It doesn’t matter how good the software is if people can’t use it. That Software be intuitive by design, is this generations expectation and a principal that we fully agree with at Symology. When dealing with complex software solutions that are rich with over thirty five years worth of functionality, intuition will only get a user so far, making high quality training crucial to a system’s benefits being realised.

The development approach at Symology is different to my experience of other software. Everyone is involved. It doesn’t matter where an idea comes from if it’s a good idea. As an employee owned company, everyone has a responsibility to improve every aspect of our solutions and our Service Delivery team is no different. Rather than focus on the training as the deliverable, we focused on the aim of maximising the potential of each user. That was our challenge.

The Learning Approach

Historically, Symology has taken a traditional approach to training where courses have been classroom-based sessions delivered either at our customers’ offices or at one of our training centres. Hands-on training is an approach that has been appreciated by our customers, where challenging exercises with trainer assistance have proven a more successful method than presentation style. Feedback on these courses has been consistently high, the certificates provided have always been valued and sought after, however, Symology’s continuous development strategy encourages us to assess our approach and strive for improvements.

Whilst classroom learning is effective for some individuals, the speed of each course is dependent on the group and not on an individual. As a result, some might feel that the pace is too slow, whilst others might feel rushed when they need more time to absorb new concepts or to take time to practise what they have learned.

Furthermore, classroom training often requires whole or almost whole teams to be out of action. Whilst this ensures all staff receive the same level of training, it often results in little or no cover on the ground.

Once classroom training has been delivered, if the training isn’t applied in practice it is common that some areas can be diluted when individuals deliver hand overs before changing roles. Additionally, our software is continually advancing and improving, new functionality and features are added, innovative ideas are introduced, and often users may be unaware of these new additions without refresher training.

Whilst developing a brand new software solution from the ground up, we thought it prevalent to take the same approach with our training methods. We investigated whether a transition to e-learning would still allow us to address the four recognised styles of learning, Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic and Reading/writing, whilst moving to a fresher training method for the Symology users of the next generation of software.

Introducing the Aurora Academy

The Aurora Academy is an online learning community, with courses and content developed by Symology’s very own subject matter experts. It combines elements of the traditional training methods which has served the Symology customer base so well over the years, whilst introducing comprehensive online video content. As a result, courses include video tutorials, training exercises and tests, all of which can be run in parallel with a dedicated training system for hands-on use and practice. This enables individuals to learn, not only at their own pace and from their own location, but alongside their day-to-day tasks 24/7.

For some, the availability of the training system to accompany the exercises is a crucial part of the learning process, retaining the best element of our classroom teaching methods, where trainees get their hands on the software and use the system as they learn, free to make mistakes as they go. This is particularly important for the Kinaesthetic learning process.

Whilst not a trainee favourite, the test at the end of each course provides a goal to achieve and acts as a measure of knowledge attainment. Carefully written questions and exercises mean that every trainee is challenged to demonstrate what they have learned, with facilities to re-take. This allows the trainee to repeat those sections of the course with which they need the most help, reading the questions and writing down the answers building the layer of Reading/Writing learning. Upon completion, the test results indicate a pass or fail, where those successful trainees receive a certificate.

The results are recorded so that trainee progress can be tracked in order to analyse results and help identify those who may need extra assistance.

Symology recognises that Aurora users have busy day jobs and consequently has ensured that each lesson is no longer than five minutes. Not only will this help to fit the training in to a busy schedule, but it also allows the lessons to be replayed when needed, as a refresher. The e-learning videos are well-paced, explaining clearly how the system works and why, providing both the Auditory and the Visual learning cues simultaneously – with screens supplemented by pictures, diagrams and charts where necessary.

The Unhappy path

We have developed our Aurora Knowledge Base to give the assistance people need if something has gone wrong and they have, strayed onto the ‘Unhappy Path’. The help icon accesses the Academy, where context sensitive guidance from the Knowledge Base helps users navigate back to the happy path.

Experts Available 24/7

The Academy provides all users with a consistent approach. Instead of learning from colleagues how to use the system, you have an expert guide to show you and the opportunity to try it out for yourself in the training environment.

Access to the training material and knowledgebase is always available and can be used for new user training, refresher training or simply for guidance on a single task, which owing to the financial model, makes it a cost efficient training method for all users.

The decision to evolve our training offering has proven invaluable, particularly during the time of a global pandemic. For the Scottish Roadworks system, for example, we trained over 2,000 users from multiple organisations, covering nine different courses over sixty-four separate lessons.

The New Normal

Whilst the Aurora Academy is online and very much has a place in our future, we have not seen the end of face-to-face courses. These are still available, both as Live on-line video sessions, or in person where permitted. This will always be an option that can be taken to supplement the Academy approach, or where this is this preferred learning method.

Customer feedback on all our courses is essential and we will be considering the introduction of formal Aurora proficiency certifications. As our Aurora solution continues to advance, so will our e-learning, to ensure users maximise their potential and no matter where they are, that every path is a happy path.

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