AVST: Using E-Learning as a Recipe for Business Success

Jul272010
Written by Jeanette — Posted in Customers

This guest blog post was written by Articulate Community Manager Jeanette Brooks.


Chris Sullivan is a self-described “sous-chef, cooking up tech comm and social media for AVST.” And the hottest item on his menu these days is rapid e-learning.

AVST is a global telecommunications company with more than 15 million users, and Chris manages their Training, Documentation, and Social Media groups. He oversees the development of training for AVST’s end users, reseller technicians, and OEM partners.

As you can see by his photo, he’s crazy-excited about what e-learning has done for the bottom line of AVST’s Training group! I’ll let him tell you his story:

Why AVST Transitioned to E-Learning

“Five years ago, we delivered all of our training in classrooms, which was super expensive. Classes typically required a week of dedicated time and a ton of money in facility expenses and travel costs. This was an especially big issue because we were rarely able to hold classes outside the U.S., even though our products are used around the world. Plus, all of the hardware and software used in training had to be managed and maintained, and that’s costly, too. We would ship 900 pounds of crated gear by freight truck from one location to the next, and it took hours to set up and tear down.

“E-learning changed all that. It’s available anytime, it’s way cheaper, and it’s accessible from any internet connection. By 2009, we had used Articulate Studio to transform all of our classroom training into e-learning. During the transition time, our Training group dropped our expenses by 22% and increased profitability by 62%!

“Because it’s so scalable, e-learning enabled us to reach two important audiences that we couldn’t reach before: (1) technicians who were outside the U.S. or who weren’t able to travel, and (2) customers who needed training. Once we moved to e-learning, we had a huge spike in training participation because so many more learners could now access our content.”

Pat Haney, Senior Technical Trainer for AVST, also explains that having a more flexible format for their training content means they can now be more agile about giving learners just what they need: “We can easily convert the courses rapidly for other purposes — for example, we trimmed down our administration course to provide a more streamlined, basic course for learners who need that. What used to require a one-day trip to a customer site now requires just a quick afternoon webinar.”

“Not Only Does it Make Sense For Our Business, it Also Fits Our Learners’ Needs Better”

How have learners responded to the shift in content delivery? Chris says they’ve eagerly adopted e-learning:

“That’s the great thing — not only does e-learning make sense for our business, it also fits our learners’ needs better. Back when the only option was classroom training, everything was always full-dose content. So, even technicians who needed to learn just installation and maintenance ended up sitting through hours of training they might not need.

“Now, with e-learning, we can offer content in bite-size pieces. Learners can mix and match their learning to suit their needs, rather than being forced into a time-consuming one-size-fits-all approach. Courses are always available, and learners can review them any time they want.

“Plus, e-learning really enabled us to spread our education footprint. Now we can easily serve dozens of countries where learners previously couldn’t afford to attend live classes because of the travel burden.

“In 2009, which was the first year our training courses were 100% online, our training revenues rose 63% over the previous year. And our training satisfaction surveys consistently show high marks — 92% of users surveyed would recommend their online training experience to others, and 98% rated the training as ‘good’ to ‘excellent.’”

What about AVST’s customers and resellers? How has the transition to e-learning affected them?

“We’ve seen great outcomes with them, too. It used to be that their sales cycles were extended months out, because of training bottlenecks. They had to wait for technicians to make their way through a battery of live courses to complete their certification process. Now, technicians complete the courses they need, when they need to, online — which means they can train in days instead of weeks or months. The lag time in the sales cycle has been virtually eliminated because learners aren’t locked into a rigid classroom schedule or constrained by travel. We’ve also seen a decrease in support calls.”

Why Articulate?

Sounds like a pretty big leap, to go from 100% classroom training to 100% e-learning! Why’d you choose Articulate software to do it?

“I spent a couple months investigating the options, and Articulate Studio was clearly the simplest, most robust package. We’ve relied on the entire suite to pull off all this progress. We use Presenter, Engage, Quizmaker — and to make things as seamless as possible, we also use Articulate Online to host our lessons and courses.”

What e-learning initiatives are you working on right now?

“The courses we’ve produced so far have been so successful that we’re now in the early trial phases of offering e-learning to some of our OEM partners. So far, they’re really pleased with the lessons and courses, so we’re going to keep developing that segment of our training offerings.

“Also, I’m looking at ways to connect the voice of the customer more deeply to our company and products through our social media efforts. Screenr’s going to be a great tool for that, particularly if we’re able to get customers to create and share their own tutorials. That shouldn’t be hard, since Screenr’s free and fully web-based.”

What words of wisdom do you have for other organizations who are looking to rely more on e-learning?

Our number one goal is to engage the learner. Without that, nothing else matters, because if the learner isn’t engaged, learning won’t happen.

Since AVST provides primarily technical training, engagement can sometimes be a challenge. But my Senior Technical Trainer, Pat Haney, has found some really creative techniques to keep students interested — humor, video, interactions, challenges, and great examples. He keeps coming up with better and better content! Engage has been his tool of choice lately, since it allows him to create rich interactions with ease and flexibility. Here’s a quick show-and-tell that Pat prepared to show some of the things we’re doing.”

View this screencast at Screenr

Congrats to Chris, Pat, and the rest of AVST for using rapid e-learning to cook up some amazing business results! You can find Chris on Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit the AVST blog if you’d like to continue following this company’s adventures.

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