E-learning never got the attention it deserved. While companies looked at novel ways to upskill, certify and transfer knowledge, many invested in systems that were rudimentary.
As one HR leader once commented, if they needed more extensive e-learning, they could always subscribe to one. And there were plenty of new players, including LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com), Udemy, Coursera, etc.
But for professional courses and certifications, most of the action was offline. Physical classrooms and teachers were preferred over online materials. E-learning was seen as complementary and not the core medium for delivering on the curriculum.
COVID-19 turned this upside down.
A new teaching reality
For Kaplan Hong Kong, the switch to online learning was sudden. But it did not catch them off guard.
The reason was that the educational services provider for companies and educational institutions, with one million students around the world and 11,000 in Hong Kong, was already retooling its learning management system (LMS) “well before” COVID-19, said Janet Sin, director for financial market at Kaplan Financial.
The company was exploring multimodal courses that combined in-person, live online, on-demand and some hybrid learning.
The purpose was different. Before governments raised the pandemic measures, Kaplan wanted to improve its value proposition in a crowded space with a LMS system that helped its students to catch up on missed classes and do online revisions.
“We wanted to give them a tool to remember a lot of concepts and review for the exams,” said Sin.
When COVID-19 became a pandemic, online learning became the only mode of teaching for a while. Even after some governments lifted the initial measures, students wanted the option to choose.
“It is about giving our students the options on how they want to learn — they can learn online and have physical interaction with the classmates and trainers if they want,” said Sin.
Not all platforms are the same
For Kaplan, the reason they chose the Panopto video platform was because their previous system was not stable or scalable enough.
The education services provider foresaw that online learning would take off and become part of their value proposition. So, it opted to deploy Panopto’s more stable and scalable system.
These two key benefits played a big role when Kaplan was forced to adapt to the COVID-19 challenges.
“During COVID-19, there were students who got stuck in other countries. The new LMS allowed them to continue their studies without disruption. It allowed them to stay on track,” said Sin.
Staying on track was important as most examination dates were set. So, students were in danger of missing out on vital concepts and teachings as they battled with different COVID-19 measures. For corporations, who were looking to upskill or certify their employees, this became an important consideration.
By having an online LMS that could scale up to thousands of students overnight “gave us the confidence to talk to our [corporate and education institute] clients,” said Gordon Chan, associate director for accountancy at Kaplan Financial.
For students, studying became easier. They can search each recording by keywords, making it easier to remember and revise key topics. Captions allowed students to follow the lessons in noisy or less ideal environments.
“I still think it needs a lot of planning if you are shifting to online. But Panopto already had a lot of features. So, we can accommodate the changes needed,” said Sin.
Is your LMS flexible enough for COVID-19?
While stability and scalability matter a lot when choosing the right LMS platform, COVID-19 made flexibility vital.
It is here that Panopto played to its strengths. It allowed the Kaplan team to respond to COVID-19 changes, shifting to bigger online classrooms and managing trainers. Schedules were pre-programmed and adjusted to the developing situation on the ground.
This allowed Kaplan to focus on communicating with the trainers and students and not worry about managing the LMS.
Quality remained uncompromised. “The delivery of the recording was very stable. Uploading to the cloud using the Panopto server was very fast. And the training [for using the system] was done directly on the platform,” said Sin.
“One thing I appreciate is that Panopto is an easy one-stop online learning management platform,” she added.
Even the initial internet outages — because of the sudden surge in internet usage — did not alter the quality of the lessons. Panopto resumed recording when the bandwidth became stable.
“This is important. If you are running 30 plus classes, our technician would have needed to go to every classroom to manage it. This is very time consuming. With Panopto, it is very convenient. Trainers do not have to worry about operating the system, and can focus on the training.” said Chan.
Future lies with data
Both Sin and Chan felt future LMS will need to become more data driven.
Panopto gave Kaplan new data such as progress tracking and showed how well their students were engaged. This allowed Kaplan to adjust and fine-tune how they deliver on key subjects and curriculum.
The same data is also vital for HR teams as they track their employees’ progress. It is an area that Kaplan is working closely with Panopto.
“The Panopto platform is important, but it is still a platform. How you use the platform is important. A good platform delivers the best value for the student,” said Sin.
This value is seen in the data that the LMS offers. “They can use the data for decision making and service improvement,” said Sin.
For Chan, having the right platform with key features is only half the problem. As COVID-19 has shown, needs can change in a blink of an eye. Specifications change. “And you need a platform to grow with,” he said.
For Kaplan, Panopto offered this platform. And they are not looking back.