TORONTO – The Credit Union Institute of Canada has launched a new online learning system to serve 20,000 employees in 650 credit unions throughout the country. The effort is expected to complement other initiatives, such as one in Manitoba that also reaches into British Columbia and Prince Edward Island Cheryl Byrne, CUIC executive director, explains computer-based learning previously offered by the institute was primarily on CDs. Classroom sessions and correspondence courses have also been available. “A number of large credit unions and some of the provincial central credit unions were investigating the purchase of learning management systems and on-line training and learning. But there was not a national coordinated effort,” she notes. “It was also apparent that across the country, in order to increase our competitive advantage, we needed to share knowledge we had. As we move into the knowledge age, in order to serve members we have to be able to help them. It’s not just handling transactions any more.” The idea is to share costs and eliminate duplication by uniting training efforts. So CUIC has purchased an electronic learning infrastructure from Docent Inc., Mountain View, Calif. The approach has been dubbed “cuSource”, and the Web site will be CUIC expects to implement the learning management system during the first quarter this year. CUIC staff has visited Docent’s offices preparing to set up and tailor the domain structure. “We’ve already hired some individuals who will focus on populating that learning management system with content,” Byrne says. “It will be an on-going effort. The courses we currently have in classroom, CD and correspondence format will one-by-one be adapted for this e-learning environment. That doesn’t mean they will be totally transported to the new environment, but it does mean we’ll look at course material to determine which ones are best suited for e-learning and which ones have to stay in a classroom or case study format.” Some of the topics that will be covered include commercial lending, director education, marketing, sales culture and technology. Plans are still being formed, but at this point CUIC expects everyone who registers with cuSource will pay a yearly subscription fee, perhaps $40. In addition, there will be a charge for each course. That cost will vary depending on length and content. The biggest challenge? “Communicating the value of this across the country to individual credit unions,” Byrne answers. “It’s not as though we’re a bank where the head office tells you what to do. We have to go out and convince all these independent credit unions this is a good thing for them. “Not only that, we have to convince them that to really benefit they have to link this learning and knowledge exchange system to their own internal performance measurement,” says Byrne. Employees, she says, aren’t likely to use this if it isn’t connected to the evaluations they face. So the new system will offer “competency maps” directing people in their professional development. If, for example, you’re a loan officer aspiring to become lending manager, what expertise do you need to acquire for that next position? What training is available? Efforts to bring learning to employee desktops are also underway at the provincial level. Credit Union Central of Manitoba, in partnership with Credit Union Central of British Columbia and Credit Union Central of Prince Edward Island, will expand its business partnership with NETg of Naperville, Ill. CUCM will provide a new library of NETg business and professional development e-learning courses. Peter Henson, CUCM training consultant, says the idea dates back several years. “I went to a conference in Orlando and saw a presentation by NETg that whetted my interest. We’ve had some requests from credit unions to make that kind of thing more available to them,” Henson says. “Through the central we can make it more cost effective. We thought if it worked for us maybe it would work for a couple other provinces. The two that were immediately interested were British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.” The three provincial centrals bought user licenses from NETg and can now offer 50 different classes to credit unions in each province. The agreement was for 1,100 licenses at a cost of just over $55 a license, for a total of some $60,000. The 1,100 licenses cover about one-third of all credit union employees in the three provinces. Breaking it down, “It ended up being about $1 a course, which is extremely reasonable. The takeup in Manitoba is probably the best. We have 15 or 16 credit unions using the platform. There are 5 or 6 in Prince Edward Island and 8 or 9 in British Columbia,” Henson says. Coursework includes change management, coaching and performance appraisals, service skills, business etiquette, time management, working with upset members, call center management, professional selling over the phone, e-mail etiquette, and training on specific computer software such as Windows and PowerPoint. Many of the participating credit unions are some distance from major population centers. Sending someone to a conventional classroom may require a couple hours drive each way plus the cost of an overnight hotel stay. One credit union figures training costs 80%. As far as Henson is concerned, the biggest challenge is getting management to see the value. Managers may simply expect employees to embrace the program. But the really successful projects are those that provide a clear incentive, such as linking course completion to performance appraisals. Henson sees the provincial-based effort fitting together nicely with the nationwide CUIC program. “They’re taking the training consultants from all the centrals across Canada and putting them into one group to consolidate all that training, get rid of redundancy and leverage our efforts,” he says. “CUIC is sort of the flagship. The intention is to take the learning platform we have developed in Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island and put that on the national system. As the national organization gets rolling, it will take it over.” -

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