't have to use it,” Good says. “We have to look at making learning part of what people strive to do on a daily basis, a natural part of living. If you couple technology with learning and what people do on the job or in their personal life, learning turns the entire culture to a more performance and customer focused one.”
A basic configuration consists of teleconference equipment (a CODEC module (compression/decompression software component), remote-controlled camera, IMUX (Inverse Multiplexer), network termination device, microphone and a 27-inch monitor), a PC, and a projection unit at each remote location for viewing materials. Sites also have Internet access to support the data link between the instructor and the location. “We made decisions early on to deliver only technology-based training for very complex technical topics,” says Paton. “You save money distributing and implementing the training this flexible way because people can access it whenever they want. That's critical to a large organization.”
Another learning and delivery strategy is virtual reality simulations, which use 3-D live models, graphics, video, text and audio. In this desktop-learning environment, an operator can explore equipment and learn basic operating procedures such as starting up or troubleshooting the equipment and gain instructor feedback. This allows all participants to have equal, quality learning time, as well as individualized instruction. Participants are free to learn at the pace and by the strategy they prefer. Another key advantage of this methodology is the ability to quickly translate materials into other languages, such as Spanish and Mandarin.
“Even if it's simply to supplement a lecture, adding multimedia can be a powerful tool,” says Clayton Chamberlain, an MU multimedia designer. “As people get more comfortable with training technology, see the obvious benefits, and as it gets more powerful and reaches more people, the demand for multimedia training technology will continue to increase.”
How People Learn. MU provides 40 hours of training and learning annually for every employee. “Our applied research group has been conducting research during the last couple of years in the areas of learning preferences,” Good says. “People in different cultures learn differently—symbolically, with graphic symbols for languages or concepts, figuratively with graphics, or semantically with text (as illustrated in Exhibit 2.) We are developing learning methodologies to provide the appropriate learning style so that our participants learn and retain faster.”
Learning in Different Formats
Exhibit 2. People in different cultures learn differently. Motorola is developing ways to engage learners through semantic, figural and symbolic methods to provide the appropriate learning style for participants. [©Motorola, 1998.]
Staying focused more on corporate initiatives such as 5NINES enables CLT to implement educational programs resulting in employees building highly reliable and available products. By many measures, the development of the 5NINES curriculum, which came as a direct response to customers, some of whom are major carriers of the company's products—was one of the largest and most complex projects undertaken.
WITHIN THIS CONTEXT, Motorola believes training and education are critical business tools that build momentum for individual development and motivation. Using a variety of technology-based learning strategies, employees who receive training and education are better able to implement the best practices in customer satisfaction, quality improvement, and cycle time reduction.
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October 1999 PM Network