For most of us, part of growing up involves living and sharing our space with others at some point in our lives. Whether it be family, friends, roommates, or even cellmates, typically we all find ourselves longing for the moment where we finally get out on our own…standing on our own two feet. Maturing to this point of self-reliance and independence is only natural, and much like humans seeking independence in today’s world, Instructors have sought this same level of freedom within the world of SuccessFactors Learning for far too long.
With the b1508/1511 releases, SuccessFactors has given Instructors the ability to spread their wings into their own space. No longer shall Instructors have to rent the spare bedroom within the SuccessFactors Learning Administrator portal. Instead of borrowing space that never quite adequately fit the Instructor purpose in the LMS, these types of users now get a shiny new pad for performing functions critical to them and them alone. And surprisingly, it’s enough to make their former LMS admin landlords jealous. In this blog, I take a look at the new Instructor Role in SuccessFactors Learning and how it can be used to give your instructors a new lease on LMS life as they know it.
The Instructor Role – Location, Location, Location! (and Purpose…)
As in real estate, location is king, and one thing SuccessFactors is making quite evident, especially in SuccessFactors Learning, is new functionality is popping up on the hot part of the SAP block these days, that being the SAP Fiori design platform. As I noted in my last blog regarding the new Quiz Builder for SuccessFactors Learning recently introduced for the LMS, the Instructor Role is based on the same platform and design principles. The design takes a mobile first approach and revels in process simplicity for its overall success. The Instructor Role takes these guidelines to heart, providing a much cleaner and easier to use interface for instructors to perform their common functions than what they previously had to deal with inside their ‘rented’ space within the LMS Admin portal.
Instructors typically have a very specific purpose/role within corporate learning. While not trying to discount the importance of a good instructor, their purpose is to effectively manage and deliver training to participants. Performing these duties in the classroom is challenging enough at times, which makes interacting a corporate LMS for the administrative purposes of instructing all that more frustrating when the LMS is not intuitive and enabling. This is a point that has beleaguered SuccessFactors Learning for quite some time. Previously, the only way to allow Instructors access to the LMS was via a purpose-built Instructor security role that required Instructors to access the LMS in the same manner as everyday administrators. Limiting access for instructors via the administrator portal within the LMS was not easily achievable to the level most organizations would desire, plus the user experience for the specific tasks that an Instructor would frequently perform is not the most intuitive and efficient through the administrator tools (to say the least).
One also has to keep in mind that Instructors within the corporate learning world are not always teachers by trade. Employees from across an organisation may find themselves teaching courses at some point or another, sharing their knowledge with colleagues. When these types of Instructors are also not LMS administrators themselves, expecting them to use a very involved administrator interface for performing typical Instructor functions was simply not feasible.
Functions Available in the Instructor Portal
Considering a large portion of typical Instructor users in an LMS are only casual users of the system, the functions available to them should be simple, intuitive, and smartly designed. The functions available within the new Instructor portal within SuccessFactors Learning establish a strong foundation keeping these points in mind. Functions that can be performed by instructors within the new portal include the following:
- View list of assigned courses (Scheduled Offerings)
- Scheduled and Past Courses
- View course/segment details
- View student rosters for courses
- Communicate with students (via Email)
- Record attendance/completion
- Launch virtual learning sessions
Navigating the Instructor Portal
Considering the functions noted above that are available within the portal, the portal itself is laid out intuitively around these processes with the Fiori design guidelines in mind. The Instructor portal can be accessed as part of the desktop LMS end user view through a new link for ‘My Classes’ and also as part of the iPad user experience for SuccessFactors Learning. The main view of the Instructor portal provides the instructor with a list of Scheduled Classes and Past Classes. This view (as shown below) is generated for a user based on the Scheduled Offerings that the user is designated against as an Instructor.
Instructor Portal – Scheduled/Past Classes
Classes listed in the Scheduled Classes view are displayed in chronological order on down the provided list, reflecting the location and number of registered students with respect to the Min/Max enrolment numbers specified for each Scheduled Offering (if specified). Clicking on a course from the list will provide the user with further details on the course including Schedule details and a list of registered students.
Instructor Portal – Class Schedule and Details
Managing Students within the Instructor Portal
The list of Students for a Class within the Instructor portal provides a user with a list of all registered and wait-listed users for the Scheduled Offering. The instructor will not see in this list anyone who is pending approval of their registration or has previously been cancelled. Currently this list is also only static to the instructor, meaning the instructor cannot modify registrations by adding or cancelling any users for the Scheduled Offering. An instructor can select students from this list however and click the ‘Send Email’ button provided to communicate to the students as desired. Performing this function will open an email in the user’s local email client (i.e. – Outlook) with the selected users’ emailaddresses as stored within the LMS.
Instructor Portal – Students (Registered and Wait-Listed)
One of the key administrative tasks instructors readily perform is recording attendance and overall completion of training courses they deliver within an organization. In the past the primary way to accomplish this task involved a lot of paper. Paper sign-in sheets, instructor assessments of participation, and commonly when instructors had no way of recording information in the LMS directly, handing this paper over to LMS administrators for the manual recording of this information in the LMS. While modern corporate learning systems do tend to provide more automated ways to do this, organizations still seem to struggle with the process here considering internal/external instructors providing training, inefficient administration processes, and the volume of transactions needing to be done to track training attendance accordingly.
