AEA Gets Out Of Staff's Faces, Puts Training Online

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Saving a botched face-to-face training program may be as simple as eliminating the instructors and the classroom and implementing employee-driven online education instead.

"Computer-based training is better than classroom-based," said Suzanne Carlisle, vice president of Human Resources at $700,000 American Electronics Association (AEA) Credit Union. "I could stick forks in my eyes thinking about how we used to do it."

Around the clock accessibility is the distinguishing feature of AEA's computer-based Educational Institute. Employees from all seven branches can log in to the online training network at work or from home.

AEA Educational Institute recognizes adult learning styles as well. "Our training program now follows the natural progression of adult learning," she continued. "Adults are better off at the computer in a self-paced program." The thirty-somethings can move through courses independently without feeling hindered by the seventies set-and vice versa.

Threaded discussions and chat groups enable peer coaching.

In addition, employees earn a soon-to-be accredited Associate in Arts degree and can continue with graduate and postgraduate degrees, with added financial incentives. Multimedia spikes the punch at high-bandwidth computers.

Though it's too soon to tell, the 76,000-member AEA should benefit from reduced employee turnover and general morale improvement, Carlisle suggested. "Learning has now become stimulating and employees can see what's in it for them. People get charged when they're in the learning mode."

And Carlisle feels certain that the Educational Institute will achieve consistency in training. "It used to be that you would get four different answers from four different people-not anymore. We're going to realize intellectual capital, because people are going to be doing things the right way."

All employees must complete the four-day New Employee Orientation (NEO) module. Departmental courses follow, which, when combined with the NEO, comprise the required AA degree.

Carlisle aims for all employees to earn AAs by year-end 2002. Branch education will be the first computer-based departmental course. AEA Educational Institute is housed in Las Vegas, Nev.-based MyDAS Marketing, Inc.'s, Learning Management System (LMS) software, which provides tracking, administration and reporting functions. Trainers can check student progress and "the CEO can go in and look at everybody's scores," added Carlisle.The LMS is the foundation for the AEA-specific curriculum.

"The LMS is the guts that helps make the Institute unique," Carlisle said.

How Courses Are Assembled

AEA managers write the courses and tests in Microsoft Word documents, which are then imported into the LMS.

"Often the authoring process is easy because you have established procedures and you can just cut and paste," she explained. And managers need not reinvent the wheel for online components. "We do not have to create all this, we can link to projects at other sites," Carlisle said.

AEA's recent push for home equity loans is fueling a special training project. "The senior loan manger, vice president of business development and regional branch manager worked with training management to put the documents together." In two days, the CU had a home equity training program, and completed training in one week, reported Carlisle. "In the past we've been weak. Many employees had no clue how to do home equities. Now staff is certified and we can spend the remainder of the quarter reaching goals.

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