Business communication skills courses for ‘Excedo’, a new mobile first learning experience from Nikkei-Financial Times
For ambitious business executives in Asia and Latin America, communicating effectively in English in an international business environment is critical to their success.
But doing this isn’t just about improving English language skills or showing that you’ve achieved a certain score on an English test such as TOEIC or IELTS.
Excedo, had identified an opportunity to help these executive learners develop their language skills and business skills simultaneously, using a range of micro-learning courses for mobile. Excedo needed to develop their high-quality courses rapidly, cost-effectively and in a way that demonstrated sound pedagogical principles for both language and soft skills development. High-quality pedagogy in a digital environment at scale and at hyper-speed – right up our street!
We worked closely with the Excedo team to develop a skills framework and learning curriculum. In partnership with the in-house product team, we then developed the business communication and English language skills courses which form the core of the product proposition. The mobile-first courses follow a micro-learning approach and use rich learning content including video and audio (which we produced) to facilitate an ‘active learning’ approach.
Our approach for a project like this is always to work in partnership with our client. We need to know as much as we can about the learning and commercial goals of the client, the learners’ context and motivations, and the priorities of the customers (in this case, primarily the HR directors at the corporates where the learners work).
Once the skills framework and syllabus had been developed, we ran a series of ‘storyboarding’ workshops to flesh out what each course was going to cover. These included Excedo’s content team, the LearnJam team, subject matter experts and (where possible) the writers and editors who would be developing the content. This process is a great way to work through and plan a course together – both to ensure that it covers the right topics and to elicit creative ideas from across the whole project team.
Once the courses were storyboarded and ready for production, we put in place an Agile workflow and assembled a team from our established network of writers, editors, project managers and subject matter experts. We also commissioned a video production company and worked with them and Excedo to develop a creative and innovative approach to the video series which sits at the heart of the course content.
With the cross-functional team established, we developed the courses in 1-week sprints. At the start of each sprint, we agreed a sprint goal and a plan within the team, and worked closely together, with daily ‘standup’ meetings, and our usual array of systems and tools in place (team Slack channels, Google Docs and spreadsheets for collaborative content development, Trello and Asana for project tracking and task management). Each sprint produced a section of course material that could be reviewed by stakeholders, with feedback helping to guide our work in future sprints.
In parallel, we managed the development of the video scripts and oversaw the production of the video ‘soap opera’, as well as commissioning other content assets such as audio, photos etc.
As the content was developed, we authored the courses in EdApp, which is an excellent mobile learning platform. This meant we were able to see and share working course materials during every sprint.
During the whole process, we maintained weekly check-ins with the client programme manager to ensure our work was aligned with the rest of the activities in progress (technology development, marketing, non-course content etc).
At the end of each sprint, we elicited input from the team on how the process could be refined and improved, and encouraged ideas to make the courses stronger. This focus on continual and incremental improvement is a critical part of our approach – we think it’s important to acknowledge that every project is different and, at the start, we don’t know everything. We bring our experience and a ‘hypothesis’ about what’s going to work best, but we always expect to learn and adjust as we go. And in our experience that invariably leads to a faster and more efficient project and a better end product.
“LearnJam provided us with expertise in best practice learning design and digital innovation. We were looking for people to challenge our thinking and take our project to the next level – that’s exactly what they did.“
Debra Marsh, Director Learning Design and Teacher Management, Excedo
Within two weeks of being commissioned, we had a highly experienced content team in place and had established an Agile course development approach. That allowed us to cut course development time from 12 to 8 weeks, with no compromise on quality. Adopting key principles of Agile development made the process more collaborative and gave stakeholders greater flexibility and visibility of the end product as it was being developed. Excedo’s research showed that after completing three of the ten-hour courses, 90% of learners reported feeling more confident about communicating in international business situations and that after five courses there was a 15% capability improvement in completing communicative tasks.