Resources from the episode:
Transcript of the interview:
Welcome back to the Learning Elevated podcast, brought to you by Docebo. The show where we help you elevate your learning efforts and move up in the world of enterprise learning and development, guiding you on your journey up the tower will be your elevator operators, as always myself for Rob Ayre and my co-host…
Kerri Moore. Now each week, we start off with a new floor and today we’re getting off on the fourteenth floor having skipped for 13 to avoid bad luck.
And we’re going to be speaking with the Institute of Child Nutrition on how they go about professional development and the digital age, and also how they transition from a more traditional approach to a more digital approach. So this is a really fantastic interview and we really… really want to let Jonathan, just go right ahead with his story because there was a fantastic already but we did want to just let you guys know that there was a great article that we found from Mckenzie and it goes into some of the five key areas of talent development and just how the L&D function is, you know, subject to transition as thing is go by.
And so do you take a look at that. Go to our website and check that out. But otherwise we’re going to take it away with Jonathan.
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Learning Elevated podcast. We are very… very excited today to have Jonathan Bishop here and he’s the Associate Director of Information Services at the Institute for Child Nutrition. So welcome Jonathan.
Thank you, glad to be here.
So maybe we can start it off by maybe just giving us an idea of the ICN and what your mission is.
Sure. I’m… I’m going to give you the… the actual verbiage and then I’ll explain that to you in layman’s term. The Institute of Child Nutrition formerly, the National Food Service Management Institute operates within the school of applied sciences here at the University of Mississippi. And we are the only federally funded national center dedicated to applied research education and training and technical assistance for child nutrition programs. The institute was established by congress through the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 1989 and is funded by a grant administered through the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutrition service.
So, what does that all mean? We are very different in terms of most grant institutions in that we are established by an act of congress. And so it literally will take an active congress to anything about our funding, pun intended. And so with that, we’re very fortunate in that we are a non compete. It is essentially what is known as a cooperative agreement between the USDA, the federal government, and the state of Mississippi primarily the University of Mississippi. However our research division is based at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi which is about three hours south of here. And so it’s more with the state per say. But the main operation is here in Oxford, Mississippi, at the main campus of University of Mississippi. And essentially, what we do is we take USDA guidelines and regulations and we develop training programs for the… for the professionals who feed children.
So we don’t with the children directly. We train professionally, the people who interact with the children. And that goes all the way from the… the people working the point of sales in the cafeteria, to the… the line servers, to the chefs, the cooks behind them, that are preparing the food, the… the managers that are overseeing them, the supervisors that are overseeing the operation all the way up to the state agency, we develop training programs and they run a wide gamut from financial management and orientation to new school nutrition management for new directors, to food safety nutrition, one-on-one procurement, anything you can think of that might come up in a food service operation within a public school food service program, we probably have a resource or training program that’s aligned with it.
So, where does e-learning fall within the sort of the wider learning strategy of the institution?
So when I arrived at the institute back ‘05, they still were very while they were only a face to face training organization. And back then… you know, you… you shipped out a VHS or maybe a CD if you were lucky with a three ring binders full of information to these locations.
And even back then they were still sending some, what we would call consultant trainers. And I’ll explain that a little bit later, but they would, could either allow that facility to do that training themselves if they had someone of capable of doing that or we would send a consultant trainer, someone who was trained by us to train on our behalf, or one of our education and training specialist out to that location to train the person they all own site.
Now, there was a lot of problem with how it was set up back in largely because there was a cost in printing all those materials, service calls and storing them. And then there was a value loss in that pre printed materials if there was content changes, information changes. They normally didn’t get rolled in until much further down through the process because they weren’t just gonna dump all those materials largely because they were funded by grant dollars, you know, they… they had to be used. And so one of the charges I’ve received and I was hired as the network Administrator at that time, that I called myself an on/off person because if there was an on our off but not gonna ask that. I know anything about it that includes AV equipment, which you can see a little bit behind this. And back then we drug projection screens and stuff into this room. We didn’t have all the fancy equipment. And so… we had to digitize everything that the institute had. Because the executive director at that time, doctor Charlotte only really had a great vision of being able to provide all of our resources at no cost anytime, anywhere. And she, it was a very broad idea at that time and she left it to me to figure out how to get there and what it would look like when we got there. And that’s still changing, you know, day to day. And so we embark on digitizing every VHS every week.