SuccessFactors has done a good job in providing the capability to instructors to record attendance and completion via this new portal in a simple and efficient manner, and what makes the offering here a particular strong one is the capability for Instructors to complete these tasks on an iPad. Few instructors may be tethered to a PC while holding classroom training, but the potential to have an iPad available in today’s ever evolving mobile workforce makes the idea of recording attendance and learning in real-time more of a reality today than ever.
Attendance per class segment can be recorded by an instructor from within the portal. Recording attendance has been available within SuccessFactors Learning through the administrator interface for some time, however, you have to dig a bit to get to where this is done within the administration of Scheduled Offerings. Within the Instructor Portal, however, there are fewer clicks/touches to complete this activity. Recording attendance is typically seen as cumbersome by clients when the focus is recording completion of the overall learning, but having Instructors do this as they manage the delivery of their classes can provide more data for assessment later on with respect to attendance rates and student participation. Recording attendance for class segments via the Instructor Portal is a simple check per student indicating their presence.
Instructor Portal – Schedule – Edit Attendance per Segment
Recording overall learning upon completion of a training course is also available to the instructor. More involved than recording attendance, Recording Learning within the LMS is a process that involves recording the successful (or unsuccessful) completion of the training course with respective supporting information for the learning event, including Hours (Total, Content, Credit, and/or CPE), Grade (optional), and Completion Status of the recorded learning event. Optional comments can also be entered per student during the process.
Instructor Portal – Record Learning Completions
Instructor Portal – Record Learning Completions – Add Comments
And in an effort to promote the mobile capabilities of the Instructor Portal, SuccessFactors has provided the capabilities to Record Attendance via scanning QR codes of learners from their mobile device within the iPad view of the Instructor Portal. In theory, this process of instructors recording attendance via QR code scans is about as efficient and hands off as you could get in recording attendance of students for class segments. The challenge with this though is the participation rate for students having and using the necessary mobile device for generating their QR codes and recording when attending a session. In a perfect world, I like this idea a lot, but in the real world I believe instructors will always find themselves having to manually record attendance in addition to QR code scanning. A very nice idea and feature nonetheless and I hope to see clients try to take advantage of the process considering the appropriate student audience and training offerings. (Forgive the poor Photoshop effort below of an example of the QR code scan via the iPad view of the Instructor Portal…but you get the idea).
Instructor Portal (iPad) – Record Attendance via QR Code
Setting up the Instructor Portal for Use
The Instructor Portal within SuccessFactors Learning only requires the proper setup of new security workflows and roles for use. No configuration switches to worry about. Currently the LMS provides the security Workflows below that are necessary for instructors to have in order for them to be able to access the Instructor Portal.
- Access Scheduled Offerings
- Allows user to view In Progress, Future, and Past Classes in which they are assigned as an Instructor.
- Initiate Evaluations
- An update with the b1511 release, this workflow gives instructors the ability to send out survey evaluations for a course prior to the completion of the course.
- Record Attendance
- Allows user to record student attendance per segment for Classes in which they are assigned as an instructor.
- Record Learning
- Allows user to record overall completion of training for students for Classes in which they are assigned as an instructor.
Depending on your organizations requirements for Instructor access within this new portal, you can grant/limit instructor capabilities within the portal according to the four (4) workflows noted above (e.g. – Allow instructors to view their classes and record attendance, but do not allow them to record learning completion – reserve for LMS admins).
Assigning the appropriate instructor role(s) to instructors is done via a new field on the Instructor records within the LMS Administration Portal under the Learning -> Instructors area (shown below). After assigning the appropriate role to desired Instructors, these users should see the My Classes option when accessing the end user side of the LMS.
Administrator Portal – Instructor Management – New Security Role Assignment for Instructor Portal Access
The new Instructor Portal within SuccessFactors Learning was a long time coming to be honest. I never liked having to explain to clients that their instructors who were casual users of the system at best would have to deal with finding what they need through the LMS Administrator interface. From a change and training perspective, this was never an ideal situation. Fortunately SuccessFactors has delivered what I feel is a solid offering for instructors to use in managing the LMS administrative tasks around their classes. As with any new feature from SuccessFactors, don’t expect the Instructor Portal to do everything you may want right out of the gate. I expect the functionality of the interface to be further refined and built out in coming releases. Some things I personally hope to see in the Instructor Portal in the future include:
- More robust management of students
- Give the ability for instructors to do more than just view class rosters and record attendance/learning. Allow them to register further participants, cancel/withdraw participation, etc., as in some organizations instructors play a very active role in these processes up until course delivery.
- Give them some reporting
- While an instructor is not an LMS administrator, they still can benefit from some level of reporting. The ability to generate quick reports for class rosters and survey evaluation results could be very handy for instructors to have for their own courses. Hopefully reporting of some kind will find its way into the interface.
- Blended learning – don’t forget the online parts
- Currently for blended courses an instructor may teach, the portal does not reflect the status of the online portion of the blended learning course to an instructor when recording learning for the overall training. For blended learning specifically, if an instructor is going to be the one responsible for recording successful completion of learning, they need to be able to see if students have successfully completed the online portion of the course.
It will be interesting to see the evolution of the Instructor Portal within SuccessFactors Learning over the coming releases. In its current state the interface is quite good and a much needed improvement for organizations wishing to get their instructors more involved in administrative tasks for their courses within the LMS. A strong ‘mobile-first’ element is evident in the Fiori design of the interface, and hopefully this will only help SuccessFactors demonstrate the benefit of the LMS through to instructors who probably weren’t too happy about their ‘rented’ space within the Administrator Portal up until now. There’s no more rent to pay however…Instructors now have their own place to call home in SuccessFactors Learning. Enjoy the view…