Cisco System is one of the fastest-growing high-tech companies in the world, selling devices that connect computers and networks to the Internet and other networks. Cisco’s products are continuously being upgraded or replaced; so extensive training of employees and customers is needed. Cisco has recognized that its employees, business partners, and independent students seeking professional certification all require training on a continuous basis. Traditional classroom training was flawed by its inability to scale rapidly enough.Cisco offered in-house classes for each course, 6 to 10 times a year, in many locations, but the rapid growth in the number of students, coupled with the fast pace of technological change, made the training both expensive and ineffective.
Cisco believes that e-learning is a revolutionary way to empower its workforce and partners with the skills and knowledge needed to turn technological change to an advantage. Therefore, Cisco implemented e-learning programs that allow students to learn new software, hardware, and procedures. Cisco believes that once people experience e-learning, they will recognize that it is the fastest, easiest way to get the information they need to be successful. The company created the Delta Force — made up of the CEO. the IT unit, and the Internet Learning Solution Group — to implement e-learning. The first project was to build two learning portals, one for 40 partner companies that sell Cisco products, and one for 4,000 systems engineers who implement the products after the sale.
To encourage its employees to use e-learning, Cisco:
- Makes e-learning “nonthreatening” by using an anonymous testing and scoring process that focuses on helping people improve rather than penalizing those who fail.
- Gives those who fail the tests precision learning targets (remedial work, modules, exercises, or written materials) to help them pass and remove the fear associated with testing.
- Enables managers to track, manage, and ensure employee development, competency change, and, ultimately, performance change
- Offers additional incentives and rewards such as stock grants, promotions, and bonuses to employees who pursue specialization and certification through e-learning.
- Adds e-learning as a strategic top-down metric for Cisco executives, who are measured on their deployment of IT in their departments
- Makes e-learning a mandatory part of employees jobs
- Offers easy access to e-learning tools via the Web
Cisco also wants to serve as a model of e-learning for its customers, hoping to convince them to use e-learning programs. Cisco operates E-learning Centers for Excellence that offer training at Cisco’s centers as well as at customers sites via intranets and the Internet. Some of the training requires the use of partnering vendors. Cisco offers a variety of training programs supported by e-learning. For example, in 2001, Cisco converted a popular 4 1/2-day, instructor-led training (ILT) course on Cisco’s signature IOS (interorganizations information system) technology into an e-learning program that blends both live and self-paced components. The goal was to teach seasoned systems engineers how to sell, install, configure, and maintain those key IOS technologies, and to do so in a way that would train more people than the 25 employees the ILT course could hold.
On the IOS course alone, Cisco calculated its return on investment as follows:
- It cost $12,400 in labor to develop the blended course.
- The course saved each system engineer one productivity day and 20 percent of the travel and lodging cost of a one-week training course in San Jose. Estimating $750 for travel and lodging and $450 for the productivity day, the savings totaled $1,200 per engineer.
- Seventeen system engineers attended the course the first time it was offered, for a total savings of $ 20,400. Cisco therefore recovered the development costs in the first offering — and saved $8,000 over and above the development costs. Since March 2001, the IOS learning Services team has presented two classes of 40 engineers per month. At that rate, Cisco saves $ 1,152,000 net for just this one course every 12 months.
In 2003, there were over 10,000 corporate salespeople 150,000 employees of business partners , and 200,000 independent students, all taking courses at Cisco learning centers, many using the e-learning courses. By 2003, Cisco had developed over 100 e-learning courses and was planning to develop many more soon. E-learning became a major force in Cisco’s economic recovery, which started in 2002.