Previous Article Next Article The BBC is the world leader in TV and radio programming and its blueprintfor training and development intends to keep it in front. Training Magazinetakes a virtual tour through its learning portal to find out howWhen Training Magazine first met Nigel Paine earlier this year, he had justtaken up his post as head of training at the BBC, and director-general GregDyke had voiced his ambition to make the broadcasting company the most creativeorganisation in the world. Paine stated this would only be achieved throughstrong training and staff development. Our second visit witnessed Paine forging ahead with his plans to ensurelearning and training stay ahead of the knowledge needs of the corporation, andthat it is also able to deliver ‘just-in-time’ tailored training for theworkforce. The man who describes himself as a ‘learning technology specialist’ ratherthen a ‘generic training specialist’, knows that the key to making this allhappen is creating a technology infrastructure that can facilitate learning andtraining in all its guises – face-to-face, blended and online. But this will involve far more than providing a vehicle to deliver andaccess training. The vision in Paine’s mind is, in his own words, “to providea neural network” for BBC staff to plug into, as well as having a centralhub of learning material, breeding community areas that promote networked andcontinuous learning. “There is still a lot of joining up to be done,” he says, and oneof his missions involves forging a link between the corporation’s knowledgebase and its learning. And when you have been broadcasting to all corners ofthe globe since 1922, that is some knowledge base. To find out exactly how the BBC is achieving its aims, Training Magazine wastaken on a tour of its learn.gateway portal by Jane Saunders, team leader ofthe BBC’s training advisers. Learn.gateway is the user interface of thelearning infrastructure currently being put in place, and our tour began on theBBC’s corporate intranet, from which the portal is accessed. Anatomy of the portal Launched in its present form in July this year, learn.gateway can beaccessed by all BBC staff from their computer desktop via the intranet’s homepage. The majority visit learn.gateway once a month and more than a third do somore frequently. It has been designed with the same look and feel as the BBC’smain website, www.bbc.co.uk, with a prominent search engine and atraining-related news story which is regularly updated (when we visited, it wasabout the new Minerva operating system). The main menu of features and facilities (described below) are accessed viatabs at the top of the page or from an expanded menu running down the righthand side. There are also click-through buttons to a range of other areas thatassist in training and development on the bottom half of the page. The portal provides access to details of every course available to BBC staffand also holds a growing bank of online courses, the majority of which areproduced in-house (exceptions being the management courses Harvard ManageMentor and the Institute of Management’s Checkpoint). Courses can be found using the search engine, and there are currently 146available, comprising 717 modules. More than half the BBC workforce hascompleted an online course from learn.gateway. Online courses range from the 10-hour production safety course, which mustbe completed by all production staff and can be bookmarked and taken inbite-sized chunks, to the five-minute course on using a microphone. The latteris very much in the spirit of building what Paine describes as “thefive-minute learning experience”. An online version of the BBC inductioncourse, called Upfront, can also be accessed from here, and is aimed at thosewho cannot make the mandatory residential version. Elsewhere on the homepage, learners can see at a glance what the mostpopular courses of the moment are (production safety, emotional intelligenceand mini-disc for radio were all in the top five on the day we visited), andview the most searched-for terms and most recently viewed items. Learn.gateway undergoes a relaunch next spring. A powerful new search enginewill be added, which will go some way to achieving Paine’s aim of “joiningthings up”. “We’ve refined it to deliver a better user experience and bring themcloser to all the information they need on a particular subject,” he says.If a BBC employee has to refurbish a studio, for example, the search engine canretrieve all the information and elements that will help them do so from awhole range of resources held digitally at the BBC. Features of the site – My Future: This offers employees tools to help them plan and mapout their career at the BBC and includes personal development plans, careeradvice and the ability to plan a ‘learning journey’. “This is a personal development area,” Saunders explains. “Wewant people to be proactive when it comes to their careers and training, andhere they can view entire learning journeys which detail all the courses thatthey need to take for a particular job or to reach a certain point in theircareer.” – My BBC: A personal online tour of the BBC as a whole and toparticular departments is typically accessed by newcomers to the corporation.New features that have been added recently include a BBC jargonbuster andessential employment information. You can also link into what the BBC refers toas its ‘village sites’. These are community areas set up by