e-learning proffers dual success - Career Times

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HR Corner e-learning proffers dual success by Charles Mak The utilisation of e-Learning initiatives allows individuals to maximise training opportunities and eases the burden of administration As Hong Kong's largest employer, the government sees the promotion of lifelong learning within the workplace as one of their major responsibilities. As an example of their successful initiatives in this respect, they can point to the award-winning system developed in-house by the Housing Department's Training & Development Centre (T&DC), which goes under the name of HAELP (Housing Authority e-Learning Portal). Anthony Mak, chief manager of human resource development for the department, which is the executive arm of the Hong Kong Housing Authority, has been steering the project. "We have around 9,500 staff in more than 40 disciplines in over 200 offices," he says. "Constant upgrades and continuous learning to meet future challenges are necessary for all levels of staff, while the management and planning of such issues are critical. That is why we developed HAELP to provide learning opportunities for staff and to handle the training administration in a more efficient way." Enhanced in February 2003, it was the first electronic training and development service designed for the government. "The system has not only secured staff's commitment, but also clearly improved their productivity," Mr Mak explains. "That has helped to speed up the pace of the department and to keep operations running smoothly," he says. "We work with many internal and external parties and make sure that related training covers all business needs," he adds. As a way of providing a consistently high level of service for customers, the department has now extended the system to business partners and professional institutes. "This also ensures that our contractors work in accordance with our requirements and standards." In Mr Mak's view, promoting a culture based on learning is the way of the future and is in line with the universal trend towards knowledge management. To achieve that, the process of training staff and getting them to share information is crucial. Personal control The multimedia approach being used not only provides an e-Learning platform, but also a management tool enabling people to take control of their own personal development. The intention is to make learning interactive and to encourage staff to excel by giving them every opportunity to advance their careers. Individuals can decide on the pace of learning and select courses related to their jobs, interests and specific educational needs. They can view past seminars, participate in online discussions and express their views on key issues. The full programme will still combine these opportunities with more standard classroom teaching. The system is deliberately very client-focused. Bearing in mind varying levels of computer literacy and language competence, the T&DC has made options available in both Chinese and English. Their aim during the design process was to enhance simplicity, functionality and user-friendliness. Signing on to the Web-based courses and seminars is straightforward, and supervisors can give their endorsement with just one click of the mouse. "Supervisors can also closely monitor the progress and personal development of their staff," Mr Mak explains, "and this helps to bring them closer." They are expected to offer advice and guidance on the choice of courses and to use these discussions to outline career objectives. Additional features within the system include personal training histories, competency profiles and a course calendar. Learning incentives Mr Mak emphasises that HAELP is not just a tool for learning but also creates a "virtual" community. "The personal message box for each individual is designed to promote communication and the e-Group provides a platform to facilitate the sharing of experience and job-related knowledge," he says. To push this initiative forward, staff who contribute valuable ideas earn LIPs (learning incentive points) for "sharing". They can then exchange these points for rewards – something which encourages cross-learning and creates a bit of fun. Staff now have better access to learning, overall administrative efficiency has been greatly enhanced, and productivity has been increased dramatically. "Now we're talking about communicating with all staff in less than two minutes," says Mr Mak. "Classroom sessions can also be planned or rescheduled via sophisticated mobile technology such as text messaging. We can therefore focus more on delivering service and strategic training." With assistance from HAELP, training has become a process in which staff are actively involved. Course participants can make use of multimedia links and sign in virtually anytime, anywhere providing they have access to the Internet. "What we can see is that staff have taken on a sense of ownership for their personal development," Mr Mak says. "We also see a stronger commitment and, most important of all, a great deal of autonomy and fun." Salient points Online administration of training courses has increased staff efficiency and made for smoother operations By being able to manage their own pace of learning, employees have a sense of autonomy The system was designed with simplicity, functionality and user-friendliness in mind The development of a learning culture is in line with the universal trend towards knowledge management Taken from Career Times 22 April 2005, p. 32 Your comments are welcome at [email protected]
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