I had beta macs back then. Yeah, beta macs, we actually still have some in the archive. So down the Hall, and we just got rid of our beta max player that was still working that we use to digitize a lot of those things. But the video quality wasn’t that great. And yeah, I’ll probably remember real players. Yeah. Yeah. And so we had it in real player and windows media format, WMA or WMB in the format… and it was encoded at different speeds depending on if you’re on a dial up or if you had, you know, what was known as broadband back then.
And… and so it was a lot of work, you know, a lot of work and I don’t recall exactly how long it took us to do that. But we launched what was then the… the first wholly built website about the institute that wasn’t posted and thrown together by the universities, you know, auxiliary services in 2008, you know, give or take about three years it to… to fully digitize everything and get it to where it could be downloaded at no cost because at that point in time, some calls were recoup from the schools and districts in the state for the materials that were sent out. And, while it was still really… really cheap, there still were some calls at that point, from that point forward, we were able to eliminate that cost for the customer completely to the point now all the training that we provide all the materials that we provide, including the logistical services.
So we… we reimburse the travel, the Hotel, the food per diem for all of our customers. All they have to do is just show up. Now, we do some sponsored face to face training, meaning the state has some money that they need to spend. And though I asked for us to coordinate, you know, getting one of our content people there and getting the materials there.
And there’s some, you know, in that sense, the state absorbs that cost, but we still don’t charge the state anything for our services. And so we provide everything, we do at no cost.
I was like I was quite a big overhaul. How did that transition go from moving from traditional digital in terms of maybe for your customers, for you guys? How does that work?
You know, it quite frankly is still ongoing. Yeah. You know, when I… when I walked in the door at the institute not to get too much off on a tangent. There really was only one IT person and there was a grad student, a great young man named Shriyam. He was an international graduate student from India and we’re still friends.
He… he’s actually a developer for Barclays I believe which is a private bank up north I believe. And he was doing dot net. I’m assuming he’s probably doing something else. But now I’m probably doing a lot better than the three of us presumably, but there just was no infrastructure.
And what I really in addition to a lot of the efforts that were done to actually digital digitizing of the materials and getting the warehousing functions, you know, the actual logistics of the institute sorted out which included getting on board with Fedex, and, you know, and we still are and doing things like that to get our materials not just ship more quickly but knowing when they would get there, you know, so that we could better optimize that part of the process. And so I was leveraging more of my business education more so than my IT education, but we needed staffing. We need it like it… it was great that I knew how to do it or could figure out how to do some of these things but we need more people. We needed more access to software hardware.
We need it, you know, we were running on an old novel netware domain when I got here. And if you remember, no avail. And so which was, you know, lenox wasn’t designed to really run a network at the business management side of things is great on the server side.
But in terms of, you know, business or what the call, I’ll office productivity, my Microsoft office and market, you know, Microsoft is built for that kind of thing. And so I’ll build an entire new network and it took and… and we just rebuilt it which we’ll talk a little bit about but it to building all that infrastructure because much like math, everything or at least to me is fundamental that… that you can’t distribute good services if the facility and the staffed or poorly equipped and trained.
So if you don’t have good people and they don’t have good tools and they’re not working on a good network then, you know, event.
You’re gonna get garbage in garbage out. And it’s not to say that what the institute was doing was garbage.
It was great. It was just taking a whole lot of effort to produce a little bit of output. And, you know, I went back and looked at some of the numbers, you know, in that first year that we launched the new website. We launched it in the summer of ‘08.
And we didn’t launch the e-learning side of it until January of… of ‘09. And in that first year, there were 1,741 course enrollments… these past two months which are the exception to the rule. We had 167,000 largely due to COVID and I will discuss a little bit more about that too, but… the… the order of magnitude, our ability to reach people is so much greater online but so many other things had to be fixed, you know, we didn’t even have a Ginger Gregory to be getting, you know, there was no position.
