With a rapidly growing remote workforce, International Student Exchange (ISE) wanted to find a way to enhance their existing training methods. The goal was to supplement in-person and hard copy training by developing on-demand digital solutions for remote learners that would be easy-to-maintain for the training team.
ISE grew from a small non-profit exchange program in 1982 to one of the leading sponsors of J-1 cultural exchange programs in the industry, facilitating programs for over 2,500 exchange students every year. With such rapid growth, they faced the challenge of providing comprehensive training to each new field representative that would allow them to get up and running as quickly as possible in their new role.
Since ISE was founded, the goal has been to provide the best in class training to their field staff. As a forward-thinking organization, this means constantly looking for opportunities to use the latest technologies to support staff in their roles. In the 1980s, training primarily consisted of small and large in-person sessions supported by print materials. As technology evolved, ISE also leveraged video conferencing and soft copy materials, as well as the now discontinued Area Representative Resource Center which strove to house all training materials in one online location but proved slightly cumbersome and difficult to maintain.
Therefore, the team began to look for an easy-to-maintain, streamlined solution to digital training with the goal of empowering field staff members to learn the skills they need to succeed in their roles at their own pace and on their own schedule. This digital solution also needed to be flexible, allowing for frequent changes to program technology and policies.
ISE also wanted to ensure regional managers felt supported when training their staff. Immediate one-on-one mentorship for each rep was not always realistic for managers, particularly those overseeing reps in multiple states. ISE needed a solution to help those managers to fill the gap and ensure every rep was getting the training and support they needed at the time of need.
ISE wanted to find a more streamlined digital solution to overcome some of these remaining training challenges. They wanted to ensure training was consistent, learners were engaged, it was centrally deployed and accessible, and could be updated quickly and easily.
Other digital solutions had been successfully trialled. For example, webinar sessions were run from HQ as a way to deliver consistent learning experiences throughout the organization. But the organization wanted to take it one step further and cater to learners’ varying degrees of existing knowledge levels and availability.
Another initiative incorporated training specialists based out of HQ who would travel between regions delivering in-person sessions. This helped to bridge the gap between fresh learning experiences developed at HQ and the learners in the field.
While these learning experiences were effective, the training team at HQ still wanted to find a way to reach a wider audience, quickly update existing resources, and develop training quickly and at scale. For example, the physical handbooks took a long time to update, print, and distribute.
“We wanted a training curriculum for our reps that we could update easily and that wasn’t overly reliant on physical print or instructor-led training.”
The training project was already underway when ISE discovered Synapse. After coordinating between different departments and regions, they had decided on a consistent approach and needs analysis for the overall curriculum structure. The focus was on the enrichment of existing training practices to include digital solutions that would be accessible to all field representatives to help them with onboarding, job performance, and everything in between.
“Our goal was to take our training to the next level, beyond compliance and into the nitty-gritty details that would help a new or seasoned representative succeed to the best of their ability.”
The “goal process” for field representatives is to make a placement. So the training was structured around helping Area Representatives (ARs) achieve the goal of making placements and then conducting ongoing compliance supervision.
ISE wanted to create a repository of readily available online courses. There were two criteria:
Once the trainings were created through Synapse, they were easily deployed to “The Toolbox”, a new online repository for learning that could be accessed easily at all levels of the organization.
Not only was on-demand training now more readily available for reps, but it could be updated at the click of a button. ISE can now quickly update courses on Synapse, refresh the link, and the training is automatically updated in The Toolbox.
“Now, we can just make a change to the course and update it without having to go and change any links or URLs elsewhere. Synapse has really allowed us to be flexible in a way that we never were before.”
ISE has also found a way to further boost team members’ engagement with online training. Reps are now prompted by a friendly chatbot named Cooper to find training relevant to their role. They can also ask Cooper questions and receive answers that guide them to the appropriate training courses. Learners can access the training they need, when they need it, especially as the courses are now categorized using meta tags, enabling an intuitive search function for specific topics in The Toolbox.
Every rep in organizations like ISE that supervises or places students has to get a department of state certification. Recently, the platform that hosted the certification test prep was dissolved, leaving student exchanges everywhere scrambling to create the certification prep training needed.
ISE was able to quickly move all of that test prep information into Synapse and host the requisite compliance training there instead, with minimal interruption and delay for learners.
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