It’s important to differentiate your training from your competitors’ to maintain a competitive edge and to provide a good value-added service to your customers. Here are some ways to do this while also providing your customers with a superior learning experience:
- Employ quality designs to make your online training standout and look more professional
- Use branching or linear scenarios to promote learner-engagement
- Motivate learners to engage with the content by using gamification
- Ensure that your content is mobile-ready
- Develop bite-sized learning opportunities that are flexible and engaging.
Below are five successful Software as a Service companies that provide online training as part of their product offering. I’ve taken a look at each of these companies’ online training platforms to evaluate the experiences that they provide to their customers. They all provide user guides, so I will focus on the specific online training options that they offer.
1. HubSpot Academy
HubSpot provides web-based marketing tools, specializing in inbound marketing.
HubSpot’s learning portal, the HubSpot Academy, provides HubSpot customers with three main learning avenues:
- Videos: These are grouped logically and are of very high quality. The videos are categorized by topic and have links to additional relevant resources.
- Projects: These are step-by-step sequences that typically feature around 10 to 12 steps. The projects help learners to set up their HubSpot platform. Text, animations, pro-tips, and videos walk you through the steps.
- Certification: This consists in about 40 videos and self-check quizzes that are spread over 13 “classes.” The certification culminates in an online test that gives you a personalized e-badge when passed. Badges can be displayed on websites, social media sites, email signatures, and more.
Why I like it:
- The training was quite intuitive, but navigating the site caused many browser tabs to open. I soon lost track of what each tab was for.
- The video player had a slower/faster feature, which is useful for note-takers and ESL learners.
- Topic-specific forum pages for students seem well-used and monitored.
- Multiple learning streams allow students to choose how they’d prefer to engage with content.
2. Zendesk University
Zendesk is a web-based customer-service (or, helpdesk) solution. It enables subscribers to support their customers by building stronger ongoing relationships.
My eLearning experience at Zendesk combined guided tutorials and software simulations using the Zendesk platform. It looked like it was created using Articulate Storyline and it had out-of-the-box functionality. Their site didn’t appear very polished (see my comments in the table below), but customers who pay for titles might have a better experience.
They do provide high quality videos. The videos are typically two to three minutes in length, so they are easy to watch. Every video “package” that I registered for, such as the Administrator Essentials, included 15 to 20 videos. Each video had a short but meaningful title and a textual description. However, the LMS search software didn’t cover these descriptions, so it could be hard for you to locate specific videos.
Why I like it:
- The Absorb LMS provides a nice learning experience.
- Multiple streams, including video and eLearning opportunities, let learners choose how they’d like to learn.
- The videos come in “packages” of 15-20 videos, and each video is usually two to three minutes in length. This makes it quite easy to view the bits you’re most interested in.
3. AdWords Online Classroom
The AdWords Online Classroom is Google’s learning portal.
There are two primary learning streams on AdWords:
- YouTube-hosted videos
- Online “Follow” guides.
The videos are of high quality and are generally between two to six minutes in length, making them easy to watch.
The “Follow” guides are step-by-step instructions that use text, animations, and videos to talk you through various tasks. Where appropriate, there are links that take you out to your AdWords account. These links prompt you to further apply what you’ve seen to complete certain tasks.
Why I like it:
- The “Follow” guides had “what do you want to do” threads that individually customized my learning experience.
- Dozens of “Follow” guides mean hours of free content!
- The “Follow” guides worked nicely on a smartphone. Since the videos are delivered via YouTube, they worked well too.
4. Salesforce University
Salesforce makes web-based software designed to generate leads, get new customers, and close deals faster. They also help their customers to sell, service, and market smarter.
In addition to the certifications and virtual and live events that Salesforce University offers, Salesforce provides free training under its Trailhead banner. Trailhead is a very engaging environment that provides “trails”—or, related modules of content—for you to follow. These “trails” are specific to your role and skill level.
Why I like it:
- Trails can be filtered by role and by experience level to direct individuals to useful content.
- Modules can be selected independently of a trail for a completely customized experience.
- Bite-sized learning: each module may take hours to complete, but their sub-units are granular and could probably be done in 10 to 20 minute chunks.
5. Xero U
Xero is a modern web-based business accounting platform that handles quoting, invoicing, payroll, inventory, and more.
Xero U is Xero’s learning portal. Their videos are well produced, but beautifully produced videos are not necessarily good learning opportunities.
Why I like it:
- The content is categorized nicely by role and by function to help locate meaningful titles.
- Xero certification counts towards professional CPD hours and could be used as a marketing lever for clients.
- Webinars have a quiz to gain XU credit points.
- The site and content played well on a smartphone.
Each of these vendors put forward trainings to better serve their customers, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses.
You might find it useful to go onto sites like the ones listed here and look at them through your customers’ eyes. What would they find useful? What would frustrate them? Why?
Armed with this information, you can begin to plan and build a learning portal that will engage your customers and differentiate your business.
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