There was no, no one knew with instructional technology design.
Yours included, maybe anything about it. We were figuring it out. I, you know, I was a systems person, not a, in a program or not a… a development person. And so we had to, you know, the answer to go back to your question was, you know, we just had to get into it, you know, and start working and it was treading water a lot of days.
So now you guys have made that… that tradition, you’ve… you’ve sort of digitized, can you tell us a little bit about the… the instructional design of the program? You know, how you actually sort of push people down certain… certain funnels or… or, you know, just that sort of the instructional design of the program as it exists today.
Yeah. And so the macro view is pretty much every online component we have has a face to face parallel. To some extent. Now, we have more freedom online around the break up into smaller modules which are more easily consumed online. Where as, whereas face to face when you have people in the same location for a day or half a day or a few days, you can cover a lot more ground
And so orientation for school nutrition, directors and managers is a four and a half day deal. And so we wouldn’t at least at this point, put that out there. Now. We might as a learning track or, you know, and we’re looking at doing and using some more of those advanced features that y’all have in your platform… learning plan.
But what we choose to do is to come out in the smarter smaller modules but they always have a face to face component. To some extent. Are you didn’t really ask is the bit, but the challenge is that for the first 25, this year of the institute, that’s all they ever did. And we’re still trying to break that habit. Like in my perfect world, we would be designing for online first and then for face to face. But not only are we not still not built for that. The USDA quite frankly doesn’t really want that. Yeah, though this current pandemic is really starting to open their eyes about while we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing and the advantages, you know, the order of magnitude, you know, in 2017 face to face which was one of our most productive years.
Actually 17,18, 19. Up until this, you know, code that happened, we were continuing to… to increase the number of face to face training we were doing. But to give you an example, 2017, we did about 400 face to face trainings nationwide including all y, territories, Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Snow and we reached 14,700 people face to face one time, you know, and we spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars today that.
And because of just all the logistics… we’ve we have more people than that in the LMS platform right now, as an active user right now, you know, I look at the platform just a little while ago and there’s you know, that many people actively in the platform unless, you know, in the last 30 days or less than the last 30 days and we reach them 80 something thousand times, you know.
And so the order of magnitude… add new, you know, did I know that this moment in time would calm you, you know, I wouldn’t say that this is exactly how I envision it but yes. You know, I could look at what was happening in the world and my team, I just made sure that we could see what was happening largely with these things, you know, everybody has, you know, and that the world was changing. Now, one of the mistakes that we made or really its own me because there weren’t a whole, I didn’t have a big team at that time. When we jumped in to the first new platform, the… the… the first learning management platform we were in, we were heavy into Adobe flash and windows media and those two things.
And, you know, all that has been eliminated largely about that. The other thing that happened was that we were locked into a world that was built around a traditional laptop or PC. It wasn’t responsively designed. And so it wasn’t just again going back to the fundamental part of our previous conversation. It wasn’t as simple as, you know, read to, you know, jump into Docebo to cure our e-learning… issue in particularly with the responsive design and the usability of the platform as it… as it pertains to mobile devices. It was a fundamental redesign of the network in the systems we’re working on.
So everything that I had for my hard in the building, okay? And I was like we’re going to have to tear at all down. And then we change too. We were in the middle of that, we literally changed our name or logo or branding scheme, everything. And so we had to change all of our social media or whole website, all that.
And it just wasn’t one website. The customer thinks it’s one website. But it was really at that time about seven or eight and it’s still several. And so it was, yeah, if… if… if I allow myself to think about the totality, or if I allow my team to think about the totality, what… what was being undertaken, they were overwhelming.
And so we had to break it into compartments. And like you focus on this, you focus on this, you focus on this. And then, you know, I adopted a phrasing when anything I came out with was something that came upon me in my personal life but, you know, progress not perfection, which is kind of not what a lot of people talk about.
