Why might a software company need its own “academy”? What in the world would it mean in the first place?
For those who don’t know what we are talking about here... We mean creating online courses for clients and partners to get a better understanding of the product made by software companies. Let’s suppose, you have a no-name product, many functions of which are unknown to your clients. The online courses will be able to fix this, so the client will be able to have the most of it.
It also works with the better known products. Not just products, though. A course can contain additional knowledge around the whole industry, especially if it is something, such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, or some other industry where expertise might be lacking.
The earlier the clients realize the full potential of the software, the more engaged they will be into staying with your product in the long term. That way, the investment in motivating the client to know more about the software looks like a good one. Here is the list of the benefits that an online academy is able to give: Attracts attention to the software the company produces Allows your client to grasp all the concepts of the produced software Helps with getting feedback on the product and helps improving it Prepares new coaches for academy development Provides with additional training on the domain (especially if it is new - RPA/AI/VR) It is also a good idea to present some sample courses available for everyone. You make them free and available to everybody - this way you promote your services at the market and tell about your software to the potential clients.
You might have heard of such a “small” beginning as Microsoft Official Course On-Demand. This is pretty close to what you might organize.
This article is a step-by-step instruction on how to create such an online academy: from choosing the online platform and organizing content to support the students after completing the course.
Step 1. Choosing the Platform
There are plenty of e-Learning platforms on the market. Free, paid, loved/hated by the users, multifunctional, and platforms with very limited functionality.
The mechanics of the platform plays the most important part. A certain set of functions is needed to fulfill the requirements that you set for your online academy.
For you to have a general idea about basic (and not just basic) functions of what you can choose, we will proceed taking JoomLMS Learning Management System as an example.
The platform has intuitive interface for users not to dive too deep and spend too much time getting into its details and not get distracted from the process of learning.
Besides, JoomLMS allows customizing its appearance by changing the color scheme and fonts, uploading a logo. Recognition of your brand is quite important. You see Coca-Cola in the fridge, and you know what you’re going to get when you buy it. Maybe this is not the most accurate comparison, but it is something one might aim for. Even if not for brand recognition, fully customizable look and feel solution is of relevance for the clients.
As for the features this platform has, some of them are indicated on the official JoomLMS website:
- SCORM and AICC compliance
- Embedded course builder
- Multi-language UI
- Configurable front page
- Branding free option
- Users grouping
- User roles management
- 14 different question types in Quizzes
- Variety of communication tools
- Advanced tracking and reporting features
This is not the complete set of functions, just some of them. If your platform doesn’t include these functions, you might be considering looking at some other options on the market.
Step 2. Creating The Course
The content in your course might come in various forms. There are articles, video materials (usually up to 10-minute length), and polls, etc. Generally, courses are about telling the whole story in details, gradually increasing the difficulty of the material presented. Here JoomLMS offers you to use a Learning Path.
What are the Learning Paths? These are the users’ educational lines in the training process - the sequence of steps students have to take to complete the course. The Learning Paths have the tree-like structure: they consist of chapters, each of which is presented in the form of documents, articles, links, videos, quizzes.
Passing to the next stage of a Learning Path may be conditioned by completing the previous chapters of the Path. In this way, the instructor of a course can make sure that the learner processes the materials of the course thoroughly, not skipping any of its stages.
There is a possibility to include blended learning providing webinars with the help of the GoToMeeting tool that is already integrated. It will give the learners an opportunity to get the most updated info and some feedback from the assigned instructor.
Step 3. Tracking Users’ Performance and Testing
Another feature for the course to be delivered in a proper manner is tracking users’ performance. Here is an example of what you’d need on that part:
- Track learner performance and grades
- Configure custom grading/assessment scales
- Configure custom items to be graded/assessed
- Track users activity statistics
- Assign homework
- Define homework publishing period
Pay attention, that this is not the most important feature for the online academy. People are motivated enough to get acquainted with the product. In most cases, their KPI depend on how good their improvements in the system are.
Testing, in turn, allows your client to find out whether the employees managed to pass the course.
On the part of testing, JoomLMS offers rich testing functionality. The quizzes include 14 different question types, such as:
- Multiple choice question
- Multiple response question
- True or False question
- Matching drag and drop question
- Fill in the blank question
- Surveys question
- Hotspot question
- Likert scale
- Matching drag and drop images
- Multiple images choice
- Multiple images response
As you can see, the range of functions for all the possible quizzes is quite wide. Instructors are able to collect the feedback from the learners. Plus after getting the results of the quizzes, the gaps in learners’ knowledge are easy to identify. Usually bad results on the course quiz help learners realize that they are not on the right track if the results are sub-optimal. They will have to adjust or turn to the help section.
Eventually, when the courses are completed, learners get certificates. On their way to getting one, their learner path might be adjusted accordingly to make the training as efficient as it gets.
Step 4. After Completion: Issuing Certificates, Supporting Students
It is logical to award the completion of the courses with issuing certificates. This is a confirmation of a certain level of knowledge. To manage certificates, one might need a control system - of who and when got the document, which courses were completed and what are the grades.
It makes sense to set a certain minimal level of the grade for the learner to be eligible for the certificate. Also, the certificate can be awarded not after the whole course completion but also after passing a certain test. This is important as a part of the Learning Path. Some parts of the course have to be open only for users who’ve reached a certain level.
JoomLMS allows adding a watermark, barcode or a serial number on a certificate for the authentication so falsification is nearly-impossible here. However, getting a certificate is not the end point here. You might also support the learners “after the graduation”.
The person gets proper training and gets to know the product, and after that they may ask any question from theirfellow peers and share their own experience - that is the community that created some ecosystem we are talking about here. As for JoomLMS, it offers a chat for users to have informal conversations and allows integration with JomSocial to keep the decent level of communication between the learners at any time.
Summing Up: Major Principles of Building a Successful Online Academy We’ve decided to describe how software companies can benefit from organizing their own online courses for the clients to have a better understanding of the product.
- A step-by-step instruction for such “academy” building includes:
- Selecting the most suitable online courses delivery platform
- Providing the learners with proper content in the best possible format
- Tracking users performance for timely course adjustments
- Testing the learners properly
- Issuing certificates upon courses completion
- Supporting the learners “after the graduation”.
While all of it seems a pretty harsh task, taking one step at a time would let you gradually fulfill the task.
Perhaps, the most difficult step is creating your own courses. ther steps, including the first one - choosing the right platform - are of great importance as well.
However, getting to tell clients more about the product and train them properly for operating with it definitely justifies the effort.