BB&T Corporation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is among the nation's top-performing financial holding companies, with $137 billion in assets. Its bank subsidiaries operate approximately 1,500 financial centers that stretch from Indiana to Florida. For nearly 10 years, the company has offered its employees online courses for an array of regulatory, certification, and policy training.
In spite of the company's successes with training, until 2007, BB&T relied on a mainframe computer to deliver its online classes. "There were drawbacks to using a mainframe for training, but the system we had was a real workhorse," says David VanSchooten, e-learning manager for BB&T University.
While the legacy system was reliable, VanSchooten and his colleagues knew its shortcomings precipitated a change. Adds VanSchooten, "We had a great deal of content, but the system gave us no flexibility to develop, manage, or deploy our training."
The legacy system's architecture made it extremely difficult to find, update and repurpose content originally designed for different job roles or initiatives within the bank. The mainframe drastically limited what BB&T instructional designers could do to develop content.
In addition, end users were frequently frustrated with the inflexibility of the mainframe's navigation and control system. This frustration translated into hundreds of monthly calls to the bank's network control help desk.
To remedy the situation, in 2005, VanSchooten and his colleagues explored other learning technologies - specifically, a content development tool. However, after BB&T University executives looked into learning content management systems (LCMS), they realized a content development tool offered only a fraction of what they needed.
"Strategically, we needed a platform that would not only import content from a wide array of development tools but also give us a way to archive, manage, and reuse content," says VanSchooten.
After selecting an LCMS, the bank chose a learning management system (LMS) to serve as the mechanism for delivering and tracking the e-learning courses created by the LCMS.
The LCMS provides BB&T's instructional designers with an enormous amount of flexibility. The LCMS is not a turnkey solution in which BB&T must develop content from a single platform. Rather, the LCMS offers a nonproprietary way of creating courses. This means that BB&T's developers can use any number of standard development applications, such as Flash, or other off-the-shelf tools, to create online courses with rich graphics, simulations, and even video.
"An LCMS really gives us the required agility to deploy training that complements the bank's business goals at the moment e-learning is needed," says Debi Wayne, curriculum design and development manager for BB&T University.
"With this newfound agility, we enable our employees to access the training and knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively."
VanSchooten adds that one of the derivatives of using an LCMS is "reusability." The bank's LCMS allows VanSchooten's team to develop, access, and reuse any type of learning object. Everything the bank creates within the LCMS has a metadata tag and taxonomy, so VanSchooten's colleagues can share and reuse images easily.
"Because I can quickly identify the content, it's simple to find where things are," says VanSchooten. "You have a trail or a map to what you need. When you do reuse content, our LCMS updates the content in other areas instantaneously."
The bank's LCMS, which is made by OutStart, is a browser-based solution that employees can access from their computers. Within 12 months of launching the new LCMS, BB&T's content developers had created 60 courses. Of the 60 courses developed thus far, the bank's training executives point to two that are characteristic of the whole.
"BB&T has a new technology platform called Client Central that it uses for managing its customers' accounts," says VanSchooten.
"With content from the LCMS, we now have a quick and effective way to introduce our relationship bankers [RBs] to this new platform and train them on how to use Client Central to support the bank's customers."
Before implementing the LCMS, rolling out a new platform such as Client Central would have been a much more expensive and lengthy undertaking. BB&T would have had to ask employees to travel to a central training location and spend time in a computer lab mimicking how to open a customer account.
With the LCMS in place, VanSchooten and his team used a standard content development application to recreate the Client Central interface and show RBs the steps to opening, for example, a new checking account.
The LCMS also gave VanSchooten's colleagues a way to assess the course's content, which helped BB&T maintain the quality of its training. BB&T looked at its training via the LCMS and determined which questions an employee had trouble with. This gave the bank a way to analyze the content and edit the course, or the questions, to improve comprehension or key concepts.
With more than 1,500 locations in 11 states and Washington, D.C., BB&T says there would be no way other than via its LCMS to rapidly and consistently roll out training to more than 3,000 RBs. With the LCMS, BB&T trained people on the Client Central environment, enabled RBs to practice opening accounts, assessed their skill level, and offered feedback.
In addition to rolling out Client Central training for BB&T's RBs, VanSchooten and his colleagues used the LCMS for an initiative the bank called Identity Theft Red Flags.
"Identity Theft Red Flags is a process for protecting clients from identity theft," says Wayne. "Essentially, we had to make sure we were delivering on all the new elements of the FACT Act, which were called for by banking regulators."
By the time the bank defined what its new processes would be for not only protecting its clients from identity theft but also ensuring that the bank's employees understood these processes, VanSchooten and Wayne estimated that they would have approximately 90 days to create training and teach employees.
"As part of those 90 days, we had to create training and the associated job aids; we knew this would take about 45 days," adds Wayne. "That meant our course had to be rolled out by October 1, and regulators said our target audience of 12,000 employees had to complete training by November 1. With the LCMS, we met our goal."
The target audience consisted of anyone within the bank who would gather client information. Among those taking the course were employees who gathered lending data, workers in the call center, and RBs.
Wayne's team was able to use the LCMS to place the new Identity Theft Red Flags course inside a Flash wrapper with the bank's company colors framing the screen. BB&T's instructional designers introduced each learner to the course objectives, and the bankers worked their way through a course rich with animation and pop-ups.
"The Red Flags course is word-heavy, so we use interactive tools to make it more engaging for the learner," adds Wayne. "The 30-minute course included an assessment at the end. The LCMS helped us embed existing job aids, and our instructional designers could easily link the course to related policies and regulations."
BB&T also relied on its LCMS to reuse existing corporate content developed in-house to expedite the rollout of the Red Flags course.
For VanSchooten and Wayne, the business value of the LCMS is threefold. First, the software helped the bank become an agile training and development department. "It's a powerful thing for us that we can respond very quickly to the bank's business requirements, such as Identity Theft Red Flags or Client Central," says Wayne.
Second, the LCMS enables BB&T to evaluate its own content. For example, for certain jobs within the bank, employees take an assessment as part of their annual certification training. As thousands of employees take the assessment, the LCMS lets BB&T's trainers run a report to see how effectively employees are handling the assessment year after year.
If the report shows a pattern related to any of the assessment questions, BB&T's training team can take a closer look to learn why large numbers of employees are either correctly (or incorrectly) answering a question.
Third, VanSchooten and Wayne say the overall cost of ownership for the LCMS is lower than any other technology they could deploy. While VanSchooten declines to say specifically how much cost savings came from putting the LCMS in place, he notes that the budget to implement and maintain the software is "substantially less" than the bank's mainframe platform. t+d