A lot of people talk about good, be great. Nowadays, that’s kinda like the… the dominant kinda coach that’s actually out there, you know, how you take it from good to great. And, you know, for me, it’s about progress, not perfection. You know, if we can get just a little bit better each day or if we can survive really… really tough times. And then, you know, get back to making progress on the other side of it. And just stay positive then, you know, we’re going to look back at some point in the future and be like, wow, we have come a long way and we have… we have completely redeveloped every platform that we have. We are just everything we’ve gone completely virtual and our server and run well, almost completely. You know, we’ve… we’ve reengineered the facility to adopt the cloud which also came along during that… that time. So much so that when COVID happened, we were relative to the rest of campus and relative to the rest of campus, we have… an easy time. But yeah, I would say even for most organizations, we were able to do it… it took a couple of weeks to get used to it. So to speak about two or three weeks transition in the help desk and some other things. But we were able to adapt to it.
And so, you know… the approach to instructional technology is, you know, combining adult learning, you know, an adult learner, a demographic which is on average, say 40 ish year old female, but it’s… it’s changing is getting younger and more homogenous that his rarely known world without a mobile device and is probably really busy and certainly doesn’t have time to do that training on… on… on the job where their access to broadband is probably hire.
And their access to a computer that can really handle your platform in the platforms that we push is probably not at home. And so we took a chance, we started building things for the mobile device because we knew that everyone was going to have them at some point.
PHONE CALLER #1
And I looked at the recent statistics for 2019 and of course, it varies depending on who you go to. But yeah, it says roughly 260,000,000 people in the US have some mobile device. Nice likes almost 80 percent of the population and within our demographic, it’s over 90 percent have a mobile device.
Will. Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do, you know, it was a business decision now, did my boss completely understand it at the time? No, she didn’t. And she was like, wait what we’re gonna do what? And I was like, listen, you just, you’ve trust me this far. Just, trust me,
Articulate, you know, his helped us a lot with the, you know, SCORM and we knew before the way we found our way to… to Docebo so to speak is we knew that SCORM was the way, you know, that a lot of what we had done was very flat prior to that, which was great in terms of load distribution and maintenance and things like that. But it was a portable, you know, at all. And so it was very painful to move from OLD LMS to… to… to… to shave though. But now we’re in a format and we have no intend to go anywhere but we’re in a format where if we needed to… to move our content and… whether it’s on the user activity side or record side or on the course content side, we’re in a much more favorable position and Articulate Storyline. We haD been looking at it for some time and we knew it was scoring compatible. And so… again, you know, was there any kind of cohesive strategy at the time as to how our… our approach was? You know, certainly had the pair pedagogical background and how to take face to face learning and… and… and make it more consumable for the own line learner. And so we were already doing a lot of interactiveS.
The USDA are very important to do pre and post assessments. So we want to know what our learners know when they get to the course and how much they’ve learned when they leave to… to. It’s a metric to determine the effectiveness of the training because there’s a lot of concern.
And I’m… I’m on board with him that… that online learning is not as effective is face to face and it’s certainly, you know, you have to try a little bit harder at it. It’s to make it more engaging and more effective… or to ensure that it’s as effective, but it can be accessed so much.
It’s so much easier to reach people in the, reach them more often through the digital realm than it ever was going to be face to face. And, you know, I don’t know if we’ll ever stop doing face to face but things like what’s going on in the world right now
make you begin to wonder because, you know, this is completely off subject but it’s related to all that we do, you know, when is flying ever going to be a normal thing again? You know, what does the airline industry even look like after this? You know, if it’s one for the government, they go out, they would all be out of business, you know, and pretty soon they’re going to be laying off half of their workforce?
Maybe even more than that because no one’s going to be flying. We went from two and a half 1,000,000 people fly on a day down to a couple of 100,000 in the US. And so are people going to want to travel? Our… our current consultants are staff gonna want to travel, you know, to do these training sessions.
And so we’re already doing a lot of virtual Instructor led training to replace the face to face training that we cancel using Zoom that we plan to integrate into the, to show you our platform and really, quite frankly had planned to do that already, it’s just other priorities got in the way.
