Serving a community than being served –the Cisco Learning Network story

The story behind the making of ‘Cisco eLearning Network’- A thriving community of about more than 6,00,000 energized and professionals who are actively interacting, collaborating, learning, mentoring, and preparing for certification exams through Discussion forums, Blogs, Video Interviews, Wikis, Other Web 2.0 technologies.Read more.

I was privileged to interview Milind Gurjar-Sr.Director for Cisco Learning Services, who looks after this platform and he was kind enough to share his perspectives and his journey so far.

A brief background on the CISCO eLearning Network:

Objective & purpose was to impart world class cutting edge training & certifications to aid professionals in their learning journey on various CISCO’s learning programs & latest technologies.

Defining the Goals & Rules of engagement:


The community rules of engagement were to clearly to impart training & education via an online platform to IT professionals seeking to enhance their technical or soft skills & knowledge sharing.
To ensure completion rates with minimum offline intervention and drive significant portion of learning services revenue from online channel.
The community consists of a mix of persons and perspectives.
The eLearning Network encompasses skill levels that are Categorised into Entry >>Associate >> Professional >> Expert level

What are the Unique features of this community?
Languages -English , Russian ,Spanish , Japanese and Chinese
Gamification model: Leaderboard scoring and points system assigned to each practitioner by way of actively engaging and contributing articles and demonstrating authority
In the subject.

What are the typical Internal challenges / hurdles that one needs to face?

www.atelier.net

  1. Firstly a global organisation as large as ours needed a strong advocate within the senior management – who understands the essence of social media and community.
  2. Secondly aligning our best in class SME’s on this platform.
  3. They had to be equipped with the right skill sets to have meaningful conversations and make those valuable to the community.
  4. Beefing up the IT architecture and community management capabilities,user experience in all aspects -Platform , Navigation , Site experience.

What did you do to engage people? How did you know this model was working?

“When we commenced this initiative, we had set goals and objectives for ourselves as to how we would ‘add’ value to this community”.
We provided Content -Courses, SME’s,FAQ’s and all the necessary ingredients to address their learning objectives.
Aligned moderators and community managers to just manage the threads and discussions.
Context and relevant offerings via audience segmentation.

We knew we were delivering value to the community via dynamic content due to constant feedback monitoring.
Engaged through active conversations and tracked via leaderboard scoring process.

How do you track and act on community feedback?


· Learnt and adapted content and offerings to the communities need.
· Self sustained and user generated content however we need to be cautious on constantly monitoring feedback and bad behavior .
· The advanced certified experts were willing to give back to their community by helping them clear the examinations. So they would in turn reach out to the community managers.
· Aligned moderators and community managers to just manage the threads and discussions.
· Our investment is pretty much around enhancing the platform and continuously delivering value to the community.

Think Global -Act Local mantra
Our real learning came when the ‘desire to learn’ touched many lives outside of the US countries.We had initially set the language to English.
However the adoption was like expanding beyond US speaking countries.
English was the commonly used language in US , APAC excepting China & Japan,Russia and Spain.

.Eg. China & Japan .We realized that if we needed to be relevant to those markets and add value to our clients …what would make better sense- serving the content in English or even better -in their local language?

We had to dissolve the language barriers and that lead to adapting the platform needs via translation .The cost implications were pretty much the around translation , resources and IT costs.

Once we established the platform, the community grew and became a self sustaining model.
They knew where they had to pick English content that was generic but if there were any local issues or queries the ‘advanced SME’s’ or mentors were willing to address those.

Key learnings from this Program


· CISCO community brought together the collective talent pool of community managers, SMEs or Experts , CISCO Partners,’Alumni’.
· The community managers & moderators engaged with the practitioners in a manner that they became the influencers of CISCO’s learning programs to new seekers.
· Imparted a desire to learn more resulting into advanced certified professionals taking the role of ‘mentors’ for entry level and those who needed clarifications.
· Self study circles being formed organically which helped the community managers focus on healthy discussions.
· The need for regional language portals addressing special markets like Russia,Japan, China and Spanish .
· Mentors became Influencers , enablers & translators to global announcements , launches of courses that caused a network effect.

The Bigger picture & level next?

Today we have reached a level of 6 lakhs subscribers and a self sustained thriving community through our efforts.
· Thinking of innovative ways to drive effective & help accelerate completion rates thereby lead to more certifications & happy practitioners.
· How can this positive energy channelized to become viral? How do we convert mad followers = brand loyalty = more buying?
· How to take mentoring models to the next level?
· What are the ‘real’ benefits to Advanced Experts?

· Revenue Aspirations :Monetization learning models such as self-study,its effectiveness in skill.
· Is this initiative commercially viable in the long run?

I would like to conclude by stating -we have a strong community,the right mindset & resources, we have the learning to step into greater boundaries.
Social would provide the platform and help us connect but there are still few questions unanswered…that’s the most exciting and challenging portion in this environment.

I thanked Milind for his invaluable time and insights.

What do successful community managers like yourself do ? Eager to learn from learnings or success stories.Buzz me at @raoranji or leave your comments on this blog.

Photo Credits :

1)http://blog.hostgator.com/~/tmp/wp-uploads/2013/03/content-marketing-community-engagement.jpg

2) http://weedactivist.com

3) http://www.atelier.net

4) http://healthworkscollective.com

5) http://www.mediabistro.com/

Disclaimer: This blog post contains Milind Gurjar’s & Ranjini’s personal views and opinions,does not necessarily represent his/her company’s views.

Milind Gurjar can be reached at Linkedin : www.linkedin.com/pub/milind-gurjar/2/52/88

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