departments forexchanging ideas, which feature documents and discussions on various subjects. Training and development has its own ‘T&D Town’, explains Paine, and itproves a useful indicator of current hot topics for the department. “I think there are 44 issues listed on it at the moment and I know fromjust how many people contribute to each one what should be high on the agenda,”he says. – My Network: A community area where employees can share news,opinions, advice and talk to each other via the talk.gateway discussion forum. “These areas are really important because there is so much knowledgeand information at the BBC, but it is in danger of disappearing down aninformation black hole if there isn’t a vehicle to share. All our communityareas are there to do this,” says Paine. At the bottom of the homepage are ‘click-throughs’ to a number of otherareas, including the ‘Live and Learn’ section, designed to help employees learnfrom each other. “The Live and Learn team go in after someone’s completed a project andinterview those involved. They can then capture the information and publish iton the site,” explains Saunders. “It uses shared experience asanother form of learning material.” Paine currently describes it as ‘small’ but like the community areas, it isa growing and potentially ‘big and powerful’ section. There is also a ‘Stories’ section where people relay their experience firsthand, a monthly bulletin updating staff on any training news and regulationsthat are relevant to them, and an NVQ Assessment Centre where employees canfind out about professional qualifications relevant to their job. Blueprint for blended Few corporations are blessed with the kind of creative and productionfacilities the BBC has, so it is little wonder that its courses are producedin-house (with the exception of the management ones mentioned earlier) and thetraining and development team recently designed the BBC’s first truly blendedlearning course. As part of the process, they also created a prototype onlinereference tool that has the potential to transform skills training across theindustry. The training is designed to support the implementation of VCS dira!, a newdigital radio and music playout system, which demands a fundamental new way ofworking and affects hundreds of people within the corporation (it was listed asthe most viewed course on the day we visited). The training programme features face-to-face training with three onlinemodules held on learn.gateway. The technology represents such a radical shiftin working practices that the course joining instructions include links to twoonline modules that provide staff with a quick introduction to VCS dira! andthe concept of digital playout. “When people come to the face-to-face training, precious time doesn’tneed to be spent introducing the technology,” says Wendy Bithell, whoproduced the modules in collaboration with Radio 1 and 4’s external websites toensure the colour schemes and styles of learning modules were in keeping withthat of each station. “So when Radio 1 staff begin their courses they willhave an online support tool that looks and feels like Radio 1, making the wholetraining experience a personal one,” she explains. The face-to-face training that follows ranges from two-and-a-half to fivedays, and comprises a mixture of talks and hands-on experimentation with VCSdira!. An online training manual has been put together to offer further supportwhen employees are back at work. It features a sophisticated search facilityand interactive on-screen demos, which allow staff to refresh their learningand practice some of the more complex digital procedures on screen beforetrying them out in the studio. “When you have to work with new technology for the first time, there isa real fear that you will make expensive mistakes,” says Simon Major, whois involved in radio training. “The online support takes this fear away byallowing staff to make their mistakes on screen, rather than on air.” There is further post-training support through the forum and discussiongroups created on talk.gateway. The online manual, which is created in Microsoft Word and can be CD-Rom orweb-based or exported to a PDA (or printed out, of course), has widerimplications for blended learning at the BBC, because it will be used as thetechnology backbone for support manuals for other skills courses. Paine is the first to admit that his blueprint for the perfect learninginfrastructure is still in development. He still needs to overcome the majorobstacle of courses remaining unavailable outside the BBC firewall, whichcurrently prevents employees from doing any e-learning courses at home. Thisalso knocks many freelancers out of the training equation, and it is asituation that must be rectified, he says. “We have around 10,000-14,000 freelance workers who are vital to thecorporation. It doesn’t endear them to a company if the training isn’t extendedto them.” But he is adamant that his holistic vision will and must be realised, andthat all potential resources will be ‘joined up’ and accessible to all. What wesee today is only a glimpse of an infrastructure that is already facilitating alevel of knowledge and experience-sharing that many large organisations couldbenefit from. This time next year, it may well be the neural network that all companieswill be striving towards. To be continued. Comments are closed. Through the square windowOn 1 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.