And so it’s a challenge in terms of doing to speak to your question. Rob, it’s… it’s a challenge to do what we know is the right approach to instructional technology, design an online learning versus what the USDA is asking us to do versus what our customers are capable of doing right now because they’re not the most tech savvy group… on average though. It is getting better versus what our funding that’s available to us will allow us to do. Because… because we don’t charge for our services. We’re limited, right in what we can do.
So, you, have you spoken a little bit about how important it is to really get your… your learners engaged and you have to go that extra mile basically to make sure that your content is resonating, but have you found any kind of… but if you notice basically that people are responding better to certain types of content than others?
Video video… video.
You know, we have video consumption, you know, we haven’t studied it, you know, down, you know, at a scientific level to say, what percentage of time you know, is dedicated to the certainly the Bandwidth is going to be higher just because of the nature of the content. But yeah, you know, if you can get it to them, you know, knowing that short video verse, you know, stuff…
Yeah, micro content, right?
Yeah. Well, and kind of like what we’re doing right now so much so that we started to have our own podcast series one that’s dedicated to kind of the broader arena of… of child nutrition, and another that’s more specific to the culinary world of child nutrition, which where you launch during the pandemic for that very reason.
And, you know, people can put on their headsets and go for a jog or they can be on the subway or routing in their car, you know, taking their lunch break, you know, and… and I, again, our traditional way of doing face to face training isn’t conducive to that.
Not only that the USDA’s method of tracking training, professional development is antithetical to that. It’s not, you know, it’s still, you know, in that world where you’re trying to get to X amount of hours of professional development. And then the mandate that… the… the… the language itself, this in the mandate that requires child nutrition professionals to get their professional development in their specific areas is very broad and vague and that it doesn’t really specify what qualifies as training and, you know, who is qualified to give it.
So… they… they… they… they… they allow the states to determine that. And some of those states depending on how large they are, you know, Rhode Island in Vermont, probably don’t have a problem, Wyoming probably doesn’t have a problem, Texas, different story, California, certainly a different story, Florida, different story where you have large metropolitan areas, large school districts, they probably not probably the most assuredly are allowing those districts to determine their own local requirements and what those requirements need.
And so, we work with those major cities in those states to make sure that our requirements can be translated to there if that makes sense, because we know our… our requirements meetUSDA requirements. We’re trying to. So if they won’t… if… if they need to make sure that they are a challenge attrition staffer, taking eight hours a year in food safety and sanitation, we can go and say these are the courses that we have that align in those areas.
And this is the amount of hours that we… suggest crediting them for the time that they spend. But again, if you’re in a district of well trained people, it might take them five hours to get through that eight hour training. Whereas if you’re deploying it to a more rural state with less train staff or more rural area, with staff that’s not as well trained, it may take them 10 or 12 hours.
You know, you just don’t know. And so again… it’s… it’s a constant, you know, evolution, you know, of… of working it’s so disparate, you know, that it’s not… it’s not very cookie cutter and we would like it to be because that would make our life simpler.
And it would make scalability easier, but we have to be careful that when we’re deploying some of these nice new tools and apps and all these fancy new things that we’re not leaving behind because you gotta think about it, the people that are working in the schools, you know, are generally, as you go down the chain, you’re getting in the minimum wage territory, annoyed that you’re getting into immigrant territory.
And so, you know, one of the areas that we struggle with that we’re really… really working hard to rectify is to get our content translated barely into Spanish because if we can deploy those, what we would call level one courses like food safety and schools and nutrition 101 those basic courses into a, into Spanish with a platform like yourself like to show you boat that can convert to Spanish menus and navigation and things like that. How powerful would that be, you know?
And so we’re close to doing that with nutrition 101 and we hope that food safety was right behind it because it’s just an underserved market and those people can have forward knowledge that they’re probably not even offered professional development opportunities outside of what they call in service.
Meaning you show up early or you stay like this one day, and we’re gonna do this training in the cafeteria or if we can deploy it to their phone.
Right. Makes so much easier they’d be able to access it. Like you said, going for a job, maybe just going for a walk with the dog, whatever the case is.
Now, the one thing that’s different for us that, or at least it was when we first moved to Docebo that we had to come to an understanding about was that our customers value that certificate more than anything because a lot of times their livelihood is dependent on having that sheet of paper and they have to be able to print it out like they can just hold up their phone or shoot like again. And we’re talking about a world that’s still a bit archaic, you know… you know, we still have customers that are like, you know, I really miss being able to print out the course. And so, what we did is we took our story boards where, you know, what we use to develop our courses and we just converted them into PDFs. And when I hear, you know, why not?
But it was something that was a native to the Docebo platform that we had to come up with a creative work around for and that’s what we do, you know, it’s you know, I always catch flack from my staff because I never say no, and… and I always tell them that, you know, I get it. But how are we ever gonna learn? You know, how are we ever going to get anywhere if we’re always like now we can’t do that and then we can’t do that and then we can, I know… I know we gotta try.
It’s all about progress, like you said.
Yeah, like you said, yup. Just, and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are.
Well, Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us today. Just to so many, you know, great insights. I think our… our listeners are really going to enjoy it. So, once again, thank you so much for joining us.
Absolutely. If you ever need anything else want to know anything else, please feel free to reach out to me.
Thank you very much.
Thank you all so much. Ya’ll have a good day.
Rob Ayre & Kerri Moore
Thank you Jonathan for joining us on the interview today on the Learning Elevated podcast.
Kerri, I mean, honestly, I’m… I’m frankly, I’m blown away by… by even just thinking about the amount of work that must have gone into making that transition from that traditional to digital. You know, it’s funny. One of the things that I was thinking about was my time in elementary school and what I assume kids now are elementary schools now. But it’s like when they would bring out the old… the old projector, right? And I don’t remember if he… if he said this during the interview, but like I can, literally remember when the teacher would roll in that big TV and they put in a VHS, right?
But honestly moving from traditional to digital for a company of that type of scale, it’s… it’s gotta be just so incredibly difficult. But what I think is great. What I love about… about doing this podcast is that it shows it as possible.
Absolutely. Yeah. And also that there’s workarounds as well. So something that allows them to do it, there’s… there’s… there’s lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds and they have access to certain amounts of tech. And so they have to kind of adapt to that. So, there was still making sure things are online. So it was reachable for everybody and also allowing them to print a PDF into all the folks aren’t so tech savvy.
And, you know, it’s really just about making sure that the whole community has access to that learning content. Yeah. I think… I think one of the things that honestly, I think it comes up and just puts every single interview we do on these podcasts. But it’s like just knowing your audience really understands how they want to consume the content?
You know, so often content creators and an L&D professionals. Sometimes they’ll just look in an audience and be like, well, the whole world’s going to the short micro videos. So we’re going to start producing short micro videos for… for mobile. And, you know, yeah, there’s probably a pretty good chunk of an audience that is going to want that, but there might be a pretty critical piece of the audience that you might miss on that.
And maybe that’s not the way that they want to go. Yeah. But, you know, one of the other things too that I really enjoyed from… from… from the episode and from… from… from Jonathan is just how important mobile is, right? Like, yeah, I don’t think it can be overstated just how unique you gave that statistic on the amount of people in the y that have a mobile devices, but it really is and can be an opportunity for learning and development professionals to provide opportunities for development in the pockets of just about every single one of their employees.
Exactly, everybody has mobile. Everybody is always picking through their phone. You know, we see enough memes about how terrible we are now looking at our phones all the time, but what if they’re looking at your learning content? You know, you have to make it accessible for them to be able to do that. And that way you reach more people as well. Yeah. So for sure, that’s going to be something that’s gonna make a massive impact for them. As they said, they’re not quite finished yet. But especially now that all of this is happening with COVID, it’s going to be so much easier for them to get this content to the people that need it because they won’t have to worry about travel, don’t have to worry about certain elements to kind of restrict them.
They can just get this content into the hands of people that are gonna make some effort out of bed and do something about that.
Yeah. Exactly, right. So thank you again to Jonathan for joining us for the interview today. And be sure to stop in again, next week, we’re going to be stopping off at floor 15 calling the “Law Office” and we’re going to be joined by DoProcess.
So we’ll see you next week!
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